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Financial Sector

To build resilient cities, we must treat substandard housing as a life-or-death emergency

Luis Triveno's picture

Also available in: Español

Damaged houses in Long Island, New York after Hurricane Sandy. Photo by UNISDR.

The scene is as familiar as it is tragic: A devastating hurricane or earthquake strikes a populated area in a poor country, inflicting a high number of casualties, overwhelming the resources and capacity of rescue teams and hospital emergency rooms. First responders must resort to “triage” – the medical strategy of maximizing the efficient use of existing resources to save lives, while minimizing the number of deaths. 

But if governments could apply triage to substandard housing, medical triage would be a much less frequent occurrence – because in the developing world, it is mainly housing that kills people, not disasters.
 
Worldwide, most injuries and deaths from natural disasters are a result of substandard housing. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, one-third of the population – 200 million people – lives in informal settlements, which are densely packed with deadly housing units. In 2010, when the 7.0-magnitude Haiti earthquake killed 260,000 people, 70% of damages were related to housing. Similarly, it’s estimated that if an 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit Peru, 80% of the economic losses would be to housing.
 
But the story in rich countries is different. In the past 10 years, high-income countries experienced 47% of disasters worldwide, but accounted for only 7% of fatalities.

Cows and Television: Rolling out a New System for Financial Management Information in Cambodia

Saroeun Bou's picture



On a recent visit to provincial treasury offices to learn about the Financial Management Information Systems, or FMIS, that our Governance teams helped introduce, the conversation became about cows.

The learning curve for an institution accustomed to managing public finances the manual way – that is, with papers and pens – to switch to an automated state-of-the-art system was, some treasury staff said, comparable to bringing a cow to watch television. Cows, they explained, are as unfamiliar with television as some treasury staff are with computers, the internet, and FMIS.

Fortunately, the relevance of the analogy was short-lived. It was soon clear that treasury staff can overcome the learning curve and that the new system has been helpful. I consistently heard praise about the system’s usefulness, because it provides useful financial information, reduces the amount of repetitive work, and generates timely reports. That is a big change.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, financial flows in 2015 went against the global trend

Sun Hwa Song's picture

Now that the 2017 edition of International Debt Statistics (IDS) has been released, as a member of the team who put these statistics together, I thought I would look back at what the data tells us about financial flows into the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

According to IDS 2015 data, net financial flows (debt and equity) to all low and middle income countries were only one third of their 2014 levels ($1,159 billion). In particular net debt flows turned negative (-$185 billion) for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, while foreign direct investment (FDI) showed a marginal increase of $7 billion from $536 billion in 2014. These phenomena were observed in all regions but MENA.

The net debt inflows into the MENA region diverged from global trends. The inflows increased 84 percent from 2014. On the other hand, FDI recorded its lowest level since 2010.

India, Malaysia share experiences how to support start-up SMEs

Mihasonirina Andrianaivo's picture



Both Malaysia and India are countries steeped in innovation with a strong desire to foster new, innovative start-up enterprises. 
 
With a global focus on providing more support to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) – and recognizing that start-ups play a crucial role in creating jobs, growth, exports and innovation within most economies – Asian countries are keen to learn from each other’s experiences. These efforts have taken on a greater priority in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and his “Make in India” and “Start-Up India” campaigns.
 
The World Bank has been supporting India for several years in the area of MSME finance, which is one of the most widely recognized impediments to SMEs, particularly for start-up enterprises.  Through the $500 million MSME Growth Innovation and Inclusive Finance Project, the World Bank supports MSMEs in the service and manufacturing sectors as well as start-up financing for early stage entrepreneurs.  The start-up support under this project ($150 million) is for early stage debt funding (venture debt) which isn’t well evolved. (Unlike India’s market for early stage equity which is considered to already be reasonably well developed.)
 
As part of this project, the World Bank and the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), recently held a workshop in Mumbai to allow market participants to learn from one another, and particularly about Malaysia’s successful support for innovative start-up SMEs. The workshop’s participants included banks, venture capital companies, entrepreneurs, fintech companies, seed funders and representatives from the Malaysian Innovation Agency (Agensi Inovasi Malaysia – AIM).

Not all eggs in the same basket? The role of sectoral specialization in the banking system

Thorsten Beck's picture

Students of systemic banking distress point to concentration in specific asset classes or sectors as one of the most important factors explaining these crises. The last two global crises are good examples: the simultaneous overexposure of several banks to the U.S. mortgage market initiated the global financial crisis `07–`08 and the overexposure of several banks to sovereign debt of distressed European countries severely deepened the European debt crisis of `11–`12. Given the importance of risk concentration in banking it is therefore surprising how little empirical evidence is available on the relationship between sectoral concentration and bank performance and stability. This absence of research is mainly explained with a lack of data. In recent work, we introduce a new methodology to measure sectoral specialization and differentiation and relate these measures to bank performance and stability (Beck, De Jonghe and Mulier, 2017).

Celebrating 15 Years of reengagement in Afghanistan

Raouf Zia's picture




Shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979, the World Bank suspended its operations in Afghanistan. Work resumed in May 2002 to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest people and assist the government in building strong and accountable institutions to deliver services to its citizens.

As we mark the reopening of the World Bank office in Kabul 15 years ago, here are 15 highlights of our engagement in the country:

A new role for development banks?

Ceyla Pazarbasioglu's picture



Earlier this month, development banks from around the world took stock of where they stand and where they see their efforts having the greatest impact at a meeting organized by the World Bank and Brazil’s development bank, BNDES.

As the world struggles to find funds to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, development banks can be instrumental in narrowing that gap. They can help to crowd-in the private sector and anchor private-public sector partnerships, particularly for infrastructure financing.

However, misusing development banks can lead to fiscal risks and credit market distortions. To avoid these potential pitfalls, development banks need a well-defined mandate, operate without political influence, focus on addressing significant market failures, concentrate on areas where the private sector is not present, monitor and evaluate interventions and adjust as necessary to ensure impact, and, finally, be transparent and accountable.

Two themes characterized the discussion at the meeting: how to leverage private capital and create new markets. To support Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) finance, development banks use partial credit guarantees while letting private lenders originate, fund, and collect on credit. In markets with limited competition, development banks support the creation of an ecosystem of specialized Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) lenders to which they provide a stable funding source. 

Blockchain for Development: A Handy Bluffers’ Guide

Duncan Green's picture

Top tip: if you’re in a meeting discussing anything to do with finance, at some point look wise and say ‘you do realize, blockchain is likely to change everything.’ Of course, there is always a terrifying chance that someone will ask what you actually mean. Worry not, because IDS has produced a handy bluffer’s guide to help you respond. Blockchain for Development – Hope or Hype?, by Kevin Hernandez, is the latest in IDS’ ‘Rapid Response Briefings’ series, (which itself is a nice example of how research institutions can work better around critical junctures/windows of opportunity). It’s only four pages, but in case even that is too onerous, here are some excerpts (aka a bluffer’s guide to the bluffer’s guide).

‘What is blockchain technology?

At its heart, the blockchain is a ledger. It is a digital ledger of transactions that is distributed, verified and monitored by multiple sources simultaneously. It may be difficult to think of something as basic as the way we keep and maintain records as a technology, but this is because record-keeping is so ingrained in daily life, albeit often invisibly. The ubiquity of ledgers is in part the reason why blockchains are held as having so much disruptive potential. Traditionally, ledgers have enabled and facilitated vital functions, with the help of trusted third parties such as financial institutions and governments. These include: ensuring us of who owns what; validating transactions; or verifying that a given piece of information is true.

Three key policies to boost performance of South Asia’s ports

Matias Herrera Dappe's picture



In a previous blog
we related how South Asia as a whole had improved the performance of its container ports since 2000 but had still struggled to catch up with other developed and developing regions. But within that picture, some ports did better than others. 

For example, Colombo in Sri Lanka, the fast-expanding Mundra and Jawaharlal Nehru Port in India and Port Qasim in Pakistan all improved the use of their facilities in the first decade of this century.  India’s Mumbai and Tuticorin were among those that fell behind. Colombo also improved its operational performance by almost halving the share of idle time at berth, while Chittagong (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (India) had the longest vessel turnaround times in the region.

Knowing how specific ports perform and the characteristics of ports that perform well and those of ports that perform poorly helps policymakers design interventions to support underperforming ports.

In the report “Competitiveness of South Asia’s Container Ports” we identified three interrelated policies to improve the performance of the container ports, a key element in one of the world’s fast-growing regions: increasing private participation in ports, strengthening governance of port authorities and fostering competition between and within ports: 


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