“Individuality is the product of both biological inheritance and personal experience,” said Professor Charles A. Nelson during a recent presentation at the World Bank. Professor Nelson has been studying neurobiological development and the effect of adversity on the brain for some time now (e.g., here and here). So we asked him to open the black box of brain development for us and help us understand what it all means to those of us working on ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Below are some highlights from his talk.
The World Region
Public procurement of services, works and supplies is estimated to account for 15-20% of GDP in developing countries, and up to 50% or more of total government expenditure. Efficient and effective procurement is vital to core government functions, including public service delivery and provision of infrastructure. Weaknesses in procurement systems can lead to large-scale waste of public funds, reduced quality of services, corruption, and loss of trust in government.
The rate of change in human development outcomes varies considerably across countries over long periods of time, as reflected in the two histograms below (Figure 1). For 78 countries in the period 1980-2014, the percentage decline in child mortality was 3.39% on average, with a standard deviation of 1.36%, a smallest rate of 0.89% (Central African Republic) and a highest rate of 8.07% (Maldives). The average percentage increase in school enrollment was 3.35%, with a standard deviation 3.54%, a minimum of 0.37% (Georgia) and a maximum of 19.68% (Maldives). Similar patterns of cross-country variation are found when using alternative proxies for health and education outcomes.
Today is World Refugee Day, a day for us all to remember how many people are moved or displaced from their homes—either within their own country or across borders.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) just announced that there were 22.5 million refugees and 40 million displaced internally due to conflicts last year, as well as many more forced to move due to natural disasters.
Forced displacement is a crisis centered in developing countries, which host 89% of refugees and 99% of internally displaced persons. alike around the world.
Emerging economies are routinely affected by monetary policy announcements in the US. This was starkly evident on May 22, 2013, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first spoke of the possibility of the Fed tapering its security purchases. This “tapering talk” had a sharp negative impact on financial conditions in emerging markets in ensuing days—their exchange rates depreciated, bond spreads increased, and equity prices fell; so much so that some of the countries seemed on the verge of a full-fledged balance of payments crisis. The event helps explain why issues related to the spillover of US monetary policy have gained prominence in recent contributions to the literature and in policy discussions (Rajan, 2015).
"It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so."
– “The Big Short”
Forecasting traffic accurately is a very difficult and thankless task, as I explained in my previous blog: Traffic Risk in Highway PPPs, Part I: Traffic Forecasting. As such, this gives rise to very real financial risks if these forecasts turn out to be wrong. This risk has crystallized many times as manifested in high-profile distressed projects, bankruptcies, renegotiations and bailouts.
So what’s driving the inaccuracy and resulting risk in traffic forecasts? In the forthcoming Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) and Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) publication, Toll Road PPPs: Identifying, Mitigating and Managing Traffic Risk, which will be published on the PPP Knowledge Lab later this month, we postulate that forecasting inaccuracy comes from three sources:
Sixty-five million people worldwide are displaced by conflict and war.
Developing countries host 95% of them.
Displaced people need help. But so do their host communities, which face enormous sudden pressures on their infrastructure, public services and markets. These pressures have the potential to undermine political stability.
This is why international development institutions are rethinking how to approach humanitarian crises, and no longer consider humanitarian assistance and development interventions as two separate, sequential responses. We, at the World Bank, have been ramping up our support to both people and communities affected by fragility, conflict and violence as well as disaster risk, which can exacerbate instability.
Being able to provide quality financial services before, during and after periods of humanitarian crises can improve people’s resilience and help sustain livelihoods.
A few years ago, this would have seemed a strange question, as debt management and climate policy have traditionally been regarded as unrelated fields. But at a workshop at the annual Debt Management Forum in Vienna on May 22, 2017, debt managers from 50 developing countries discussed the role of emerging debt instruments such as green bonds and blue bonds, in raising capital for climate-friendly projects that range from reforestation to renewable energy.
While green and blue bonds resemble more traditional debt instruments in terms of structure and returns, they represent a novel approach to climate finance. Created just ten years ago, the total value of green bonds has grown at a spectacular pace, reaching US$82.6 billion in 2016. By the end of 2017, the total value of green bonds will likely exceed US$100 billion.
In the fiscal transparency arena, people often hear two conflicting claims. First, governments complain that few people take advantage of fiscal information that they make publicly available. Many countries - including fragile and low-income countries such as Togo and Haiti – have been opening up their budgets to public scrutiny by making fiscal data available, often through web portals.
Increasing the supply of fiscal information, however, often does not translate to the adequate demand and usage required to bring some of the intended benefits of transparency such as increased citizen engagement, and accountability. Providing a comprehensive budget dataset to the public does not guarantee that citizens, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the media will start digging through the numbers.