Middle East and North Africa
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an independent funding mechanism with its own review and approval process. It partners with a number of institutions, including the World Bank, to prepare, supervise and implement its grants to developing countries.
Nick Manning’s two recent blogs (here and here) raise an important issue. On the one hand, people interested in development have big ambitions. We want not just more, but dramatically more people to be educated, healthy and prosperous, to name only three good things. If we are lucky enough to have some influence over governments and development agencies, we might be tempted to work from the top down to get what we want, turning those ambitions into public policies and programs, and rolling them out by the yard like so much cheap office carpet.
But on the other hand, the same human values that make us want those things make many of us sympathize with the bottom-up tradition that takes individual humans or small communities as its starting point. We know how a state planning juggernaut led to the terrible famines in the Soviet Union in the 30s and China in the late 50s. We know the horrors that followed Year Zero in Cambodia. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful and James Scott’s Seeing Like A State are touchstone texts. Likewise, some of us have an instinctive preference for ‘searchers’ over ‘planners’, ‘positive deviance’ and ‘problem-driven iterative adaptation’.
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.
The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology of Qatar (ictQATAR) published a new report that covers the shifting attitudes of Internet users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regarding cyber safety, online security, and data privacy, as well as their basic habits online.
Among the key findings, the report found that the majority of Internet users in MENA countries access the web from home and are much more likely to agree with the statement that “the Internet is making things better for people like me” compared to the world average.
When I visited one of the World Bank’s community sites for its new Social Safety Net program, I wanted to see the progress it had made since my first visit in November 2012. In the first group session, I sat down with about 15 pregnant women—many of them pregnant for the first time—to hear a trained “role model mother” talk to them about the importance of rest, healthy eating, and breastfeeding.
In last week’s post, I asked whether Governance and Public Sector Management (GPSM) projects are having much large scale impact. It is tempting to reduce this to the question of why don’t development projects which focus on this work more often (although their track record is perhaps not as limited as some reviews of donor assistance might suggest). From this starting point, recent thinking suggests that donor rigidity and project designs which fix the visible form without improving the underlying public management function are the problem.
The remedy, as set out most prominently in “Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation” and in the World Bank’s own Public Sector Management Approach, suggests that we should focus on the de facto rather than the de jure and adapt the nature of our support as project implementation unrolls. Problem-driven iterative adaptation (PDIA) approaches are referred to in recent reforms of Ministries of Finance in the Caribbean and reform approaches in Mozambique and in Burundi. Bank interventions in Sierra Leone and in Punjab have been cited as examples of this approach in practice.
From time to time, countries experience rapid economic growth without a significant decline in poverty. India’s GDP growth rate accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s, but poverty continued to fall at the same pace as before, about one percentage point a year. Despite 6-7 percent GDP growth, Tanzania and Zambia saw only a mild decline in the poverty rate. In the first decade of the 21st century, Egypt’s GDP grew at 5-7 percent a year, but the proportion of people living on $5 a day—and therefore vulnerable to falling into poverty—stagnated at 85 percent.
In light of this evidence, the World Bank has set as its goals the elimination of extreme poverty and promotion of shared prosperity. While the focus on poverty and distribution as targets is appropriate, the public actions required to achieve these goals are not very different from those required to achieve rapid economic growth. This is not trickle-down economics. Nor does it negate the need for redistributive transfers. Rather, it is due to the fact that economic growth is typically constrained by policies and institutions that have been captured by the non-poor (sometimes called the rich), who have greater political power. Public actions that relax these constraints, therefore, will both accelerate growth and transfer rents from the rich to the poor.
Some examples illustrate the point.
When I told friends and colleagues that my new job would be based in Cairo, almost everyone mentioned the awful congestion in the city, and how I would be wasting a tremendous amount of time being stuck in traffic. And how right they were: When it comes to traffic, Cairo is one of the most congested cities in the world. Of course, the city’s residents already know congestion is one of the city’s biggest problems. What they probably don’t know is exactly how much it’s costing them.
Education and employment are key problems for young people in Egypt, who say they need to see changes—in terms of more jobs and better education—in the present, not in the distant “future”, the word they always hear used in promises of change in Egypt.