Many firms in developing countries are informal, that is they operate without registering with the government. For example, in a labor market survey of Mexico, nearly 50 percent of business owners report that their firm is not registered with the authorities.
Different explanations have been put forth to explain why firms operate informally. One view, associated with De Soto (1989), is that informal business owners are viable entrepreneurs who are being held back from registering their firm due to complex regulations. Another view, expressed for example by Tokman (1992), sees informal business owners as individuals who are trying to make a living while they search for a wage job.
I used to be partial to the De Soto view. However, a few years ago, I wrote a paper on the impact of a business registration reform in Mexico (Bruhn, 2008), expecting that I would find that the reform led informal business owners to register their business. Surprisingly, this is not what I found. The reform had positive effects, creating more registered businesses and employment, but these businesses came from wage earners setting up new businesses, and not from informal business owners registering.
“There is nothing in this book that needs to be confirmed by complex laboratory experiments. You have only to open the window or step into the street”, Hernando de Soto, The Other Path, p14., 1989.
We know the impact of violence can last generations. We also know that people can be affected by repeated cycles of conflict and instability. The result is that the poor get poorer and become less resilient to further shocks, whether natural or man-made.
We have all heard the buzz: How the Internet has changed the world; how social networks are allowing young people to voice their aspirations and organize to bring real changes on the ground; and how the developing world is awash in mobile phones and hyper-connected youngsters.
The session on Human Right to Water has led to constructive debate and dialogue. More interestingly, discussion on whether the human right to water implies providing water for free is no longer part of the mainstream debate. We have moved beyond this dichotomy and are now focused on figuring out how to make it work, while recognizing the costs involved.
There were many take-away messages. We need to operationalize the definition of the human right to water, develop more specific indicators and targets for each dimension that makes up the human right to water, and work to ensure that targets and indicators are relevant for different country contexts. Questions such as How affordable is affordable?, How safe is safe?, and How available is available? will differ between countries.
If you are looking for a house in Dar es Salaam, hurry up. With the recent discovery of massive natural gas reserves, affordable houses will soon become a rarity. The cost of living in African countries with abundant natural resources (Angola, Gabon, etc) is among the highest in the world. Today Tanzania sits on about 15 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, equivalent to approximately US$150 billion at current prices, or 6 times Tanzania's current GDP.
These proved and potential reserves can be a game changer for Tanzania. Yet, extracting and producing is not a simple affair. Massive up-front investments (larger than the country’s current GDP of US$22 billion) and new technologies are necessary, while benefits will typically spread over 25 to 30 years. Short of cash and expertise, Tanzania will have to partner with global companies. Potential candidates (British Gas, Statoil) are already knocking on the door.
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Gender inequality comes in many shapes and (depressing) colors. A recent trip to Haiti showed me and my colleagues, perhaps its ugliest and most damaging face: violence against women of all ages, including babies. But as ugly as it is, can we make it our business?
I think the answer is yes. Here is why.
Public awareness campaigns about climate change can be real downers. This one was too scary for children and was eventually pulled off the air. This one scared even the adults and was pulled off the air within hours of its release.
Doom and gloom scenarios seem to be the dominant theme in most of these campaigns. But are they working? According to Futerra’s Sell the Sizzle, these campaigns completely miss the target with this type of negative messaging. While it is true that climate change is aggravating problems like mass migration, overcrowded cities, and food shortages, our message need not be about Armageddon. We are trying to sell a version of climate change hell when we should be selling a low-carbon heaven, argues Futerra.
What does it take to introduce e-books and e-readers into communities in low income countries -- and is this a good idea?
Judging by the increasing number of inquiries we receive here at the World Bank on this topic, we are not alone in asking such questions. If you want help in trying to answer these and related queries based on evidence from pioneers in this area, you will most likely find yourself at some point in contact with the folks at the Worldreader NGO. Co-founded by one of the former senior executives at Amazon, Worldreader is working with its partners to "bring millions of books to underserved children and families in the developing world". Jonathan Wareham, a professor at ESADE in Barcelona who serves on the Worldreader - Spanish Foundation Board and collaborates with the organization on various research activities into the use of e-readers and e-books, recently stopped by the World Bank to talk about what Worldreader is learning from its work in Africa.