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Research at Work 2015: Turning Insight into Impact

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt's picture

As the World Bank takes stock following its annual Spring Meetings, it’s clear that rigorous and policy-relevant research remains a critical element in achieving the goals of the institution. From informing the Bank’s Twin Goals in our latest Policy Research Report to creating the Findex database that underlies the institution’s commitment to achieving universal financial inclusion, research continues to shape the Bank’s agenda and provide the foundation of evidence-based policy advice sought by its clients. Without the independent scrutiny of research, the conceptual and empirical foundations for policymaking would be weak, “best practices” would be emulated without sufficient evidence, and new fads and fashions would get more attention and traction than they deserve.

India, China and our growth forecasts

Kaushik Basu's picture

Last month, the World Bank and IMF both put out predictions that, this year, India would overtake China in terms of GDP growth rate. This caused a flutter and was widely reported around the world. How robust is this prediction and what does it really mean?

First, this is not as monumental a milestone as some commentators made it out to be. China has had one of the most remarkable growth runs witnessed in human history, having exceeded an annual growth of 9% from 1980 to now. Four decades ago its per capita income was close to India’s, but now it is four times as large as India’s. None of all this is going to change in a hurry.

With this caveat in mind, it is a year in which India deserves to feel good. It is expected to top the World Bank’s chart of growth rates in major nations of the world. This has never happened before. Before 1990, India did occasionally grow faster than China, mainly because China’s growth gyrated wildly during the pre-Deng Xiaoping period. It was, for instance, minus 27% in 1961, when Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward resulted in the world’s biggest famine, and it was 17% and 19% in 1969 and 1970, respectively--a relief in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. Fluctuations of this magnitude would be intolerable to India’s polity.

Are we short-changing people in developing countries?

Vinaya Swaroop's picture
If you listen to Lant Pritchett, a Professor of International Development at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, he will tell you that lately there has been a trend of “defining development down” among the development agencies.  In his view, by choosing a low bar for development goals – such as setting a poverty threshold of “dollar a day”, or achieving universal primary education as laid out in the Millennium Development Goals – aspirations of billions of people living in developing countries, who are quite poor by the living standards of OECD countries, are being short-changed

Do fewer document requirements lead to faster export and import clearances?

Asif Islam's picture
At the outset, the relationship is rather straightforward: The more the number of documents needed to export or import, the longer the time it will take to clear the required procedures to trade. The policy recommendation that then follows is to reduce the time cost of trade by reducing the number of documents needed and thereby achieve trade facilitation. Correct? To an extent yes. However, further research shows that it is not always as straightforward as it seems.

Friday round up: Kaushik Basu lecture, ABCDE registration, Nepal and remittances post-quake, patent problems, world happiness

LTD Editors's picture
Kaushik Basu delivered the keynote address at a panel discussion in Ithaca, NY titled "Cornell and Global Poverty Reduction: Philanthropy, Policy and Scholarship".
Registration for the 2015 Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics has opened.  The conference takes place Jun 15-16 in Mexico City.

Understanding Europe’s immigrants’ challenge from the viewpoint of the bottom 40%

Sudharshan Canagarajah's picture
A recent Economist (April 25th, 2015) cover story on the “Europe’s boat people: A moral and political disaster ” (requires a subscription), refers to a critical global challenge of migrants and asylum seekers as countries around the world undergo trying times due to war, economic crisis, and joblessness, resulting in more poverty and deprivation.

Much of the world is deprived of poverty data. Let’s fix this

Umar Serajuddin's picture

The availability of poverty data has increased over the last 20 years but large gaps remain

About half the countries we studied in our recent paper, Data Deprivation, Another Deprivation to End are deprived of adequate data on poverty. This is a huge problem because the poor, who often lack political representation and agency, will remain invisible unless objective and properly sampled surveys reveal where they are, and how they’re faring. The lack of data on human and social development should be seen as a form of deprivation, and along with poverty, data deprivation should be eradicated.

​Unusual suspects? Effects of technology on citizen engagement

Tiago Carneiro Peixoto's picture

What is the effect of technology on citizen engagement? On the one hand, enthusiasts praise the prospects offered by technology: from real-time beneficiary feedback to collaborative policymaking, the possibilities for listening at scale seem endless. Skeptics, on the other, fear that unequal access to technologies will do nothing but favor the “usual suspects”, empowering the already empowered and reinforcing existing inequalities. While the debate sometimes gets heated, a common feature unites both sides: there is limited evidence to support both views.

In Mexico, a rising rate of homicides has zero impact on educational outcomes. That’s good news.

Carlos Rodríguez Castelán's picture
Economists are often disappointed by research findings that show a statistically insignificant effect. This sometimes even leads researchers to stop pursuing a topic that might otherwise engage them fruitfully. This outcome thus represents a loss to social science: knowledge and insights are not put forward to be built upon.