In the past year we have seen students in countries around the world protesting about the cost of higher education and lack of financial aid: Chilean students have been protesting for 7 months to change the overall educational financing system; Californians have occupied the UC Berkeley campus to protest fee hikes, and thousands of English students last year have taken part in protests against increases in tuition fees. Why is this happening all over the world?
I am partway through a trip to the countries of the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), where winter is settling in—snow in Tbilisi and Yerevan, and a raw wind on Baku’s seafront.
It is a diverse region at the proverbial crossroads, but one common trait is a bleak health financing environment. All three countries rely on out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures for about two-thirds of total health spending, well above their peer groups, including other countries of the former Soviet Union or middle-income countries around the world. As a result, the incidence of “impoverishing” and “catastrophic” health spending by households—both common indicators of financial protection—are among the highest in the world. Besides costing some households dearly, OOP expenditures also keep many others away from the hospital or clinic: Utilization rates are among the lowest in Europe and Central Asia.
How did the Caucasus become such OOP outliers? The proximate causes are clear enough: large formal or informal payments for health care and high prices and overconsumption of pharmaceuticals. Many of these issues, in turn, can be traced to low levels of government spending on health, around 1.8% of GDP in all three countries, roughly half the regional average. Health spending is low as a share of government budgets, as well. As a result, providers recover costs directly from patients, and can have more latitude to engage in rent-seeking in the absence of stronger pooling and purchasing mechanisms.
Less than one hour from the burgeoning, cosmopolitan boutiques and coffee shops of Lima’s chic San Isidro district, Carmen shares a one-room, patched-up wooden shack with her in-laws and her three small children in the outskirts of Ventanilla, an impoverished area north of Lima.
She is distraught, one side of her face paralyzed from stress as she faces the unimaginable: eviction from her humble dwelling and the possibility of tuberculosis striking again her two year old, and herself too.
The global policy community seems unlikely to take drastic steps with regard to climate change any time soon. Politicians remain hesitant about taking action, although scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming. It’s happening, it’s happening now, and it will cause massive damage. And it’s mostly caused by humans. Public opinion, on the other hand, is far behind the science. Are politicians unwilling to impose dramatic measures to slow down climate change because the public is unwilling to pay the cost – yet? Are they kicking the can down the road because the people are not yet willing to fully embrace the fact and the consequences of climate change?
- The World Region
- Susan Joy Hassol
- Steven Sherwood
- Scientific Revolutions
- Science Communication
- Richard Somerville
- Public Opinion
- Physics Today
- Paradigm Change
- John Tyndall
- Global Warming
- Development Agencies
- Communication Techniques
- Climate Change
Linked in the distant past through colonial-era trade enterprises, Brazil and Africa are becoming close partners again. More than two centuries after establishing a slave trade route across the Atlantic, both regions are again re-engaging, this time to exchange knowledge and further economic and social development.
Sub-Saharan African countries are looking to replicate Brazil’s successes in boosting agricultural production and exports, and private investments, which have made Brazil a key economic player in the international arena. This is no coincidence. The world is going though rapid changes, resulting in a new financial architecture, with emerging economies and countries in the South increasingly participating and influencing global decisions.
Linked in the distant past through colonial-era trade enterprises, Brazil and Africa are becoming close partners again. More than two centuries after establishing a slave trade route across the Atlantic, both regions are again re-engaging, this time around to exchange knowledge and potentiate economic and social development.
Sub-Saharan African countries are looking to replicate Brazil’s successes in boosting agriculture production and exports, and private investments, which have made Brazil a key economic player in the international arena.
Last year 14 million people around the world applied for the 50,000 green cards available through the U.S. Diversity Visa lottery, commonly known as the Green Card lottery.
At 4.30 on Sunday morning, after 36 hours of overtime (a record), the 194 country members of the UNFCCC pulled a rabbit from the hat. Special flights had been put on by South African Airways as a way to encourage delegates not to leave.
Putting the Puzzle Together
Three big pieces of the jigsaw needed to fall into place in order to clinch the `Durban Platform’. First, a new commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, without which developing countries would have walked. Second, a road map towards a truly global deal to be effective by 2020 at the latest, without which the EU wouldn’t sign on to a new Kyoto. Third, the launch of the Green Climate Fund, without which developing countries wouldn’t sign on to such a global road map.
Putting the pieces together required compromise and was accompanied with brinksmanship, emotion, and millions of words spoken, usually repeating what had already been said. The outcome, however, is highly positive for the long term prospects for a deal, and delivered all that could reasonably be hoped for (see my earlier blog: Will Durban Deliver?).
Thus, in a nutshell, delegates left Durban having agreed on:
- A new commitment period under Kyoto for the EU and 11 other countries beginning January 1, 2013.
- An agreement to negotiate a global deal by 2015, which would be effective from 2020 with "legal force" applying to all countries.
- A Green Fund launched, with regional groupings to nominate board members in the coming three months. Board selection will be very important since most operational details yet to be designed.
This is not exactly the perfect moment for banks to take on new risks. In such a volatile economic climate as today’s, the seemingly prudent thing would be to do very little. But, in a new World Bank report, Financial Development in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Road Ahead, we argue that the time is right for the financial sector in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to expand sustainably in new directions, to boost economic activity and financial inclusion.
LAC has demonstrated a strong financial footing, having weathered the global crisis of 2008-2009 better than most. After a history of recurring instability, the region’s strengthening of macroeconomic and financial oversight policies helped prevent toxic loans and U.S.-style bubbles. In fact, during the 1980s and 90s, the financial sector was the region’s Achilles heel. Ever since, the financial systems have grown and deepened, becoming more integrated and competitive, with new actors, markets, and instruments flourishing. Now that the successes of LAC’s macro-financial stability are widely recognized and tested, we believe it is the right time to move forward with a broader agenda.
But greater financial stability and resilience has not translated into increased financial services, as compared to the world. Even when savings have accumulated and funds are available for investment.