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Ending poverty requires more than growth, says WBG

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Ending poverty requires more than growth, says WBG
Source: World Bank

While economic growth remains vital for reducing poverty, growth has its limits, according to a new World Bank paper released today. Countries need to complement efforts to enhance growth with policies that allocate more resources to the extreme poor. These resources can be distributed through the growth process itself, by promoting more inclusive growth, or through government programs, such as conditional and direct cash transfers.

In addition, the paper notes, it is imperative not just to lift people out of extreme poverty; it is also important to make sure that, in the long run, they do not get stuck just above the extreme poverty line due to a lack of opportunities that might impede progress toward better livelihoods.

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Taking on the Rising Death Toll from Traffic & Pollution

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Taking on the Rising Death Toll from Traffic & Pollution
Source: World Bank

+ The annual death toll linked to road transportation is higher than many policy makers realize, reaching at least 1.5 million people worldwide and rising, according to a new analysis.

+ The report, Transport for Health, counts the number of lives lost to road crashes and, for the first time, also quantifies deaths related to vehicle pollution.

+ It offers practical actions countries can take now to improve transportation, air quality, and road safety data.

Inside Inequality in the Arab Republic of Egypt : Facts and Perceptions across People, Time, and Space

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Inside Inequality in the Arab Republic of Egypt : Facts and Perceptions across People, Time, and Space
Source: World Bank

This book joins four papers prepared in the framework of the Egypt inequality study financed by the World Bank. The first paper prepared by Sherine Al-Shawarby reviews the studies on inequality in Egypt since the 1950s with the double objective of illustrating the importance attributed to inequality through time and of presenting and compare the main published statistics on inequality. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such a comprehensive review is carried. The second paper prepared by Branko Milanovic turns to the global and spatial dimensions of inequality. The objective here is to put Egypt inequality in the global context and better understand the origin and size of spatial inequalities within Egypt using different forms of measurement across regions and urban and rural areas. The Egyptian society remains deeply divided across space and in terms of welfare and this study unveils some of the hidden features of this inequality. The third paper prepared by Paolo Verme studies facts and perceptions of inequality during the period 2000-2009, the period that preceded the Egyptian revolution. The objective of this part is to provide some initial elements that could explain the apparent mismatch between inequality measured with household surveys and inequality aversion measured by values surveys. No such study has been carried out before in the Middle-East and North-Africa (MENA) region and this seemed a particular important and timely topic to address in the light of the unfolding developments in the Arab region. The fourth paper prepared by Sahar El Tawila, May Gadallah and Enas Ali A. El-Majeed assesses the state of poverty and inequality among the poorest villages of Egypt. The paper attempts to explain the level of inequality in an effort to disentangle those factors that derive from household abilities from those factors that derive from local opportunities. This is the first time that such study is conducted in Egypt. The book should be of interest to any observer of the political and economic evolution of the Arab region in the past few years and to poverty and inequality specialists that wish to have a deeper understanding of the distribution of incomes in Egypt and other countries in the MENA region.

Reforms in Land Use and Local Finances Will Help Make China’s Urbanization More Efficient

March 27, 2014 Comments off

Reforms in Land Use and Local Finances Will Help Make China’s Urbanization More Efficient
Source: World Bank

  • In the last 30 years, urbanization helped lift half a billion people in China out of poverty
  • Urban strains caused by inefficient urban sprawl are showing
  • New report lays out comprehensive reform agenda toward efficient, inclusive and sustainable urbanization

Asia — Energizing Green Cities: Solutions to Meet Demand and Spark Economic Growth

March 21, 2014 Comments off

Energizing Green Cities: Solutions to Meet Demand and Spark Economic Growth
Source: World Bank

Cities in Southeast Asia (SEA) are growing twice as fast as the rest of the world and by 2030, it is expected that 70 percent of SEA population will live in cities. Worldwide, cities account for around two-thirds of global energy demand and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While cities have always been the engines of economic growth, now they also hold the key to a sustainable development in SEA. Given their size and dynamic growth, SEA cities today have a unique opportunity to also become global engines of green growth by choosing energy-efficient solutions for their infrastructure needs.

Improving energy efficiency isn’t just good for the environment; it’s good for economic growth, says a World Bank report, “Energizing Green Cities in Southeast Asia – Applying Sustainable Urban Energy and Emissions Planning.” According to the report, there is a clear correlation between investments in energy efficient solutions in infrastructure and economic growth, based on a study of three cities – Da Nang in Vietnam, Surabaya in Indonesia and Cebu City in the Philippines. By improving energy efficiency and reducing GHG emissions, cities not only help the global environment, but they also support local economic development through productivity gains, reduced pollution, and more efficient use of resources.

Social Gains in the Balance : A Fiscal Policy Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean

March 11, 2014 Comments off

Social Gains in the Balance : A Fiscal Policy Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean
Source: World Bank

In 2012, the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region continued its successful drive to reduce poverty and build the middle class. The proportion of the region’s 600 million people living in extreme poverty, defined in the region as life on less than $2.50 a day, was cut in half between 2003 and 2012 to 12.3 percent. Reflecting the upward mobility out of poverty, households vulnerable to falling back into poverty became the largest group in LAC in 2005, and represent almost 38 percent of the population. However, in the last two years, the share of vulnerable households has started to decline. The middle class, currently 34.3 percent of the population, is growing rapidly and is projected to replace the vulnerable as the largest economic group in LAC by 2016. The Southern Cone region (including Brazil) continued to be the most dynamic region and the main driver of poverty reduction in LAC, while poverty in Central America and Mexico proved more stubborn. About 68 percent of poverty reduction between 2003 and 2012 was driven by economic growth, with the remaining 32 percent arising from decline in inequality. Overall, equality of access to basic childhood goods and services has improved in recent years. Yet access can be further improved, and serious issues remain concerning the quality of those goods and services, particularly in education and housing infrastructure. Moreover, access increases with parental education and income or assets, reflecting low intergenerational mobility in many countries in the region. As with poverty reduction, most of the progress in equality of access since 2000 has come in the Southern Cone and the Andean regions, while many of Central America’s countries managed only small improvements. There are also severe differences at the subnational level and between urban and rural areas, highlighting the need to strengthen the capacity of local governments to deliver high quality basic services to all their citizens.

International Debt Statistics 2014

March 3, 2014 Comments off

International Debt Statistics 2014
Source: World Bank

International Debt Statistics (IDS) 2014 is a continuation of the World Bank’s publications Global Development Finance, Volume II (1997 through 2009) and the earlier World Debt Tables (1973 through 1996). IDS 2014 provides statistical tables showing the external debt of 128 developing countries that report public and publicly guaranteed external debt to the World Bank’s Debtor Reporting System (DRS). It also includes tables of key debt ratios for individual reporting countries and the composition of external debt stocks and flows for individual reporting countries and regional and income groups along with some graphical presentations.

IDS 2014 draws on a database maintained by the World Bank External Debt (WBXD) system. Longer time series and more detailed data are available from the World Bank open databases, which contain more than 200 time series indicators, covering the years 1970 to 2012 for most reporting countries, and pipeline data for scheduled debt service payments on existing commitments to 2019.

International Debt Statistics 2014 is unique in its coverage of the important trends and issues fundamental to the financing of the developing world. This report is an indispensable resource for governments, economists, investors, financial consultants, academics, bankers, and the entire development community.

In addition, International Debt Statistics will showcase the broader spectrum of debt data collected and compiled by the World Bank. These include the high frequency, quarterly external debt database (QEDS) and the quarterly public sector database (QPSD) developed in partnership with the International Monetary Fund and launched by the World Bank.

How gender affects life choices among Bulgarian Roma

February 22, 2014 Comments off

How gender affects life choices among Bulgarian Roma
Source: World Bank

+ Roma represent a large ethnic minority in Bulgaria, but it is not a homogeneous group – as many as 60 different Roma groups live in the country with different culture, traditions and religion.

+ Roma are one of the poorest populations in Bulgaria. As many as one in three Roma live in extreme poverty earning less than $4.30 a day, compared to just one in twenty among the rest of the population.

+ But poverty is not the only challenge: traditional social norms, including gender roles, are changing and tensions between those who seek to cope by adopting new roles and those who want to preserve traditional roles and values are emerging.

Urbanization as Opportunity

February 21, 2014 Comments off

Urbanization as Opportunity (PDF)
Source: World Bank (forthcoming)

The developing world already packs 2.6 billion people into its relatively dense cities. In 100 years, it could have three times as many urban residents. As their per capita income grows, they will they will also demand more land, perhaps twice as much per person as they do today. Governments can accommodate this increased demand either with a sixfold increase in the average built area of existing cities or with a combined strategy of expanding existing cities and developing entirely new cities. The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which guided a sevenfold increase in the built area of New York City, shows that a government can manage successful urban expansion on the required scale if it implements a plan that is narrow but strong. China’s development of Shenzhen shows that a government can use a new city to unleash systemic reform. The next few decades offer a unique opportunity to speed up progress by following these examples.

Gender at Work

February 20, 2014 Comments off

Gender at Work (PDF)
Source: World Bank

A companion to the 2013 World Development Report on jobs, Gender at Work finds huge, persistent gender gaps at work around the world. This major new report advances our understanding of key trends, patterns, and constraints-and offers innovative, promising approaches to policies and programs that can level the playing field.

Raising More Fish to Meet Rising Demand

February 18, 2014 Comments off

Raising More Fish to Meet Rising Demand
Source: World Bank

+ A new World Bank report estimates that in 2030, 62% of the seafood we eat will be farm-raised to meet growing demand from regions such as Asia, where roughly 70% of fish will be consumed. China will produce 37% of the world’s fish, while consuming 38% of world’s food fish.

+ By producing more seafood that is affordable and rich in nutrition, aquaculture can help improve food security and livelihoods for the world’s poorest.

+ The rise in seafood demand gives countries the opportunity to expand and improve responsible fish and shellfish farming practices.

Paying Taxes 2014

February 18, 2014 Comments off

Paying Taxes 2014 (PDF)
Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers/World Bank

Paying Taxes 2014 is a unique study from PwC and the World Bank Group. The study investigates and compares tax regimes across 189 economies worldwide using a case study company, and ranks them according to the ease of paying taxes.

Latin America: Entrepreneurs’ lack of innovation curbs creation of quality jobs

December 19, 2013 Comments off

Latin America: Entrepreneurs’ lack of innovation curbs creation of quality jobs
Source: World Bank

  • Latin America is a region of entrepreneurs, with over half the workforce employed by small businesses.
  • A chronic lack of innovation in the region is stifling business growth and competitivity.
  • The region needs to establish an environment which enables entrepreneurs to emerge, compete and innovate.

Foreign Investors Increasingly Cautious amidst Ongoing Global Turbulence, MIGA Finds

December 10, 2013 Comments off

Foreign Investors Increasingly Cautious amidst Ongoing Global Turbulence, MIGA Finds
Source: World Bank (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency)

Foreign investors are increasingly cautious about investing in developing countries in the face of continued global economic and political turbulence, finds the World Investment and Political Risk 2013 report published by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). A survey conducted for the report finds that macroeconomic instability and political risk rank neck-and-neck as top concerns for investors as they plan over the short and medium terms. Despite this, the survey finds nearly half of respondents expect to increase their investments in developing countries over the next 12 months—with that number increasing to 70 percent when the horizon is extended for three years.

The fifth annual MIGA-EIU Political Risk Survey finds that breach of contract and regulatory risks once again top survey respondents’ political risk concerns. Survey results show that these concerns are based on actual experience as well as sentiment.

World Investment and Political Risk 2013 notes that the continued level of investor caution has been a boon for the political risk insurance industry. The dramatic increase in political risk insurance issuance of recent years has continued, rising 33 percent in 2012 and on track for similar growth in 2013.

Political risk insurance issuance has once again exceeded the pace of increase in FDI flows into developing economies over the same period. The report notes the ratio of FDI to PRI now stands at 14.2 percent for developing economies, a marked increase on the low-water mark of nearly 5 percent in 1997.

More Settlements Reached in Foreign Bribery Cases, but Only 3% of Penalties Goes Back to Affected Countries

December 3, 2013 Comments off

More Settlements Reached in Foreign Bribery Cases, but Only 3% of Penalties Goes Back to Affected Countries
Source: World Bank and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

A new report by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) highlights the increase in enforcement actions to counter foreign bribery and the growing prevalence of settlements – that is, any resolution short of a full-scale trial – to conclude such cases and impose monetary sanctions.

The study, “Left out of the Bargain,” looks into the scope and value of settlements in 395 foreign bribery cases that took place between 1999 and mid-2012. StAR’s research examined cases in which the country where the legal settlements took place was different from the country where the bribery occurred.

The study illustrates how little money has been returned or ordered returned to the countries whose officials were alleged to have been bribed. According to the report, only 3 percent (US $197 million out of US $5.8 billion) was returned to those countries.

Robust action to counter foreign bribery is a key factor in the global fight against corruption. The return of stolen assets to their legitimate owners and the compensation to affected parties are vital components of that effort.

Food Prices Decline but Remain High

December 2, 2013 Comments off

Food Prices Decline but Remain High
Source: World Bank

Global food prices declined by 6 percent over the last quarter, but are still not far from their historical peaks, according to the World Bank Group’s latest Food Price Watch report. Wheat markets remain tight; and weather-related concerns in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation may further drive up wheat prices over the next few months.

Domestic prices showed typically large variations across countries, mainly attributable to seasonal trends but also due to a combination of factors including bad weather, public procurement policies, local supply shortfalls and currency devaluations.

Risking Your Health : Causes, Consequences, and Interventions to Prevent Risky Behaviors

November 22, 2013 Comments off

Risking Your Health : Causes, Consequences, and Interventions to Prevent Risky Behaviors
Source: World Bank

Behaviors that pose risks for an individual’s health and that also represent important threats for public health, such as drug use, smoking, alcohol, unhealthy eating causing obesity, and unsafe sex, are highly prevalent in low income countries, even though they are traditionally associated with richer countries.

Individual choices are an important part of the risky behaviors. Risking Your Health: Causes, Consequences, and Interventions to Prevent Risky Behaviors explore how those choices are formed and what are their consequences. Why do people engage in risky behaviors? Many different explanations have been proposed by psychology, sociology, economics or public health. One trait common to all these behaviors is that there is a disconnect – a function of both delay and uncertainty – between the pleasure or satisfaction provided by them and their consequences.

Another characteristic of risky behaviors is that they rarely occur in isolation. Peer-pressure, parental influences, networks and social norms often play an important role in initiating, continuing, or quitting those behaviors. Even if they might often be the first to suffer, the consequences of risky behaviors are also rarely limited to the individuals engaging in them. In certain cases, such as second-hand smoking or HIV transmission, the link is direct. In other cases, the link is less direct but not necessarily less real: the long term health consequences of many of these behaviors are costly to treat and could stretch households’ finances and worsen poverty. Finally, these risky behaviors have consequences for society as a whole since they often trigger a non-trivial amount of public health expenditures and lead to declines in aggregate productivity through premature death and morbidity.

Changing behaviors is tricky — public health interventions via legislation with strong enforcement mechanisms can be more effective than simple communication campaigns informing consumers about the risks associated with certain behaviors, since translating knowledge into concrete changes in behavior seems to be hard to achieve. Economic mechanisms such as taxes (especially on alcohol and tobacco products), subsidies (such as free condoms), and conditional/unconditional cash transfers are also used to reduce risky behaviors (for example in HIV prevention). Of great interest to policy makers, academics and practitioners, this book assesses the efficiency of those interventions designed to reduce the prevalence of behaviors that endanger health.

Global Financial Development Report 2014 : Financial Inclusion

November 14, 2013 Comments off

Global Financial Development Report 2014 : Financial Inclusion
Source: World Bank

Financial inclusion has become a major subject of interest among policymakers, researchers, and other financial sector stakeholders. Many countries, for example, have recently adopted explicit financial inclusion strategies with targets for financial inclusion. The interest reflects an increased recognition that financial inclusion can be a driver of economic growth and poverty alleviation, and that many individuals and firms are excluded unnecessarily from even basic financial services. About half of the world’s adult population— more than 2.5 billion people—have no bank account is one powerful example. Barriers such as cost, travel distance, and amount of paperwork and requirements play an important role. Many of these barriers can be addressed by better policies.

Despite the high interest, there are still important gaps in knowledge about financial inclusion, what drives it, and what policies affect it. And while recent years have seen some increases in financial inclusion, there is still much scope to reduce barriers to access. However, one of the challenges is that efforts to increase inclusion, if not implemented well, can backfire. Deeply ingrained social problems cannot be resolved purely with an infusion of debt. If not done properly, it can have the opposite effect, making poor borrowers increasingly dependent on debt, and even contributing to financial instability.

Global Financial Development Report 2014: Financial Inclusion is a new report from the World Bank Group. It takes a step back and re-examines financial inclusion from the perspective of new global datasets and new evidence. It builds on a critical mass of new research and operational work produced by World Bank Group staff as well as outside researchers and contributors. The report, the second in this series, follows up on the inaugural issue, the Global Financial Development Report 2013: Rethinking the Role of the State in Finance (http://www.worldbank.org/financialdevelopment).

Accompanying the Global Financial Development Report 2014 is a vast body of underlying research and data. Among other things, this includes an expanded and updated version of the Global Financial Development Database, a dataset of over 70 financial system characteristics for 203 economies from 1960 to 2011, which is presented in the report’s appendix.

Protecting Snow and Ice Critical for Development, Climate

November 13, 2013 Comments off

Protecting Snow and Ice Critical for Development, Climate
Source: World Bank

Each year, the snow line on the Himalayan and Andean mountain slopes continues to creep up, exposing brown dirt where 50 years ago there was always snow. Communities downstream from those majestic peaks now watch as big lakes formed by melting glaciers cause catastrophic floods in some areas, while lack of snow melt lead to crippling drought in others.

At the same time, 4 million people perish each year from the smoke they inhale from open-fire cooking – soot that also rises into the atmosphere and speeds up the melting of ice and snow.

Pollution from open fires and diesel engines (known as black carbon), and methane gas released from livestock, landfills and mining operations; are some of the pollutants scientists say must quickly be curtailed to protect human welfare and tackle climate change.

A new scientific report shows that by moving rapidly to reduce such short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP), we could slow the warming in critical snow and ice-covered regions with multiple benefits as a result.

Pirate Trails: Tracking the Illicit Financial Flows from Piracy off the Horn of Africa

November 5, 2013 Comments off

Pirate Trails: Tracking the Illicit Financial Flows from Piracy off the Horn of Africa
Source: World Bank

It is estimated that more than US$400 million was claimed in ransoms for pirate acts between April 2005 and December 2012 and 179 ships were hijacked off the coast of Somalia and the Horn of Africa during that time.

Twenty first century Somali Piracy not only creates problems in the region, but also has a global impact. Unchallenged piracy is not only a menace to political stability and a threat to international security, but it also undermines global growth prospects going forward. Up until now, little attention has been paid to tracking and disrupting the financial flows from piracy.

This study by the International Criminal Police Organization, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and World Bank attempts to understand the illicit financial flows from pirate activities off the Horn of Africa. The study focused on: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Seychelles, and Somalia.

The study (i) analyzes how much money is collected in ransom payments; (ii) how and to whom this money – the proceeds of piracy – are distributed; (iii) how these proceeds may be invested.

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