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Poverty

Competitiveness is Key to Trade and Development in Africa

Anabel Gonzalez's picture
Textile factories are an important source of employment in Lesotho, which benefits from the AGOA agreement. Photo credit: John Hogg / World Bank. As World Bank President Jim Kim told the African leaders who gathered in Washington for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit this week: African countries have enormous potential to increase trade, drive growth, reduce poverty, and deliver jobs. They face constraints, to be sure, but the World Bank Group is working with our African partners daily to improve the competitiveness of their industries and boost the volume and diversity of their trade with the rest of the world.

At a high-level meeting at the World Bank on Monday, African ministers and delegations representing 51 countries had a pressing concern: the renewal and modernization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). A preferential program that enhances the access of qualifying African countries to the US market, the law is due to expire in September 2015.

What Will the Trade Facilitation Agreement Mean for the Aid for Trade Agenda? New e-Book Provides Answers

Jaime de Melo's picture

The world’s 45 Least Developed Countries that are not oil producers (non-oil LDCs) are exporting less and less in the global market place. Between 1985 and 2012, the world market share of non-oil LDCs’ exports of goods and services fell from 1.2 percent to 0.8 percent—all while their share in world population rose from 7.5 percent to 9.9 percent.

The 2005 Aid for Trade (AFT) initiative was designed to arrest this decline. Yet, LDCs’ trade costs continue to fall less rapidly than those of their competitors.

Clearly, it’s time to re-evaluate the AFT initiative.

A new e-book does just that, and, contrary to what some may think, concludes that the initiative has been beneficial. But due to a collective failure to clearly articulate its results, the achievements of the AFT initiative are now at risk as development budgets come under increasing pressure.

Sticky Feet: How Workers’ Reluctance to Move Can Reduce Gains from Trade

Elizabeth Ruppert Bulmer's picture

When economists think about price shocks, they consider how a change in price will affect the supply and demand of a product. But when that product is human – i.e., a worker – interpreting the impact of a price – or wage – shock is no longer cut and dried.

Just consider: If your wage was suddenly cut, would you remain in your current job despite the loss in earnings? Would you quit immediately, or look for a new job while continuing to work? How long could you survive on your lower earnings? Would you be forced to sell your house or other assets? How much money and effort would you invest in finding a better job? Would your personal circumstances allow you to take a better job in a distant location? Would you uproot your family for this job? 

Resilience vs. Vulnerability in African Drylands

Paul Brenton's picture
Woman carries wood in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Source- Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot

It’s 38°C (99°F) in Ouagadougou, the capitol city of Burkina Faso, today—and it’s been this hot all week. The end of the warm season is near, but in places like Ouaga (pronounced WAH-ga, as its better known), temperatures stay high year-round. These are the African drylands: hot, arid, and vulnerable.

Over 40 percent of the African continent is classified as drylands, and it is home to over 325 million people. For millennia, the people of these regions have adapted to conditions of permanent water scarcity, erratic precipitation patterns, and the constant threat of drought. But while urban centers like Cairo and Johannesburg have managed to thrive under these harsh conditions, others have remained mired in low productivity and widespread poverty. 

The World Bank has been partnering with a team of regional and international agencies to prepare a major study on policies, programs, and projects to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of populations living in drylands regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

A Fragile Country Tale: Restrictions, Trade Deficits, and Aid Dependence

Massimiliano Calì's picture

 Masaru Goto, World BankPart of the World Bank’s new vision is to step up its efforts to help fragile and conflict-afflicted states break the vicious cycle of poverty. But this is no easy task.
 
The destruction of productive assets and the restrictions on the capacity to produce are among the most severe economic impacts of conflicts and fragility. These effects explain why countries in conflict or emerging out of conflict typically have very large trade deficits. The productive sector is often particularly weak by international standards, so exports are low and domestic consumption has to rely on imports. Indeed, five of the ten countries with the largest trade deficit in the world (Timor-Leste, Liberia, the Palestinian territories, Kosovo and Haiti) are considered fragile by the World Bank and other regional development banks (figure 1).
 

For Vietnam, Trade Competitiveness Much More than a Slogan

Luis Blancas's picture

Click to enlarge the infographic.Vietnam is one of the world's development success stories. It is undeniable. 

Between 1990 and 2010, Vietnam grew at an average annual rate of 7.4 percent—one of the world’s top five growth performance records, anywhere, over the same 20-year period. In the process, the incidence of poverty has declined dramatically, from 58 percent in 1993 to about 10 percent today. Nowadays Vietnam is no longer considered a low-income country: it has attained lower-middle income status.

Yet this successful economic transition has also generated a number of challenges. Chief among them is that of sustaining economic growth going forward.
 

Non-Tariff Measures Raise Food Prices and Hinder Regional Integration in Central America

Jose Daniel Reyes's picture

A cow browses in Nicaragua. Source - www.flickr.com/photos/ajohndoeproject/3657141084/sizes/m/in/photostream/It is July 2012 and cattle farmers in Nicaragua are worried because Guatemala has enacted a series of laws that restrict beef trade. These so-called “non-tariff measures,” or NTMs, require that beef crossing the Guatemalan border meet stricter safety and labeling standards. The Guatemalan government argues that these measures protect the country’s consumers from health hazards. But the Nicaraguan farmers say they hurt business and unfairly shelter Guatemalan producers from competition. 

This is just one example of the debates that arise in the food industry in Central America and elsewhere. While it is laudable and good policy for a government to use legitimate, non-trade related legislation to protect its citizens from certain risks, governments can also use these measures to protect domestic industry. Regardless of their intention, in an increasingly globalized, competitive world, non-tariff measures increase the cost of doing business, impact prices, affect the competitiveness of the private sector, and impact the overall welfare of the economy.

Beggar Thy Neighbor’s Beggars? Using Trade Policy to Moderate Food-Price Spikes May Hurt the World’s Poor

Will Martin's picture

Wheat. Source - World Bank. www.flickr.com/photos/worldbank/3633424588/sizes/m/in/photostream/Many countries use trade policy to protect their own consumers from spikes in international food prices. It turns out that this well-intentioned practice can actually do more harm than good. During food price spikes -- such as those in mid-2008, early 2011 and mid-2012 – governments restricted the export of food staples or lowered barriers to importing them. They hoped to keep their domestic prices of rice, wheat, maize, and oilseed low, reasoning that this would help their poor and stop people from falling into poverty. But there is new evidence that, while the practice kept each country’s domestic prices down relative to the world prices at the time, it contributed to the higher international prices that were the source of concern. In a World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, “Food Price Spikes, Price Insulation, and Poverty,” we explore this phenomenon and find that it did not reduce global poverty in 2008. On the contrary, we estimate it may have increased poverty slightly (by 8 million people).

Make Preferential Treatment Real For Africa: Relax Rules of Origin

Alberto Portugal-Perez's picture

Fabric from a factory in Malawi. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8488599@N04/5129135667/Countries that want to use preferential trade agreements to boost trade with Africa should re-examine the rules of engagement. New evidence shows that certain rules underlying preferential trade agreements are drastically hindering their intended benefits. In fact, in a World Bank Policy Research Paper and an article forthcoming in The World Bank Economic Review, we find that relaxing those definitions could increase the agreements’ benefits by four times more than just removing tariffs.

Notes From the Field: Managing Oil Wealth in Brazil

Amir Fouad's picture

About "Notes From the Field": With this occasional feature, we let World Bank professionals who are conducting interesting trade-related projects around the globe explain some of the challenges and triumphs of their day-to-day work.

Pablo FajnzylberThe interview below is with Pablo Fajnzylber, who recently became sector Manager for the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network in East Africa. The interview took place while Mr. Fajnzylber was Lead Economist and Sector Leader for PREM in Brazil. Prior to that, he worked at the Chief Economist’s Office for the Latin America and Caribbean region, the Finance and Private Sector Development Department for the same region and the Bank’s Development Economics Research Group. Mr. Fajnzylber has published extensively on a variety of development topics, including various books and articles in professional journals on issues related to growth, international trade, informality, crime, workers’ remittances, private sector development and climate change.

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