What’s the latest research in international trade and integration? Researchers from the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO recently gathered for a one-day workshop to present their latest research on the topic. The papers presented addressed topical questions in areas as diverse as the links between trade, wage inequality and the poor, global value chains, non-tariff measures, preferential trade agreements, FDI restrictions, and migration. We provide a quick roundup on the papers presented during the workshop.
Some countries are blessed with natural resources, others are cursed. It’s been said that all the blessed ones are alike, they put the resources to good use, improving the people’s welfare in a sustainable manner. And for the cursed? More often than not, they struggle with political violence, especially when ethnic or religious fragmentation and weak institutions are a concern. Not surprisingly, it was Venezuela’s former Development Minister and OPEC Founder Perez Alfonso who christened oil the “Devil’s excrement.”
If natural resources could be the source of such evil, are there ways of “exorcising” them? Perhaps policymakers could try to prevent or resolve resource-related conflicts by sharing natural resource wealth with opposition groups or directly with the people. Would such a counter spell work?
Investment is one of the pillars of private sector development. The acquisition of assets enables firms to increase their capacity and improve their efficiency, unlocking avenues of growth. Promoting firms’ growth is especially critical in Sub-Saharan African countries that have predominantly low levels of economic development and high rates of poverty. Against this backdrop, there has been a rapid increase in mobile money use - that is the use of mobile phones for financial transfers. At the end of 2015, mobile money services were available in 93 countries -with a total of over 411 million registered accounts and 134 million active users (GSMA, 2015). Many of these users are firms that increasingly rely on mobile money to pay bills, suppliers, and salaries or to receive payments from customers. While numerous advantages of the permeation of mobile money has been explored, including lower transaction costs, little research has been done to investigate the far-reaching benefits that lowering transaction costs could entail, such as increasing firm investment. To fill this void, we recently completed a study on the effect of mobile money use on firm investment in three countries – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
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?
I usually don’t wake up to hate mail in my inbox. What prompted this deluge is a recent paper that evaluates the impact of a training program for informal health care providers (providers without any formal medical training) in the state of West Bengal, India (paper summary). Training improved the ability of informal providers to correctly manage the kind of conditions they may see in their clinics, but it did not decrease their overuse of unnecessary medicines or antibiotics.
When you think of Bhutan, you typically think of the tall mountains of the Himalayas, or you think of this nation adding the ‘Gross National Happiness’, or GNH indicator onto the global development agenda. Well, from now on, you can also think of Bhutan as the first country in the world to have one of their agencies approved to apply “alternative procurement arrangements” or APAs. This may sound trivial in comparison to 7,500 meter high peaks or collective happiness in the Dragon Kingdom. But for the way we do procurement at the World Bank, it’s a real breakthrough and an important step towards becoming a better Bank.
Income inequality has been a hotly debated topic in Egypt since the 2011 revolution. However, researchers remain divided over the “true” level of inequality in this country. A blog posted on Vox in August argued that inequality in Egypt was underestimated and could be better represented by using house price data to estimate the top end of the income distribution. This blog is a response to that article and seeks to clarify issues relevant to the measurement of inequality in Egypt and elsewhere.
In pursuing meaningful sustainable development, and investing in conservation and redressing the environmental damage caused by decades of neglect, we need to better explore and understand the role of international cooperation and why human values and ethics are central to this debate.
International cooperation. A key ingredient for generating a sustainable development path will have to be a significant strengthening of the current mechanisms of international cooperation, which have turned out to be insufficient to meet the global challenges that we face. The process of globalization is unfolding in the absence of equivalent international institutions to support it and harness its potential for good.
The primary motivation for predicting data in economics, health sciences, and other disciplines has been to deal with various forms of missing data problems. However, one could also make a case for adopting prediction methods to obtain more cost-efficient estimates of welfare indicators when it is expensive to observe the outcome of interest (in comparison with its predictors). For example, consider the estimation of poverty and malnutrition rates. The conventional estimators in this case require household- and individual-level data on expenditures and health outcomes. Collecting this data is generally costly. It is not uncommon that in developing countries, where poverty and poor health outcomes are most pressing, statistical agencies do not have the budget that is needed to collect these data frequently. As a result, official estimates of poverty and malnutrition are often outdated: For example, across the 26 low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa over the period between 1993 and 2012, the national poverty rate and prevalence of stunting for children under five are on average reported only once every five years and once every ten years in the World Development Indicators.
This question is particularly relevant in the context of traditional public agricultural extension services. Expensive and burdened by high rates of under-staffing and low levels of accountability, privatization of extension services may be a way to improve cost-effectiveness. However, private services may lack incentives to tailor their services to the poorest, making them an unsatisfactory substitute for a public system of extension. This issue is particularly salient in sub-Saharan Africa, where markets for agricultural services are typically lean.