Trade blocs are intergovernmental agreements intended to bring economic benefits to their members by reducing barriers to trade.
Some well known trade blocs include the European Union, NAFTA and the African Union. Through encouraging foreign direct investment, increasing competition, and boosting exports, trade blocs can have numerous benefits for their members.
In Latin America, Mercosur and the more recently formed Pacific Alliance blocs together represent about 93 percent of the region's GDP at 2014 market prices. Who participates in these trade blocs and how do they compare?
Size, membership and performance of Mercosur and The Pacific Alliance
The Pacific Alliance is a Latin American trade bloc formed in 2011 among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. Together the four countries have a combined population of about 221.3 million and GDP of $2.1 trillion. The Southern Common Market (Mercosur) created in 1991, includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Together the five Mercosur countries have 285.0 million inhabitants and GDP of $3.5 trillion.
One of the areas intended to benefit from these agreements, trade within the blocs, accounts for about 4 percent of the Pacific Alliance's total trade and about 14 percent in Mercosur.
At the start of 2016, the United Nations will launch a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, to drive development efforts around the globe. But one question still needs some thought: How will we finance these new goals?
Even more questions lie within this broader question on finance. Which countries need more resources? What types of resources are needed most? Where does international finance, both public and private, currently flow? Where does it not? Answers to all of these require reliable and easy-to-understand data on all international financial flows.
When governments convene in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to agree on a framework for financing the new sustainable development agenda, there will be a key window of opportunity to improve the existing, haphazard approach to data collection and reporting.
Today we launch our report The Global Findex Database 2014: Measuring Financial Inclusion around the World and The 2014 Global Findex database, an updated edition of what is by far the world’s most comprehensive gauge of global progress on financial inclusion. You may also find the database on the Development Data Group's Data Catalog.
Want to learn how many adults own a bank account worldwide? Right this way. What happens with the gender gap when you break it down by country and region? We’ve got the stats … Check. Where is mobile money making the biggest inroads, and what are the impacts? Check ... Check. How do adults save and borrow money, as well as manage financial risk? Check … Check … Check!
So what are disbursements? Disbursements are simply the amount of a loan commitment (the total amount of new loans to borrowers for which contracts were signed) that actually enter the borrower's account, in a given year. The reason I’ve decided to focus on disbursements is that this indicator offers a clear picture of developments in a given year while an indicator like external debt stock (which tell us how much a country owes its creditors – the entities that lend a country money) is a more cumulative measure as it is influenced by what happened in previous years.
In the analysis that follows, I’ve used 45 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa. Why? Simply because the size of South Africa’s external debt would mask the trends in the rest of the region. For some perspective, consider that the biggest economy in Africa (in terms of 2013 GDP), Nigeria, had an external debt stock of 14 billion USD in 2013 while South Africa (the second biggest African economy in terms of 2013 GDP) had one of 140 billion USD in the same year – ten times more.
Despite this exclusion, I think it’s important to note how huge this unit of analysis is. The 45 countries that I’ve used represent almost the whole African continent, with the exception of a handful of countries in the north of the continent. Therefore, I ask you to take these trends with a grain of salt, as they are aggregate trends and therefore some of the national differences are blurred out.
Disbursements to the region have doubled
First, the big picture: disbursements to Sub-Saharan Africa have increased sharply in the last few years. Between 2010 and 2013 they more than doubled (increased by 121%), while in the rest of the developing world disbursements went up by 42% (see figure 1). The increase in the region is particularly strong in the case of disbursements from private creditors (entities like bond holders and commercial banks), which increased almost sixfold (489%) since 2010 (compared to a rise of 52% in the rest of the developing world). In the same period, disbursements from official creditors (governments or other bilateral/multilateral entities) grew by 35% in the region (while they fell 13% in the rest of the developing world).
The term "big data" is much in the news lately – alternatingly touted as the next silver bullet potentially containing answers to myriad questions on natural and human dynamics, and dismissed by others as hype. We are only beginning to discover what value exists in the vast quantities of information we have today, and how we are now capable of generating, storing, and analyzing this information. But how can we begin to extract that value? More importantly, how can we begin to apply it to improving the human condition by promoting development and reducing poverty?
That is precisely the question that motivated the World Bank Group and Second Muse to collaborate on the recently released report Big Data in Action for Development. Interviews with big data practitioners around the world and an extensive review of literature on the topic led us to some surprising answers.
(Source: FRED Economic Data)
A recent World Bank Group feature story broke down country by country the potential regional consequences. And according to the Bank Group’s Global Economic Prospects report, the decline in oil prices will dampen growth prospects for oil-exporting countries.
There are various factors that can be used to assess the impact of falling oil prices on countries. One such factor is trade. Countries exporting mostly fuel products will lose export revenue as oil prices drop. The chart below shows the top 15 countries that exported fuel in 2012. You can visualize the data for other years and products using the World Integrated Trade Solution’s (WITS) product analysis visualization tool.
A revolution starts with an idea, but to become real, it has to move quickly to a practical proposition about getting stuff done. And getting things done needs money. If the ideas generated last year, in the report of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group and elsewhere, about how to improve data production and use are to become real, then they will need investments. It’s time to start thinking about where the money to fund the data revolution might come from, and how it might be spent.
Getting funding for investment in data won’t be easy. As hard-pressed statistical offices around the world know to their cost, it’s tough to persuade governments to put money into counting things instead of, say, teaching children or paying pensions. But unless the current excitement about data turn into concrete commitments, it will all fade away once the next big thing comes along, leaving little in the way of lasting change.