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China’s prospects stirred interest as the BRICs met in South Africa and a new survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found China on course to become the world’s largest economy by 2016. The OECD study says China has “weathered the global economic and financial crisis of the past five years better than virtually any OECD country” and should be able to continue catching up and improving living standards over the next decade. While the OECD study says China needs to shift to more environmentally friendly modes of consumption and production, a new Climate Institute/GE Low-Carbon Competitiveness Index finds that France, Japan, China, South Korea and the United Kingdom are “currently best positioned to prosper in the global low-carbon economy.”
Climate Institute/GE Low-Carbon Competitiveness Index
Today, we know that being overweight or obese are major risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and premature death. We are constantly reminded that personal behaviors, influenced by culture and lifestyle, and our metabolic development contribute to being overweight or obese. In the March 2013 Food Price Watch, we wonder how another factor could potentially influence the world’s obesity epidemic: high food prices.
But first, let’s run a quick quiz. Many of us watch our weight routinely and may even have figured out our Body Mass Index—the ratio of body weight in kilograms by the square of body height in meters—to determine whether or not we are overweight. Yet there are some stunning facts about being overweight that you may not know.
Can you answer the questions about being overweight or obese below?
There is hardly a better place to focus on the ocean than Cape Town, South Africa. With the dramatic Twelve Apostles mountain range as a backdrop, only a narrow street separated us from the Atlantic coastline embracing this city. On March 20, I attended the first meeting of the Global Ocean Commission, a new independent task force of international leaders looking for ways to protect the high seas.
When Minister Trevor Manuel of South Africa invited me to join as a commissioner, I did not hesitate. As an Indonesian, I understand all too well both the predicament and the value of the ocean. At the World Bank, we have been participating in the development of a Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO), a coalition of over 125 groups aiming to increase investment and collaboration in a healthier ocean that can do more to reduce poverty.
The Global Ocean Commission was launched on February 12, 2013, to develop policy ideas and build international coalitions to reverse the degradation of the high seas – the part of the ocean that is not under the jurisdiction of any one nation. For that reason, the commission is a powerful complement to the GPO, which focuses largely on supporting countries’ efforts to better manage their coastal waters.
If you were to ask me what our biggest challenge is, I would say it is to convince politicians who have to grapple with day-to-day domestic issues that the ocean matters.
During my stay in Cape Town, I listened to a lot of conclusive science and saw a lot of convincing economic data. Let’s be clear, the facts are stark. If we don’t act, the ocean’s future—and by extension ours—is bleak.
Here it is in a nutshell: One billion people in developing countries depend on fish as their primary source of protein, and 350 million jobs are linked to the health of the oceans. Yet 57% of ocean fisheries are fully exploited. Another 30% are over-exploited, depleted or recovering. An increasing share of important marine habitats like coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds are being destroyed or degraded. You can learn about the impact in this video.
When pursuing new opportunities, expected and unexpected risks can rise up. From personal health issues to economic hardship and natural disasters, any number of risks can create barriers on the pathway to success for individuals, families, businesses, and entire countries.
That was the first question up for debate at the Citizen Voices Conference on March 18. And the communal answer was a clear and resounding "yes."
The next question up posed more of a challenge – How do we build our public and private institutions so citizens can access information and influence decisions impacting their own lives? The answer to this was pulled apart for eight hours by technology innovators, development specialists, government officials, academics, civil society representatives, and members of the private sector at this interactive and multilingual conference.
In a new study on gender equality, researchers asked 4,000 people in 20 countries to describe the gender norms in their communities and the influence those norms have on their lives and their every-day decisions. The researchers spoke with men and women, youth and adults, living in villages and cities in developing countries, as well as higher income countries.
Here, three of the researchers describe their most memorable experiences from the interviews and the findings that surprised them the most.
Remember the old saying "the customer is always right"? The motto used by a number of prominent retailers (like Marshall Field) was all about placing value on customer satisfaction. In essence it was about listening to the customer – the final point person at the end of the retail line.
Today we are seeing business build far more sophisticated means of using modern technology to get feedback from their customers. It begs the question – if business can do that, why can't we try and do the same in the business of development - with the benefit of modern technology?
I've seen the evidence that we can do it. Last October at the World Bank, we applauded the work of teams in Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia and India, who've been using the mix of modern technology and development to boost results.
The Citizen Voices conference will focus on citizen engagement and feedback systems that strengthen the quality of policy making and service delivery, where the impact on the poor is most direct. The conference aims to explore how citizen engagement is essential for effective development, move from knowledge to action, and establish concrete partnerships for scaling up at global and national levels.
But while the claims for citizen engagement abound, less discussion is dedicated to how to design and implement participatory processes that deliver their expected benefits, such as increased accountability and better delivery of policies and services. As part of this problem, not enough attention is paid to the various outcomes that participatory processes may engender and what they mean for policy and development.
KABUL -- On my first trip to Afghanistan as World Bank Group president, I met with many of the country's senior leaders, including President Hamid Karzai, as well as leaders in business and among women's groups. The challenges for Afghanistan, like many fragile or conflict-affected states, are huge, but it's critically important that we build on successes that we've achieved in the last decade. Learn more by watching the video.
KANPUR, India -- I traveled to the banks of the Ganges River today to look at an Indian government initiative, supported by the World Bank Group, to clean up the sacred river. We're working with the government on this long-term effort -- an extraordinarily complex one in part because of the multiple sources of pollution that enter the river. It's part of our vitally important work in one of India's states, Uttar Pradesh, which is home to 200 million people. This state alone has 8% of the world's population living in extreme poverty. Watch the video for more.
In celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, the World Bank hosted a live web chat with gender specialists from around the world.
For just over an hour, World Bank Vice President of Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte joined World Bank Director of Gender and Development Jeni Klugman along with the authors of the report "On Norms and Agency" to discuss how women and men overcome the challenges posed by gender norms.
While in the past, people might have resorted to reading tea leaves to figure out what their future has in store for them, these days, at least on economic matters, people turn to the next available economist. But while economists are great at analyzing the past, predicting the future is still a complicated task.
In order to come up with projections, economists look at data. Now, it turns out that economists are often making long-term assessments based on the latest news. Take a look at these growth projections for ten years ahead for Russia, based on polls of economists conducted by Consensus Economics, along with actual growth in the year of the projections (Figure 1). Clearly, while long-term projections are less volatile, the two are correlated – the better the present the better the future, and vice versa. In particular, long-term projections have noticeably nudged down since the crisis.
Elephant ivory is on the march. Not elephants, but their ivory. The elephants are left bloodied and dead on the range. So are many rangers who work to protect a country’s natural capital. In the past 10 years, over 1,000 rangers have been murdered in 35 countries alone; the International Ranger Federation tell us that as many as 5,000 may have been murdered worldwide in that time.
At the CITES COP – the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – the halls in Bangkok ring loud with concern for the elephants and other charismatic species, particularly rhinos, that are being exterminated across Africa in pursuit of private profit, at the expense of communities that rely on nature for their food, shelter, start-up capital, and safety net in a warming world.
So why should the World Bank care? Our concern is to build strong economies and healthy communities by revving the engine of inclusive green growth as we prepare countries and communities for the impacts of climate change.
What does this have to do with elephant ivory you ask? Simply put, we cannot achieve our dream of a world without poverty without taking account of the rise in wildlife crime.
Cities have always been the driving forces of world civilizations. What Niniveh was to the Assyrian civilization, Babylon was to the Babylonian civilization. When Peter the Great, third in the Romanov Dynasty, became Russia’s ruler in 1696, Moscow’s influence began to expand. Peter strengthened the rule of the tsar and westernized Russia, at the same time, making it a European powerhouse and greatly expanding its borders. By 1918, the Russian empire spanned a vast territory from Western Europe to China.
As Peter the Great and his successors strove to consolidate their reign over this empire, major social, economic, cultural, and political changes were happening in the urban centers. Moscow led these changes, followed by St. Petersburg, which was built as a gateway to filter and channel western civilization through the empire. By fostering diversification through connectivity, specialization, and scale economies, these cities started the structural transformation of the Russian empire away from depending on commodities and limited markets in a way that more effectively served local demand.
Browsing through a large departmental store in Yerevan, I selected a tie, pair of trousers and a shirt to make up for having arrived in the city before my suitcases did. The store manager pointed me to three different cash counters for the three items I had purchased. “But isn’t this all one store,” I asked in my inadequate Russian, that never fails to amuse native speakers. “Perhaps,” she smiled. “But never mind; these are different otdels (units).”
While governments around the world try to use simplified regimes to decrease the compliance burden of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it also opens the door wide open for larger businesses to abuse these regimes either by hiding as a small business, or splitting a larger business into smaller units. This is particularly true when there are few checks on firms entering the simplified regime. Think aforementioned department store!
Walking out of Keflavik airport as the arctic breeze hit my face at 50 km per hour, I thought to myself, “I love my job.” A job that makes a tropical citizen like me enjoy the hospitality of the very warm Icelanders and allows me to learn from their experience is hard to top. With 320,000 citizens and just the size of the U.S. state of Kentucky, subpolar Iceland has a lot to teach us development practitioners.
We are only beginning to put together a vision for how to deal with the dilemma of a warming-- and therefore more unpredictable and punishing--climate and ever increasing energy needs. But Iceland has long ago put its mind to the challenge and now lives productively and peacefully in an environment that throws at it tremendous challenges and great gifts.
My appreciation of Iceland's strategy to make use of its environment and harness its renewable energy rose as I visited Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant. Feeling the rumbles of the earth and looking at the steam that puffed from its heart against the backdrop of a volcanic landscape, I was in awe both of nature and the people who have embraced its imposing power.
Having lived in many countries throughout the former Soviet Union over the last nine years, I am familiar with International Women’s Day as a holiday. In Turkey, however, Women’s Day remains a work day.
Emerging Europe and Central Asia (ECA) is an interesting region because what you expect is not always what exists. Since this is written in honor of International Women's Day, discussing women’s labor market participation seems appropriate. The standard indicator used for this is the “female labor force participation” (LFP) rate, which is the proportion of all women between 15-64 years who either work or are looking for work.
Since much of the region has a common socialist legacy, you would expect to see similar labor market behavior among women. However, the proportion of women who work ranges from a low of 42 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 74 percent of adult women in Kazakhstan. And it wasn’t 20 years of social and economic transition that led to this divergence. Even in 1990, the range was about the same. The exception was Moldova which saw a 26 percentage point decline.
Many resource-rich countries are looking to diversify their economies, in anticipation of the day their natural wealth runs out. Resource extraction is extremely costly and employs only a fraction of the workforce. After the recent turmoil in the Middle East, policy makers have begun focusing more on the need to create jobs, provide for inclusion, and increase public participation in government decision-making. There are several examples of countries that have used their resource wealth to share prosperity, including the United States, Norway, and Australia.
But is there a blueprint for diversification and economic prosperity?
International Women's Day celebrates women's economic, political, and social achievements. On March 8, 2013, women all around the world will be recognized for the work they do as businesswomen, mothers, caretakers, and community organizers.
These women in Senegal have a reason to celebrate—they've become more active in their communities, they're starting new businesses, and they're generating income for their families. New energy projects in Senegal are now being designed to include women in decision-making processes and leadership roles.
Those whose voices we hear through this report—both men and women—emphasize a central point again and again: that the ability to make effective choices and exercise control over one’s life is a critical dimension of well-being.
At the World Bank, we see this book launch as an important foundation for new directions.
Namely, I imagined that traditional gender norms would be much less apparent in modern and rapidly urbanizing Lima when in fact, it was not the case. Young women in Lima described their day as getting up before sunrise in order to get a hot breakfast on the table, and then juggling a flurry of activities - including part-time work as supermarket cashiers and bank tellers. The descriptions were very similar to those we heard from women in other countries.
It was startling that gender norms in a modern city were not much different from norms in a rural community of a low-income country. Just like women from poorer and more traditional places, women in Lima helped their husbands make ends meet on top of long hours of household work. Just like in less developed communities, teenage pregnancies for girls as young as 12 and 13 were cited as a problem of deep concern. All of this in a place where girls went to high school and college, and had access to a modern family planning clinic right in their neighborhood.
A specialist panel — including World Bank Vice President of Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte, World Bank Director of Gender and Development Jeni Klugman, gender experts, and field researchers from around the world — will discuss how women and men overcome the challenges posed by gender norms.