Industrial robots, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing the face of global production and trade. Global sales of industrial robots reached a new record of 387,000 units last year and robot adoption is projected to grow in the coming years. Techno-pessimists fear that developing countries might lose the opportunity to export themselves out of poverty by linking into Global Value Chains (GVCs), as firms in rich countries relocate robot-driven production closer to home.
After months of early NY Penn Station mornings trying to remember whether to get on the Amtrak north to New Haven or south to DC, I am thrilled to transition from incoming Chief Economist to Chief Economist. We have so many fascinating problems to tackle and I truly hope my experience and humble efforts will contribute to the Bank’s mission.
The use of this technology is relatively new but its potential is also starting to be explored in applications beyond digital currency. The World Bank Group has begun to explore the impact of blockchain technology on development. It is launching a blockchain lab and considering projects that can help with good governance and positive social outcomes in developing countries, including a pilot in South East Asia.
The global economy is stagnating, and uncertainty about its future is rising. These trends weigh heavily on countries that depend on the production and export of a small range of products, or that sell products in only a few overseas markets. Prices of the minerals and other basic commodities that dominate the exports of many poor countries have also declined sharply. All of this points up the need for diversification strategies that can deliver sustained, job intensive and inclusive growth.
The World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice (T&C), a joint practice of the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC), is working with a growing roster of client countries eager to achieve greater economic diversification. This is a worthy goal regardless of economic conditions, but especially so now, as developing countries with sector-dependent economies face mounting pressures.
Chile is an example of a diversified economy, exporting more than 2,800 distinct products to more than 120 different countries. Zambia, a country similarly endowed with copper resources, exports just over 700 products — one-fourth of Chile’s export basket — and these go to just 80 countries. Other low-income countries have similarly limited diversified economies. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Malawi, for example, export around 550 and 310 products, respectively. Larger countries that export oil, such as Nigeria (780 products) and Kazakhstan (540 products), have failed to substantially expand the range of products they produce and export.
AJG Simoes, CA Hidalgo. The Economic Complexity Observatory: An Analytical Tool for Understanding the Dynamics of Economic Development. Workshops at the Twenty-Fifth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence. (2011)
While the sluggish global economy is creating economic problems for traditional exports, other economic trends offer new routes and opportunities for poor countries to diversify. The trend toward the spatial splitting up of production across wide geographic areas, and the emergence and growth of regional and global value chains, offer new ways for developing countries to export tasks, services and other activities. Value chains offer developing countries a path out of the trap of having to specialize in whole industries, with all of the cost and risk that such a strategy entails.
It’s now been about a month since the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group launched TCdata360, our new platform for open trade and competitiveness data from the Bank and external sources. The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has included a mixture of the anticipated and the unexpected.
Egypt has been the most popular country page during this period, the indicator on the number of days to start a business has been the second most visited page (though it seems to be ceding its spot to the page on venture capital availability) and we have been struck by the number of people that have searched for information on countries that have laws against sexual harassment in the work place (it’s steadily been one of the top 10 most visited pages on the site). Our data stories have attracted attention as well, especially in social media and there has been consistent interest in the API.
The question now is: Where should we take TCdata360 from here? How does a platform grow after the initial excitement around its release has dissipated? How can you or your organization contribute to the growth of the platform?
Here are a few of our ideas at the moment:
- More data – we have a growing inventory of new datasets.
- Better user experience – we are tweaking several things, while keeping what people like (which is most of the site).
- More analytics – we have experimented with Datascoper, a tool to uncover hidden patterns in data, but work remains to make these tools more usable and meaningful.
- Better engagement with our users – we want to show off your work on the site. Tell us about the insightful work you do using our data; we will share it with all our users. And we are all ears about your ideas for other ways to collaborate.
- Continue contributing to the open data community – we plan to offer data literacy and other support; stay tuned for greater emphasis on applied data; we are working to make this and other data truly useful in an applied sense to governments, the private sector, and others.
- Better linkages with the open source world – we built the site on open source and want to share our work with the community; we are constantly looking for tools that we can either integrate into the site or that we should be using. Tell us about them.
Recent data on hourly wages in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) reveal that Latin Americans working in the non-tradable sector (as in construction, transportation, hotels, or education) earn much more than workers in low-skill tradable sectors such as agriculture or low-tech manufacturing, and closer to high-skill workers in the tradable sector such as high-tech manufacturing or finance. Despite slight variations across countries, in 11 out of 17 countries studied, the difference between wages in low-skill tradable and non-tradable sectors has grown over the last ten years. In most of these countries, hourly wages display a distinct trend: positive growth for high-skill tradable and non-tradable wages, and stagnating, or even declining for low-skill tradable wages.
Source: World Bank's LAC Equity Lab
When it gained independence in 1965, Singapore was a low-income country with limited natural resources that lacked basic infrastructure, investment and jobs.
A few decades later, the picture couldn’t be more different. Singapore has become one of Asia’s wealthiest nations, due in large part to its emergence as the highest-performing logistics hub in the region (see World Bank Logistics Performance Index).
The numbers speak for themselves. Today, the small city-state is home to the world’s largest transshipment container port, linked to over 600 ports worldwide. Singapore Changi airport is voted the best internationally, and is served by about 6,800 weekly flights to 330 cities. Finally, the island nation’s trade value amounts to 3.5 times its GDP.
Singapore’s achievements did not happen by chance. They result from a combination of forward-looking public policy and extensive private sector engagement. This experience could provide some lessons to any developing country seeking to improve its logistics network. Let us look at three key factors of success.
- trade facilitation
- waterborne transport
- maritime transport
- air transport
- international trade
- cross-border trade
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Law and Regulation
- Global Economy
- Urban Development
- East Asia and Pacific
- Sustainable Communities
Over the past two decades, high-tech exports from Kazakhstan have been increasing steadily. The World Bank Group has been working since 2008 with the Kazakh Government and scientist groups to further expand the country’s high-tech exports in a number of sectors. Through the Technology Commercialization Project, 65 new startups received grant funding and business training to get their innovations out of the lab and into markets. The startups operate in a wide variety of industries including agriculture, health, medicine, gas, oil and robotics. Already 40 of these businesses have reached first sales.
Find out more about the project and how it energized innovation in Kazakhstan
A few years ago, when Craigslist was just “The List,” a friend circulated an ad posted on Craigslist Vancouver. It went like this:
We are a small & casual restaurant in downtown Vancouver. We are looking for solo musicians to play in our restaurant to promote their work and sell their CD. This is not a daily job, but only for special events, which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More jazz, rock, & smooth-type music around the world and mixed cultural music. Are you interested in promoting your work? Please reply back ASAP.
And one of the responses received was:
I am a musician with a big house looking for a restauranteur to promote their restaurant and come to my house to make dinner for my friends and me. This is not a daily job, but only for special events, which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More fine dining & exotic meals and mixed ethnic fusion cuisine. Are you interested in promoting your restaurant? Please reply back ASAP.
It’s perhaps unfair to conclude that the restauranteur didn’t mean well. But what does this exchange suggest? How are the arts normally valued, consciously or unconsciously, in our social order?
Peru welcomed 3.2 million tourists in 20 14, the highest number to date. In some regions of the country, like Cusco, tourism is a potential economic lifeline for local people, who can profit from a variety of businesses serving tourists. In 2012, the World Bank Group began working with The Government of Peru to streamline the processes around opening tourism-related businesses because excessive regulations and red tape were holding up investments in new businesses for years. Ultimately, the project shaved 3 years off the business registration process and eliminated 150 unnecessary regulations. With the streamlined regulations in place, investments in hotels in Peru are on the rise. Between 2015 and 2018, Peru is expecting US$1.2 billion in investments in new hotels, an increase from US$550 million during the period 2010-2014.
Find out more here.