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May 2014

Floods in The Balkans

Ellen Goldstein's picture

Ellen Goldstein, The World Bank's Regional Director for Eastern Europe, talks about the Bank's response to devastating floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"No Food, No Peace"

José Cuesta's picture
Also available in: 中文 | Español | العربية | Français


There’s been a lot of talk about food riots in the wake of the international food price hikes in 2007. Given the deaths and injuries caused by many of these episodes, this attention is fully justified. It is quite likely that we will experience more food riots in the foreseeable future—that is, if the world continues to have high and volatile food prices. We cannot expect food riots to disappear in a world in which unpredictable weather is on the rise; panic trade interventions are a relatively easy option for troubled governments under pressure; and food-related humanitarian disasters continue to occur.

In today’s world, food price shocks have repeatedly led to spontaneous—typically urban—sociopolitical instability. Yet, not all violent episodes are spontaneous: for example, long-term and growing competition over land and water are also known to cause unrest. If we add poverty and rampant disparities, preexisting grievances, and lack of adequate social safety nets, we end up with a mix that closely links food insecurity and conflict. The list of these types of violent episodes is certainly long: you can find examples in countries such as Argentina, Cameroon, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Tunisia showcased in May’s Food Price Watch.

Digital Engagement: What Should the Future Look Like?

Robert Hunja's picture
The  relationship between citizens and their governments is constantly changing, and we are at a time where this relationship could change to become more inclusive and collaborative. In order to find the right solutions to pressing development challenges, governments need to ask their citizens what they need and tailor their services and approaches accordingly. Citizen feedback needs to be at the heart of what governments and development actors do, serving as the basis for policy-making, as well as the design, implementation, and monitoring of development solutions.
 

Breaking Down Barriers to Sharing Knowledge

Nena Stoiljkovic's picture

In international development, knowledge is our most valuable commodity. The right knowledge applied at the right time could change the lives of roughly a billion people who now live on less than $1.25 per day. In response to their plight, the World Bank Group has set two ambitious goals: to end extreme poverty by 2030, and to boost shared prosperity for the poorest 40% of people in developing nations.
 
To achieve these goals, we need to use all of the World Bank Group’s assets: our finances; our global presence and convening power; and especially our vast store of development knowledge and experience. If we assemble the best global knowledge, share it quickly, and help countries apply it to local problems, we can empower the poor to shape their countries’ future.
 
Not all of our knowledge is on a shelf, or in digital and multimedia products. Much is in the minds of our thousands of experts who work in over 120 countries around the world.
 
But we know that our knowledge does not always move fast enough, or get to the right people at the right time. A recent working paper, written by two World Bank Group colleagues, highlighted this problem (and also got some media attention — not all of it accurate).  It’s not just technical problems that stop our digital knowledge from flowing (such as PDFs that are not easily searchable) — our knowledge is also often stuck in organizational silos. Our staff in East Asia don’t talk enough to their counterparts in Africa, for example, and our water experts don’t always connect enough with our health staff. These impediments are a legacy of our organizational culture, structure, and incentives. We can do better.
 
On July 1, we’re going to break down the walls of those organizational silos, in one of the most significant reforms in the World Bank’s history. We’re reorganizing our knowledge services to create Global Practices and Cross Cutting Solution Areas, to assemble the world’s best experts and knowledge, and make it more accessible to our clients. Wherever our experts are sitting, whatever issue they work on, they will be linked in a much more active way with their colleagues, in areas like education, trade and competiveness, transportation and information technology, environment and natural resources, and energy.

On Biodiversity Day: From pets to safety nets

Valerie Hickey's picture


Over the last 15 years, the amount of money spent on pets in the U.S. jumped from $17 billion to $43 billion annually. Birding is catching on in popularity globally.Clearly people love their animals -and not just their pets either.  Perhaps this is why biodiversity conservation has attracted so many advocates and so much attention around the world. Newspapers routinely report on the discovery of new species and the demise of others.  Nature as theater, both gripping and grizzly, is wildly popular when captured on film.
 
And yet, conservation biology, the interdisciplinary pursuit of saving wild species and wilderness, is at best marginal in the public policy sphere, particularly in development circles. Often, so too is environment more broadly. In this marketplace of ideas, conservation is certainly not king. Though it should be.

Measuring What Matters: Acknowledging Nature’s Role in the Global Economy

Russ Mittermeier's picture
Also available in: Español
Countries Go Beyond GDP to Make Natural Capital Count for Development

“Accounting” may not be a word that gets many pulses racing. But what if I told you that a new kind of accounting — called natural capital accounting — could revolutionize the way the world’s nations assess and value their economies?
 
Currently, gross domestic product (GDP) is the most widely used indicator of a country’s economic status. But while this number places a value on all the goods and services produced by that economy, it doesn’t account for its “natural capital” — the ecosystems and the services they provide, from carbon sequestration to freshwater regulation to pollination.

How Will Transparency Improve Business Competitiveness

Benjamin Herzberg's picture
We live in an exciting era, when open and collaborative practices can be translated into tangible economic and social gains. At the recent regional meeting of the Open Government Partnership regional meeting in Ireland, I discussed the practical steps that companies can follow in marrying transparency with economic value creation.

A Mobile Innovation Lab to Help Marginalized Roma in Eastern Europe

Roberta V. Gatti's picture

The Roma Inclusion Mobile Innovation Lab (RIMIL) pilot initiative launched by the World Bank aims to create a forum to build capacity to improve integration of marginalized Roma in Eastern Europe through better access to productive employment. Roberta Gatti, Regional Roma Coordinator in the Europe and Central Asia region, reports from Madrid on the initiative.

In Armenia, Perception Matters For Tax Reforms

Jean-Michel Happi's picture

Would you be more willing to pay taxes if you didn’t have to spend hours doing it, or if you see that money being used in the right way? Well, you are not alone.
 
Armenians, like people around the world, feel the same. According to the recently conducted Tax Perception Survey in the country, easier tax compliance and more visible link between taxes paid and public services received was found to be particularly important.


















Between 66 percent and 75 percent of respondents said they would be more willing to pay more taxes if the procedures were easy and less time-consuming, if they saw more useful social and other public services, or if they saw less corruption.

Over 95 percent of respondents felt the tax burden is heavy or very heavy, while almost 50 percent reported that evading tax payments was not justified under any circumstances.
 
About 57 percent noted that high taxes or desperate financial situations were the main reasons for avoiding or evading tax payments.
 
The data unveiled by the latest Tax Perception Survey,  carried out with USAID support and World Bank Group technical assistance covered around 1,500 households and 400 business taxpayers.  The analysis strengthened the need to modernize the tax system, which has remained a major challenge for Armenia. Despite Armenia’s ranking as 37th in Doing Business, the taxation system, at 103rd on the list, still requires a lot of work.
 
To be sure, there have been some improvements to the system in the past few years. They include the introduction of electronic filing of tax returns, e-government applications, risk-based audit principles, and taxpayer service centers and appeal system. These achievements contributed to increasing the tax to GDP ratio from 19.5 percent in 2010 to 22.8 percent in 2013.
 
But much remains to be done to further streamline and simplify tax procedures, modernize the tax administration, and enact a tax code.

Value for Money in Public Procurement: Beyond Rules to Measurement

Martin Raiser's picture
Also available in: Türkçe
Strong public procurement systems are central to well-functioning public financial management institutions and good public sector governance. But how can governments ensure public procurement is efficient? Traditionally, the recommended approach has emphasized the importance of adequate rules that encourage competitive bidding. This involves transparent tender documents and processes with as little discrimination as possible, an independent procurement agency that would set standards and monitor their enforcement, and an independent appeals body to hear complaints of participating bidders.

If I Were 22: Travel And See How People Live

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | Español

 Jim Yong Kim with Father Jack in PeruPhoto: Jim Yong Kim with Father Jack in Peru


When I turned 22, I was struggling a bit. I was just two months into my first year at Harvard Medical School, and I had gone from an undergraduate environment at Brown University where I was an activist with a diverse group of peers to a situation where I was memorizing anatomy out of a textbook each and every night. It seemed a real letdown.

Over the next months and years, I met fellow activists including Paul Farmer, with whom I co-founded Partners In Health, and that opened up new possibilities. A few years later, I entered a PhD program in anthropology. Both connected the lessons from medical school to real passions of mine.

When I was 22, one thing naturally led to another. Even so, I wish I knew then what I understand better now about preparing myself for the future. I have three suggestions that I wish someone had told me when I was younger.

1 in 3: What Does It Take for You to Be Outraged?

Marina Galvani's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | 中文 | العربية

Circumstance © Hanifa AlizadaThe exhibition "1 in 3" was inspired by the work of a young Afghan photographer, Hanifa Alizada, and I picked her photo "Circumstance" for this blog as it conveys the painful march we are all on to fight this incredible level of violence against women worldwide. The exhibition highlights that this epidemic of violence does not single out any socioeconomic class. It knows no ethnicity, race, or religion. The scourge of violence against women and girls transcends international borders.
New research from the World Health Organization finds that some 35% of women worldwide — one in three — are subject to violence over the course of their lives, mostly at the hands of husbands or partners and at a huge personal and economic cost. 
 
Horrific events such as a gang rape on a bus seize headlines, but in fact no place is less safe for a woman than her own home. Estimates of lost productivity alone range from 1.5 to 2% of GDP, or roughly what most developing countries spend on primary education.
 
With "1 in 3," the World Bank Group Art Program seeks your engagement through art and encourages action to tackle gender-based violence.
 
This exhibition brings together hard data with some 80 nuanced, powerful artworks that explore the various ways in which violence affects the lives of women and girls around the world.
 
These works conveys the impact of domestic violence as experienced or witnessed by children, as in the paintings of Laben John of Papua New Guinea, and of sexual and gender-based violence as weapon of war, as in the sculpture of Freddy Tsimba from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Artist Nasheen Saeed of Pakistan depicts the deadening neglect so many girls suffer in their own families simply because they are girls.
 
Photographers Kay Cernush of the United States and Karen Robinson of the United Kingdom take on human trafficking with intimate portraits of young women lured abroad by the false promise of a better life. All help break the silence that often surrounds violence against women, encouraging survivors to stand up and speak out.

Innovating Waste Solutions & Celebrating Climate Action

Max Thabiso Edkins's picture

sprek.o.

Every day, the world’s population generates enough waste to fill about 14 large soccer stadiums from top to bottom, more than 3.5 million tonnes. That's a lot of trash, from plastic bottles that aren't going anywhere to food scraps and other perishable items decaying and building up greenhouse gases in landfills and trash dumps.

Time to Put the 'M' Back into 'M&E'

Aleem Walji's picture
During the past few  years, I've noticed that there has been considerable attention paid to the importance of gathering real-time feedback during project implementation, identifying  ways to 'course correct,' and learning from failure as  tools to improve development outcomes. This all sounds worthwhile and is consistent with what World Bank President Jim Kim calls 'science of delivery.'

Illuminating the margins: can €7.3 billion help ‘invisible’ populations in Poland?

Rob Swinkels's picture
Zbigniew is a 46-year-old homless man in Miechów, PolandDuring a recent study on social inclusion in Poland, one of the main questions our team wanted to answer was: which population groups are socially excluded?
After posing this question to experts from the government and NGOs alike, as well as the local population in different municipalities, we found that there is a large diversity of excluded groups. But what was surprising was the “exclusion traps” some categories of people were caught in.

When It Comes to Tackling Inequality, Start Early

Ana Revenga's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية

It seems that everyone is talking about inequality these days, and I, for one, am happy to see this issue at the forefront in the development discussion.

We can look at inequality in a number of ways, which are not unrelated. One of the most visible types of inequality on the radar is inequality of outcomes — things like differences in academic achievements, career progression, earnings, etc. — which, in and of themselves, are not necessarily bad. Rewarding an individual’s effort, innate talents and superior life choices can provide incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship, and can help drive growth.  

However, not all inequalities are “good.” When inequality perpetuates itself because those born poor consistently do not have access to the same opportunities as those born rich, what emerges is a deep structural inequality that is bad for poverty reduction, bad for economic growth, and bad for social cohesion. How pervasive are these deep inequalities? Much more than we would like. Indeed, when we examine what is happening in many countries around the world today, we find large and persistent, even growing, gaps in earnings between rich and poor. And we find that those who start out in poverty or are part of a disadvantaged group tend to remain there, with little opportunity to work their way out.

How do we explain this, and what can we do to tackle it? We need to take a step back and look at where this inequality originates, and that is where the concept of equality of opportunity comes in to play. This concept broadly refers to access to a basic set of services that are necessary, at the minimum, for a child to attain his or her human potential, regardless of the circumstances — such as gender, geographic region, ethnicity, and family background — into which he or she is born. Too often, access to such basic services like electricity, clean water, sanitation, health care and education is much lower among children born into circumstances that place them at a disadvantage. Children from disadvantaged groups thus set off on an unequal path from day one, which curbs their opportunities and potential into adulthood.

Solutions4Work: Partnerships for Jobs and Youth Employment

Arup Banerji's picture

While many economies are recovering from the global recession, there are still 600 million jobs needed to be created over the next decade to maintain today's employment rates. Eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity for the bottom 40 percent of the population by 2030 requires that we engage more effectively to bring hundreds of millions of people into productive work and out of poverty.

While many initiatives on youth employment have been undertaken over the past few years, there is still limited knowledge about the best way to design, implement and coordinate these interventions, and how to link them to broader reforms that promote private investment and business creation and/or expansion. At the same time, the limited knowledge that we do have does not take into account the significant heterogeneity of constraints across settings and different youth populations, and few programs are designed to take into account these differences in context and needs.

After Watching This, You Will Say “Thanks Mom”

Michelle Pabalan's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

Katya with her granddaughter (From the documentary "The Face of Poverty in Europe and Central Asia"I am lucky. Growing up, I had so many meaningful conversations with my parents -- especially with Mama. One time, I came home from school and she told me firmly to stay away from the computer. Puzzled, I asked her why. She goes, “Your Papa says it has a virus. I don’t want you to get sick.”

After explaining what a computer virus is, we had a good laugh. At the end of it, she just smiled and said “dinner is ready.”

It might have been a hilarious moment (a trump card I would always have in our family reunions) but she was being herself, a great mom. She always puts her children first. And in every circumstance in my life, with the highs and lows, I come to realize that a mother’s love really conquers anything.

As many countries celebrate Mother’s Day this week, we present seven stories featuring mothers doing their best for their families, and individuals who have been inspired by their own moms to achieve their dreams.

Youth Skills, Employability and Creating an “Innovation Culture”

Anush Bezhanyan's picture

Across the globe, young people are a growing share of the labor force. Goals about poverty reduction and shared prosperity depend on the jobs and earnings opportunities they will have.  The technical, cognitive, and behavioral skills (such us teamwork, problem-solving skills and creativity) of workers will determine, to a large extent, their job and earnings opportunities. Unfortunately, around the world, much of the labor force has very low levels of education. Young people graduating from vocational centers or universities often lack the relevant skills for the labor markets.

At this year’s Solutions4Work conference, more than 170 academics, business leaders, and government ministers gathered together in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss challenges and solutions facing countries in addressing youth employment. At the conference, we are particularly energized to hear from youth groups and entrepreneurs from around the world who are creating a movement, change in culture, and tools for their fellow youth.

What I Learned from Bill Gates

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | 中文 | Español



I have the great privilege in my job as president of the World Bank Group of speaking to some of the most creative political and business leaders around the world. One of the consistent themes across all of these conversations is the recognition that we must accelerate innovation to end extreme poverty and to grow economies in a way that is shared by all. What we lack is clear consensus around the best ways to foster and scale new ideas.

Recently, I had the opportunity to have a long discussion with Bill Gates, and our conversation naturally turned to what inspires innovation. Bill and his wife Melinda launched their foundationin 1994 and since that time they have transformed the world’s development aspirations in health, education and poverty reduction.

I was one of the lucky beneficiaries of the Gates’ generosity. In 2000, their Foundation made a $44.7 million grant to Partners In Health, which I co-founded. At a time when most of the global health world was in denial about multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), the Gates made the largest single tuberculosis-related foundation gift in history in order to find ways to treat this disease in developing countries. This pattern of visionary, innovative philanthropy has been repeated again and again in their efforts to tackle some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.

Searching for Evidence-Based Solutions for Youth Employment

Mohamad Al-Arief's picture
Searching for Evidence-Based Solutions for Youth Employment

Over the next decade, 1 billion people will enter the labor market. Altogether, the global economy will need to create 5 million jobs each month, simply to keep employment rates constant. Global growth and poverty reduction over the next 20 years will be driven by today’s young people, yet many of them face significant difficulties in finding productive employment.

Moving Toward Gender Equity: It Takes Strategy and Opportunity

Sammar Essmat's picture



“Maybe in the Middle East … but in our part of the world, there is no gender inequity.” As an Egyptian, I wasn’t surprised to hear such assertions from colleagues when I arrived in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region to deliver a program aimed at creating opportunities for women in the private sector. With its socialist legacy, the region prided itself on gender equality. Women were historically well-represented in the state-run economic systems. I looked at legal frameworks and the Women, Business and the Law indicators and found little evidence of discrimination. Laws on the books were overwhelmingly gender-neutral. I was puzzled.
 
Then I studied data from the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys: Women’s rates of participation in the private sector told a different story. Women’s status seemed to be collapsing with the state systems and falling as markets started opening. For instance, now, only 36% of firms in the region are owned by women; that is a lower percentage than in East Asia (60%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (40%). Only 19% of companies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have female top managers, compared to 30% in East Asia and 21% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
 
So I faced the daunting task of delivering a gender program in a region where few believe that there are gender issues to address.

New Horizons for Shared Growth in Kazakhstan

Laura Tuck's picture

Laura Tuck, Vice President for the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia region, shares her impression on her trip to Kazakhstan, its economy growth, progress in development, and the World Bank's partnership with the country.