The idea of “Inclusive growth” and how to achieve it was talked about a lot in the days ahead of the 2014 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. Among the solutions on the table was a new initiative that could help unlock billions of dollars for infrastructure and improve the lives of many.
About 1.2 billion people live without electricity and 2.5 billion people don’t have toilets. Some 748 million people lack access to safe drinking water. The Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) announced by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim this week hopes to lower these numbers by developing a pipeline of economically viable and sustainable infrastructure projects that can attract financing.
The World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu had some answers in a live-streamed conversation, Building Shared Prosperity in an Unequal World, with Chinese media entrepreneur Yang Lan in the lead-up to the institution’s Annual Meetings on Wednesday morning.
DAVOS, Switzerland – When we talk about particularly difficult issues at the World Bank Group, I always ask my team a simple question: What’s the plan?
If they have a plan, the next question I ask is whether the plan is serious enough to match the scale of the problem. Here at the World Economic Forum at Davos, one of the main issues before us is an extraordinarily tough one – how do we reduce the growing income inequality around the world? Income inequality has grown to enormous proportions but my question to World Bank staff and folks here in Davos is the same: What’s the plan to lessen income inequality across the world?
Income inequality can appear to be an intractable problem. But the fact is we already know a lot about how economies can grow in a way that includes even the poorest. We need a plan to tackle inequality and we think there are at least five things that we can do right now that could help.
When Cyclone Phailin struck the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh last week, the predictions were dire. In 1999, a cyclone of comparable strength took 10,000 lives.
While Phailin affected up to 8 million people, leaving approximately 600,00 homeless, death tolls are currently estimated to be in the low double digits. What made all the difference between 1999 and today? A much improved early warning system, effective evacuations, and the construction of shelters probably played a crucial role. Credible forecasts and early warnings were available for several days before landfall, and close to one million people were evacuated.
Everyone who still thinks disasters are ‘natural’ should stop and consider this for a minute. This difference in impact is a real world example of an analogy discussed at the 5th Resilience Dialogue on Oct. 11, 2013. Here’s my interpretation:
Remember that old magic trick where a tablecloth is pulled off a fully set table but (almost) nothing falls over?
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?
If you saw how poor I was before, you would see that things are getting better.
When I hear stories like that of Jean Bosco Hakizimana, a Burundian farmer whose life was transformed by a cow, I get excited about the change we can all make. Jean Bosco’s income is improving, his kids are eating better, his wife has some nice clothes, and his manioc fields are yielding better harvests — all thanks to the milk and fertilizer from this one cow.
A similar story is playing out in more than 2,600 communities across Burundi, offering new life to a people once decimated by civil war. These community agricultural programs sponsored by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, show that development doesn’t have to be that complicated and that collective effort can make all the difference.
In community-driven development (CDD) projects, communities that have been given control over planning decisions and investment resources for development often decide to undertake small-scale infrastructure projects, such as rural roads, small bridges or schools. A project in Benin has demonstrated that schools built by communities can be built faster at lower cost than those built by outside contractors.
An assumption behind CDD is that communities with local knowledge of resources and environment are better positioned to figure out the best way to build their own public infrastructure in their interest. Indeed, there is some evidence that community-built infrastructure can be cheaper when compared to infrastructure built by government or outside contractors (for example, Wong (2012) introduces several cases of “CDD’s cost effectiveness as compared to equivalent works built through other government service delivery mechanisms”).
However, much of the available evidence comes from a comparison between “community-built infrastructure” and “other-entity built similar infrastructure” constructed at a different time. It is difficult to find, or to set up, an experiment where a set of identical infrastructure projects are built by both communities and others at the same time under similar conditions, and in numbers large enough to allow for comparison between outcomes.
In this regard, the recently completed National Community Driven Development Project (“PNDCC” in French) and the Fast Track Initiative (FTI) Education project in Benin present just this type of “natural experiment.”
At a time when all decision-makers around the world can think about is the state of their country’s economy, debt, spending and fiscal stability, one phrase attempts to sum it all up: it’s arithmetic.
In Armenia, it is all about arithmetic too.
Despite the volatility of Armenia’s economy in the twenty years since the country gained independence, effective government reforms led to double-digit growth rates from 2001 to 2007. That ended with the global financial crisis in 2008.
Africa's Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation
Yesterday in New York I attended a discussion on infrastructure in Africa. As co-author of the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, I've been talking with people for years about the importance of reliable infrastructure for economic and social activity in Africa. Today we're talking about how infrastructure can help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The core of the MDGs is poverty reduction and improved human development, but how can those goals be met without basic infrastructure to create economic opportunities and support public service delivery? This is a critical question when you think about the facts that 30 Sub-Saharan countries have a power supply crisis, their road freight moves as fast as a horse-drawn cart, and less than 5 percent of agricultural land is irrigated. Although Africa’s infrastructure needs may look daunting, countries like China have shown that it is possible to deliver on the requisite scale.
At the launch, World Bank Africa Chief Economist Shanta Devarajan explained that, "although Africa was the hardest hit by the crisis, its recovery has been so remarkable that we could be at the beginning of what history will describe as Africa’s decade."
The outlook isn't all rosy, of course. With the global financial crisis halting the steady rate of growth in the region, Africa will now likely miss most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their 2015 deadline, despite the remarkable progress. n estimated 7-10 million more Africans were driven into poverty and about 30,000-50,000 children died before their first birthday because of the crisis.