The best first food for a baby, providing essential nutrition in the critical early years of life. A child’s first immunization and her best opportunity for bonding, early stimulation and healthy brain development. Breastfeeding is all these things, but it also more than that -- it is a country’s first step towards building the human capital that will drive their economies in the future.
The Kenyan government took a big step in improving its business environment with the launch of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Disclosure Portal, an online tool that makes all non-confidential information relating to PPP contracts available to the public. The portal, which went live in June, is the result of the government’s work with the World Bank Group to improve transparency and accountability in PPPs since 2016.
As important as the act itself is the timing of the launch. The government recently announced its commitment to eradicate corruption in the public service. The government launched the PPP disclosure portal shortly thereafter—at a time when citizens in Africa are increasingly demanding answers, engaging their governments, and increasing scrutiny in public spending. This reflects positive movement and will hopefully fuel a virtuous cycle where citizens increasingly trust that the government cares about their views, their needs, and their hard-earned money.
Some 41 currencies serve the African continent. Many of these are characterised by their illiquid and rarely traded status on the global financial market, as well as their volatility. So for those wishing to do business with Africa, these currencies — as difficult and expensive to source — can pose a real problem.
From the Namibian dollar to the Seychellois rupee, it is vital that organisations are able to source emerging market currencies reliably, on time, and at competitive prices. Yet such necessities often elude those trading with Africa, who view currency concerns as one of the biggest barriers to the development of Africa as an emerging — and therefore high growth — opportunity for international investors.
Are we doing any good? That’s what donors and organizations increasingly ask, from small nonprofits providing skills training to large organizations funding a wide array of programs. Over the past decade, I’ve worked with a wide array of governments and some non-government organizations to help them figure out if their programs are achieving their desired goals. During those discussions, we spend a lot of time drawing the distinction between impact evaluation and monitoring systems. But because my training is in impact evaluation – not monitoring – my focus tends to be on what impact evaluation can do and on what monitoring systems can’t. That sells monitoring systems short.
Mary Kay Gugerty and Dean Karlan have crafted a valuable book – The Goldilocks Challenge: Right-Fit Evidence for the Social Sector – that rigorously lays out the power of monitoring systems to help organizations achieve their goals. This is crucial. Not every program will or even should have an impact evaluation. But virtually every program has a monitoring system – of one form of another – and good monitoring systems help organizations to do better. As Gugerty and Karlan put it, “the trend to measure impact has brought with it a proliferation of poor methods of doing so, resulting in organizations wasting huge amounts of money on bad ‘impact evaluations.’ Meanwhile, many organizations are neglecting the basics. They do not know if staff are showing up, if their services are being delivered, if beneficiaries are using services, or what they think about those services. In some cases, they do not even know whether their programs have realistic goals and make logical sense.”
- Book reviews
The countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) endure a paradox. They have a highly educated labor force but a large pool of unemployed youth. Whether this contradiction results from uncoordinated economic and educational policies, skill mismatch, low productivity of labor, or anemic demand due to lack of a robust private sector, the ensuing lengthy unemployment and skill depreciation have resulted in disproportionate human capital erosion across the MENA region. MENA countries’ rankings in improving their human capital formation have fallen, acc ording to the human capital index (produced by the World Economic Forum) and in 2017, were among the lowest in the world, close to South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
In 1997, Garry Kasparov, one of the greatest chess players in history, lost a chess match to a supercomputer called Deep Blue. Some years later Kasparov developed “advanced chess,” where a human and a computer team up to play against another human and computer. This mutation of chess is mutually beneficial: the human player has access to the computer’s ability to calculate moves, while the computer benefits from human intuition.
And IDA is off to a strong start. Total commitments reached $24.0 billion this year, more than double the average of the first year in IDA15 and IDA14. This is also over 40% higher than the average volume we saw for the first year of IDA16 and IDA17.
Part of the growth springs from how we set up IDA18, in response to calls from the G20 and international community for the World Bank Group to innovate in every way we can to help achieve the world’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. And
Collecting data in education can be a tricky business. After spending considerable resources to design a representative study, enlist and train data collectors, and organize the logistics of data collection, we want to ensure that we capture as true a picture of the situation on the ground as possible. This can be particularly challenging when we attempt to measure complex concepts, such as child development, learning outcomes, or the quality of an educational environment.
Data can be biased by many factors. For example, the very act of observation by itself can influence behavior. How can we expect a teacher to behave “normally” when outsiders sit in her or his classroom taking detailed notes about everything they do? Social desirability bias, where subjects seek to represent themselves in the most positive light, is another common challenge. Asking a teacher, “Do you hit children in your classroom?” may elicit an intense denial, even if the teacher still has a cane in one hand and the ear of a misbehaving child in another.
What is the best single measure of a country’s import tariffs? As we know, countries don’t have a single tariff, but a landscape of tariffs and other trade barriers. For comparison purposes, it is useful to distill the array of tariffs down to a single number.
In terms of tariffs, there are two common ones: the simple average Most Favored Nation (MFN) applied tariff and the weighted average MFN applied tariff. (MFN is the tariff that WTO members and other favored partners receive.) Neither is perfect.
With its youthful workforce and the aspiration to be a developed country by 2041, Bangladesh emphasizes skills development to provide its people the ability to transform the country into a high productivity economy. To accelerate progress in this area, the government has been actively tapping into greater South-South cooperation, especially with other Asian countries.
Bangladesh and the China’s Yunnan Province’s partnership on the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP) is one example. Following the International Skills Conference held in Dhaka held in March 2018, a Bangladesh delegation, led by Mr. Md. Alamgir, Secretary of the Technical and Madrasah Education Division of the Ministry of Education, visited technical education institutions in Yunnan that are expected to receive students from Bangladesh.
Expert trainers in China will help their Bangladesh counterparts improve in the areas of student exchange, teachers’ professional development, and knowledge sharing among others. The agreement will mean that that the first cohort of 85 Bangladeshi students will be enrolled in the partnered Yunnan institutions with scholarships by September 2018.