As a resident of Quezon City in Metro Manila, I grew up with typhoons and floods during the monsoon season that normally lasts from June to September. People in cities have learned to live with floods, and perhaps, not learned from the experience enough to change mindsets, lifestyles. Our drains continue to be clogged, motorists get stranded on the road, families still live in danger zones so much so that entire communities get evacuated, lives and livelihoods are lost, year in, year out.
What do Iran and Alaska have in common? Well for one thing, both have followed a similar path towards equity by sharing mineral revenues with citizens through the Alaska Permanent Fund and the Iran Citizens Income Scheme. Why aren’t other countries, rich in mineral and hydro carbon wealth on their way to doing the same? This journey can be short and sweet: It would entail direct dividend payments from mineral wealth to citizens to become a reality across Africa and other parts of the world. It’s time to put the mine in mineral revenues.
Marcelo Giugale, World Bank’s Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programs for Africa, makes the case with enthusiasm for direct cash payments from natural resource revenues to the citizens of a country: a mechanism by which citizens of a nation, share in its wealth earnings while making sure that the earnings keep growing for future generations. Marcelo offers a tantalizing prospect: even a fraction of mineral and hydro carbon revenue as direct dividend payments to citizens would be enough to end poverty! Imagine that.
Africa has mineral revenues and much more that can end poverty. It seems, that whatever the so-called developed world craves, Africa already has: from mineral resources to yet to be discovered deposits of diamonds, oils, rare earth; to agriculture land. Yet, whatever enriches the so-called developed world from Africa seems to not benefit the continent itself. Why is that? And what will need to be done to change it? It is time to transform the discussion on economic growth drivers and development aid by adding into the equation the distribution of mineral revenues urges Shantayanan Devarajan, World Bank’s Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa and until recently for the Africa Region.
'Why is China Ahead of India? Implications for Europe and the US,' was the topic of a talk yesterday at the World Bank by Nobel winner Amartya Sen which was chaired by Kaushik Basu. In the span of just under two hours, Sen managed to pinpoint India's main Achilles Heel (primarily related to the low overall quality of education, poor health care and skewed energy and other subsidies), while weaving in references to Kido Takayoshi, Mao Zedong, David Hume, Mahatma Gandhi, Adam Smith, Jon Stuart Mill, Milton Friedman, Keynes, Marx and other thinkers and influencers.
Amartya's talk coincided with the publication of a New York Times op ed titled 'Why India Trails China' in which he stressed that one cannot wait to fix health and education only after reaching some modicum of overall prosperity. Indeed, proper health and education, which foster human capabilities, are an essential precondition to sustainable growth and the ability to compete successfully in an integrated world. India still needs to take these East Asian lessons fully on board.
Had a thought-provoking discussion on ‘influencing’ with Exfamer (ex Oxfam Australia turned consultant) James Ensor a few days ago. The starting point was an apparent tension between the reading I’ve been doing on complex systems, and Oxfam’s traditional model of campaigning.
In my first days at Oxfam, I was told that the recipe for a successful campaign was ‘problem, villain, solution’ (heroes are apparently optional). And sure enough, if you look at good/bad campaigns, the presence or absence of all three ingredients seems pretty key.
But one of the characteristics of complex systems is that solutions are seldom obvious and often only emerge from trial and error. Elsewhere I’ve translated the offputting language of complexity theory into ‘how do you plan when you don’t know what’s going to happen?’ But in the case of advocacy and campaigns aimed at influencing government or international organizations’ policies, a better formulation would be ‘how do you campaign when you don’t have a solution?’
The first option is of course to pretend that you do anyway. Echoes of Yes Minister’s ‘we must do something. This is something. Therefore we must do it!’. Not that Oxfam would ever stoop to such a thing, obviously.
Alternatively, stick to problems that are less complex, at least at first sight. Campaign to give people money, or bednets, or vaccines, or food (although any of these efforts in practice are unlikely to stay neat and linear for long).
But there are a number of other options:
It was my first week in Algeria, and I found myself racing through the capital in a motorcade. This was far from my usual form of transportation, but rather the result of a fortunate coincidence. My preparations for taking up office as Resident Representative of the World Bank for Algeria happen to overlap with an official visit by our Vice President for Middle East and North Africa, Inger Andersen.
The World Bank and Oxfam India co-organized a high energy event earlier this week - Joining Forces to End Violence Against Women. It was an intense two days – about 200 participants from diverse backgrounds gathered to listen, to educate each other, to speak up, and to build alliances; in short, to join forces towards the next step. Several of them congratulated the “movement” on progress – on having coopted unlikely allies, on the fact that more men were involved than ever before, and that public outrage against violence is widespread in South Asia. Surely, this will lead to change, is the implicit hope. But long-time warriors like Flavia Agnes, voiced angst and discouragement, as only those who have spent a lifetime of struggle are entitled to. Finally, the anger came from 21-year old Urmila Chaudhary – freed from bondage as a Kamalari – “where were you all when I was pledged to a family as a maid at the age of six”, she asked a somber audience?
- On the FAI blog, Jonathan Morduch discusses the problems of trying to measure the cost of microfinance and why the profession underfocuses on costs – “if you’re not the kind of person who gets pleasure from filling out income tax forms, you’re probably not the kind of person who enjoys calculating microfinance subsidies”.
The G8's actions on 'beneficial ownership' are a breakthrough in the fight against financial crimes (Credit: James Lauritiz,Digital Vision Collection, Getty Images)
The move was momentous and, until a few weeks ago, quite unexpected. In a push to tear down the walls of corporate secrecy, the G8 has just committed to ensuring that each of its members will have immediate access to the identity of the so-called “beneficial owner” - the individual who ultimately pulls the strings behind companies- in their jurisdiction. Not very long ago talk of “beneficial ownership” was the domain of a handful of policy wonks and the odd NGO; now it’s taken center stage.
The G8’s statement represents a major breakthrough in fighting financial crime, corruption and tax evasion. Law enforcement and regulatory action have been hampered for far too long by the lack of access to information on the individuals who, ultimately, benefit from the ill-gotten gains stashed away in a variety of exotic sounding entities around the world. The seemingly impenetrable barriers of corporate secrecy have been lifted and the walls are coming down.
For those who work and live in Washington DC, flying into Dulles airport at the end of a long journey only to be greeted by long queues at immigration is never easy. One hears a lot of complaints about immigration processes and it is human nature to talk about it when the government does something wrong rather than when things go right. Global Entry - an initiative of the US Government (Customs and Border Protection) - a neat way to avoid the long line - is getting it exactly right. I recently signed up for the Global Entry Program that allows travelers returning to the US, a quick entry back through fewer checks at immigration. In my case, I got through immigration at Washington Dulles in 15 minutes from landing to a taxi!
The Global Entry Program is a great example of using technology to spur innovation and efficiency in the public sector in the following ways:
LONDON -- I'm just back from the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland, and under the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron, we focused on some critical but often overlooked elements on how the world can end extreme poverty in a generation: taxes, trade, and transparency. Watch the video to see why I feel so strongly about this.