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The income of the world’s poor is going up, but they’re $1 trillion poorer. What’s going on?

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam number cruncher Deborah Hardoon tries to get her head round something weird – according to the stats, the poorest half of the world is getting poorer even though the incomes of these people are rising.

It has become something of a tradition that in January every year we take a look at the Forbes list of billionaires and the Credit Suisse Global Wealth databook and calculate how many billionaires it takes to have the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of the planet. Since we started doing these calculations, we have watched the wealth of the top grow at the same time as the wealth of the bottom 50% has fallen. The data tells us that the bottom 50% have approximately $1 trillion (that’s $1,000 billion) less wealth than they did 5 years ago, whilst the richest 62 have about $0.5 trillion more.

The extremely wealthy are able to accumulate more wealth in a day than a whole factory full of workers could earn in a year. On 21stApril, in a 24 hour period, Carlos Slim made more than $400 million. Thomas Piketty famously points out that the rate of return on capital is higher than the general growth rate, such that capital owners are at a distinct economic advantage.

Meanwhile those 3.6 billion people in the bottom 50% include people in debt, people with nothing and people with a net wealth of up to about $5,000. People with little, no, or negative wealth, especially in developing countries with poor social insurance mechanisms (four out of five people in the bottom 50% live in Africa or Asia – including China and India), will not only find it hard to respond to financial shocks – like a poor harvest or a medical bill, but will also find it much harder to invest in their families’ future. Having little wealth may be concerning, but having less and less wealth year to year is even more worrying.

New online resource spotlights debt statistics news and trends

Parul Agarwal's picture
We're thrilled to share the news about our brand new Online Quarterly Bulletin, which features debt statistics news, trends, and events. Laid out in the format of an e-newsletter, this quarter's issue focuses on:
  • Debt statistics products, coverage, and methodologies
  • External debt trends of 2015
  • International debt statistics-related activities and summaries
One area we'd like to highlight is the interconnection of the many types of debt statistics that the World Bank collects, manages, and disseminates.
 
The World Bank collects annual external debt statistics through the World Bank Debt Reporting System (DRS) and publishes it annually in the International Debt Statistics (IDS) publication. This annual data is complemented by our quarterly external and public debt statistics captured through the Quarterly External Debt Statistics (QEDS) database and the Public Sector Debt (PSD) database.  To help illustrate this interconnection, we've created the below graphic.
 


 

Sub-Saharan Africa’s sovereign bond issuance boom

Rasiel Vellos's picture

The newly released 2016 edition of the International Debt Statistics (IDS) shows a rapid rise in sovereign bond issuance in some Sub-Saharan African countries. This includes those countries that have benefited from Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) debt relief programs.

The chart above shows that sovereign bond issuance in certain Sub-Saharan African countries has risen substantially over the past 4 years. At the end of 2011, bond issuance totaled $1 billion and by the end of 2014, it amounted to $6.2 billion. Steady global market conditions and the potential for higher returns for investors have helped pave the way for more access to international markets, where the average return for these bond issuances is about 6.6%, with an average maturity of 10 years.

For these Sub-Saharan African countries, the proceeds from these sovereign bonds are used to benchmark for future government and corporate bond markets issues, to manage the public debt portfolio, and for infrastructure financing.

Five trends in disbursements to Sub-Saharan Africa

Peter Bourke's picture
The 2015 International Debt Statistics database contains many different indicators to help understand external debt in low-and middle-income countries. This post looks at one: disbursements, in the context of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
 
So what are disbursements? Disbursements are simply the amount of a loan commitment (the total amount of new loans to borrowers for which contracts were signed) that actually enter the borrower's account, in a given year. The reason I’ve decided to focus on disbursements is that this indicator offers a clear picture of developments in a given year while an indicator like external debt stock (which tell us how much a country owes its creditors – the entities that lend a country money) is a more cumulative measure as it is influenced by what happened in previous years.
 
In the analysis that follows, I’ve used 45 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa. Why? Simply because the size of South Africa’s external debt would mask the trends in the rest of the region. For some perspective, consider that the biggest economy in Africa (in terms of 2013 GDP), Nigeria, had an external debt stock of 14 billion USD in 2013 while South Africa (the second biggest African economy in terms of 2013 GDP) had one of 140 billion USD in the same year – ten times more.
 
Despite this exclusion, I think it’s important to note how huge this unit of analysis is. The 45 countries that I’ve used represent almost the whole African continent, with the exception of a handful of countries in the north of the continent. Therefore, I ask you to take these trends with a grain of salt, as they are aggregate trends and therefore some of the national differences are blurred out.
 
Disbursements to the region have doubled
First, the big picture: disbursements to Sub-Saharan Africa have increased sharply in the last few years. Between 2010 and 2013 they more than doubled (increased by 121%), while in the rest of the developing world disbursements went up by 42% (see figure 1). The increase in the region is particularly strong in the case of disbursements from private creditors (entities like bond holders and commercial banks), which increased almost sixfold (489%) since 2010 (compared to a rise of 52% in the rest of the developing world). In the same period, disbursements from official creditors (governments or other bilateral/multilateral entities) grew by 35% in the region (while they fell 13% in the rest of the developing world).
 
Figure 1

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet
Quartz
It was in Indonesia three years ago that Helani Galpaya first noticed the anomaly. Indonesians surveyed by Galpaya told her that they didn’t use the internet. But in focus groups, they would talk enthusiastically about how much time they spent on Facebook. Galpaya, a researcher (and now CEO) with LIRNEasia, a think tank, called Rohan Samarajiva, her boss at the time, to tell him what she had discovered. “It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook,” he concluded. In Africa, Christoph Stork stumbled upon something similar. Looking at results from a survey on communications use for Research ICT Africa, Stork found what looked like an error. The number of people who had responded saying they used Facebook was much higher than those who said they used the internet. The discrepancy accounted for some 3% to 4% of mobile phone users, he says.

Time to Act on the G-20 Agenda: The Global Economy Will Thank You
iMF direct- blog post by Christine Lagarde
Implementation, investment, and inclusiveness: these three policy goals will dominate the G-20 agenda this year, including the first meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Istanbul next week. As Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently put it: “Now is the time to act” – şimdi uygulama zamanı. There is a lot at stake. Without action, we could see the global economic supertanker continuing to be stuck in the shallow waters of sub-par growth and meager job creation. This is why we need to focus on these three “I’s”:

Debt data: how debt inflows differ among developing countries

Molly Fahey Watts's picture

The World Bank Group’s International Debt Statistics (IDS) 2015 was released today. The Bank’s flagship debt data publication features 2013 data on external debt stocks and flows, as well as other major financial indicators on the 124 developing countries that report to the World Bank’s Group’s Debt Reporting System.

The major news from this year’s IDS is that net external debt flows to developing countries rose 28% in 2013, driven by a sharp 50% increase in short-term debt inflows. Additionally, foreign direct investment in emerging economies proved to be steady and resilient, bringing net capital flows (debt and equity) to $1.2 trillion.

For more detailed analysis and trends on debt statistics, take a look at IDS's debt portal featuring online tables. Here are a few highlights I thought I'd share.

Will more debt hinder the development of the Dominican Republic?

Co-Authors: Aleksandra Iwulska, Javier Eduardo Báez and Alan Fuchs

In April this year the Dominican Republic borrowed 1.25 billion US dollars on international markets in 30-year bonds. The DR is the only country in the B investment rating group that  successfully issued 30-year bonds in the last 6 years. The country has a total of 2.75 billion US dollars for three issuances in the past 15 months.

At the same time, debt levels have been growing in the country: non-financial sector public (NFPS) debt doubled from 18.3 percent of GDP in 2007 to 36.6 in the first quarter of 2014.When considering the DR Central Bank debt stock, levels would be already close to 47 percent of GDP. It is worth noticing that Jiménez and Ovalle (2011) estimated in 56.7% the debt to GDP the maximum debt to GDP threshold that investors would consider sustainable for the DR in 2013.  Meanwhile, interest payments reached a peak of 2.4 percent of GDP in 2012-13 and external debt stood at 25 percent of GDP in 2013, levels not seen since the economic crisis of 2003. But the economic realities in the DR now are much different than they were in 2003. GDP grew by 4.1 percent last year and 5.5 percent in the first quarter of 2014. The Central Bank forecasts the annual economic growth at 4.5 percent this year. Meanwhile, central government fiscal deficit dwindled from 6.6 percent of GDP in 2012 to 2.9 percent in 2013.

Collecting Country Debt Data: 63 Years and Counting

Jung Weil's picture
IDS 2014
What word has four letters, one syllable, no weight but can still be crushing? If you guessed debt, you are correct. The World Bank has had a Debt Reporting System (DRS) since 1951, and it's still going strong.

Although the World Bank collaborates with international agencies that work with external debt and debt-related statistics (the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and others), the World Bank has the international mandate to collect external debt data, and we maintain comprehensive external debt information.

International Debt Statistics: three changes for 2014

Neil Fantom's picture

The World Bank has been collecting statistics on the debt of its borrowing countries since 1951, through the Debtor Reporting System. Published for many years as World Debt Tables (see, for example, the 1982 edition here) and then as Global Development Finance (initially as Volume 2), the 2013 dataset - which contains data for 2011 - was published in a renamed publication as International Debt Statistics, with expanded coverage of Quarterly External Debt Statistics and Public Sector Debt.

Last year we reviewed our dissemination strategy for World Development Indicators (WDI), and made some improvements to improve the quality and accessibility of the statistical indicators, tables and analyses. This year we’ve looked at debt statistics, and are planning some changes here as well; while the 2014 dataset - which contains data for 2012 - has been released in mid-December as usual, we’ll be releasing the redesigned data products in mid-February.


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