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Middle East and North Africa

Does Your Country Export What It Should?

Siddhesh Kaushik's picture

Customs reforms have made trade easier in Georgia. Photo - Irakli Tabagari / World Bank.One of the core principles of trade economics is that of “comparative advantage.” First described by David Ricardo, the theory says that countries are best off if they specialize in products that they can make relatively more efficiently – with lower opportunity cost – than other countries. If this happens, the theory goes, global welfare will increase. This concept is more difficult than it sounds, however – as Paul Krugman has pointed out quite eloquently – and benefits from illustration.

Basketball genius Michael Jordan stars in one example sometimes used in textbooks and classrooms: If Jordan mows his lawn faster than anyone else in the neighborhood, he has anabsolute advantage in lawn mowing. But that doesn’t mean that he should mow his neighbor John Smith’s lawn, because that would come at an opportunity cost: in the same two hours it would take Jordan to cut the grass, he could earn much more by playing basketball or making a commercial.

While it is difficult to measure comparative advantage in world trade, one indicator is something called “Revealed Comparative Advantage” (RCA). This is a measure of how a country’s exports compare to those of a bigger group, such as a region or the rest of the world. For example, if a country’s RCA in wheat is high (typically greater than one), that means wheat makes up a higher share of that country’s total exports than it does of the world’s exports. This suggests that that country is a more efficient wheat-producer than the average country.

But countries don’t always produce the products in which they have a revealed comparative advantage. Sometimes Michael Jordan mows the lawn. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples from this new data visualization tool.

World Bank to publish Purchasing Power Parities in March 2014

Grant Cameron's picture
In June 2013 we announced the upcoming release of the results from the 2011 round of the International Comparison Program (ICP). The results will include ICP 2011 benchmark PPPs and related volume measures for 199 participating countries/economies.

Untangling the Syrian Refugee Crisis with Open Data

Leila Rafei's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and the internally displaced. For Syrians and journalists, these are the buzzwords of the moment, but I’ve been curious: are there data that can help to understand the issue better? Since I work in the department in the World Bank responsible for leading the Open Data Initiative, I thought I’d see whether there are open data resources that can help with that.

Each of the terms above describes a different way in which humans move, and all are difficult to measure. In Syria, as a result of the internal conflict, all are in evidence. Refugees need to move in order to preserve their lives or political freedom. Asylum seekers have applied for official refugee status, but haven’t received it yet. International migrants move from one country to another - generally for economic opportunity, but also if they are refugees. The internally displaced are people who have fled their homes but still reside within the borders of their original country.

<1000 days to the MDGs: Data Dashboards to Monitor the last Stretch

Johan Mistiaen's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Data on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) indicator trends for developing countries and for different groups of countries are curated in the World Development Indicator (WDI) database.  Each year we use these data in the Global Monitoring Report (GMR) to track progress on the MDGs.  Many colleagues, as well as non-Bank staff, approach us on a weekly basis with questions regarding where their region, or country, or sector stands in regard to achieving the core MDGs.  Oftentimes in the same breath, they will also ask us whether or when we expect that a particular country or region will meet a certain MDG.  

With less than 1,000 days remaining to the MDG deadline, work on the Post-2015 agenda is in full swing. In response to the growing demand for additional info about GMR analytics and the underlying data, we developed a suite of open and interactive data diagnostics dashboards available at: http://data.worldbank.org/mdgs.  Below is an extract which summarizes the progress status towards meeting various MDGs among countries in various regions, income and other groups.  Select different indicators and highlight categories of progress status to interact with the visualization.

 

Seeing Between the Lines: Visualizing Global Poverty Trends

Johan Mistiaen's picture

Last month, while World Bank President Jim Yong Kim launched the gender data portal, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked that “data not only measures progress, it inspires it”.  Indeed when data is both relevant and effectively communicated, it can help to inform policies, identify challenges, and catalyze changes and innovations that deliver development results.

With that goal in mind, we started an Open Data Lab.  One of our objectives is to help the development community become more effective data communicators by experimenting with different data visualization techniques and tools.  The human brain finds it easier to process data and information if it is presented as an image rather than raw numbers or words.  And visualizations that let and encourage users to interact with data can deepen their understanding of the information presented.