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On the road to sustainable growth: measuring access for rural populations

Edie Purdie's picture
Also available in: العربية | 中文

This is part of a series of blogs focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and data from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.  This blog draws on data from the World Bank’s Rural Access Index and on results presented in the report Measuring Rural Access: using new technologies

In Nepal, 54 percent of the rural population lives within 2 kilometers of an all season road.

Nepal, Rural Access Index: 2015

Just over half of the rural population in Nepal lives within 2 kilometers of a road in good or fair condition as measured by the Rural Access Index (RAI) in 2015, leaving around 10.3 million rural residents without easy access. The map shows how the RAI varies across the country: in the southern lowlands, where both road and population density are high, the RAI is around 80 percent in some districts. In the more rugged northern regions, lower road density and poor road quality leave many disconnected, resulting in a low RAI figure – in many places less than 20 percent.

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.