Overjoyed at the emergency rehabilitation of Bauerfield International Airport, Vanuatu’s gateway for travelers, Linda Kalpoi, the general manager of the Vauatu Tourism Office, was in buoyant spirits as she attended the May 6 ceremony announcing the repair’s completion.
Vanuatu yearned for good news. Still recovering from Cyclone Pam’s devastation in March 2015, it was hit by political turmoil after the unprecedented conviction of 14 members of Parliament in October 2015. Then, on January 22, 2016 – the same day Ni-Vanuatu citizens were casting ballots for a snap election – Air New Zealand suspended flights due to safety concerns over the runway condition. Qantas and Virgin Australia followed suit a week later. With only a few airlines still operating, the country lost a sizeable chunk of international tourists.
Airport planning in Vanuatu has long been fraught with differing opinions and priorities. Multiple governments with conflicting visions for developing international air transport, as well frequent changes to the staff and leadership of Airports Vanuatu Ltd (AVL), had left the runway in critical need of repair.
"When something such as the Panama Papers [disclosures on global tax avoidance] happens, we seem to be surprised. We should not be."
— Vito Tanzi, former leader of international tax policy at the International Monetary Fund; author of "Taxation in an Integrating World" (1995)
Those are some of the philosophical (and pointedly political) questions that are being debated this week at the World Bank, at a conference that has gathered some of the world's foremost authorities on international tax policy along with international advocates of fair and effective taxation.
The livestreamed sessions include a pivotal speech by a determined tax-policy watchdog, former Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) — the former chairman of the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations — whose address on "Reducing Secrecy and Improving Tax Transparency" will be one of the highlights of the forum.
Culture is an essential component of each and every society. It is the fabric that weaves communities together and gives them their unique identity. Acknowledging and factoring in cultural diversity is essential to working efficiently with our client countries and adapting interventions to the local context.
Embracing cultural diversity, especially through the preservation of cultural heritage assets, also brings tangible economic benefits. Preserving or repurposing historic landmarks in downtown cores, for instance, can make cities more vibrant, attract new firms, and foster job creation. In addition, the preservation of cultural assets plays a key part in supporting sustainable tourism, a sector that has significant potential for reducing poverty in both urban and rural settings.
Strengthening competition policy is an under-acknowledged but potentially cost-effective way to boost the incomes of the poor. Greater competition between firms has the potential to boost growth through its impact on productivity, and it is increasingly acknowledged as a driver of welfare in the long term.
Despite that fact, competition reforms are notoriously difficult to implement. One of the reasons is opposition from interested groups that stand to lose out from these reforms in the short term – and a frequent lack of evidence or voice on the side of those who could gain from the direct effects of more competition.
What is the evidence on the direct impact of competition on the poorest in society, and what do we still need to learn?
A recent review of the evidence by the World Bank Group (WBG) seeks to answer these questions. The review follows two basic ideas. First: Competition policy has the greatest impact on the poor when it is applied to sectors in which the poor are most engaged as consumers, producers and employees. Second: Competition policy should have a progressive impact on welfare distribution in sectors where less-well-off households are more engaged relative to richer households.
Several sectors stand out as being particularly important here.
Food products and non-alcoholic beverages are by far the most important sector for poor consumers in terms of their share of the consumption basket. They also make up a relatively higher proportion of the consumption basket of the least-well-off households. (See Figure 1, below. Source: WBG computations based on household survey data.)
The retail sector is also important for consumers as the final segment of the food and beverages value chain. It is also a significant employer of the poor.
Services such as transport and telecommunications play an important dynamic role in combatting poverty and reducing inequality. Better informed and more mobile consumers are more able to switch suppliers, thus moderating suppliers' market power. Services are also an important input for entrepreneurs.
Other agri-inputs, such as fertilizer and seed, are key for the incomes of small agricultural producers.
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The Himalayan mountain village of Begnas sits in a valley rich in agricultural biodiversity. Altitudes range from 600 to 1,400 metres above sea level, with the landscape home to a combination of wetlands, forests, rice terraces and grazing areas. There are two freshwater lakes, Lake Rupa and Lake Begnas, which provide irrigation, important habitats for wildlife and support small-scale fish-farming activities.
I recently visited one of Bioversity International’s project sites in Begnas, where I met farming couple, Surya and Saraswati Adhikari. They proudly showed me around their biodiverse farm, pointing out some of the 150 plant species they grow and explaining that each one has a specific use. They showed me the vegetables, rice, gourds and legumes they grow to eat and sell; the trees that provide fruits, fodder and fuel, and the many herbs for medicinal and cultural purposes.
While waiting for peace negotiations in Kuwait to help end the year of conflict in Yemen after claiming thousands of mainly civilian lives, Yemenis are striving for security to be restored to get back to their normal lives. For a whole year of war—until now—and for four years of political unrest prior to it, people have been worn out by deteriorating living standards and the lack of basic services: food, medicine, fuel, and, above all, security.
For any serious analysis of development in Africa, we must embrace the fact that there are distinct sovereign countries each with its own economic and development needs and likely policy choices. Perhaps at best we can only generalize about clusters of countries that share broadly similar governance, legal and development circumstances and what policies could apply to each cluster.
Let’s look at some of the data. National populations in sub-Saharan Africa range from that of Nigeria (158.4 million) to that of Seychelles (93,000). In 2014, Africa’s highest estimated GNI per capita that of Equatorial Guinea ($10,210), was 27 times larger than that of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the lowest recorded in the region. In 2013, the estimated GDP per capita of the ten richest African countries was 22.6 times that of the poorest ten. Adult literacy rates in 2013 ranged from 93 percent in Equatorial Guinea to 34 percent in Chad.
First, the admiration. Both the outcomes of the Summit and the immense energy by civil society and other leaders in informing and influencing it, are impressive. Registries of beneficial ownership, fresh agreements on information sharing, new commitments requiring disclosure of property ownership, new signatories to the Open Government Partnership and open contracting Initiatives, the commitment from leaders of corruption affected countries and much else on display this week suggests real innovation, energy and optimism in advancing the anticorruption agenda.
The frustration stems from a concern that, while there is much that is new being agreed, one of the principal and most effective existing assets for checking corruption has barely featured in the discussion so far – and it is an asset which is increasingly imperilled.
It isn’t just people like myself who point to the critical role of an independent media. As I’ve argued in a new working paper, when any serious review of the evidence of what actually works in reducing corruption is undertaken, it is the presence of an independent media that features consistently. In contrast, only a few of the anti-corruption measures that have been supported by development agencies to date have been effective.