For low-lying island states, the impacts of global warming and climate change can be a matter of survival. The irony is that while these states have not contributed much to greenhouse emissions, as they produce very little, they may face some of the worst consequences.
The Maldives is no stranger to the risks from climate change. It is already witnessing an increase in intense rainfall and resultant flooding, cyclonic winds and storm surges. As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, with all its people living a few meters above sea level and over two thirds of its critical infrastructure lying within 100 meters of the shoreline, a sea level rise of just a few meters will put the nation further at risk, endangering its relative prosperity.
Thankfully Maldives is beginning to turn the tide. Yesterday I visited Fuvahmulah, in the one of the southernmost atolls where the Mayor and the Ministry of Environment, have been working closely with local communities to manage the wetlands, critical for reducing climate change impacts. I saw scores of young Maldivians enjoying the facilities and learning about conservation. A true win win. Community participation has helped enhance the design and acceptability of this initiative. Scaled up, such initiatives can have transformational impact and it is imperative that the Government of Maldives take the lessons from this Bank supported initiative to 19 other atolls.
Creating a safer archipelago
The Indian Ocean tsunami that battered the islands in 2004 provided a glimpse of what can happen – a clear wake-up call. The government responded by .
Today, in the Greater Malé region, the reclaimed island of Hulhumalé is being developed with better sea defenses and elevated buildings from where people can be evacuated as needed. The government is also raising people’s understanding of the causes and effects of natural disasters, particularly those that come on suddenly, such as tsunamis and flooding.
In many cases, the answer is: It depends on who's asking!
I once spent an entire day with a team responsible for submitting data to the education minister about how many computers were in that country's schools, and what the related student-computer ratio was. The minister wanted to promote a new policy proposing a target 'student-computer ratio', and wanted to know how practical (or outlandish) her initial thoughts in this regard might be.
Thankfully, team members did have access to pretty reliable data about how many schools the country had, and how many students were in these schools (a shocking number of countries don't have reliable data on these counts). Led by a statistician, who liked to be rather more exact about things than a number of the politicans she worked for, the team was wrestling with questions like:
- The Science of Behavior Change Repository offers a repository of measures of stress, personality, self-regulation, time preferences, etc. – with instruments for both children and adults, and information on how long the questions take to administer and where they have been validated.
- Andrew Gelman on post-hoc power calculations – “my problem is that their recommended calculations will give wrong answers because they are based on extremely noisy estimates of effect size... Suppose you have 200 patients: 100 treated and 100 control, and post-operative survival is 94 for the treated group and 90 for the controls. Then the raw estimated treatment effect is 0.04 with standard error sqrt(0.94*0.06/100 + 0.90*0.10/100) = 0.04. The estimate is just one s.e. away from zero, hence not statistically significant. And the crudely estimated post-hoc power, using the normal distribution, is approximately 16% (the probability of observing an estimate at least 2 standard errors away from zero, conditional on the true parameter value being 1 standard error away from zero). But that’s a noisy, noisy estimate! Consider that effect sizes consistent with these data could be anywhere from -0.04 to +0.12 (roughly), hence absolute effect sizes could be roughly between 0 and 3 standard errors away from zero, corresponding to power being somewhere between 5% (if the true population effect size happened to be zero) and 97.5% (if the true effect size were three standard errors from zero).”
The World Bank’s data blog uses meta-data from hosting its survey solutions tool to ask how well people plan their surveys (and read the comments for good context in interpreting the data). Some key findings:
- Surveys usually take longer than you think they will: 47% of users underestimated the amount of time they needed for the field work – and after requesting more server time, many then re-request this extension
- Spend more time piloting questionnaires before launching: 80% of users revise their surveys at least once when surveying has started, and “a surprisingly high proportion of novice users made 10 or more revisions of their questionnaires during the fieldwork”
- Another factoid of interest “An average nationally representative survey in developing countries costs about US$2M”
- On the EDI Global blog, Nkolo, Mallet, and Terenzi draw on the experiences of EDI and the recent literature to discuss how to deal with surveys on sensitive topics.
- development impact links
Download the January 2019 Global Economic Prospects report.
The informal sector — labor and business that is hidden from monetary, regulatory, and institutional authorities — accounts for about a third of GDP and 70 percent of employment (of which self-employment is more than a half) in emerging market and developing economies. While offering the advantage of employment flexibility in some economies, a large informal sector is associated with low productivity, reduced tax revenues, poor governance, excessive regulations, and poverty and income inequality.
Addressing the challenge of pervasive informality will require comprehensive policies that take into account country-specific conditions. Initiatives to boost long-term development might include measures aimed at reducing regulatory and tax burdens, expanding access to finance, improving education and other public services, and strengthening public revenue frameworks.
One-half of the world’s informal output and 95 percent of its informal employment is in emerging market and developing economies. Both informal output and employment have declined since 1990, particularly in countries with higher output growth, rapid physical capital accumulation, and larger improvements in governance and business climates.
Share of informal output and employment
A strange irony persists in today’s infrastructure investment market: private capital waiting to be deployed into the sector is at an all-time high, yet investors seem reluctant to commit. Even in developed countries, few investors are willing to partake in transactions with merchant or construction risks without taking a higher risk premium.
This can make the financing of infrastructure projects more costly—a challenge particularly acute in emerging markets where further investment risks abound.
The story of Santiago, however, remains an exception in the region. Though Latin American countries, as signatories to the Paris Agreement, have signaled their concrete intention to embrace a low-carbon future, the transition to low and zero-emissions vehicles has been slow. To better understand the challenges in accelerating the adoption of clean technologies in LAC, the World Bank has recently implemented the Clean Bus project, funded by the NDC Support Facility, a contribution to the NDC Partnership.
I am 41 years old and, with business as usual, I would be 106 when universal social protection (USP) is realized.
The drive for USP – a definition of which is to ensure that everyone is covered by some form of social assistance or insurance – lies at the heart of various efforts at country and global levels.
But where are we with attaining such goal, exactly? Here are some back-of-the-envelope calculations.
One of us – Diana – grew up in Paraguay and never encountered a standardized test in all the years that she went to school. Nor does she know any fellow Paraguayans of her generation who have taken one. Her parents relocated often, so she attended many different schools and, consequently, she experienced a wide range in the quality of schools and teachers. While many of the schools repeatedly failed to achieve the ambitious goals of the national curriculum, some were able to better nurture students. The quality of teaching and the way in which schools are run determine what students learn. Unfortunately, the marked quality differences are generally not evident to students, families, or even teachers, school directors or supervisors because it is difficult to compare learning outcomes in a consistent manner.
How much does financing matter for education? The Education Commission argued that to achieve access and quality education “will require total spending on education to rise steadily from $1.2 trillion per year today to $3 trillion by 2030 (in constant prices) across all low- and middle-income countries.” At the same time, the World Bank’s World Development Report 2004 showed little correlation between spending and access to school, and the World Development Report 2018 (for which I was on the team) shows a similarly weak correlation between spending and learning outcomes. (Vegas and Coffin, using a different econometric specification, do find a correlation between spending and learning outcomes up to US$8,000 per student annually.)
Sources: Left-hand figure is from WDR 2004. Right-hand figure is from WDR 2018.
And yet, correlation is not causation (or in this case, a lack of correlation is not necessarily a lack of causation)! Last month, Kirabo Jackson put out a review paper on this topic: Does School Spending Matter? The New Literature on an Old Question. This draws on a new wave of evidence from the United States’ experience, moving beyond correlations to efforts to measure the causal impact of spending changes. (Jackson and various co-authors have contributed significantly to this literature.) I’ll summarize his findings and then discuss what we might expect to be the same or different in low- or middle-income contexts.
2018 continued to see major shifts in global energy markets and extractive industries, which were reflected in the work done by the World Bank in developing and middle-income countries. From expanding off-grid electricity projects in rural and remote areas, to announcing an ambitious $1 billion battery storage program, to a new initiative to help countries with coal mine closures, the Bank fulfilled existing commitments and announced new plans for 2019 and beyond.
Here are some highlights of the World Bank’s work in energy and extractives over the past year:
Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director and Head of Energy and Extractives at the World Bank, wrote a piece about how getting methane – which makes up 16 percent of greenhouse gas emissions -- out of energy production and use could provide a major boost to the fight against climate change.
In what is one of the largest programs of its kind in Africa, the World Bank is supporting Ethiopia’s efforts to take electricity to all its citizens by 2024 through the $375 million Ethiopia Electrification Program, which focuses on last-mile connections in addition to strengthening the capacity of the sector. The Program’s ultimate goal is to directly support new connections for over one million households in Ethiopia.
A video shows how investing in solar-powered mini-grids like this one in Ghana, is changing lives. In the towns around the Volta River, nearly 10,000 Ghanaians now enjoy uninterrupted power, which enhances security and brings new economic opportunities to these communities.