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Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

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

Populists and Autocrats: The Dual Threat to Global Democracy
Freedom House
In 2016, populist and nationalist political forces made astonishing gains in democratic states, while authoritarian powers engaged in brazen acts of aggression, and grave atrocities went unanswered in war zones across two continents. All of these developments point to a growing danger that the international order of the past quarter-century— rooted in the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law—will give way to a world in which individual leaders and nations pursue their own narrow interests without meaningful constraints, and without regard for the shared benefits of global peace, freedom, and prosperity. The troubling impression created by the year’s headline events is supported by the latest findings of Freedom in the World. A total of 67 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties in 2016, compared with 36 that registered gains. This marked the 11th consecutive year in which declines outnumbered improvements.

Financial Flows and Tax Havens: Combining to Limit the Lives of Billions of People
Global Financial Integrity
Global Financial Integrity (GFI), the Norwegian School of Economics and a team of global experts released a study showing that since 1980 developing countries lost US$16.3 trillion dollars through broad leakages in the balance of payments, trade mis-invoicing, and recorded financial transfers. These resources represent immense social costs that have been borne by the citizens of developing countries around the globe. Funding for the report was provided by the Research Council of Norway and research assistance was provided by economists in Brazil, India, and Nigeria. Titled “Financial Flows and Tax Havens: Combining to Limit the Lives of Billions of People,” the report demonstrates that developing countries have effectively served as net-creditors to the rest of the world with tax havens playing a major role in the flight of unrecorded capital. For example, in 2011 tax haven holdings of total developing country wealth were valued at US$4.4 trillion, which exacerbated inequality and undermined good governance and economic growth.

What's changed: Ten reflections on ten years of technology use in education

Michael Trucano's picture


Hearty congratulations to Esther Nyawira Gitaka, Peter Safari Kagereki, and Linda Karimi Gitobu for emerging as the winners of the 2017 #Blog4Dev contest!

In this year’s contest, the youth were asked to share their ideas - in a 500-word blog - on whether “To farm or not to farm: What opportunities exist for the Kenyan youth to prosper in agriculture and agribusiness? Over 1,000 young Kenyans between the ages of 18 and 28 years submitted their blogs.

Scenarios are not merely uncertain forecasts

Hans Timmer's picture
Во время недавнего посещения  города Чартак в Наманганской области Узбекистана я была поражена, увидев красоты этих мест. Здесь, в прямом и переносном смысле, у меня открылось второе дыхание. Этот небольшой город в Ферганской долине, расположенный на высоте 650 метров над уровнем моря среди зеленых  лугов и скалистых гор, богат чистейшим воздухом и кристальной минеральной водой.

Устойчивый туризм может стать важным экономическим решением для многих горных общин Узбекистана, способствуя трудоустройству местной молодежи. Эта идея приобретает большее значение, учитывая, что три четверти населения страны, находящихся за чертой бедности, проживают именно в сельской местности. 


 

In the long run, we all want to be alive, and thrive

Hans Timmer's picture
Also available in: Українська


Photo: Roberto Maldeno | Flickr Creative Commons

Infrastructure in Ukraine, Europe’s largest country, is extremely underdeveloped. Without significant investment, it cannot support the existing or future needs of our economy or population. The reasons are many: decades of mismanagement under Soviet rule, economic crisis, and more recently, the conflict in the Donbass. Given that these constraints go beyond a simple lack of funding, our government is partnering with the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF), as well as other international partners such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank.

Seeing Between the Lines: Visualizing Global Poverty Trends

Johan Mistiaen's picture
In the face of families whose relatives have just died of arsenic poisoning advocating for institutional reform can seem a touch inane.

On the flip side, an urgent response to provide clean water or some relief to those affected is often neither sustainable nor scalable.

During a visit to Chapai Nawabganj we discovered that the Horizontal Learning Program enables rapid response - without undermining a sound policy position.

While visiting Meherpur municipality in Bangladesh last week, we learnt that 15 people had recently died in the nearby Amjhupi Union Parishad (UP) from arsenicosis. In a village meeting with the District Commissioner and UP Chairman we discovered that the citizens were drinking from both wells marked green (safe) as well as red (unsafe) because they were not confident that either of these sources had been correctly marked.

We were overwhelmed with the need for an immediate response but aware that any top-down solution could at best be partial. However, because of the Horizontal Learning Program (initiated by Union Parishads, facilitated by the Government of Bangladesh and supported by development partners) we were aware that local solutions to this problem had been developed by other Union Parishads.

At around 11 pm that night, it was resolved that a three member team from Amjhupi Union Parishad would join us to visit the nearby Ranihati Union Parishad of the neighboring Chapai Nawabganj Upazila (sub-district) to see how they had solved this problem. The solution was surprisingly simple, low cost and comprehensive.

Remittance flows to developing countries remained resilient in 2009, expected to recover during 2010-11

Dilip Ratha's picture

We have just released Migration and Development Brief 12 reporting the latest estimates of remittance flows for 2008-09 and forecasts for 2010-11.  Officially recorded remittance flows to developing countries reached $316 billion in 2009, down 6 percent from $336 billion in 2008. With improved prospects for the global economy, remittance flows to developing countries are expected to increase at 6.2% in 2010 and 7.1% in 2011, a faster pace of recovery in 2010 than our earlier forecasts.

The decline in remittance flows to Latin America that began with the onset of financial crisis in the United States appears to have bottomed out since the last quarter of 2009. Remittance flows to South Asia (and to a smaller extent, East Asia) continued to grow in 2009 although at markedly slower pace than in the pre-crisis years. Flows to Europe & Central Asia and Middle-East and North Africa fell more than expected in 2009.

These regional trends reveal that: (a) the more diverse the migration destinations, the more resilient are remittances; (b) the lower the barriers to labor mobility, the stronger the link between remittances and economic cycles in that corridor; and (c) exchange rate movements produce valuation effects, but they also influence the consumption-investment motive for remittances.

New horizons in educational technology

Michael Trucano's picture
A paddy farmer with his umbrella on a rainy day in West Bengal, India. Photo by Amit Jain / World Bank
Farmer in West Bengal, India. Photo by Amit Jain / World Bank)

If God appeared in the dream of a paddy farmer in India’s West Bengal and said, “You have made me happy with your hard work, make any three wishes and they will be granted,” the farmer will say “I want rain, rain, rain.”

That thought kept playing over and over in my mind, after interacting with farmers in the paddy fields of the Siliguri and Jalpaiguri districts of West Bengal. Located in India’s northeast, the area is famous for its scenic beauty, tea plantations and paddy fields. While the region’s fertile soil makes it ideal for a variety of crops, it is almost entirely dependent on rainfall for irrigation, like anywhere else in the world.

To reduce their dependence on the monsoons, India’s farmers have taken 12 million electricity connections and 9 million diesel pump sets with which they pump up groundwater for irrigation.

Although agriculture’s share of India’s economy is declining—it contributes to less than 15% of India’s GDP—it still employs 50% of the country’s workforce. Not surprisingly, perhaps, up to 20% of all the electricity used in India is for agriculture, mostly for irrigation. In some states, this can account for as much as 30-50% of all the electricity used in the state.

There are many states where power for agricultural purposes is highly subsidized, and this, combined with an unreliable supply of electricity, often causes farmers to leave their pumps on all the time. This wastes both electricity and water, with too much energy being used and too much groundwater being extracted, often way more water than needed. 

Since more than half of India’s cultivated land is yet to be irrigated, a business-as-usual scenario will lead to a huge rise in India’s energy needs for agriculture alone.

But there is an alternative—solar energy.

With decreasing solar modules prices (70% in the last 4 years), solar pumps are fast becoming a viable financial solution for irrigation.

However, there are several questions about the use of solar pumps that need to be answered:

Won’t solar pumps only make farmers more lax about using energy resources and wasting groundwater?

New global poverty estimates confirm China’s leading role in meeting MDGs

David Dollar's picture

The international community has endorsed the Millenium Development Goal of reducing the poverty rate in the developing world by 50% over the 25 years, 1990-2015.  While the target is arbitrary, it is nonetheless important to have a stretch goal like this to challenge us all to make the world a better place.  To measure progress, naturally we need pretty good estimates of global poverty.  The World Bank is the leading bean counter in this exercise.  It just today released new estimates of global poverty that have the potential to illuminate the progress, but also the potential to confuse a lot of people.  The research department of the World Bank has changed its global poverty line from $1 per day to $1.25 per day and has found about 468 million more poor people than it had previously estimated.  About 135 million of these newly found poor are in China.  How does one make sense of these new numbers?  Here are some pointers: