This year, the annual Doing Business Report – by far the most anticipated and cited World Bank publication – celebrates its 15th year. Starting in 2003, the fledgling report, which covers about 130 countries, has grown into its teens garnering admiration and criticism in equal measure. Some absolutely love it, while others argue that its flaws outweigh its strong points.
Regardless, nobody can deny that the Doing Business report has been a major catalyst for reforms across the world – 3,200 reforms of business regulation have been counted to date, spurred by the Report and carried out in line with the methodology of its indicators.
The idea that economic growth needs good governance and good governance needs economic growth takes us to a perennial chicken-and-egg debate: Which comes first in development—good governance OR economic growth? For decades, positions have been sharply divided between those who advocate “fix governance first” and others who say “stimulate growth first.”
I first met Saman in the early 1990s in Delhi. Over the years, our paths diverged. When I re-engaged on South Asia, I ran into Saman again. We re-connected instantly, despite the long intervening period. This was easy to do with Saman—soft-spoken, affable, a gentleman to the core. He bore his considerable knowledge lightly.
Despite his premature passing away in June 2017, he left a rich and varied legacy behind him. I will confine myself to discussing his insights on regional cooperation in South Asia, based on his public writings and my interactions with him.
Saman was a champion of deeper economic linkages within South Asia. He was also pragmatic.
Along with a few other regional champions, Saman, as the head of the Institute of Policy Studies in Colombo, helped to kick-start the “South Asian Economic Summit”, or SAES, in Colombo in 2008, to provide a high-profile forum for dialogue on topical issues, especially South Asian regional integration. It is remarkable that the SAES has endured, without any gap. The fact that the policy and academic fraternity meet with unfailing regularity, despite on-and-off political tensions in the region, is testimony to its value.
Saman repeatedly stressed that Sri Lanka has been able to reap benefits from the India-Sri Lanka FTA (ISFTA), contrary to the general belief. His arguments were powerful: the import-export ratio for Sri Lanka improved from 10.3 in 2000 (the start of the ISFTA) to 6.6 in 2015; about 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports to India get duty-free access under the FTA, but less than 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s imports from India come under the FTA (since India provided “special and differential treatment” to Sri Lanka).
While chocolate is a sweet treat for consumers around the world, its producers face many challenges. Every year, more than five million family farmers in countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Indonesia and Brazil produce about four and a half million tons of cocoa beans, according to the World Cocoa Foundation. Farm-level input providers, financial institutions, chocolate manufacturers, development organizations and more are coming together to create digital solutions to improve access to finance and boost agricultural productivity for a sustainable and climate smart cocoa supply chain.
Last week, the World Cocoa Foundation’s partnership meeting brought together key stakeholders from small scale farmers to large multinationals including Cargill, Nestle, and Mars, under the theme “Accelerating Sustainability Through Technology and Innovation.”
To spark the industry into further innovation and collaboration, infoDev partnered with the WCF to sponsor the second annual Chocothon, a two-day hackathon where three teams came together to “hack” the cocoa supply chain and generate new creative solutions to the common challenges cocoa farmers and suppliers face. The Future Food Institute, the International Trade Center, and Valrhona, a premium chocolate manufacturer, were all heavily involved in the Chocothon as mentors and a number of us from infoDev joined in the excitement. Given their experience with cocoa supply chain partners, Valrhona’s co-sponsorship and engagement provided valuable insights to guide the ‘choco-hackers.’
Over the last 15 years, the Doing Business project has recorded nearly 3,200 reforms in 186 economies around the world. The area that's seen the greatest number of reforms is starting a business. Today, the time taken to start a new small or medium business has less than halved to an average of 20 days worldwide, compared with 52 in 2003. Read more in Doing Business 2018
What’s the key ingredient for successful innovations? I often hear people answer creativity, collaboration, open mindset, leadership. For me, it is the ability to learn and adapt.
But learning is meaningful only if it’s based on reliable data, and adaptation leads to the expected results if the data is timely and feeds into the decision-making process.
For example, take GNRC Medical (formerly known as Guwahati Neurological Research Centre), a hospital in North Guwahati, India that aims to provide quality healthcare service at an affordable cost to underprivileged populations. GNRC has an inclusive multi-specialty facility, provides ambulance services, and offers customized healthcare packages to the poor, promoting preventive healthcare and early intervention. Despite its unique service offer, GNRC faced major challenges, including the lack of awareness among local communities on medical conditions and available treatments.
Since the SDGs were announced, the international development community has been looking at ways to tap into new funding venues, attract the private sector and build relevant private-public sector partnerships.
In a combined effort to reduce infrastructure gaps, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) have become, again, a popular tool since 2005. LAC was the predominant region for PPPs until the late 1990s, when investments plummeted due in part to a backlash of poorly-implemented PPPs.
A região da América Latina e Caribe (ALC) apresenta uma lacuna em termos de infraestrutura: a região precisa investir no mínimo 5% do PIB para atender suas necessidades neste setor, mas atualmente investe apenas metade desse percentual. Explicando de uma forma suave, há ainda muito espaço para melhorias por parte do setor público, do setor privado, bem como das organizações multilaterais que trabalham na região.
Em um esforço combinado de reduzir as lacunas de infraestrutura, as Parcerias Público-Privadas voltaram a ser uma ferramenta popular a partir de 2005. A ALC era a região com maior predominância de PPPs até o fim dos 1990s, quando os investimentos despencaram em parte como reação adversas provocadas por PPPs mal implementadas.
It is easy enough to find data on flows of foreign direct investment (FDI). There are also plenty of anecdotes out there that purportedly encapsulate what businesses worldwide are thinking. It is far more difficult, however, to establish rigorous connections between global investment trends and individual investment decisions by international companies. In the World Bank Group’s newly published Global Investment Competitiveness Report 2017–2018, our team does just this, combining new survey data, rigorous econometric analysis, and extensive literature reviews to reveal what is going on behind the headline numbers.