Welcome to ‘Let’s Talk Development’


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As the world pulls out of an unprecedented financial crisis and given the wrap up just last week of the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York, the work of the development community is far from over. In this context, the need for concerted, pragmatic research is more urgent than ever. Among the questions we need to ask is why many past efforts to get low-income countries on a path to sustainable growth have fallen short. Also, as we search for solutions, we need to adapt to the emergence of a multi-polar growth world and seek lessons from developing countries.  

With this in mind, it’s my pleasure to introduce this new blog aimed at sharing ideas and sparking innovation.

  Field visit to Nigeria
We at the Development Economics Department of the World Bank know that openness is what will keep us relevant and honest – the world is changing and it’s vital to challenge accepted wisdom. It’s essential to air the views of outside experts, even when they are highly critical.

Lively debate via this blog could potentially lead to break through solutions for development, or, at the very least, steer research and analysis in new directions.

As host of this new blog, I’m seeking a cross section of views, opinions and ideas. We may hear about new data mash-ups, innovative macro-simulations in the wake of the crisis, joint initiatives to build statistical capacity in poor countries, or programs to study African industrialization.

I come at this from a unique perspective. I am the first World Bank Chief Economist from a developing country and I arrived to my new job at a remarkable time. I’ve been both lucky and challenged. Lucky because I have been able to work directly in developing countries with policymakers, economists, academics and researchers on the front lines of the financial crisis. I’ve  been challenged because that very crisis forced us at the World Bank to rethink our prescriptions.

“Let’s talk Development” is kicking off just two days before a September 29 speech by World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick on ‘Democratizing Development Economics”. That speech is sure to spark lively debate, but I will say no more, so as not to ruin the surprise.

The group of economists, macro-forecasters, statisticians and other researchers who I lead at the World Bank are talented and diverse, so hearing from many of them via this blog will be exciting indeed. Even more importantly, my expert colleagues will be reaching out to their research partners, funders and clients in developing countries and seeking their views and blog contributions.
So let’s let the conversation begin!



Justin Yifu Lin

Former World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President

Join the Conversation

Per Kurowski
October 05, 2010

Risk taking is the oxygen of any development, but we have banking regulators, the Basel Committee, who has decided that the most important thing in life is for banks not to default, and are therefore penalizing banks, with higher capital requirements, whenever they do anything with clients whose risk is perceived as higher by their risk surveyors ,the credit rating agencies; and give the banks incentives, by means of much lower capital requirements, whenever they do operations with clients whose perceived risk is similarly perceived as low.

This does not only attempt against the risk taking any developing society needs, but it is also plain dumb regulations, because as anyone who has lived the realities of banking knows, bank crisis never ever occur because of excessive investments where the risks are perceived as high, they always occur because of excessive investments in what is perceived as having a low risk… precisely like those triple-A rated securities collateralized with lousily awarded mortgages to the subprime sector.

I can understand the IMF falling into this faulty regulatory paradigm since their role is the search for financial stability but what I cannot understand is the World Bank, as the premier development global institution in the world, keeping quiet about it all and not defending the role of risk-taking.

Do you know that in all the regulations for banks coming out from the Basel Committee there is not obe word about the purpose of the banks? How can you regulate without defining the purpose of what you are regulating?

Ari Tatian
October 07, 2010

I appreciate the views raised in regard to the future prospects of development efforts and the role of research in that respect. The point that I would like to raise here is how could the World Bank help fellow researchers from developing countries in order to create a better linkage between strategic research and their actual practice, in terms of impact on policy making? I am Head of Research & Studies Department at the Lebanese Parliament, and the point that I have just raised is of great concern to me. I have been at the World Bank last week for a summit meeting, and I realize the great potential that the World Bank has in that respect. Any prospects of a strategic cooperation between the World Bank and researchers from developing countries?

Mustapha K. Nabli
October 12, 2010

I am a member of the Development Economics team at the World Bank, and thank you for the interesting point. The issue of cooperation between the World Bank and researchers in developing countries has been the subject of much concern to the Bank over the years. It has three dimensions.

The first is how can the Bank benefit from the work and use the knowledge accumulated in developing countries, which is anchored in their rich and varied development experience. The is at the core of what President Zoellick calls the "democratization" of development research. While this has been taking place in an informal way, the aim is to make this harnessing of knowledge more systematic. A number of initiatives are being considered by the Bank which include a new approach called Knowledge Platforms which deal with some strategic development issues or Networks of Think Tanks in developing countries.

The second is whether and how the World Bank can include researchers from developing countries and enhance their participation in the policy discussions and design of reforms of their countries. While the Bank does not have a formal policy on this matter, staff at the operational level do call on and include researchers from developing countries in the work they undertake. This takes the form of commissioning specific studies, as well as formal and informal consultations. It is clear that more needs to be done in this respect.

The third dimension is how the Bank can support the building of research capacity in developing countries. This is a big agenda and the Bank has undertaken a number of initiatives in this regard over the last 25 years. This included the creation and/or support of a number of research networks at the global level (the Global Development Network, based in New Delhi, link- http://cloud2.gdnet.org/cms.php?id=gdn_development_research), in Africa (African Economic Research Consortium, based in Nairobi, link- http://www.aercafrica.org/home/index.asp), the Middle East and North Africa (Economic research Forum for the Arab Countries, Iran and Turkey, based in Cairo, Link- http://www.erf.org.eg/cms.php?id=home_page), Europe and Central Asia (East European Research Network) as well as think tanks in a number of countries including China, Russia, Czech republic and so on.

A recent initiative of interest to Lebanon is the Research Initiative for Arab development (link- http://www.erf.org.eg/CMS/getFile.php?id=Summary%20of%20the%20expert%20…) which is implemented by the Economic research Forum with support from the World Bank and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (http://www.arabfund.org/). The needs in this area are huge and the Bank continues to explore ways of strengthening research capacity, especially in countries where it is weak and faces considerable hurdles.

Mustapah Nabli