Our ICT Sector day on 2/23 exceeded our own expectations vis a vis organizational support for the ICT agenda. Timing was perfect, as the ICT strategy had been approved by senior management a day earlier. The First session, on Open Government, was followed by more than 500 on webcast in a packed room with 180 participants. It left us with enthusiasm, inspiration .. and a lot of ideas on clever use of ICTs in our quest for poverty alleviation.
Millions of Chinese have just celebrated the beginning of the year of the Dragon - a year which according to Chinese tradition is auspicious for ambitious undertakings. These may be required as the global economy faces severe headwinds. According to the January edition of Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report the world economy is expected to grow at 2.5 percent and 3.1 percent in 2012 and 2013, significantly below the 3.6 percent projected for both years in last July’s GEP. But even achieving these much weaker outturns is highly uncertain. The downturn in Europe and weaker growth in several large developing countries, such as Brazil and India, could potentially reinforce one another, resulting in an even weaker outcome. But without growth it will be more difficult to reduce the high debt of some advanced economies to sustainable levels and create much needed jobs world-wide.
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There is good news coming out of Mongolia, the land of the eternal blue skies. The economy racked up a second quarter of high growth: the third quarter came in at 20.8 percent, topping the equally amazing second quarter of 17.3 percent (year-on-year GDP growth), as discussed in the World Bank's latest Mongolia Quarterly Update. And while this growth spurt originated in the mining sector, with Oyu Tolgoi—a mega copper and gold mine—getting ready to start producing in 2012 and a whole battery of other, smaller mines producing at full capacity, the high growth is quite broad-based. Even manufacturing is doing well.
Every fall at Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), the who’s who of impact investing and social enterprise convene in San Francisco to network and share stories about topics like market-based solutions to poverty, social stock exchanges, and just how much capital is waiting to be deployed to solve the world’s toughest problems. It’s inspiring to be sure, especially the growth in the number and diversity of participation. It’s no longer the sole domain of Ashoka, Skoll, and Schwab who have paved the way for so many others. Today, mainstream Banks from Europe to Asia, fund managers, and wealth advisors are sending a signal that doing good and doing well is a more enlightened form of capitalism.
But behind all the feel-good energy and promises that impact investing will be a $50 billion industry by 2020, there are gaps in the story line and challenges that we must confront as a community. First, there is no clear definition of an impact investor. The industry brings together those who are primarily driven by a financial bottom line (finance first) with those who are seeking to optimize a social return without making a loss (impact first), and finally grant makers who are aiming to improve the efficiency of philanthropic capital (largely foundations). Their world views are different, their expected returns are different, and how they use the same vocabulary (e.g. impact, viability, and sustainability) varies widely.
Not a month goes by without some sort of bad news about foreign aid. Examples of incompetence , abuse of funds by corrupt leaders, and distorted incentives abound. These stories fuel a deep skepticism of foreign aid. In this view, perverse effects dominate – and end up weakening, rather than encouraging, growth and development. If one accepts this view, then it is logical to turn off the poisoned tap of foreign aid. But are such views well founded?
The answer is no.
In today’s interconnected world economy, efficient, reliable and cost-effective supply chains have become necessities in global trade. Trading in a timely manner with minimal transaction costs allows a country to expand to overseas markets and improve its overall economic competitiveness. For many countries, however, identifying bottlenecks along a supply chain and then determining which logistics procedures and infrastructure to upgrade can be a challenging feat.
Global turmoil. Growing prospects of another recession. Crisis in the Eurozone. China’s role as a global growth and recovery engine thrown into question.
The current situation looks worrying enough as it is for Latin America –and the rest of the world for that matter- but the region’s growth prospects should be looked at beyond the current juncture and on the merits of its long-term strengths.
Here’s why. The last ten years or so have been very good for many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. They have witnessed the consolidation of a stable and resilient
macro-financial framework, relatively high growth rates, and advances in the equity agenda.
This new economic face of the region was perhaps most clearly portrayed by a rather robust performance, especially of South American countries, in the context of the recent global crisis. In effect, compared to the middle-income country average, the region’s recession in 2009 was relatively short-lived and, with the notable exception of Mexico, remarkably mild, which helped to make its recovery in 2010-2011 stronger.
Every profession has its fantasy Triple-Win. For a gambler at the horse races, it’s the Trifecta. For musicians, it is a song that breaks hearts, moves feet and sells records. Yet even we geeks have our dreams. In the field of infrastructure, in Latin America and elsewhere, the ultimate triple-win is an investment that
1. spurs economic growth
2. contributes to social well-being, and
3. helps the environment.
“Impossible!” you say. “The laws of nature could not possibly allow for growth that contributes to society’s well-being without taxing our natural endowment.” Is there no way we can unstick ourselves from the Kuznets Curve and uncover investments that spur Green and Inclusive Growth?
Recently, I was once again confronted with a puzzling situation I have seen too often during the course of my career: flat growth curves for children. This especially worried me in light of the current context of rising food prices and global economic instability, and the impact that previous crises have had on the nutritional status of mothers and children.
Today, the growth potential of a country depends on the creativity, innovation and expertise of its citizens.
Strong international competition driven by globalization—between states, businesses and individuals—is fast increasing the importance of knowledge and education.