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.
The World Region
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?
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?
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.
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 is the third of three blog posts on recent trends in national inequality.
In earlier blogposts on recent trends in inequality, we had referred to measurement issues that make this exercise challenging. In this blogpost we discuss two such issues: the underlying welfare measure (income or consumption) used to quantify the extent of inequality within a country, and the fact that estimates of inequality based on data from household surveys are likely to underreport incomes of the richest households. There are a number of other measurement challenges, such as those related to survey comparability, which are discussed in Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016 – for a focus on Africa, also see Poverty in a Rising Africa, published earlier in 2016.
In 2014, Australian startup founder Evan Thornley gave a talk at a technology startup conference about why he likes to hire women. So far, so good. However, things quickly deteriorated when he explained that part of the reason was that women were “still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender”, illustrated by a slide that read “Women. Like men, only cheaper”.
While the ensuing media outcry quickly forced Thornley to backtrack on his comments, the reality his slide so eloquently put into words is not so easily revised. Even in Silicon Valley, considered one of the most forward-thinking industries in the world, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts.
Conventionally the governing law should not affect the cost of borrowing in international markets. If it did, borrowers would use the cheaper jurisdiction. Also, if somehow the spread differed at the time of the launch of the bond, trading in the secondary market should eliminate the difference. A recent paper shows otherwise: Sovereign bonds issued under the UK law had a persistent higher spread than those under the US law, but only since the global financial crisis in 2008.
Historically, U.S. law issuances formed the dominant part of the volume of dollar-denominated central government bond issuances, barring 2012 when U.K. law issuances briefly overtook U.S. law issuances (Figure 1). There were also divergences in characteristics of dollar-denominated central government bonds issued across the two jurisdictions. Average spread at launch for bonds issued under U.K. law became distinctly higher after the global financial crisis in 2008 (Figure 2). On average, bonds issued under U.K. law also had weaker ratings and shorter tenors post-crisis.
The previous blog post in this series described the trend in the global and regional averages of national inequality for the period 1988-2013. Now we dig deeper into the trends in inequality at the country level. We describe changes in national inequality during two periods – around 1993 to 2008 and around 2008 to 2013. The long-run spells include all countries for which we have data on inequality around 1993 and 2008, and that data is computed using the same welfare measure (income or consumption). The short-run spells include countries for which we have inequality data around 2008 to 2013; this list is based on the World Bank’s Global Database of Shared Prosperity.