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Information Alone is Not Enough: It’s All About Who Uses It, and Why

Leni Wild's picture

It is 10 years since the World Bank launched its landmark World Development Report (WDR), Making Services Work For Poor People. A decade later, what have we learnt about the science and politics of service delivery – and what are the emerging issues that will shape future priorities? The recent anniversary Conference in Washington D.C., co-hosted by ODI and the World Bank, with support from the UK Department for International Development, discussed new developments, data and trends in public service delivery since 2004 across a range of service delivery sectors.

In the conference report, ODI experts share their reflections on the conference and on future directions in five key areas for service delivery: information and incentives, behavioral economics and social norms, financing service delivery, fragile states and the politics of delivery. This article by Leni Wild talks about information and incentives.

There is still a gap to be filled between having more information and figuring out whether and how services improve. However, February’s joint ODI and World Bank Conference marking ten years since the World Development Report (WDR) on Making Services Work for Poor People flagged up where progress has been made, and what we are learning about the role information can – and cannot – play here.

China: The Morphing Dragon

Otaviano Canuto's picture

The Chinese economy has changed dramatically over the last three decades. While its per-capita income was only a third of that of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1978, it has now reached an upper-middle income status, lifting more than half a billion people out of poverty. The numbers are dramatic: per capita income has doubled for more than a billion people in just 12 years. What was once a primarily rural, agricultural economy has been transformed into an increasingly urban and diversified economic structure, with decentralization and market-based relations rising relative to the traditional government driven command-based economy.

Notes From the Field: Opening the Balkans to Services Trade

Julia Oliver's picture

About "Notes From the Field": With this occasional feature, we let World Bank professionals who are conducting interesting trade-related projects around the globe explain some of the challenges and triumphs of their day-to-day work. The views expressed here are personal and should not be attributed to the World Bank.

Borko Handjiski. Source: World Bank.

The interview below was conducted with Borko Handjiski, a senior economist in the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network. Until his recent move to the Africa region office, Mr. Handjiski was the regional trade coordinator for the Europe and Central Asia region. He spoke with us about efforts to liberalize trade in services in the Balkan countries, a subject he and Lazar Sestovic wrote about in a 2011 study, “Barriers to Trade in Services in the CEFTA Region.” In the interview, which has been edited for clarity, Mr. Handjiski explains how the World Bank is helping the Balkan countries better understand the benefits of liberalizing services trade and work with stakeholders in formalizing a regional trade agreement.

Women's Untapped Potential: Examining Gender Dynamics in Global Trade

Cornelia Staritz's picture

A woman inspects her broccoli crop in Honduras. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/feedthefuture/6942506316/Maria knows she is good at selecting ripe tomatoes, but she doesn’t know any women who own nurseries like the one where she works in Honduras. Susan does housekeeping for a hotel in Kenya, but there is little chance that she would ever lead a safari. Salma, at a call center in Egypt, can calm down angry customers, but she has never seen a female manager in her office.

Global value chains (GVCs) are essential to modern trade, and women’s labor is essential to many products and services that are traded across countries. But many limitations hold women back from participating more fully and equally to men in this important and growing global labor force, as we show in a collaborative project by the International Trade Department and the Gender Division at the World Bank. Though the names above are fictional, the situations are representative of what we found in case studies in the horticulture sector in Honduras, the tourism sector in Kenya and the call center sector in the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Trade: The World Is Not Flat Yet

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Thomas Friedman’s bestseller The World Is Flat highlights the strong forces pushing the world towards a single economic platform. The technology-fueled globalization in the provision of services, and the widespread organization of production processes as global value chains are part of his narrative.

Service with a smile: A new growth engine for poor countries

Ejaz Ghani's picture

This post was originally published in Voxeu.org.

Services have long been the main source of growth in rich countries. We argue that services are now the main source of growth in poor countries as well. We present evidence that services may provide the easiest and fastest route out of poverty for many poor countries.

For more than 200 years, it was argued that economic development and growth was associated with growth of the labour-intensive manufacturing sector (Baumol 1967, Kaldor 1966, UNIDO 2009). Services were considered as menial, low-skilled, and low-innovation (McCredie and Bubner 2010). But today, services can be among the most dynamic sectors in an economy. The policy question is whether this is true even in poor countries.

The Mysterious Case of Chilean Service Exports

Sebastián Sáez's picture

Chile has long been known as a superstar in liberalization reforms and innovative export-led growth strategies. The country successfully exports tourism and transportation services. But these successes are, in some ways, yesterday’s news. The country’s performance in more modern service exports – internet and communications technology, business process outsourcing and others – has been less remarkable. Chile is no India.

What does this mean for a country that has famously followed sound economic policies? Is the government doing something wrong? Is the country stuck? A look at the way services data is interpreted may provide a different answer. Perhaps Chile’s reputation is simply a victim of statistical inaccuracies.

Moving towards a 'Digital Bangladesh'

Rubaba Anwar's picture

“My country finally owns me!" was the delighted reaction from a high level private sector official to the possibility of a national identity system in Bangladesh. A lot of brain-wracking thought went into the possible economic benefits of such a project.

The sleepless nights of complicated financial analyses and exasperatingly fruitless brainstorming sessions that reach a point when you are not willing to say anything until you find something that will make the rest of them jump on their chairs, make things very difficult sometimes! But, the answer was there, short and simple. Such a refreshing start to an interview for the purpose of identifying the probable benefits to service delivery agencies of having access to a near-immaculate database of citizens, was hardly anticipated.

Rolling out robust, digitized national ID (NID) cards to 100 million citizens over a period of five years is the daunting task ahead for Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) Project. One may argue about the novelty offered by this initiative when Bangladeshi citizens with voting eligibility actually have NIDs since late 2008. A solid counter argument would be the “digitized nature” of the sophisticated NIDs of ‘digital Bangladesh’, enabling machine readability of biometric citizen information embedded in the card, as a replacement of the paper based, easily faked cards with little printed information and near-alien photos that gave rise to popular groups like I hate my NID photo” on Facebook!

March Madness or Spring Awakening?

John Wilson's picture

APEC and New Beginnings in Trade

The first Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM I) of Asia-Pacific Economics Cooperation (APEC) concluded earlier this month in Washington D.C. The APEC 2011 agenda now swings into full action. The member economies in the region are looking for ways to reaffirm APEC’s reputation for innovative economic integration initiatives – and the means by which to stave off new hiccups in the region’s economic recovery.  In particular, the new APEC Supply Chain Connectivity Initiative (SCI) holds real promise as a dynamic successor to APEC’s successful Trade Facilitation Action Plans, which resulted in significant trade cost reductions across the region. 
 

As a testament to the dynamism and ambition behind the trade-related policy goals of APEC – the United States, as APEC 2011 Chair, and the World Bank are working with APEC to build a platform to expand trade through research, data, and capacity building – with direct participation of private sector firms. Fedex is with us in this new venture. Is this March madness – yet another attempt to forge alliances where goals are shared but sustaining momentum proves tough?  Or is it a spring awakening that data, research, and direct partnerships with firms to build in this area provides the real anchor for taking action to assist developing countries tackle trade costs at their source?  I suggest it is the latter.


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