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'Making the case for trade': Winning voters’ trust by strengthening social safety nets

Christopher Colford's picture

Policy persuasion is most effective when it draws on the evidence base of all the social-science disciplines. Every strand of the social sciences – not just the mathematical precision of economics, but also the nuanced interpretations of history and the subtle trajectories of sociology – has a great deal to contribute as policymakers balance competing priorities.

That multidisciplinary approach – emphasized in such recent works as The History Manifesto, in which Harvard and Brown University historians call for policymakers’ greater reliance on the combined reasoning of all the social sciences – was thoroughly borne out in the recent Development Economics Series lecture by economist David Autor of MIT (who is a scholar at the National Bureau of Economic Research). Presenting a research paper on trade policy, and underscoring the importance of public opinion in shaping policymakers’ approach to it, Autor’s presentation used the logic of political science to highlight the electoral mood swings that help shape countries’ position on international trade.

Using the perspectives of political science – in the paper, “Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure” (co-authored with colleagues from the University of Zurich; the University of California, San Diego; and Lund University) – was a valuable way to help remind Autor's economics-focused World Bank Group audience that policymaking does not occur in an academic vacuum. Even though the Bank’s economics-heavy analyses may try to distill policy options into quantifiable formulae, the policymakers whom the Bank advises get their political mandate from their countries’ volatile voters – who do not always follow homo economicus’ coldly rational approach to decision-making.

Amid the topsy-turvy 2016 electoral cycle in many countries – in which voters’ fears about job losses due to international trade have been inflamed amid an upsurge of populism and protectionism – you don’t have to be a public-opinion pollster to affirm Autor's assertion in his analysis of recent U.S. voting patterns: “We detect an ideological realignment that is centered in trade-exposed local labor markets and that commences prior to the divisive 2016 U.S. presidential election. Exploiting the exogenous component of rising trade with China and classifying legislator ideologies by their congressional voting record, we find strong evidence that congressional districts exposed to larger increases in import competition disproportionately removed moderate representatives from office in the 2000s.”

Translation: If you’re a pro-trade lawmaker in a district that has a high degree of imports from overseas, in a region that has endured what Autor calls “economic scarring,” then you’re likely to pay a heavy price at the ballot box – and, if you’re defeated, your successor just might be a strident protectionist. The Autor analysis shrewdly underscores the adjective “political” in the anodyne textbook phrase, “political economy.”

The World Bank has a new Climate Action Plan. What's in it for cities?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The World Bank Group’s Climate Action Plan, adopted last month, is designed to help countries meet their COP21 pledges and manage increasing climate impacts.
 
To achieve these goals, working with cities will be essential: with almost 80% of GHG emissions emanating from urban areas, cities are among the biggest contributors to climate change... and must, inevitably, become a big part of the solution.
 
Cities are also particularly vulnerable to climate risk and other forms of natural hazards, with many of them located in disaster-prone areas. Therefore, enhancing disaster resilience in urban settings is another key requirement to build more sustainable cities in the face of climate change.
 
The good news? Many countries are still in the early stages of the urbanization process, meaning they have a unique opportunity to develop sustainable cities right from the beginning - a much more viable option than trying to retrofit them later on.
 
In this video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Practice Manager Bernice Van Bronkhorst explain how they are working with clients to make climate-smart cities a reality.
 
If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.

Telenor: Financial inclusion is a good sustainability initiative and business opportunity

Yahya Khan's picture

 

Easypaisa Pakistan Health Insurance Blog - Family Eating (from a Telenor Pakistan promotional video for Easypaisa)


Telenor believes in empowering societies. Motivated by the prospect of building something that can make a difference for customers with very limited access to traditional financial services, we ventured to leverage our mobile tele-density strength in developing countries to bring about financial inclusion. Telenor has committed to enabling 50% of its customers to use their mobile phones for financial services by 2020, which means 100 million customers will have access to mobile financial services. We joined the UFA2020 initiative eager to learn from other players on shared challenges, drive strength from a common goal, and scale solutions that have demonstrated success in other markets.

We are about to launch in Myanmar and have obtained a banking license in India. We are already working in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Hungary, Malaysia, Pakistan, Serbia and Thailand. In each country we have adopted different models of financial services catering to the needs of that market. For example, in Serbia fully owned Telenor Banka is the first fully mobile and online bank, consolidating banking needs in a unified digital interface, making it the fastest growing bank and the highest rated banking app in the region. In Pakistan, Telenor’s subsidiary Tameer Micro Finance Bank offers mobile financial services under the globally recognized brand of Easypaisa, serving over 20 million customers for domestic and international remittances, purchase airtime, pay utility bills, receive government social cash transfers, pay taxes, save and borrow money, buy insurance or make online retail purchases. We are picking up speed in delivering straightforward digital banking services in most of our Asian markets. Last year we established the groundwork for business in five out of six Asian countries, and this year we are focusing on expanding our footprint in these markets. When all businesses are up and running, we will be ready to build scale and to reach our 100 million customers target.

Weekly links May 13: Bad science reporting, bad measurement, bad social science ethics, and good books

David Evans's picture
 
  • This week in macro measurement: “‘Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made’ said Otto von Bismarck. Turns out you can probably add GDP to that list.” Duncan Green gives a useful summary of The Economist’s extensive critique of GDP, how it is becoming decreasingly useful over time, and how it could be better.

Gender equality: what does the data show in 2016?

Eliana Rubiano-Matulevich's picture


This is part of a series of blogs focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and data from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.
 

Disparities between men and women are fewer + smaller than 20 years ago, but critical gaps remain

We have seen significant progress in closing gender gaps over the last two decades, especially in education and health. Most countries have reduced disparities between girls and boys in enrollment and completion of primary school, and in transition to secondary school.  And both women and men are living longer and healthier lives. But critical gaps persist: Women have limited access to economic opportunities, and their ability to make decisions about their lives and act on them—their agency —is restricted in many ways.

Hurdles to gender equality

These gaps are related to entrenched social norms and biases that constrain women and girls and prevent them from fulfilling their potential. In many economies, women face legal provisions that restrict their capacity to access opportunities—these include requirements that they obtain a husband’s permission or produce additional documentation to open a bank account in their own name. Persistent gender-based violence is pervasive and reflects the imbalance of power relations in the household and society more generally. Women’s responsibility for family care and household chores, which is necessary for social reproduction, restricts the time they can spend on paid work and disadvantages men.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 seeks to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” and represents an opportunity to tackle structural constraints and shift social norms, which would potentially enable permanent pathways out of poverty and achieve the gender equality targets of the 2030 agenda.

Shifting entrenched norms isn’t easy. A key step in this process is to create an enabling environment by changing legal frameworks. Countries have taken important steps in enacting laws to protect women from harmful practices: In 2016, 137 countries have laws on domestic violence and 149 countries prohibit or void child marriage. On the other hand, many economies still have legal differences affecting women’s economic opportunities. Almost 60 percent of the 188 countries for which data are available lack legal frameworks that mandate equal opportunities in hiring practices, equal pay for equal work, or allow women to perform the same jobs as men.

Ending a 20-year water crisis in a remote village in Solomon Islands

Evan Wasuka's picture
Surrounded by water, Nanngu’s taps have been without drinking water for the past 20 years.

With the throttle at full tilt, the boat cut through the surf, spraying salt water into the air. 
Around me, the unfolding scenery is breathtaking. White sandy beaches, turquoise blue seas, swaying coconut palms – the textbook image of paradise in the South Pacific.
 
What more could one ask for in paradise?  

Water, is what they will tell you. “They” are the people of Nanngu Village on the island of Santa Cruz in the far east of Solomon Islands. 
 
Out here, water to drink, cook food with, wash and keep clean is hard to come by.
 
The last time they had proper running water was 20 years ago. That came to an end at the hands of a Category Three cyclone, Nina, which hit the islands in 1993.
 
As I write this, we’re on our way to Nanngu to see a new World Bank-supported project bringing water to the village.

Universal financial access by 2020? Look to Africa for inspiration

Irina Asktrakhan's picture

The World Bank (WB) has set an ambitious goal of securing universal access to formal financial services by 2020. Although 700 million people have signed up for a bank account since 2011, about two billion worldwide remain unbanked. As the WB seeks to expand worldwide financial inclusion, it should look to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) for inspiration.


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