The Sunday Business section of the New York Times prominently featured an image of a huge vault overflowing with bits and bytes. It was a story about the Bank’s Open Data initiative and claimed that datasets and information will ultimately become more valuable than Bank lending. It’s a powerful idea and one that sounds similar to the knowledge bank articulated by Jim Wolfensohn nearly ten years ago. But there is an important distinction between the two. This is not about the World Bank as the central repository of knowledge sharing its knowledge and wisdom with clients from the South. Instead, it’s about “democratizing development economics” in that it levels the playing field on knowledge creation and dissemination and opens the development paradigm to participation from researchers and practitioners, software developers and students, from north and south.
With sluggish growth in advanced economies, much investment money is heading south to more favorable climates. And while capital flows can provide greater opportunities for emerging and developing economies to pursue economic development and growth, capital inflows can also pose some serious policy challenges for macroeconomic management and financial sector supervision. Recently, large capital inflows in some middle-income countries have placed undue upward pressure on their currencies, adversely affecting macroeconomic and financial system stability as well as export competitiveness in a number of these countries. Furthermore, the pro-cyclical nature of global capital flows to emerging and developing economics can serve to aggravate these risks.
The English cartoonist Ashleigh Brilliant once offered the following piece of advice to strategists of all sorts who are concerned with their reputation: “To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and call whatever you hit the target…” With little time and fewer resources than elsewhere to battle the burning issues of poverty, insecurity and sociopolitical instability, economists and policymakers in developing countries may not be in the position to benefit from such cynical wisdom. Rather than listening to Ashleigh Brilliant, they should always keep in mind the constraints they face and the urgency of the situation in poor countries, and reflect on the maxim that recommends to “always aim before shooting.
A policy and research domain where there is a serious deficit of strategic thinking and prioritization is that of evaluation, which is traditionally defined as the systematic assessment of the worth or merit of some project, program or policy. The importance of evaluation cannot be underestimated: first, in a world where ideas compete constantly for funding, it is essential to ensure that value for money is at the core of public policy. Second, only by assessing the pertinence and efficiency of development initiatives can we get a full picture of their outcomes, and ensure accountability. Third and perhaps even more importantly, evaluation helps define the criteria for decision-making on new initiatives, and chart the course of future action. It highlights what works and what does not. It is therefore not surprising that evaluation has become a hot area of research and policy.
It is not surprising that trade policy -- as it relates to economic growth – has not figured prominently in the development agendas of least developed countries (LDCs). This is mostly due to the fact that key issues, such as health, clean water, conflict and war have dominated attention and driven debate and discussion– and rightly so.
But what about trade as an engine of growth to help drive down poverty – to help address broader development goals?
The good news story on trade and the LDCs is often ignored. Bad news stories and editorials (along with blog posts in on-line media) sell newspapers and make for splashy television and video clips on YouTube. This is what dominates the stories and headlines.
It's important to have an international forum where leading thinkers can exchange ideas about how to reduce poverty and how to promote growth in low income countries. I'm delighted that, since its inauguration 22 years ago, the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) has served this purpose by connecting leading thinkers, practitioners, and students. Now more than ever, we need active and constructive debate about job creation, reducing inequality, empowering women, and improving our approaches to human capital formation and training youth. TheDevelopment Economics Vice Presidency that I lead is enthusiastic in its continued support for this forum.
For people to benefit from development and escape poverty, they need to broaden their opportunities. That's why we chose 'Broadening Opportunities for Development' as our overall theme for this year's conference happening from May 30-June 1 in Paris.
'Development aid’ is always surrounded by questions. Some argue whether it shows results, and some worry about the way it is spent. And the imminent question is, where does it go? Well, it does have some impact. According to the latest UNESCO report ‘Financing Education in Sub-Saharan Africa’, development aid accounts for 50% of the government education budget in some countries of Africa. “Over the last decade public spending on education in Africa has increased by more than 6% each year”, says the report. However, much remains to be done to distribute it well between primary and higher education, as often requirements of the primary education system suffer. Thus, cutting aid is definitely not a smart move as explained by Liz Allcock and Jimmy Kainja in their post ‘Cutting UK aid to Malawi will hurt the poor, not the leaders’.
Which comes first in the wake of revolution, bread or freedom?
A Reuters reporter asked about this during the embargoed press briefing last Friday to launch the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development. What she wondered about was the tough choices of what to deal with most urgently in the throes of revolutions like we are seeing in the Middle East and North Africa.
In other words, should policymakers pay urgent attention to, say, food, jobs and the flow of cash or do justice and political change take precedence?
Services can now be stored, traded digitally, and are not subject to many of the trade barriers that physical exports have to overcome. Services are no longer exclusively an input for trade in goods, but have instead become a “final export” for direct consumption. Importantly, services not only have become more tradable, but can also be increasingly unbundled: a single service task or an activity in the global supply chain can now be fragmented and done separately at different geographical locations. This has led to a new channel of growth, what we call sophistication in service exports.
Global warming may have severe consequences for developing countries prone to extreme weather events. Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization suggest the frequencies and/or intensities of climate extremes will increase in the 21st century. Some recent extreme weather events illustrate how severe their consequences can be. Examples include heavy floods in Australia and Brazil in 2011, extreme winter weather all over Europe, heat wave in Russia, devastating floods in Pakistan, India, China, and Mozambique in 2010, and super cyclones in Myanmar (in 2008) and Bangladesh (in 2007).