The cool thing about working in infrastructure is everyone knows your business.
We’ve all paid bills, lost power during storms, and worried about the quality of the water we’re about to drink. We’ve all been on a dead phone line sputtering, “Hello? Hello?” having just confessed, “I love you,” to a disconnected piece of plastic.
And if we in the professional world care about these basic services that are so fundamental to our lives, we know their reliable and affordable delivery is even more crucial for the poor. When a long wait for a new phone connection means no link to the outside world, no power means no study, and tainted water means sick children, then utility services are the difference between stagnation and growth, poverty and opportunity.
Everyone knows when services work and when they don’t. But infrastructure economists have long struggled to understand why some utilities work well and others don’t. Is there a package of reforms that will get us more connections, higher levels of efficiency, better quality service and cheaper rates?
Private Sector Development
The cool thing about working in infrastructure is everyone knows your business.
I landed in Chisinau on a short flight from Frankfurt a mere two years ago. I immediately liked this vibrant and cosmopolitan city built with white limestone and awash with greenery, and remember thinking that it has the potential to attract scores of tourists. But tickets to fly into Chisinau were expensive in 2011.
I also recall so vividly my first trip through the Moldovan countryside shortly after. An amalgam of bright green leaves on walnut trees contrasted the yellow of the sunflowers that grow in fields with some of the most fertile soil in the world. I was immediately struck by the immense potential that Moldova holds in agriculture.
Good things have happened since then.
It should be celebration time for public-private partnerships and other forms of private investment in infrastructure. The pent-up demand for infrastructure in the developing world has never been greater—over double the $900 billion per year being spent now, according to our rough estimates; and governments around the world are falling over themselves to show donors, strategic investors and creditors alike how committed they are to attracting private investment to infrastructure.
Somehow, as we release the 2012 data on private participation in infrastructure (PPI) across the developing world [see: PPI Database], I just can’t get myself to pop the champagne. True, the march into higher levels of investment, uneven as it is, continues. Commitments for PPI totaled $182 billion in 2012 and most developing countries clocked in with at least one private investment. But the total is still less than 20 percent of what the developing world is spending on infrastructure, and less than 10 percent of what is needed to reach growth targets. It is still less than one percent of GDP for developing countries.
If the demand is out there, what are all those investors scared of?
Given confusion around the phrase “science of delivery,” it’s important to state that delivery science is not a “one-size-fits-all” prescription based on the premise that what works somewhere can work anywhere. And it does not profess that research and evidence ensure a certain outcome.
A few weeks ago, the World Bank and the Korea Development Institute convened a global conference on the science of delivery. Several development institutions assembled including the Gates Foundation, the Grameen Foundation, UNICEF, the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, and the mHealth Alliance. We discussed development opportunities and challenges when focusing on the extremely poor, including experiments in health care, how technology is reducing costs and increasing effectiveness, and the difficulty of moving from successful pilots to delivery at scale.
The consensus in Seoul was that a science of delivery underscores the importance of a data-driven and rigorous process to understand what works, under what conditions, why, and how. Too often in international development, we jump to conclusions without understanding counterfactuals and assume we can replicate success without understanding its constituent elements.
- Korea, Republic of
- Climate Change
- Labor and Social Protection
- Private Sector Development
- Science of Delivery
- world bank
- Korea Development Institute
- The Gates Foundation
- Grameen Foundation
- Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science
- mHealth Alliance
- health care
- World Bank Institute
Businesses create jobs and spur growth. But businesses can do more. As competitive pressures increase and as resources around the world become harder to sustain, foresighted businesses have started to adopt new, collaborative and open private sector practices that accomplish two goals at once: improve the bottom line and increase development impact.
The reason businesses do this? Not because of old do-gooding principles, but because solving development issues around the value chain becomes a crucial part of doing business through crowd-sourcing innovations, reducing cost and managing risk.
But the questions are, how can practices that benefit both the bottom line AND development, be scaled up? Can we encourage mass-adoption of the sustainable approaches that IFC has been promoting for years? How do we mainstream that which Michael Porter has called “Creating Shared Value”? How do we go from a few smart companies to millions adopting open and collaborative practices?
To begin answering these questions, the World Bank Institute is launching the “Open and Collaborative Private Sector” initiative. This will complement efforts that others at the World Bank and elsewhere have been advancing on Open Aid, Open Data and Open Government.
There has been a blur of speeches, gala concerts, jazz bands, canapés, toasts and traditional performances as one embassy after another feted twenty years of partnership with the Kyrgyz Republic. The same guests, speeches, and – truth be told - probably the same canapés.
We had to do something different. So, as we celebrated the last 20 years of our work in Kyrgyzstan (which have been quite good), we toasted the next 20 years as well.
Over the last decade Montenegro has trebled its gross national income (from $2,400 in 2003 to $7,160 in 2012), has reduced its national poverty headcount from 11.3 percent in 2005 to 6.6 percent in 2010, and enjoys the highest per capita income among the six South East European countries.
Despite this considerable progress, however, Montenegro remains a country in need of a new economic direction. The global financial crisis has exposed Montenegro’s economic vulnerabilities and has called into question the country’s overall growth pattern. The period between 2006 and 2008 was characterized by unsustainably large inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI) and inexpensive capital, which fueled a domestic credit consumption boom and a real estate bubble. When the bubble burst in late 2008 and in 2009 real GDP shrank by almost 6 percent, triggering a painful deleveraging and a difficult recovery that is not yet complete. With the base for Montenegro’s growth narrowing and the country’s continued reliance on factor accumulation rather than productivity, it has become clear that this old pattern cannot deliver the growth performance seen just a few years ago.
So, what kind of growth model can drive Montenegro’s next stage of development in the increasingly competitive environment of today’s global economy?
As spelled out in the recent report “Montenegro – Preparing for Prosperity” this country can go a long way toward returning to the impressive economic gains it was making just a few years ago by emphasizing three critical areas of development: sustainability, connectivity, and flexibility.
“We have a fantastic opportunity to work together,” Dr. Kim told hundreds of investors at the 15th Annual Global Private Equity Conference, hosted by the Bank Group’s private sector arm IFC and the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA).
“…Private equity is going to play a critical role in whether or not we can truly have high aspirations for the 1.2 billion people living in absolute poverty in the world,” he said in a speech that was liveblogged and followed on Twitter with #wblive and #GPEC2013.
Read the first of this two-part blog post here.
The idea of a peer learning network for tax administrators came when I realized that tax authorities in different countries had many of the same questions: How do we initiate risk management? How are other countries dealing with compliance issues? How do countries ensure speedy VAT refunds and yet prevent fraudulent claims? And so on.
So why not get the tax officials from different countries together and provide a platform to discuss their challenges, experiences and innovative ways of solving problems. Mix them with a dose of tax experts from developed tax systems, et voila! That’s how TAXGIP (Tax Administrators eXchange for Global Innovative Practices) was born – it provides opportunities to exchange knowledge and good practices, and share experiences.
A significant share of the population in the Kyrgyz Republic – 37 percent – lived below the poverty line in 2011, according to the latest available data. And despite a relatively modest population of about 5.5 million, poverty rates across oblasts (provinces) span a striking range -- from 18 percent to 50 percent.
Why? Well, that is a surprisingly difficult question to answer.