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Latin America & Caribbean

It’s Not the How; It’s the Why

Shanta Devarajan's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Hardly a week goes by without my hearing the statement, “It’s not the What; it’s the How.”  On the reform of energy subsidies in the Middle East and North Africa, for instance, the discussion is focused not on whether subsidies should be reformed (everyone agrees they should be), but on how the reform should be carried out.  Similar points are made about business regulations,educationagriculture, or health. I confess to having written similar things myself.  And there is no shortage of such proposals on this blog
 
Reforms are needed because there is a policy or institutional arrangement in place that has become counterproductive.  But before suggesting how to reform it, we should ask why that policy exists at all, why it has persisted for so long, and why it hasn’t been reformed until now.  For these policies didn’t come about by accident.  Nor have they remained because somebody forgot to change them.  And they are unlikely to be reformed just because a policymaker happens to read a book, article or blog post entitled “How to reform…”

Disaster Risk: Using Capital Markets to Protect Against the Cost of Catastrophes

Michael Bennett's picture
Hurricane Sandy / NOAA
Hurricane Sandy / NOAA


In addition to their often devastating human toll, natural disasters can have an extremely adverse economic impact on countries. Disasters can be particularly calamitous for developing countries because of the low level of insurance penetration in those countries. Only about 1% of natural disaster-related losses between 1980 and 2004 in developing countries were insured, compared to approximately 30% in developed countries. This means the financial burden of natural disasters in developing countries falls primarily on governments, which are often forced to reallocate budget resources to finance disaster response and recovery. At the same time, their revenues are typically falling because of decreased economic activity following a disaster. The result is less money for government priorities like education or health, thereby magnifying the negative developmental impact of a disaster.

To address this problem, the World Bank Treasury has been helping our clients protect their public finances in the event of a natural disaster. The most recent innovation is our new Capital-at-Risk Notes program, which allows our clients to access the capital markets through the World Bank to hedge their natural disaster risk. Under the program, the World Bank issues a bond supported by the strength of our own balance sheet, and hedges it through a swap or similar contract with our client. The program allows us to transfer risks from our clients to the capital markets, where interest in catastrophe bonds is growing.

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.

A Day with Brazil’s Innovative Bolsa Familia Program

Mohamad Al-Arief's picture
Field Visit to Escola Municipal Almirante Tamandare, Vidigal, Brazil

This week I’ve been participating in the World Bank’s South-South Learning Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where policymakers from 70 countries are sharing their experiences and discussing practical solutions for successful social protection programs.

3 Blind Spots for Gender Equity: Work, Education, and Violence

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

Woman in Nepal

As we mark International Women’s Day, women and girls are better off than just a few decades ago. Boys and girls are going to school in equal numbers in many countries. Women are living longer, healthier lives.

But even with the steady progress we’ve seen over the past few decades, one of our biggest challenges today is to avoid falling prey to a sense of self-satisfaction.  We don’t deserve to, not yet. 

We need a renewed sense of urgency and a clearer understanding of the remaining obstacles.   When it comes to improving the lives of women and girls, we have blind spots.  In fact, we know of three shocking inequalities that persist in education, the working world, and women’s very security and safety.

Blind Spot No. 1: Education of Girls.

We have made impressive gains in achieving universal access to education, but what we’re failing to see is that girls who are poor—those who are the most vulnerable—are getting left behind.  

While wealthier girls in countries like India and Pakistan may be enrolled in school right alongside boys their age, among the poorest 20 percent of children, girls have on average five years less education than do boys.  In Niger, where only one in two girls attends primary school, just one in 10 goes to middle school, and stunningly only one in 50 goes to high school. That’s an outrage.

Who Are the Top 11 Women Who Inspire You?

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

Take a moment and think of the women who inspire you. Make a list. Who are the top 11 women? Would you include a construction worker from Jamaica?  How about a midwife in Sudan or a jewelry maker in Costa Rica? What about a student from India or a small business owner in Egypt?

When most of us think about people who inspire us, we consider world leaders, celebrities, or those who’ve changed the course of world history.  Or we might think of individuals who have had a significant influence in our lives—our role models or people we strive to emulate. The people who make it to our “inspiration list” are there because we relate to them, regardless if we’re man or woman.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, we present 11 stories of women around the world who’ve made amazing strides to achieve their goals and make long-lasting impacts on the lives of their children, families and communities.

A Coalition of the Working – That’s What the Oceans Need

Rachel Kyte's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
Los océanos nos necesitan


​What is it about oceans? Ocean events seem to be getting bigger and broader in their participation. No matter whether the people in the room are representing government, seafood companies, private foundations, or conservation groups, they are unified by one thing: the need for serious action and soon.

Making Renewable Energy Happen

Donna Barne's picture

The green energy revolution used to look pretty far off.  Today, businesses are starting to factor the cost of climate change into their planning, countries have set targets for increasing the use of renewable energy, and wind farms and solar panels are popping up everywhere. But large-scale renewable energy development is still a challenge – especially in the absence of government incentives. Large-scale renewable power such as solar, wind, and wave power, though technically viable, is often seen by investors as too expensive to develop and too risky.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, is working to overcome those concerns. In Chile – a country with considerable renewable energy potential – these efforts are starting to have an impact.  As the video below shows, Chile plans a significant shift in its energy equation – from 37% renewables today to 55% by 2024. Though still a very small percentage of the overall energy mix, non-conventional renewable power such as wind and solar is starting to happen there, without government subsidies. 

How to Employ 865 Million Women

Nasim Novin's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français



I got together with my friend Asma'a one evening at a popular Cairo café overlooking the Nile. Like many of the young Egyptians I had met that summer, Asma'a was smart, motivated — and unemployed. Since graduating with a law degree, she had applied for countless jobs to no avail, and had all but given up on finding a job in her field of study. She was particularly upset that evening because her parents had forbidden her from accepting a waitressing job, deeming the work to be morally inappropriate. Feeling ever more desperate, Asma'a said she would be willing to take any job just to be able to work.

Asma'a is one of 865 million women worldwide who have the potential to contribute more fully to the global economy. These women represent a powerful resource for driving economic growth and development. Yet the underuse of women's talents and skills is holding many countries back. An International Monetary Fund study estimates that if women like Asma'a were to participate in the labor force at the same rate as men, they could raise GDP in Egypt by 34 percent. Employed women also invest more of their income in their children's health and education, helping families to escape the cycle of poverty.

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