The recent decline in global commodity prices is proving to be very costly for South Africa. The deterioration of South Africa’s terms of trade since 2012 cost at least four percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP) growth. This estimate does not account for some important indirect effects generated by the commodity price shock, including the heightened volatility of the rand and its impact on investment decisions. Instead of global monetary policy developments, commodity price volatility is now understood as being the main driver of exchange rate and capital account volatility in South Africa, and in emerging markets more generally. And 91% of European investors surveyed in the second half of 2014 identified the volatility of the rand as a major constraint to doing business in South Africa.
From my house in northern Quezon City, I drive more than two hours every day to get to the office in Bonifacio Global City, which is about three cities away where I come from, and two cities away from the capital Manila. It’s a journey that should only take around half an hour under light traffic. That is a total of four hours on the road a day, if there is no road accident or bad weather. It takes me an hour longer whenever I use the public transport system. Along with hundreds of thousands of Metro Rail Transit (MRT) commuters, I have to contend with extremely long lines, slow trains, and frequent delays due to malfunctions. This has been my experience for several years. Many of us might be wondering: why have these problems persisted?
In my 10 years of working in the World Bank, I have seen remarkable changes around me. In 2004, Emerald Avenue in Ortigas Center, where the old World Bank office was located, started to wind down after 9 PM. Finding a place to buy a midnight snack whenever I did overtime was hard. It was also hard to find a taxi after work.
Today, even at 3 AM, the street is bustling with 24-hour restaurants, coffee shops, and convenience stores, hundreds of BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) employees taking their break, and a line of taxis waiting to bring these new middle class earners home. Living in Ortigas Center today means that I also benefit from these changes.
I discussed our most recent Russia growth outlook at a roundtable at the Higher School of Economics Conference on Apr. 2 with a number of Russian and international experts. This conference is one of the most important and prestigious economic conferences in Russia, and traditionally, the World Bank co-sponsors it as part of its outreach to other stakeholders.
The room was packed...
When President Obama announced a number of investment priorities for his second term that would expand the economy and strengthen the middle class, his focus on bolstering early childhood education caught my attention. I agree with his premise and furthermore think that what is good for the United States is also good for developing countries. But what stands in the way of a more aggressive, nationwide emphasis on early childhood development worldwide? Are opportunities being missed because of lack of knowledge or coordination failures?
Today we released a new report, 'Leveraging Migration for Africa: Remittances, Skills, and Investments'. This report is a joint effort by the African Development Bank and the World Bank. It comes at a time when countries in Africa and elsewhere are grappling with difficult choices on how to manage migration. It marks an effort to fill data and knowledge gaps on migration which in Africa comes in complex forms.
About 30 million Africans live outside their home countries, and migration is a vital lifeline for the continent. These migrants sent home over $40 billion in remittances last year. And their annual estimated saving, usually held in foreign countries, exceeds $50 billion.
The New York Times published an opinion piece on diaspora bonds over the weekend. In this piece, Ngozi and I highlight the potential for mobilizing diaspora wealth for financing infrastructure investments in Africa and other developing regions.
At a time when donor countries are facing fiscal difficulties, new sources of funding and innovative ways to leverage available donor funding are required for meeting the financing needs in developing countries. Indeed, innovative mechanisms for channeling investments to dynamic developing countries may even provide a way out of weak demand and excess capacity prevailing currently in the developed countries. As highlighted by Justin Lin, "a global push for investment along the line of Keynesian stimulus is the key for a sustained global recovery; however, the stimulus needs to go beyond the traditional Keynesian investment....By far the greatest opportunities for productivity-enhancing investments are in developing countries..." (see here ).
Investments in education and human capital have long been recognized as precipitators of future economic growth. Rapid development in Korea in the second half of the 20th century, for instance, has been traced by scholars back to high levels of investments in schooling and training, creating the enabling environment for industrialization and further specialization.
There is no doubt that commitment to education for economic development requires both long-term funding and the multiplying effects of time.
But what causes countries with similar levels of sustained spending to achieve vastly different outcomes? It's a question that burns in the minds and wallets of governments and development efforts around the world.
We are finally starting to see some positive news around the East Asia and Pacific region, but it is too soon to begin to speak of "green shoots" of economic activity or reaching the bottom of the economic downturn in Asia. Although the Swine flu (one disease originating from animals that did not come from Asia!) and the nervousness about the condition of U.S. banks had a slightly negative impact on financial markets in Asia this past week, the stock markets are still up by about 12% for the year – led by Indonesia (21.6%), Korea (11.8%), and China (9.4%).