I recently returned from vacation in Alaska, America’s final frontier. This place is massive, twice as big as Texas. It’s so remote that many of the conveniences Americans take for granted simply aren’t available. Prices are high, cell-phone coverage is sparse, and the state capital, Juneau, isn’t even accessible by road. It’s wonderful in summer, but during winter there are only six hours of dim sun.
For the 737,000 people who call Alaska home, life can be a challenge most of the year. The economy relies heavily on energy extraction (80% of state revenue is from petroleum) and the federal government (subsidies and military spending), plus fishing and tourism.
Under the weight of great expectations and the glare of television cameras, delegates gathered last week for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa.
Global leaders, civil society and private sector representatives exchanged ideas on financing the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. The conversation represented a paradigm shift in how we think about development. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon spoke of a world, “in which both the global population and resource constraints are growing,” and consequently one in which, “development finance needs a reboot.”
When it comes to understanding the needs and behaviors of low-income people, the financial inclusion literature is full of contradictions. Experts celebrate poor people for their complex, active financial lives, but then seek to educate them financially. Researchers document how resilient and purposeful their informal practices are, but then investigate ways to protect them against their own financial habits. Giving the poor a wide range of financial choices is an admirable goal, but do we really need to “nudge” them to change behaviors, as if the choice had already been made for them?
If you’re a regular visitor to Worldbank.org, you might notice something different today – especially if you’re using your phone: We work better!
The release of the joint statement “From Billions to Trillions: Transforming Development Finance” at the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings is one of the most satisfying moments during my two-year tenure as Managing Director and World Bank Group CFO.
My one regret is that the title should have been Billions for Trillions.
Over the last 20 years, economic growth has helped to lift almost a billion people out of extreme poverty. But 1 billion people are still extremely poor. 1.1 billion live without electricity and 2.5 billion people without access to sanitation. For them, growth has not been inclusive enough.
In addition, growth has come at the expense of the environment. While environmental degradation affects everyone, the poor are more vulnerable to violent weather, floods, and a changing climate.
Development experts, policymakers, and institutions like the World Bank have learned a major lesson: If we want to succeed in ending poverty, growth needs to be inclusive and sustainable.
Turkey has radically transformed its land title registration system, and decreased the turnaround time for recording property transactions to just two hours.
I remember my first visit to the agency in 2007. The agency is heavily staffed (15,000), has more than 100 branches and its main headquarters had once almost fallen apart. In my first visit, the head of the agency gave me a nice surprise: he showed me a land book that dated back to the 18th century, and included a record of my great-great-grandfather’s land title in Palestine.
The head of the agency had great plans to transform the agency by improving land records, introducing computerization and integrating the system into the overall e-government program, and setting a time limit of one day to register land transactions. Based on that an ambitious reform agenda, we worked together over a few months’ ‘time to prepare the cadastre modernization project. The Bank partly financed this reform through a $100 million loan, while the Turkish government funded the rest of the program. The project started in 2007, and I moved on to other positions later that year.
This time I had a second surprise. The institution is completely transformed. The main office has been completely and beautifully renovated. It now resembles any other government office in the US or Europe. The agency presented its achievements. It was amazing to see what had been accomplished in 8 years. The government is about to complete the renovation of the cadastre and the computerization of all land records, including historical records from Ottoman times. Service delivery has improved dramatically, with property transactions now being registered within 2 hours. They also integrated cadastre registration into the overall e-government program, which allows any Turkish citizen to access the record of their land/property online. Above all, customer satisfaction has reached 97% — something unheard of for land agencies, often known to be among the most corrupt agencies in many countries.
There is a growing consensus that a new approach is needed to meet the financial needs of developing countries to ensure sustainable, inclusive and resilient growth paths. We all know that Official Development Assistance (ODA) finance is limited and cannot address the massive investment needs of countries. In addition to increased domestic resource mobilization, the more effective engagement of a variety of players, especially from private sector, NGOs, and philanthropic organizations, will be key to close the finance gap.
When I was a teenager, I went hiking in the French Alps. When I arrived at the top, the view was magnificent. It was like a picture postcard with the sun glimmering off the snow under a clear, blue sky.