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January 2016

The secret life of a World Bank actuary

Barry Maher's picture


As actuaries working in development, my colleagues and I in the Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Program (DRFIP) are constantly looking for innovative ways to apply actuarial science in the fight against poverty. Because the DRFIP is a fairly new initiative — it was established in 2010 to improve the financial resilience of governments, businesses and households against natural disasters — a lot of questions are still to be asked, and lessons to be learned, about helping client countries better calculate financial risk and improve programs that change lives.

That said, exciting advancements are under way, as we learn through exchanging knowledge with experts across the World Bank and partners from other sectors. For example: Once, while on mission in Nairobi, I passed a local Social Protection colleague in the corridor and struck up a conversation that quickly turned to a challenge she was facing. The government of Kenya was aiming to develop a mechanism that would enable its Hunger Safety Net Program, a cash transfer program, to scale up financial assistance to poor families in the case of drought. However, in order to do this, they needed a better understanding of the financial costs of such a mechanism. As droughts are, by their very nature, unpredictable, trying to estimate this cost in advance was a challenge. 
 

How can actuaries best contribute to the development agenda?


My colleagues and I thrive on looking for answers to this type of question every day. While there are other actuaries, both in the Bank and across the sector, the role we are developing from a risk-financing perspective is to help client countries quantify the financial value of unknown risks and develop financial strategies to manage them.

Microfinance needed in Iraq more urgently now than ever

Nadine Chehade's picture
Najaf, Iraq - Shutterstock l photo story

How can development practitioners promote economic development for parts of the Arab world affected by conflict and fragility? The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) has featured various solutions in a recent blog series on financial inclusion during crises. These blogs highlight the fact that although conflict, violence, and uncertainty make development difficult, solid financial infrastructure for small-scale lending can help people weather a crisis or, in other words, support their economic resilience.

Do polls capture public opinion or manufacture it?

Jing Guo's picture

Proud Iraqi Women Vote in NasiriyahIn 2012, U.S. Gallup polls predicted that Mitt Romney would beat Obama in the presidential election with a slight edge in public support. More recently, in 2015, public opinion surveys in Turkey predicted only trivial gains in vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during the country’s November general election.
 
In both cases, the polls missed the mark. President Obama blindsided Romney, winning a second term by five percentage points—a result even Romney’s own polling experts did not see coming. Turkey’s AKP won back its parliamentary majority with 49.5% of the vote and an unexpected 8.5% rise in public support, a rebound even the best polling companies in the country had barely foreseen.   
 
Inaccurate poll results are not rare nowadays. An increasing number of disproven poll predictions, particularly in the context of elections, fuels the growing scrutiny over political polls. Cliff Zukin, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Rutgers and past president of American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) said in his article for the New York Times, “election polling is in near crisis.”

Is polling facing some major challenges? And what are they?

Being strategic with sustainability

Bertrand Badré's picture
A manager at a power substation in Kabul, Afghanistan. © Graham Crouch/World Bank


To get the pulse of an institution’s financial management and its room for growth, we must first look at its financial statements. The information in these statements is, of course, essential but often provides only a partial picture focusing on short-term returns.

To understand the true value created by an organization, we need to look more broadly. This necessitates going beyond traditional financial reports and spending time understanding how the institution manages its non-financial resources.

Myth-busting: What happens when you link payments to results in education projects

Peter Holland's picture
Young children work on their activity sheets at a school in Jamaica. (Photo: Christina Wright / World Bank)


After getting off to a slower start than our colleagues in health, results-based financing (RBF) is gaining much momentum in education.

Informality and formality - two ends of the employment continuum

Shanthi Nataraj's picture
Informal employment predominates in many low-income countries and is here to stay, possibly for a very long time. We need to recognize that informality and formality are two ends of a continuum. It is also critical to identify those specific aspects of formality that workers value most, that employers would be most willing to provide, and that governments would find most feasible to enforce.

How public-private partnerships can play a constructive role in global economies in 2016

Geoffrey Keele's picture

With 2015 firmly behind us, it’s time to reflect on the past year’s global economic trends -- while looking forward at the challenges and opportunities facing countries around the world. Check out the articles below for diverse and thought-provoking perspectives on how public-private partnerships can play a constructive role in global economies throughout 2016 and beyond.   

Latin America's unemployed and out of school youth

Tariq Khokhar's picture


Throughout Latin America, youth who are neither working nor in school are often labeled ninis, from the Spanish phrase “ni estudia ni trabaja" (neither studies nor works). One in five youth in the region is a nini, and the increase in their number since 1992 has been entirely due to young men. Read more in the new paper: "Out of School and Out of Work : Risk and Opportunities for Latin America’s Ninis"
 


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