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Pensions, power & development performance

Elias Masilela's picture
Woman who works in the daycare kitchen of a local farm in Milnerton, South Africa


The investment of pension fund assets has moved from an obscure topic for actuaries, to an issue which raises political attention at the highest level.

This is for the simple reason that it directly touches the social and economic livelihoods of people.

Since the 2008 global financial crisis, developed economies have been looking for additional sources of long-term capital to fill the gaps which bank and government balance sheets can’t fill. This is a search that has engulfed the developing world for much longer if not for as long as they exist. Younger developing economies are starting to see their pension funds grow, side by side with an increasing awareness of the impact which productively invested assets can have on economic growth both today and tomorrow. If invested for the aligned intensions of social impact and financial return, pension funds can improve people’s lives today and secure their income in future. However, this isn’t a general phenomenon – applying only to larger funds which have invested in the intellectual capacity of their Trustees, and in countries which have understood and embraced the strong relationship between the macroeconomic performance and asset performance.

Redirecting pension investments from short-term assets (government paper, bank deposits) to investments with a long-term impact is key to delivering, not only improved, but sustained returns. Private equity (PE) - equity capital not quoted on a public exchange – is one such asset class. PE investment is increasingly in vogue as such capital is the foundation of all economies, and indeed leads to the development of robust stock markets. If structured with pension investors’ risk-return consideration in mind, it can deliver the diversification benefits which these investors need.  If properly targeted, such investments will be vital in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, considering that 15 of the 17 SDGs have a focus on growth, development and sustainability (the last two being on implementation and capital resource origination). Active participation in investee companies by shareholders such as pension funds will be vital for ensuring a future sustainable and shared economy. In turn, for this to work optimally, requires conscientious and capable Trustees.

Weekly links September 16: infrastructure myths, surveying rare populations x 2, being a development mum, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

PBS Documentary follows students around the world for 12 years as they fight to get basic education

Nina Chaudry's picture
 2003 – 2016


The idea for this 12-year documentary project, Time for School, came after Pamela Hogan (our producer) read an op-ed in which economist Amartya Sen argued that investing in education was key to promoting a country’s economic and social growth.

Africa leads in the pursuit of a sustainable ocean economy

Jamal Saghir's picture

Artisanal fishermen and women anchor close to a Mauritian beach, where fish are heavily exploited. © Manoj Nawoor

African coastal countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) rely heavily on fishing and related employment, yet these livelihoods are all under threat due to declining fish stocks. Coastal erosion and shoreline habitat loss have taken a toll on poor coastal communities that are the most vulnerable to climate change while having contributed to the climate change problem the least. There are more storms, more floods and more droughts than ever previously recorded.
 
In many African countries, the ocean economy contributes one-quarter of all revenues and one-third of export revenues. And as coastal populations grow, overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution and unsustainable tourism degrade marine and coastal biodiversity and worsen poverty.

Charts: Where do Refugees Originate From and Where are they Hosted?

Tariq Khokhar's picture

"Forcibly Displaced" - a new report out today, offers a new perspective on the global crisis and how humanitarian and development actors can work together to support the individuals affected. The report draws on sources including the UNHCR's Global Trends 2015 which shows that 9 in 10 of the world's refugees originate from 20 countries, and 9 in 10 are hosted by about 40 countries.

How many years do refugees stay in exile?

Xavier Devictor's picture
"The average length of time that refugees spend in camps is 17 years." This cruel statistic has been quoted many times, influencing our perception of refugee crises as never-ending events which are spinning out of control. It has significant implications when deciding the type of aid that is needed, the combination of humanitarian and development support, and the possible responses to the crisis.

But is it true? Not so.

In fact, the "17 year" statistic comes from a 2004 internal UNHCR report, and it was accompanied by many caveats which have been lost along the way. The statistic does not refer to camps, since the overwhelming majority of refugees live outside camps. It is limited to situations of five years or more, so it is an average duration of the longest situations, not of all situations. Most importantly, it refers to the duration of situations, not to the time people have stayed in exile.

Take the situation of Somali refugees in Kenya. Refugees started to arrive massively around 1993, about 23 years ago. Their number now stands at 418,000. But can we say that all 418,000 have been in exile for 23 years?

In fact, forced displacement situations are inherently dynamic. As we see in Figure 1, numbers vary every year: they reflect political and military developments in the country of origin. In fact, a large part of the current total could not have arrived before 2008, i.e. about 6 or 7 years ago.
 
 

Figure 1 Number of Somali refugees in Kenya (UNHCR data)

Along these lines, and using data published by UNHCR as of end-2015, we re-calculated the earliest date at which various cohorts of refugees could have arrived in each situation (see working paper). We then aggregated all situations into a single "global refugee population" and calculated global averages and median durations.

So what are the results?

When we look at the "global refugee population" (See Figure 2), we can now distinguish several distinct episodes of displacement.
 


Figure 2 Number of refugees by year of exile

There is a large cohort of about 8.9 million "recent refugees," who arrived over the last four years. This includes about 4.8 million Syrians, as well as people fleeing from South Sudan (0.7 million), Afghanistan (0.3 million), Ukraine (0.3 million), the Central African Republic (0.3 million), and Pakistan (0.2 million).

Another large cohort, of about 2.2 million, has spent between 5 and 9 years in exile. It includes refugees from Afghanistan (0.5 million), the bulk of the current Somali refugees (0.4 million), and people fleeing from Colombia (0.3 million) and Myanmar (0.2 million).

About 2 million people have been in exile between 10 and 34 years. This includes years during which numbers are relatively low, and two episodes where they are higher, around 14 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.2 million Sudanese refugees, and around 24 and 25 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.1 million Somalis and 0.1 million Eritreans.

Lastly, a large group of refugees has been in exile for 35 to 37 years: these 2.2 million refugees include mainly Afghans, but also about 0.3 million ethnic Chinese who fled into China during the 1979 war with Vietnam. Finally, there are few very protracted situations, up to 55 years, including mainly Western Sahara.

We can now turn to average durations. As of end-2015, the median duration of exile stands at 4 years, i.e. half of the refugees worldwide have spent 4 years or less in exile. The median has fluctuated widely since the end of the Cold War, in 1991, between 4 and 14 years, and it is now at a historical low. By contrast, the mean duration stands at 10.3 years, and has been relatively stable since the late 1990s, between 10 and 15 years.

But this leads to another important finding: trends can be counter-intuitive. In fact, a decline in the average duration of exile is typically not an improvement, but rather the consequence of a degradation of the global situation. The averages increase in years when there are relatively few new refugees, and they drop when large numbers of people flow in, for example in 1993-1994 (with conflicts in Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda), in 1997-1999 (with conflicts in DRC and other parts of Africa), after 2003 (with conflict in Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan), and since 2013 (with the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic).

We also looked at the number of people who have spent more than five years in exile. As of end-2015, this number stands at 6.6 million, and it has been remarkably stable since 1991, at 5 to 7 million throughout most of the period.  For this group, however, the average duration of exile increases over time – largely because of the unresolved situation of Afghan refugees which pushes averages up. It is now well over 20 years.

This short analysis of UNHCR data shows that available refugee data can be used to clarify some important parts of the policy debate. It is important to ensure that this debate is informed by evidence, which can help provide a more nuanced perspective of a complex issue.

Are campaign consultants, and their techniques, of any use?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Political communication consultants (in their modern incarnation, an American invention) have become global celebrities. Political leaders in particular listen to the major ones with rapt attention, and their books and diaries tumble unto bookshelves with regularity. An example is Dispatches from the War Room: in the Trenches with Five Extraordinary Leaders by Stanley B. Greenberg. In the memoir, Greenberg, one of the most notable pollsters and campaign consultants of his generation, chronicles the campaigns he ran with Bill Clinton of the United States, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Tony Blair of Great Britain, Ehud Barak of Israel, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada of Bolivia, and many more. What is more, major documentaries and movies are being made about what these political communication consultants do. The most recent is Our Brand is Crisis (2015), starring Sandra Bullock and Bob Thornton. 

Not only are these consultants getting to work all over the world and earn container- loads of cash, their methods are spreading. And the methods are also influencing what other campaigns do, including efforts by social movements and civil society organizations worldwide. The challenge is more or less the same: how do you get citizens to make a move (vote, protest against injustices, support a good cause/reform efforts etc.)?

Building Contact between Immigrants and Host Communities is Vital to Integration –And Should be a Central Goal of the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants

Jonas Bergmann's picture
Negative Beliefs and Attitudes Towards Immigrants Threaten Effective Integration

The growing scale of human mobility worldwide has rendered immigration a salient topic. Better integration could yield significant benefits to migrants, host societies and governments (and even to sending regions) (Cervan-Gil, 2016): Inclusion facilitates self-sufficiency and human development, which in turn reduces welfare costs, raises tax income, and improves social cohesion (OECD 2016).
 

Chart: Most Refugees Don't Live in Camps

Tariq Khokhar's picture

About a quarter of the world's refugees live in camps. They are largely concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Most refugees in other regions live in individual accommodation. Forced displacement is largely and increasingly an urban phenomenon, with refugees living in cities and towns where they seek security, anonymity, better access to services, and job opportunities. Read more in the new report  "Forcibly Displaced: Toward a development approach supporting refugees, the internally displaced, and their hosts"
 

What skills students in Sri Lanka need to succeed

Yoko Nagashima's picture

How can students in Sri Lanka get the skills they need to succeed  Facebook Live Cover

Recently, the World Bank Education Team on Sri Lanka Higher Education organized its first Facebook Live to discuss how Sri Lanka’s universities can become world class institutions where students acquire relevant skills. More than 50,000 viewers have so far viewed the video and we have received a large volume of follow up questions and comments.

It is evident that there is strong interest among Sri Lankan youth in their education system, particularly the current state and the future of higher education system, as well as their job prospects.
 
The questions raised by Facebook viewers spanned across issues on the need to increase access for higher education, improve quality of teaching and learning at tertiary education institutions, increase relevance of higher education, enhance skills development for employment.
 

FACEBOOK LIVE: Helping Sri Lanka Students Get Relevant Skills for the Global Market


Here’s a sample of questions asked and discussed:
 
  • Learning opportunities in higher education have been significantly increased but higher education enrollment rate is well below comparator countries. How can Sri Lanka increase higher education opportunities?
  • teaching-learning is still one way In majority of Sri Lanka’s higher education institutions: lecturers deliver information and students listen. How can we change our system more towards student-centered learning to get students actively involved in their learning? How can Sri Lanka strengthen its universities’ teaching-learning practices?
  • What are the skills employers most want?
  • How can higher education institutions help students acquire the right skills to succeed in today’s job market?
  • The foundation of higher education is laid during the senior years at school. But after-school tuition classes have invaded school children’s lives. How can we ensure that teachers are doing their role effectively during school hours to prepare children for higher education?

While the team has been working on these very issues for over a decade since the preparation and implementation of the first higher education project in Sri Lanka, Improving Quality and Relevance of Undergraduate Education (2003-2010), followed by an analytical work on the sector, The Tower of Learning: Performance, Peril and Promise of Higher Education in Sri Lanka, and a follow up operation, Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century Project (2010-2016), this was an exciting opportunity to directly engage with the stakeholders through social media as the team is embarking on the next phase of engagement for the higher education sector through the preparation of Accelerating Higher Education Expansion and Development.  

Transformation of the education system is essential to meet the economic and social challenges of a rapidly evolving and knowledge-intensive world.

Sri Lanka has a well-established system of higher education but its expansion is facing major challenges.

Bringing excellence to Sri Lanka’s higher education where students are able to acquire the relevant skills for the global market was one of the main goals of the World Bank supported Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century Project.

The Accelerating Higher Education Expansion and Development Project will aim to expand access to higher education with a special focus on the Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics which will increase opportunities for young people, including youth from rural and estate sector families, to access better paid jobs.

In addition, it will aim to improve the relevance and quality of priority areas of higher education and increase research, development and innovation products from universities.

The team is grateful to Facebook viewers’ active engagement through Facebook live on Sri Lanka’s higher education and looking forward to the next rounds of discussions.  

 

 


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