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March 2015

Two essay competitions for students: One hosted by the International Economic Association, the other by Georgetown University

LTD Editors's picture
Students at higher education institutions worldwide who are studying full time can earn cash prizes for their writing skills, but deadlines are looming.

The International Economic Association (IEA) is holding its first Stiglitz Essay Prize (SEP) in honor of Joseph E. Stiglitz, its past association President. The topic must cover one of two broad themes:
  • The causes and policy consequences of growing inequality
  • A rethinking of macro-economics and proposals for new approaches that speak to the weaknesses in modelling revealed by the 2008 global crisis

The short-listed essays will go to the following judges: Joseph E. Stiglitz (Columbia University and IEA past President), Timothy Besley (London School of Economics and IEA President) and Kaushik Basu (World Bank Senior Vice President and IEA President Elect).

The winner of the prize will win US$1,000, and the runner(s)-up will receive US$500. The winning essay and runner(s) up will also be published on the IEA website.

The deadline for submissions is Sept 1, 2015. More information on the competition can be found here.

Friday round up: The shifting trade landscape, world water report, states of fragility, new PPP database, and heads up on Global Findex

LTD Editors's picture

New book entitled Power Shifts and New Blocs in the Global Trading System examines the possible consequences of the shifting trade landscape.

2015 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR), came out March 20. Entitled Water for a Sustainable World, the report demonstrates how water resources and services are essential to achieving global sustainability.

​What is a fragile state?

Anne-Lise Klausen's picture
Much like Tolstoy’s quip that each 'unhappy family is unhappy in its own way', a fragile state is fragile in its own way (see this paper, by the World Bank’s Michael Woolcock for more). Therefore, it is all too often unhelpful to reduce the definition of fragility to standardized, static lists or indicators – in so doing, we miss the complexities and nuances of fragility in some situations, and miss other fragile situations all together.
 

Uncovering implicit biases: What we learn from behavioral sciences about survey methods

Sana Rafiq's picture
Last year, I was in Nairobi, Kenya, along with some of my colleagues from the World Development Report (WDR) 2015, Mind, Society, and Behavior. We were there to set up the data collection efforts for a four-country study. One of the goals of this study was to replicate results from lab experiments that suggested poverty is a context that shapes economic decision-making amongst households.

Addressing inequality through shared prosperity: Guest video blog

Manny Fassihi's picture
One of the great opportunities of the Global Futures initiative is to help spread some of the big ideas about development and to make them more accessible to a global audience. Given our privileged access to some of the world's biggest thinkers on these issues - namely, World Bank President Jim Kim and Vice-President and Chief Economist Kaushik Basu - I saw an opportunity to translate key points from their lectures into animated visuals.

​Good food and good economics both start with quality ingredients

Alberto Zezza's picture
Do economists and policy analysts pay enough attention to the quality of the data they work with? The focus in these professions seems to be much more on using and developing sophisticated econometric and statistical models, or pretty data visualization software, than on assessing the quality of the data that are fed into those models and tools (let alone working to improve the quality of the data).
 

What can history tell us about cartels in commodity markets?

John Baffes's picture
Recent developments in oil markets have led to intensive debates about OPEC’s viability and its role in the global crude oil market. OPEC, which was founded in 1960 to “coordinate and unify petroleum policies among member states”, currently accounts for about 40 percent of global crude oil production. At present, the organization has 12 active member countries: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Nigeria, Ecuador, and Angola.

#MyDressMyChoice: Tackling gender discrimination and violence in Kenya one tweet at a time

Indhira Santos's picture

On September 19, 2014, a Kenyan middle-aged woman was waiting for a bus at a stop in Nairobi.  When the bus stopped, a group of men surrounded her, and started to strip and assault her for wearing a miniskirt in public. She screamed and cried out for help, but only a couple of brave people reached out and gave her clothes to cover herself. 
 
This kind of sexual violence against women is not unprecedented in Kenya, but this time was different. The brutality of the violence was caught on camera and went viral online.  On November 2014 alone, at least four such attacks were recorded across Kenya. The numbers for violence against women are disturbing: according to the Gallup World Poll conducted in 2010 in Kenya, 48.2 percent of women feared that a household member could be sexually harassed. 
 

The World Bank, the Catholic Church, and the Global Future of Development

Thomas Banchoff's picture
This blog post originally appeared on the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs at Georgetown University.

The World Bank and the Catholic Church are the two most influential anti-poverty institutions in the world. One works primarily with governments and the international community; the other through a global network encompassing more than a billion adherents.

The ten richest Africans own as much as the poorest half of the continent

Christoph Lakner's picture
In January 2014, Oxfam released a widely-cited briefing paper which argued that the richest 85 people in the world owned more than the poorest half of the population in 2013 (Oxfam, 2014).[1] In this blog post I estimate this statistic for Africa. The blog builds on background research for an upcoming flagship report “The State of Poverty and Inequality in Africa” led by the World Bank’s Africa Chief Economist Office. I find that the ten richest Africans own more than the bottom half of the continent.

The three transitions of the Western Balkans

Ivailo Izvorski's picture
The small, open economies of the Western Balkans* are at various stages of progress on three transitions: the transition to market economy, the transition to EU membership, and the transition to high-income status. The first transition started in the 1990s and its ultimate completion will help advance the second. Progress on the second transition, the EU integration, will unleash the EU convergence machine that has seen all but two countries in Europe achieve and sustain high income status.

Building feedback into project implementation: A visit to the Social Observatory

Ken Chomitz's picture
“Do you decide on what types of clothes to wear based on your own preferences?”  That’s a question on a survey instrument designed to assess whether Tamil Nadu’s Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project (part of the Pudhu Vaazhvu Project or PVP) is actually having an impact on women’s empowerment. The question resonated strongly with the project beneficiaries I met. For them, it was a touchstone indicator of empowerment. That may be because it was crafted by a group of the women for whom the project is designed. 
 

Women are still pushing a boulder uphill, but progress is real

Kaushik Basu's picture
Most women today still get the short end of the economic stick - by virtually every measure available to us, women are more constrained and economically excluded than men.
Globally, men are nearly twice as likely as women to hold full-time jobs. On average, women earn between 10 and 30 percent less than working men, while they spend at least twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work, such as caring for family members and doing housework.

Oil Price Plunge holds promise and peril

Kaushik Basu's picture
An understanding of the long- and short-term factors that were behind the recent plunge in oil prices is essential for all with an interest in economic policy, given that we still live in the age of oil.

Today my team has published a paper that looks into how the rapid expansion of oil supply from unconventional sources, OPEC’s change of strategy, and weak global demand drove the decline in oil prices.

Dysfunctional mental models, marginalization, and perverse legitimacy: Reflections from the WDR 2015

James Walsh's picture

What does the World Development Report 2015 have to say about power and institutions – two central determinants of development?

When we think of power, social institutions like the police and the military often come to mind – organizations with the ability to use brute force to compel people to follow rules and obey commands. But while the power structures we observe in the world around us are very real, (they are not simply “in the head”) part of their clout nevertheless lies in their “schematizing role.” Institutions, we argue, are more than just the “rules of the game” as is conventionally understood in the disciplines of economics and political science.

Information as intervention: A visit to Digital Green

Ken Chomitz's picture

The tiny village of Narma Dih, off-grid in Bihar, India, was lit only by the full moon and the beam of a battery-powered pico projector.  A makeshift screen hung on the outside wall of a modest dwelling. A clump of small children clung to each other and stared at the screen, transfixed. Behind them sat a circle of sari-clad women, equally absorbed. A few men stood in back. The object of their rapt attention? Not a Bollywood extravaganza, but a locally produced how-to video on seed preparation for okra cultivation.  

Farmer displays a Digital Green
– informed innovation

I was in Narma Dih to get a first-hand look at Digital Green, which uses technology to accelerate the diffusion of agricultural innovations. The WDR 2016 is all about storing and sharing information, and that is at the heart of agricultural extension. There can be high returns to putting the right information in the right hands at the right time. This is especially true if you can show farmers ways of being more productive with their existing resources -- for instance, showing them how to intercrop, or to make better compost.  But credibly transmitting this kind of information has always been difficult, labor-intensive and costly.  Agricultural extension agents are typically assigned to serve an impossibly large number of farmers spread over a logistically daunting stretch of countryside. And the traditional form of information transmittal leaves something to be desired.  In Bihar, the agents have travelled the back roads shlepping flipcharts, text-heavy and just plain heavy, one per topic.  The flipcharts may not adequately convey new techniques to illiterate farmers, let alone give them confidence to try a risky new idea.  Would you believe someone who told you that you could sow 90% fewer seeds while boosting your yield?  (That's the promise of the system of crop intensification, whose diffusion is a goal of the Bank-supported Jeevika Project.)
 

Inclusive growth for shared prosperity

Vinaya Swaroop's picture
Announced in April 2013, the twin global goals of the World Bank – eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity – have become the guiding principles of its development work.  While reducing poverty has always anchored the Bank’s work, the goal of boosting shared prosperity – measured by the income of the bottom 40 percent – is new.