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How can the Knowledge Bank make development more effective?

Philip Keefer's picture

Like all other development agencies, the World Bank has few systematic ways to measure, track or even recognize the effectiveness of its work. Instead, stakeholders are more likely to insist on fiduciary oversight and lending volumes; management is more accountable for meeting lending targets and upholding administrative requirements than meeting development goals; and approvals of Bank projects and country partnership strategies – not surprisingly – are rarely based on explicit analyses of their development effectiveness.
 
None of this is new.  Enhancing “development effectiveness” emerged as a key concern in a recent review of the World Bank’s governance structure, for example, but similar concerns have been expressed at least since the Wapenhans Report twenty years ago. What is new is the energy surrounding current efforts to put development effectiveness at the center of Bank operations. But doing this means confronting the essential problem that there is no cookbook for development. Whether we care about “big” development – tripling incomes per capita in Malawi over the next 15 years – or “little” development – improving health outcomes for rural women in Orissa this year by expanding access to cooking stoves – some things we think work actually do work, at least under certain conditions; other things we only think work, when in fact we have no evidence either way; and we are fairly sure that even all the things we know (or suspect) work will only get us part-way towards our development goals.

Income Inequality and Inequality of Opportunity: Cues from Egypt’s Arab Spring

Lire Ersado's picture

On October 8, President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree pardoning all ‘Arab Spring’ political prisoners. While the decree, if implemented, marks a milestone in Egypt’s hard-fought 21-month-long revolution, the quotient of inequality that contributed to setting it off still remains.

From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, inequality has risen to the top of social agenda.  However, our measures of inequality are often limited to final outcomes, such as income, wealth, and educational achievement, which do not distinguish between the impact on inequality of personal responsibility and that stemming from factors beyond the scope of individual responsibility.

Postcard from Tokyo

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Whether Jobs in the Middle East and North Africa and the freedom to prosper or the ‘What Will It Take to End Poverty’ campaign being championed by Jim Yong Kim, or the views of Japanese union representatives who think it’s more important to put jobs before debt, the priority for many here at the Tokyo Annual Meetings has been to put people first. Japanese officials were part of a dialogue in Sendai and the country’s Comprehensive Strategy for Rebirth was held up as the type of approach that holds lessons for other countries grappling with disaster. Jim Yong Kim at his Annual Meetings press conference noted that, if Haiti had used the kind of sophisticated early warning system that Japan had in place ahead of their great quake, thousands of lives could have been spared.

Habitat Threats for Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan and Sumatran Tigers

Susmita Dasgupta's picture

© istockphoto.comThe wild tiger population of tropical Asia has plummeted drastically in the last century, from about 100,000 to 3,500, with the Bali, Javan and South China subspecies believed to be extinct in the wild. An estimated 2,380 Bengal tigers survive, along with 340 Indochinese, 500 Malayan and 325 Sumatran tigers, with their remaining habitat being mostly the upland areas arcing from southwest India to northwest Indonesia.  Long term survival of the tiger is dependent on conservation of these tiger habitats, which has prompted the World Bank to join the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), along with the governments of the various tiger habitat countries and many civil society and private sector organizations.  

Perspective from a new World Bank Chief Economist

Kaushik Basu's picture

The first week as World Bank Chief Economist has left me excited, on the trot, (not to mention, slightly exhausted) and more convinced than ever that John Maynard Keynes was right when he wrote in the General Theory that the course of history, for good or for bad, is determined more by ideas and opinions than vested interests. I assert this with some confidence because of my somewhat unusual career experience, beginning with academic research, writing and teaching to being thrown into the deep end of the policymaking pool, when, in 2009, I was appointed India’s 14th Chief Economic Adviser and the first with no taint of prior experience in government.

I feel privileged to have this new challenging job and hope to engage with readers of this blog as I become more conversant with the Bank's work and also with writing a blog, which I have never done before, my social interaction on the web thus far being restricted to the 140-character tweet.

During the course of many G20 and other high level meetings with policymakers when I was still wearing my India hat, I was struck time and again by the fact that having a critical mass of people who are well-intentioned and susceptible to good ideas can do so much to break the toughest of impasses, whether in trying to decide on monetary and fiscal policies or in targeting welfare benefits or in battling poverty.

Who’s writing what in the ‘Knowledge Bank’? And is it being used?

Adam Wagstaff's picture

An organization with ‘motor company’ in its name might produce several types of vehicle (cars, trucks, etc.) in several variations (models) at several different plants, and might sell these vehicles in several different regions of the world. The company wouldn’t last long if it didn’t know how many of each model – and at what cost – it was producing in each plant, and how many – and at what price – it was selling in each region. In the World Bank – where we like to think of ourselves as the ‘knowledge bank’ – we produce several types of document in several vice presidencies (VPUs) and we make them available in hard copy and in electronic format in all regions of the world. Yet as far as I know we don’t systematically track how many of each document type each VPU produces, let alone how successful each is in terms of sales and downloads. We have these data for World Bank books, but they’re a small fraction of our overall document output.

The lack of data ought to make it hard to think about how the institution might do things differently in its knowledge work to serve developing countries better. What type of Bank documents are produced most? And which are used most? Which VPUs are the big producers of knowledge? Which document types are downloaded most? Which VPUs produce the most downloaded documents?

Jobs Center Stage: The WDR 2013

Martin Rama's picture

When my team and I started working on the World Development Report 2013, slightly more than a year ago, we were puzzled. We had been asked to write about jobs, and there was no doubt that they were a major concern around the world.  Events such as the global crisis or the Arab spring had put jobs center stage.  In developing countries, finding employment opportunities for massive numbers of youth entering the labor force was urgent.  Middle-income countries were struggling to move up the value-added ladder in production and to extend the coverage of social protection.  Technology and globalization were changing the nature of work worldwide.  In all cases, jobs were at stake.  And they were clearly one of the main preoccupations of policy makers everywhere.

Friday Roundup: Post-2015, Benchmarking Global Poverty, Small Farms and Other Links

LTD Editors's picture

As the 2015 deadline to meet all the MDGS draws near, many are asking what comes next, including a recently appointed 26 member panel of development and political big-shots.  The high-level panel, which met last Tuesday for the first time, faces huge pressure working on a post-2015 “development vision.” 'Stakes are high,' says Paige McClanahan in an insightful post on the Poverty Matters blog.&

Should you trust a medical journal?

Adam Wagstaff's picture

While we non-physicians may feel a bit peeved when we hear “Trust me, I’m a doctor”, our medical friends do seem to have evidence on their side. GfK, apparently one of the world’s leading market research companies, have developed a GfK Trust Index, and yes they found that doctors are one of the most trusted professions, behind postal workers, teachers and the fire service. World Bank managers might like to know that bankers and (top) managers come close to the bottom, just above advertising professionals and politicians.

Given the trust doctors enjoy, the recent brouhaha over allegations of low quality among some of the social science articles published in medical journals must be a trifle embarrassing to the profession. Here’s the tale so far, plus a cautionary note about a recent ‘systematic review’.

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