Bouncing along a dusty road in Ghana, I had an eye-opening conversation with a colleague who was supervising a survey we were doing. It turns out he had been offered a more prestigious job, with a significantly higher salary, elsewhere in Ghana. But he was turning it down.
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Making a difference for people, he
This weekend, as I packed my suitcase for Beirut, I thought of the warm and welcoming people I’ll be working with over the next two weeks. This is my fourth visit to Lebanon this year, and each one has provided me with a different glimpse into Lebanese politics and society. It has helped me to understand the aspirations of some of the country’s citizens and the constraints faced by its policymakers.
A new report released today by UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank shares the news that the number of children around the world who grow up stunted has decreased by 35% since 1990, from an estimated 253 million to 165 million in 2011. Although the news of the reduction is positive, the number remains one of tragic proportion. One hundred and sixty-five million children around the world will still grow up stunted and will not reach their full potential in life. Maternal and early childhood nutrition and education are the best investments we can make to help children thrive, learn, and grow up to lead healthy, productive lives.
The recent global financial crisis reignited the debate on the ownership structure of the banking sector and its consequences for financial intermediation. Some have pointed to the presence of foreign banks in developing countries as a key mechanism for transmitting the 2008-2009 crisis from advanced to developing countries (e.g., IMF, 2009). At the same time, developing countries like Brazil, China, and India, where government-owned banks are systemically important, recovered quickly from the crisis, generating interest in the potential mitigating role that these banks can play during periods of financial distress. 
When my team and I started working on the World Development Report 2013, slightly more than a year ago, we were puzzled. We had been asked to write about jobs, and there was no doubt that they were a major concern around the world. Events such as the global crisis or the Arab spring had put jobs center stage. In developing countries, finding employment opportunities for massive numbers of youth entering the labor force was urgent. Middle-income countries were struggling to move up the value-added ladder in production and to extend the coverage of social protection. Technology and globalization were changing the nature of work worldwide. In all cases, jobs were at stake. And they were clearly one of the main preoccupations of policy makers everywhere.
Managing energy demand in a country like China, where millions of businesses and households rely on a steady supply, is definitely one of China’s greatest challenges. The thorny question is how can the country find a sustainable way to provide reliable sources of energy to such a huge and demanding market? Well, answers are starting to appear on the horizon, or rather, in the sky.
At a meeting of the Asia Society in New York last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, estimated that a 1 degree increase in the planet’s temperature (we are already at .8 degrees) would cost her country 3-4% of its GDP growth annually. At the same time, DARA, a European-based NGO, and the Climate Vulnerability Forum released the second Climate Vulnerability Monitor, which estimates that climate change is already costing the world 1.6% of GDP growth globally, and contributing to over 400,000 deaths. The report, written by over 50 scientists, economists and policy experts, also estimates that by 2030 climate change and air pollution combined could cost the world 3.2% of growth globally, and up to 11% in the world’s least developed countries.
I spent nine of the last 20 years living in Africa, watching the continent struggle terribly with negative growth in the 90’s, fight its way to positive growth and eventually celebrate a 5-8% growth rate that allowed many African countries to put a serious dent in poverty. But clearly, those hard won gains in poverty reduction and development are at risk, and sooner than we thought. The most important message of DARA’s report is that climate change is not just a problem for future generations.
But as former President José María Figueres of Costa Rica reminded a United Nations General Assembly audience last week, climate change also presents an enormous economic opportunity. Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance reported that over $1 trillion was invested in clean energy last year. And the feeling is that this figure could be much higher if we could just figure out the policies and financial instruments to unleash capital in the direction of green growth. So which path will we seize for our changing climate? The one which builds on the growth and development of past decades or the one which leads to the grim prospect of losing hard fought gains against poverty? The race to choose is on, and for those of us whose dream is a world free of poverty, for those of us who couldn’t bear to see Africa return to the economic and social struggles of the 90’s, we’d better get sprinting.
So today ─ against this very compelling background ─ we launch our new Climate Policy and Finance Department (CPF) at the World Bank. This department brings together the Climate Change team, the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) Admin Unit, the Carbon Finance program, the GEF and Montreal Protocol teams around this essential question: what can the World Bank Group do to help countries take climate action at a faster speed and larger scale, and turn climate change into an engine for growth?
Let's think together:Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate an evidence-based debate by sharing data from recent official surveys and ask you a few questions. These posts are also published in the Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.
Tanzanian families have been doing things differently of late. More of them have been sending their daughters to primary school and more women have become heads of families with increasing financial responsibilities. Increasingly too, more women are involved in the political arena today. These trends can also be found in most countries in the world but they are especially visible in Tanzania as reflected by the following statistics.
"And the problem with freedom is that there -- is that people will always misuse it, you know, because not everybody's a nice guy and not everybody is smart and sophisticated and intelligent. Some people are just the opposite of that, you know. But that, you know, freedom means freedom for those people too. And so in order to defend the general subject of freedom, you have to defend the freedom of people you don't like or do things that you find ugly and cheap and tawdry like this video, you know, which is clearly not a work of any merit at all, you know, and yet the point about freedom is there has to be freedom for work without any merit at all as well. And so that's the -- that's just the simple logic of it, and I think if we believe in this value, you know, of free expression, we just have to hold the line. We just have to say, this is what we do."
--Salman Rushdie (Interviewed by Fareed Zakaria, GPS, September 23, 2012)