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November 2017

What's the cost of open government reforms? New tool can help you find out

Daniel Nogueira-Budny's picture
Graphic: Nicholas Nam/World Bank

Advocacy around open government reforms to date has largely revolved around the intrinsic value of transparency, accountability, and participation. In a resource-constrained environment, development practitioners, policy makers, and citizens increasingly have to be more judicious. Adopting new methods or tools – such as open contracting mechanisms, open data dashboards and participatory budgeting – is not free. How can we measure the instrumental value of open government reforms?

How can Malawi move from falling behind to catching up?

Richard Record's picture
A bypass under construction in Lilongwe. A sign that Malawi is inching its way forward. Photo: Govati Nyirenda/World Bank


A new Country Economic Memorandum gives us a chance to step back and look at the deep drivers of growth since Malawi’s independence in 1964. What stands out, though, is just how far Malawi has fallen behind its peers. It’s easy to look at the seemingly insurmountable challenges the country faces—from droughts and floods to the country’s landlocked status—yet other countries in the region have experienced just as many climate-related disasters, and overcome them better. And throughout the 50 plus years of its independence, Malawi has been fortunate to be at peace and mostly politically stable.

How behavioral science has helped me deal with development projects and my children

Anna Fruttero's picture
 
Children in kindergarten in rural Uzbekistan. © Matluba Mukhamedova/World Bank
Children in kindergarten in rural Uzbekistan. © Matluba Mukhamedova/World Bank

“Working on the World Development Report 2015 and subsequently in the eMBeD Unit mainstreaming the use of behavioral insights within World Bank’s projects, has also been very helpful when dealing with my kids”, I told a class of undergrads where I had been invited as a speaker. The first question I was asked in the open Q&A was whether I could elaborate on that statement. How had behavioral insights helped me with my kids? Students wanted to know more. The fact that college students picked up on this sentence out of an hour-long conversation on my experience with behavioral work at the World Bank struck me.

Define the problem in terms of a behavior. Ask how rather than why. Change the frame, the perspective of looking at a problem. Diagnose the constraints. Test and adapt your interventions. These are some of the messages we teach in our workshops on behavioral insights designed for our colleagues and counterparts in governments. They are simple, yet very powerful, and they have certainly helped me working on projects in a wide range of places such as Brazil, Ethiopia and the Maldives, but also, unexpectedly, in dealing with my children.

Game-changing water solutions for the Middle East and North Africa

Claudia W. Sadoff's picture
Women collecting water in  Al-Minsalah district, Haddjah province, Yemen. Photo: ECHO/T. Deherman
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has become a hotspot of unsustainable water use, with more than half of current water withdrawals in some countries exceeding the amount naturally available. This could have serious long-term consequences for the region’s growth and stability. Solutions for narrowing the gap between the supply of and demand for water are an urgent priority.
 
As the Fourth Arab Water Forum gets underway next week in Cairo, Egypt, much is at stake in the region’s water management. Armed conflict and massive numbers of refugees have put tremendous additional stress on land and water resources in MENA as well as on infrastructure in communities receiving the refugees. In Jordan alone, according to the country’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, climate change and the refugee crisis have reduced water availability per person to 140 cubic meters, far below the globally recognized threshold of 500 cubic meters for severe water scarcity.
 
These recent developments compound the impact of decades of rapid population growth, urbanization and agricultural intensification. A recent World Bank report notes that more than 60% of the region’s population is concentrated in places affected by high or very high surface water stress, compared to a global average of about 35%. The report further warns that climate-related water scarcity is expected to cause economic losses estimated at 6-14% of GDP by 2050 – the highest in the world.
 
As governments search for solutions, two trends in particular could present game-changing opportunities to bolster water security. As captured in two recent reports by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the viability of these solutions will depend on how governments and societies respond to them.

In Bulgaria, giving Roma children equal opportunity starts with free preschool

Daphna Berman's picture
Eugenia enjoying a music lesson together with preschool children in the Bulgarian village of Litakovo. (Photo: Daniel Lekov / World Bank)

In Bulgaria, where just 15 percent of Roma children complete secondary school, Eugenia Volen, 42, knows only too well how hard her job is.  

What kind of evidence might persuade people to change their minds on refugees?

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam Humanitarian Policy Adviser Ed Cairns reflects on using evidence to influence the treatment of refugees.

Who thinks that governments decide what to do on refugees after carefully considering the evidence? Not many, I suspect. So it was an interesting to be asked to talk about that at the  ‘Evidence for Influencing’conference Duncan wrote about last week.

When I think what influences refugee policy, I’m reminded of a meeting I had in Whitehall on Friday 4 September, two days after the three-year-old Syrian boy, , had drowned.  Oxfam and other NGOs had been invited in to talk about refugees. The UK officials found out what their policy was by watching Prime Minister David Cameron on their phones, as he overturned the UK’s refusal to resettle thousands of Syrians in a press conference in Lisbon.  Even then, he and his officials refused to promise how many Syrians would be allowed. By Monday, that line had crumbled as well, and a promise of 20,000 by 2020 was announced.

The evidence of course had shown that children and other refugees had been tragically drowning in the Mediterranean for months. But it was the sheer human emotion, the public interest, and no doubt Cameron’s own compassion that made the change. Evidence and the evidence-informed discussion between officials and NGOs had nothing to do with it. More important was that a single image of a drowned boy spread to 20 million screens within 12 hours as #refugeeswelcome began trending worldwide. As research by the Visual Social Media Lab at the University of Sheffield set out, “a single image transformed the debate”.

Cairns 2


Two years later, a new Observatory of Public Attitudes to Migration has just been launched by the Florence-based Migration Policy Centreand its partners, including IPSOS Mori in the UK.  It aims to be the ‘go-to centre for researchers and practitioners’, and has sobering news for anyone who thinks that evidence has a huge influence on this issue.  Anti-migrant views, it shows, are far more driven by the values of tradition, conformity and security, and within the UK in particular, according to an IPSOS Mori study, by a distrust of experts, alongside suspicion of diversity, human rights and “political correctness”.

Attention or information? Why telling Nina’s parents she missed school makes her a better student -- Guest post by Nina Cunha

This is the second in this year’s series of posts by PhD students on the job market. Reminder that submissions close tomorrow at noon.

When I was in school, I used to skip some classes; my parents probably never learned about it (at least until this blog post). Now imagine there was a system in place to tell my parents how often I skipped classes in the previous weeks. When Nina’s parents get a message pointing out that she missed school yesterday, while they learn at no cost that her behavior was not in line with their expectations, they may also realize that attendance is an important dimension of their daughter’s behavior to which they should attend moving forward. Therefore, informing parents about their child’s attendance, for instance, might also draw their attention to the importance of attending class, increasing their awareness about monitoring benefits. This is particularly relevant in face of the evidence on how poverty captures attention (Mani et al., 2013), and on how, given limited attention, individuals may fail to learn from dimensions they do not notice (Hanna et al., 2014). Therefore, while informing parents lowers monitoring costs – alleviating moral hazard and inducing better school outcomes, in line with parent’s objectives –, communication may also increase the salience of monitoring benefits. My job market paper investigates the mechanisms behind the effects of communication with parents.

The Advisor’s Creed: 20 years with IFC Advisory Services distilled into 10 simple lessons

Brian Samuel's picture

Photo: Diana Susselman | Flickr Creative Commons

I worked with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for exactly 20 years, all of which was in advisory work. I spent five years in Barbados, five in Washington, five in Zimbabwe and five in South Africa: perfect symmetry. On my 20th anniversary, I took a package and returned home, to the beautiful Caribbean. IFC was a great place to work, where we were challenged every day to come up with innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Some of our deals were truly groundbreaking and lived up to IFC’s motto to improve people’s lives. That’s the kind of job satisfaction that money can’t buy.

After 76 countries, millions of air miles, and some pretty forgettable airport hotels, sometimes I look back and think: what was it all about?

Philippines: Keeping in step with what employers want

Pablo Acosta's picture
Step up to the Jobs Challenge

It is said that some employees are hired because of their technical skills, but fired due to their behaviors or attitudes, such as arriving late or showing a lack of commitment to achieve the firms’ goals. This complaint seems to be frequently mentioned during our many discussions with Filipino employers.
 
But what does the hard evidence show, beyond anecdotal remarks? Do Filipino employers have difficulty finding workers with the right “soft skills” (socio-emotional skills, right attitudes and behaviors)? And if so, do we have evidence that it leads to better pay? And how are employers, employees and government responding to these labor market signals?
 

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