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April 2014

Building Metros in Latin America: Not all projects are created equal, but they all need strong institutions

Daniel Pulido's picture
Follow the author on Twitter: @danpulido

Construction of the Quito Metro
Representatives from international and local commercial and development banks convened in Bogota, Colombia at the end of March for the Second International Workshop to discuss the First Line of the Bogota Metro. Bogota is currently undertaking the engineering studies required to develop the metro project but the key question remains:  how to develop it in a manner that reduces costs, mitigates risks and maximizes benefits for users? Together with other Bank colleagues, I was invited to the workshop to discuss the procurement and financing models adopted in other urban rail projects in Latin America (see workshop presentations here). My main take away from the discussions is that although there is no such thing as a single recipe for success, there is one widely recognized essential ingredient: strong government institutions with the sufficient managerial and technical capacity to prepare, manage and supervise these complex projects.

It’s Time to Make Agriculture ‘Climate-Smart’

Juergen Voegele's picture

 Tran Thi Hoa/World Bank Group

For those plugged into the climate change conversation, land use and “climate-smart agriculture” (CSA) are hot topics, especially in the lead up to September’s UN Summit on Climate Change.

There is tremendous urgency in moving this agenda forward. We are now beyond discussing whether we need sustainable intensification. To enhance food security in the face of climate change, we will need agriculture systems that are more productive, use inputs more efficiently, and are more resilient to a wide and growing range of risks. This will mean changing the way land, soil, water, and other inputs are managed. But because agriculture varies from place to place, and climate change will impact each location differently, climate-smart agriculture needs to respond to local conditions. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach to agriculture, but rather a framework to be applied and adapted – a paradigm shift in thinking and action.

On the occasion of the release of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the Mitigation of Climate Change last week, I had an opportunity to hear from some of the leading experts and policymakers and to zoom in on one of CSA's three goals, along with increasing productivity and building resilience: meeting global food needs with lower emissions.

Unfortunately, global agriculture systems have a long way to go before they can be considered sustainable by any reasonable standard. And we are certainly far away from being a sector that has a reduced or low footprint: The way we manage our agricultural landscapes globally produces a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture poses a bigger emissions problem than transport and other sectors that are traditionally viewed as the big emitters.

Media (R)evolutions: New Publications on Media Development around the World

Roxanne Bauer's picture
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Twice a year, CAMECO, a consultancy specializing in media and communications, publishes a list of selected publications on media and communications in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. This rich resource includes 210 titles, covering 160 countries worldwide. Many of the titles can be downloaded directly.

Drifting Toward Plutocracy: Inexorable Concentration of Capital Undermines the Drive for 'Shared Prosperity'

Christopher Colford's picture

Like seismic waves rippling outward after a tectonic shift, reverberations are roiling the economic-policy landscape after the U.S. launch of the groundbreaking new analysis by Thomas Piketty, the scholar from the Paris School of Economics whose landmark tome – “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” – has newly jolted the economics profession.

Any Washingtonian or World Bank Group staffer who somehow missed the news of Piketty’s celebrated series of speeches and seminars last week – in Washington, New York and Boston – received an unmistakable signal this week about what an important intellectual breakthrough Piketty has achieved. President Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday cited Piketty while putting the issue of economic inequality at the top of his list of priorities during his review of the Spring Meetings of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Noting that he was already about halfway through reading Piketty’s “Capital,” President Kim sent a clear message that the skewed global distribution of wealth, as analyzed by Piketty and emphasized by many officials at the Bank and Fund's semiannual conference, should be top-of-mind for policy-watchers at the Bank and beyond – indeed, at every institution that hopes to promote shared prosperity.

Piketty’s scholarship is now receiving widespread acclaim as a landmark in economic analysis, and is being recognized both for its “exhaustive fact-based research” and its sweeping historical perspective. More of a patient dissection of hard data than a political roadmap, Piketty’s book has quickly become the subject of multiple praiseworthy reviews, notably in the New York Times and the Financial Times. One usually level-headed Bloomberg View analyst, recoiling from the “rapturous reception” accorded to the book, may have gone slightly overboard this week in asserting that Piketty's insights had been greeted by American liberals with “erotic intensity.”

Predictably, Piketty's book has also quickly become the target – “Piketty Revives [Karl] Marx,” blared a Wall Street Journal headline; “Marx Rises Again,” warned the New York Times’ lonely conservative scold – of the whack-a-mole ideological purists in laissez-faire Op-Ed columns, who forever seem tempted to equate modern-day liberalism with long-gone Leninism. Eager to publish denunciations of any idea, however modest, that might justify (heaven forfend) tax increases on stratospheric income-earners and the top-fraction-of-the-One Percent, the free-market fundamentalists on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board – unabashed cheerleaders for plutocracy – have opened up one of their trademark barrages via their Op-Ed columns (“This book is less a work of economic analysis than a bizarre ideological screed”; “The professor ought to read ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Darkness at Noon’ ”). The Journal's jihad clearly aims to demean or discredit anyone who might flirt with such Piketty-style notions as restoring greater progressivity to the tax code. (Egad: Progressive taxation? Next stop: Bolshevism.)

Advancing Climate and Disaster Resilience in Sri Lanka

Suranga Kahandawa's picture

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami – Triggering engagement in Disaster Risk Management (DRM)

In 2004 December, Sri Lanka faced the worst disaster in its history - the Indian Ocean Tsunami. More than 35,000 people lost their lives and around 5,000 people went missing. At the time of the Tsunami, Sri Lanka did not have a proper legal and institutional mechanism to manage disaster risk. In the aftermath of the catastrophe, the Government made very serious efforts to establish a mechanism to avoid dramatic loss of life in future disaster events.
Subsequently, the Disaster Management Act was passed and the National Council for Disaster Management, chaired by the President, was established.  A Ministry of Disaster Management (MoDM) was created and charged with the disaster risk management (DRM) portfolio and the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) was established July 2005 to implement DRM programs across the country.
With these mechanisms in place, the Government began strengthening disaster preparedness, especially for tsunamis. Three pieces were put in place including: i) development of a tsunami early warning system; ii) implementation of awareness raising programs, from the grassroots to national levels; and, iii) regular evacuation drills were conducted in all coastal villages. The system has proven successful as the DMC issued Tsunami evacuation warnings in September 2007 and April 2014, which resulted in the safe evacuation of coastal communities.

Big data, causal inference and ‘good data mining’?

Emanuela Galasso's picture
Last week I attended the International Development Conference at the Kennedy School of Government, joining a session on social protection. The conference is organized by KSG students (kudos to the students for their hard work in making it happen and interesting!), and has a format with no presentations and informal panel discussions with invited speakers.

The Things We Do: Why We Procrastinate

Roxanne Bauer's picture

At the basis of communication and public policy are assumptions about human beings- their rationality or irrationality, their foibles, wants and preferences. A lot depends on whether these assumptions are correct. In this feature, we bring you fascinating examples of human behavior from across the globe.

In our first edition of "The Things We Do," we explore one reason why we procrastinate.  In a blog post from Nautilus, entitled, "Why We Procrastinate," we learn that:

"It turns out that we see our future selves as strangers. Though we will inevitably share their fates, the people we will become in a decade, quarter century, or more, are unknown to us. This impedes our ability to make good choices on their—which of course is our own—behalf. That bright, shiny New Year’s resolution? If you feel perfectly justified in breaking it, it may be because it feels like it was a promise someone else made."

So, if a poor connection to your future self leads to procrastination, can strengthening this connection be an effective remedy as well?

WITS Trade Data Site: Five New Features

Siddhesh Kaushik's picture

Where can you find the top trading partners for your country? Where can you find the top products exported to and imported from Indonesia? Where can you find just about any type of trade data?

The answers to these questions (and more) are available at our recently revamped World Integrated Trade Solution (WITS) site:  In previous versions of the site, users needed to login and query the data themselves. You still can.  And many still do to conduct much more detailed and sophisticated research and analysis on trade. But if you want to quickly look up or browse trade statistics like total exports, tariffs applied, top export, and import partners, the data has been pre-calculated and made available as Open Data.

“Thanks to the data I found on WITS, I successfully completed my PhD.  Really easy-to-use site and great upgrades.”
                              – User in India
We have tried to make the new site more intuitive and accessible to the site’s users.  Our team – the Development Data Group (DECDG), the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network (PREM), and other World Bank units – worked in consultation with partners, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and others, to produce this site.  We hope you find the new site as useful as we do.

Financial Education during Schooling Years Improves Financial Behavior Later

LTD Editors's picture

The proliferation of new financial products and services continues to outpace the capacity of individuals and families to make informed financial choices. Financial education geared toward adults has shown low uptake, so the focus has shifted to introducing financial literacy during the schooling years. This research looks at a comprehensive financial education program spanning six states, 868 schools, and approximately 20,000 high school students in Brazil through a randomized control trial. The program increased student financial knowledge by a quarter of a standard deviation and led to a 1.4 percentage point increase in saving for purchases, better likelihood of financial planning, and greater participation in household financial decisions. “Trickle-up” impacts showed improvements in parental financial knowledge, savings, and spending behavior. The evidence suggests the program affected students’ preferences and attitudes about financial decisions well beyond the schooling years. Read the entire paper here.