Syndicate content

Paying Zero for Public Services

Fumiko Nagano's picture

Imagine that you are an old lady from a poor household in a town in the outskirts of Chennai city, India. All you have wanted desperately for the last year and a half is to get a title in your name for the land you own, called patta. You need this land title to serve as a collateral for a bank loan you have been hoping to borrow to finance your granddaughter’s college education. But there has been a problem: the Revenue Department official responsible for giving out the patta has been asking you to pay a little fee for this service. That’s right, a bribe. But you are poor (you are officially assessed to be below the poverty line) and you do not have the money he wants. And the most absurd part about the scenario you find yourself in is that this is a public service that should be rendered to you free of charge in the first place. What would you do? You might conclude, as you have done for the last 1-1/2 years, that there isn’t much you can do…but wait, you just heard about a local NGO by the name of 5th Pillar and it just happened to give you a powerful ally: a zero rupee note.

What DM Finalist in Threatened Maldives Needs

Tom Grubisich's picture

One of the countries most threatened by climate change is the Maldives, the group of South Asian islands that are coping with the rising waters of the Indian Ocean.  One of the finalists in DM2009 was Innovative Gardening and Education to Adapt to Climate Change in the Maldives.  The Live & Learn project aims to "increase the quality and quantity of local food production, using new techniques resilient to increasing groundwater salinity" caused by the rising waters.  Innovative Gardening and Education would promote women as leaders in building a sustainable community network spreading the message of "no-till" resilient food production that combats encroaching salinity.  In this mini-interview Fathimath Shafeeqa, Country Manager of Live & Learn's environmental education operations in the Maldives, talks about climate adaptation in her country, the national government's relationship with civil society, and what she and other DM2009 finalists who didn't win at the competition need to move closer to success -- in particular, from the World Bank:

Q. Is your country in its adaptation program doing enough to develop capacity -- knowledge and learning -- among government and civil society organizations?

A. Not yet, but the government is still discussing adaptation measures.

Q. Is the national government really listening to local communities in preparing adaptation plans and strategies?

A. new government is in place and trying to decentralise a lot of the decision making.

Q. Since you returned from DM2009, do you plan to work with government so that your project might be incorporated in national adaptation efforts?

A. Trying very much to discuss with the respective government agencies. No luck as yet. However, if the World Bank decides to send a letter of acknowledgement re the finalists to the Finance Ministry of the respective countries, the process would be much faster.

Thailand's economy in 2010: Growth in balance

Frederico Gil Sander's picture

In the years since the 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis, the Bank of Thailand (BoT) worked hard to build a heavy fortress around the nation’s financial sector. As a result, at a time when credit markets froze in developed countries and investors “fled to quality,” large amounts of capital still flowed into Thailand, where banks remained solid and well capitalized. Despite the financial strength brought by prudent policies, for the first time since the financial crisis, Thailand will see GDP and household consumption drop, and poverty could even increase in 2009. It is clear that the financial armor was insufficient to protect the economy from another crisis.

The culprit has been identified as Thailand’s excessive reliance on external demand, and talk of “rebalancing” growth towards domestic consumption and investment has become quite common (pdf). The idea of rebalancing makes some sense – but it can also be misleading. Let me explain.

10 PSD classics of the “Naughties”

As we say goodbye to the “Naughties” I thought it may be interesting to step back and reflect on some of the significant books of the last decade that really did change the way we thought about PSD and its contribution to development. Given the “decade” theme, I’ve limited the selection to ten, although the books don’t map to each year of the decade.

Fragile States Are Hard to Lump Together

Tom Grubisich's picture

"Fragile states" -- the subject of the next Global Development Marketplace competition -- can't be put in one box.  Or two or even three boxes (i.e. in conflict, post-conflict, or threatened by conflict or political unrest).  The World Bank chart below shows how fragile states that aren't "Heavily Indebted Poor Countries" (HIPCs) can compare favorably to non-fragile HIPCs based on key indicators such as poverty, school enrollment, and mortality rates for children under five years of age.  The exception is in the poverty category in the "last available year" section of the chart where non-fragile HIPCs reverse the 1990-2006 average and perform better. (Some HIPCs have had their debt forgiven wholly or partially, while others have not yet advanced to either stage.)

The World Bank Data Visualization chart (below) in general mirrors the first chart's findings.  It ranks a mix of fragile and non-fragile states by per-capita gross national income (horizontal axis) and per-capita gross domestic product (vertical axis).  The highest-performing countries (green balls) are, right to left, upper-middle-income Gabon, South Africa, Mauritius, and Botswana, all of which are non-fragile and not heavily indebted.  The next highest-performing countries (the cluster of blue [poorest countries] and red balls [lower-middle income countries]) include Côte d'Ivoire, Republic of Congo, Nigeria (biggest blue ball), and Liberia, all of which have been designated fragile but are not heavily indebted.  (Nigeria is a special case.  It was on the World Bank's and other fragile lists as recently as 2008, but off the World Bank's new "interim" "Harmonized List of Fragile Situations" published Nov. 17, 2009.  But the World Bank's 2009 Worldwide Governance Indicators rank Nigeria as the third worst state for "political stability and lack of violence/terrorism," just below Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of the Congo.) Many of the blue balls at the lower ends of the two scales represent non-fragile but heavily indebted states.


Quote of the Week

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

-- Passage from The Man in the Arena, the title of a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910.


Transmission of Crisis from Home Mortgages to US Credit Freeze

Raj Nallari's picture

By early-2007, it became clear as housing prices began to decline, losses on sub-primate mortgages that originated in 2003-2006 were rising more rapidly than the assumptions used and risk-model predictions. The deterioration in borrowing quality and other shortcomings mentioned above gave little comfort to investors.

Path to Innovation Success Is No Straight Line

Tom Grubisich's picture

Need drives innovation.  But even when the need is life-and-death, innovation often follows a path that is crooked and sometimes comes to a (temporary) dead end.  "Eureka" moments may prove to be just that -- momentary.

Consider the cooking stoves used by more than 2.4 billion poor people in developing countries.  The stoves -- fueled mostly by kerosene or biomass (e.g., wood, charcoal, dung) -- kill an estimated 1.5 million people annually because of indoor pollution that causes pneumonia and other diseases (photo from U.N. WHO report "Fuel for Life: Household Energy and Health").

There have been numerous attempts to develop a less dangerous stove, but success has been, at best, only marginal.  Innovative stoves often proved inferior to open fires in cooking local foods, and in other cases they actually turned out to be inefficient energy users.

The 30-year struggle by a group of altruistic American inventors/tinkerers, scientists, and other amateur and professional experts to design a stove that was safe, efficient, inexpensive, and met local cooking requirements and tastes across the globe is described in a fascinating article in the New Yorker magazine, "Hearth Surgery."  (The link requires a subscription; to read the abstract, go here.  Author Burkhard Bilger's blog is here.)

For all their altruism and expertise, not to mention innovation, the designers met setback after setback.  One big obstacle was getting international donor funding.  "For groups like the Gates Foundation and USAID, the metric is cost-effectiveness," said team member Jacob Moss.  "How many people are you going to save with a hundred million dollars?"

Five years after the tsunami: recollections from my work on ground zero in Aceh, Indonesia

Geumala Yatim's picture
Explaining the housing program admistered by the Multi-Donor Fund to a group of residents.

(Geumala Yatim, who started working with communities in Aceh soon after the 2004 tsunami hit, is writing a book about her experiences there. This is adapted from one of its chapters).

At the time, I was at my friend Oscar’s house, getting ready to attend a Christmas party at another friend’s house. Oscar asked me to turn the TV on to CNN or BBC. “I heard there’s a big natural disaster somewhere on the tip of Sumatra. Aceh probably. Not sure,” he said. Up until we left the house, both channels were relaying non-stop reports on natural disasters in Thailand and Sri Lanka. No reports on what was happening on the tip of Sumatra thus far.

The Art of Inquiry: Political Communication for the Holidays

Antonio Lambino's picture

It’s that time of year when people in many parts of the world are celebrating the holiday season.   Social calendars are full and gatherings with family, friends, and loved ones are in full swing.  For those of us who find ourselves in this flurry of social activity, what might the study of political communication have to offer?

It is a truism that we are not to talk religion or politics at the dinner table or gatherings of close-knit family and friends.  Findings from the study of political communication back this up.  As Diana Mutz (2006) poignantly discloses in her award-winning book entitled Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy,