News Feed

IMF News

Jamaica: IMF Staff Reaches Staff Level Agreement on Fourth Review for Stand-by Arrangement

26 min 59 sec ago

Blog: Chart of the Week: Inequality in China

1 hour ago

Blog: Asia Needs More Access to Financial Services to Grow

1 hour ago

Blog: Women in Finance: An Economic Case for Gender Equality

1 hour ago

IMF Staff Concludes Visit to Nairobi to Meet the Somali Authorities

3 hours 41 min ago

Statement by the IMF Managing Director on Georgia

19 hours 4 min ago

Transcript of IMF Press Briefing

19 hours 39 min ago

IMF Staff Concludes Visit to Moldova

1 day 2 hours ago

Chile: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2018 Article IV Mission

1 day 3 hours ago

Financial Inclusion in Asia-Pacific

3 days 13 hours ago
Departmental Paper No. 18/17

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with Norway

3 days 23 hours ago

The Helen Alexander Lecture: The Case for the Sustainable Development Goals

4 days 4 hours ago

United Kingdom Article IV Press Conference

4 days 5 hours ago

United Kingdom: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2018 Article IV Mission

4 days 9 hours ago

Women in Finance: A Case for Closing Gaps

4 days 13 hours ago
Staff Discussion Notes No. 18/05

Norway : 2018 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Norway

4 days 13 hours ago
Country Report No. 18/279

Norway : Selected Issues

4 days 13 hours ago
Country Report No. 18/280

Republic of Kazakhstan : 2018 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; and Staff Report

4 days 14 hours ago
Country Report No. 18/277

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with the Republic of Kazakhstan

4 days 14 hours ago

Republic of Kazakhstan : Selected Issues

5 days 13 hours ago
Country Report No. 18/278

Ragnarök: Iceland’s Crisis, its Successful Stabilization Program, and the Role of the IMF

6 days 2 hours ago

IMF Staff Completes Visit to Central African Republic

6 days 21 hours ago

Opening Remarks by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde at the Center for Global Development Book Launch Event

6 days 23 hours ago

Blog: Welcome to e-Estonia: Where Virtual Residents Outnumber Newborns

1 week 3 hours ago

A Financial Union for the Euro Area

1 week 4 hours ago

Systemic Banking Crises Revisited

1 week 13 hours ago
Working Paper No. 18/206

Portugal: Recovery and Risks

1 week 22 hours ago

Fiji Implements the IMF’s Enhanced General Data Dissemination System

1 week 1 day ago

Guidance Note for the Use of Third-Party Indicators in Fund Reports

1 week 1 day ago

Managing Debt Vulnerabilities in Low-Income Countries

1 week 1 day ago

Blog: Top 5 Blogs on Finance

1 week 1 day ago

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with the Russian Federation

1 week 1 day ago

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with Austria

1 week 2 days ago

Russian Federation : 2018 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report

1 week 2 days ago
Country Report No. 18/275

Russian Federation : Selected Issues

1 week 2 days ago
Country Report No. 18/276

Gabon : Second Review of the Extended Arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility, Request for Waivers of Nonobservance of Performance Criteria and Waivers of Applicability, and Financing Assurances Review-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by th

1 week 2 days ago
Country Report No. 18/269

Estimating the Corporate Income Tax Gap : The RA-GAP Methodology

1 week 2 days ago

Portugal : 2018 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Portugal

1 week 2 days ago
Country Report No. 18/273

Portugal : Selected Issues

1 week 2 days ago
Country Report No. 18/274

Austria : 2018 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Austria

1 week 2 days ago
Country Report No. 18/272

Blog: Steering the World Toward More Cooperation, Not Less

1 week 2 days ago

Blog: Ten Years After Lehman—Lessons Learned and Challenges Ahead

1 week 2 days ago

The Fiscal Cost of Conflict: Evidence from Afghanistan 2005-2016

1 week 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 18/204

Carbon Taxation for International Maritime Fuels: Assessing the Options

1 week 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 18/203

Cross-Border Credit Intermediation and Domestic Liquidity Provision in a Small Open Economy

1 week 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 18/202

External Audit Arrangements at Central Banks

1 week 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 18/199

Fintech, Inclusive Growth and Cyber Risks: Focus on the MENAP and CCA Regions

1 week 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 18/201

Macroprudential Stress Tests and Policies: Searching for Robust and Implementable Frameworks

1 week 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 18/197

Managing Reductions in Aid Inflows: Assessing Policy Choices in Haiti

1 week 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 18/198

Dollarization and Financial Development

1 week 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 18/200

An Imperfect Financial Union With Heterogeneous Regions

1 week 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 18/205

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with the Republic of the Marshall Islands

1 week 3 days ago

Republic of the Marshall Islands : 2018 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for the Republic of the Marshall Islands

1 week 4 days ago
Country Report No. 18/270

Republic of the Marshall Islands : Selected Issues

1 week 4 days ago
Country Report No. 18/271

IMF Reaches Staff-Level Agreement with Barbados on an Economic Program under the Extended Fund Facility

1 week 6 days ago

OECD News - Corruption

Brochure - OECD work on taxation

1 week 3 days ago
This brochure highlights the key areas of work of the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration and the various groups that it serves.

Armenia should take vigorous measures against entrenched corruption

2 weeks 3 days ago
Armenia should take vigorous measures to tackle entrenched corruption and widespread conflict of interest, according to a new OECD report.

OECD News - Economy

OECD sees global growth moderating as uncertainties intensify

1 day 7 hours ago
The global economic expansion appears to have peaked, with diverging growth prospects worldwide and intensifying risks, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Outlook.

G20 GDP Growth - Second quarter of 2018, OECD

4 days 3 hours ago
G20 GDP growth nudges up to 1.0% in the second quarter of 2018

Speeding up economic catch-up in the BRIICS with better governance and more education

4 days 5 hours ago
Economic research has established that a large part of income disparities between poor and rich countries can be attributed to differences in governance and in the quantity and quality of human capital.

Boosting investment in Greece

4 days 8 hours ago
Aggregate investment has declined markedly over the crisis and has yet to recover. Reviving domestic and foreign investment is crucial to supporting the economic recovery, deepen Greece’s integration into global value chains and raising living standards.

Cyclical vs structural effects on health care expenditure trends in OECD countries

4 days 8 hours ago
Health care expenditure per person, after accounting for changes in overall price levels, began to slow in many OECD countries in the early-to-mid 2000s, well before the economic and fiscal crisis.

Generating employment, raising incomes and addressing poverty in Greece

4 days 8 hours ago
Employment is pivotal to strengthening Greece’s economic recovery, increasing social welfare and redressing poverty.

Design of insolvency regimes across countries

1 week 3 days ago
This paper explores cross-country differences in the design of insolvency regimes, based on quantitative indicators constructed from countries’ responses to a recent OECD policy questionnaire.

Statistical Insights: An x-ray view of inflation

1 week 3 days ago
Inflation may be present in some parts of an economy but not others. Contributions to annual inflation show how much different product groups contribute to overall inflation in a given year.

Composite Leading Indicators (CLI), OECD, September 2018

1 week 4 days ago
Easing growth momentum in the OECD area

OECD News - Finance

2018 OECD/IOPS Global Forum on Private Pensions

0 sec ago
25-26 October 2018, Beijing, China - The 2018 Global Forum is entitled “Designing pension systems to cope with the ageing challenge” and is jointly organised by the OECD, the International Organisation of Pension Supervisors (IOPS) and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), China.

OECD-Russia symposium on financial literacy

0 sec ago
4-5 October 2018, Moscow, Russian Federation: The symposium will focus on innovative implementation approaches to deliver global progress on financial literacy.

OECD INFE core competencies framework on financial literacy for MSMEs

3 days 5 hours ago
This document contains a high-level, outcome-based, internationally relevant, core competencies framework on financial literacy for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and potential entrepreneurs. It highlights a range of outcomes that may be important to sustain or improve their financial literacy.

Joint Seminar on Financing Quality Infrastructure for Long-Term Investment and Mobilising Private Sector Capital

1 week 2 days ago
This joint Seminar on "Financing Quality Infrastructure for Long-Term Investment and Mobilising Private Sector Capital" is organised together with the Ministry of Finance of Japan and will place on 12-13 September 2018, in Tokyo, Japan

Seminar on Quality Infrastructure Investment

1 week 2 days ago
This seminar, jointly organised by the OECD and the Ministry of Finance of Japan, will address quality infrastructure investment, governance, planning and technology issues as well as data collection and benchmarking for quality infrastructure. It is taking place on 12-13 September 2018, in Tokyo, Japan.

Mr. Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, in Vienna on 7-8 September 2018

2 weeks 1 day ago
Mr. Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, was in Vienna on 7-8 September 2018 to attend the Eurogroup Meeting / Informal Meeting of Economic and Financial Affairs Ministers (ECOFIN).

The World Bank - Blog

Women rise to unlock opportunities for SDG implementation

0 sec ago
Lucy Odiwa, an entrepreneur in Tanzania whose firm, promotes safer and more sustainable methods for handling menstrual health hygiene management (MHM) won the first place in the SDGs&Her competition. © Womenchoice Industries

Visit any community and you will see women breathing life into every part of the economy and society, be it in agriculture, healthcare, marketing, sales, manufacturing, or invention. [[tweetable]]Through their presence in every walk of life, women make significant contributions to the 2030 Agenda[[/tweetable]], including its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the most ambitious set of goals that the international community has ever set for itself
 
However, [[tweetable]]despite representing 50% of the population, women remain over-represented among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable groups and under-represented as leaders and drivers of change.[[/tweetable]] The lack of recognition of women’s contributions, particularly through their businesses and economic activities, has severely limited their access to finance, new markets and knowledge – necessary for economic growth and poverty reduction.

To recognize women entrepreneurs who support the implementation of the SDGs, and to share best practices and innovative ideas, the World Bank Group, in partnership with UNDP, UN Women, and the Wharton School Zicklin Center, launched the SDGs&Her initiative in April 2018. Through an online competition, we invited women entrepreneurs who own micro-enterprises from all around the world to compete by sharing how their businesses support one or more SDGs. The competition closed with more than 1,200 submissions from 88 countries, and two lucky winners.  
 
The first-place winner is Lucy Odiwa, an entrepreneur in Tanzania’s port city of Tanga. Her firm, Womenchoice Industries promotes safer and more sustainable methods for handling menstrual health hygiene management (MHM). It has produced and distributed over 1,000,000 reusable sanitary pads, dubbed “Salama Pads,” to over 20,000 schoolgirls aged 13-19 years and has empowered 6,000 local community women by teaching them how to produce the pads. Lucy’s firm also provides MHM information and service delivery in local schools, with the aim of improving school retention and academic performance among girls who often stay home while menstruating and reducing unnecessary physiological and social distress that often comes with discussing menstruation in public spaces. Lucy's business addresses SDG3 (Good health and well-being) and SDG4 (Quality education).
 
Some 1,000 km to the northwest, in neighboring Kenya, entrepreneur Charlot Magayi, who is fighting indoor pollution – secured the second-place spot. Charlot’s firm, Mukuru Clean Stoves, produces improved, reliable and affordable cook stoves from recycled waste metals. These stoves decrease fuel consumption by over 30 percent, reduce toxic smoke emissions by more than 50 percent, and are 75 percent cheaper than those that burn wood, charcoal and agricultural wastes. Charlot's work reduces pollution (SDG13) and enhances decent work conditions (SDG8) for women who work or cook at home.
 
MHM and air pollution, like many other challenges, are not confined to Kenya or Tanzania, but are global problems that affect millions of people across Africa and beyond. A UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle, while a study from UNICEF revealed that 1 out of 3 girls in South Asia knew nothing about menstruation prior to experiencing it for the first time. Furthermore, an estimated 7 million people die every year from exposure to toxic levels of pollution, according to a WHO report.
 
Addressing these and other challenges, which are reflected in the SDGs, will require all stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, civil society, international organizations, and citizens around the world, to work together. Women, in particular, must play a major role if we empower them and provide them with equal access to finance and knowledge.
 
We are flying Lucy and Charlot to New York City during the high-level week of the UN General Assembly in September to showcase their achievements and inspire other women entrepreneurs around the world. They will be introduced in a special side-event, which will be attended by the UN Member States representatives, UN agencies, and civil society groups, with the hope that their entrepreneurial spirit and innovation can spread to other corners of the world.
 
While 2030 may seem like the distant future, it is fast-approaching. To accelerate our efforts to achieve this ambitious agenda, we must be relentless in our work now and in the coming year. For their part, Lucy plans to promote access to quality menstrual hygiene management, information, products, and services to 2.3 million women and girls, while Charlot plans to supply cook-stoves to over 2 million households in the developing world and create jobs for 600 women and 400 men.

Operationalizing gender based violence risk prevention and mitigation under Kenya DRDIP

5 hours 10 min ago
Somali refugee women gather at Dadaab's Women's Centre, Kenya. They receive training and social support here, through a gender-based violence prevention programme implemented by the International Red Cross. © UNHCR/Georgina Goodwin


When considering support for refugees and their host communities, gender based violence (GBV) is a great concern that requires special care and attention.

Unfortunately, violence against women and girls is all too common in many countries across the globe. Drivers of GBV include entrenched social norms that perpetuate power imbalances between men and women, and more generally circumscribe women’s agency and voice in communities and in the home. Despite a recent increase in reporting, data suggest that 45 percent of women who have experienced GBV did not seek help or tell anyone, and there are striking regional differences.


Gender inequalities and risks of GBV are particularly pronounced in refugee hosting communities. Across the Horn of Africa, where we are supporting the Kenya Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP), daily interactions between hosts and refugee communities imply complex and fluid dynamics. The interactions range from refugee-host, employer-employee, trader-consumer, marriage-friendship, patron-client (including survival sex) to master-servant and perpetrator-survivor.

The Social Assessment conducted for Kenya DRDIP revealed that specific efforts would be required to reach women and girls in communities hosting refugees in Garissa, Wajir, and Turkana counties in Kenya as part of project interventions. This is to ensure that women and girls are aware of project activities, participate in the planning, implementation and oversight processes; and benefit from the investments in basic social services, economic opportunities, and environmental management – the focus areas of the project.
 
The project identified key intervention areas to include multiple modes of communication and outreach for awareness raising to ensure outreach to women and girls; creating an enabling environment for women’s participation by enlisting support of village elders and others respected and trusted by community; inclusive community meetings ensuring substantial presence of women or separate meetings for women when required; and quotas for women beneficiaries of 50 percent in livelihoods support.
 
Early into project design and implementation of the Kenya DRDIP, we realized that there were many questions that we needed to ask: What was the relationship between potential GBV-related safety risks and subproject interventions in the three key investment areas of the project? Also, how could subprojects be designed to reduce exposure to GBV for women and girls in the target communities?  
 
While enhanced women’s participation in implementation and benefits was envisaged, and there was a commitment from the government to address GBV risks during implementation, there was much that we had to learn.  
 
This led us to adjust existing and proposed interventions, and particular attention to issues such as (i) safety and security risks for particular groups in the target communities were identified, (ii) age-, gender-, and culturally appropriate ways to facilitate participation of groups in the planning, design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of programs were included in the Community Operations Manual – including women community facilitators, women only groups; (iii) community awareness, capacities and strengths of project beneficiary communities, implementing partners and government staff in preventing and reducing risks of GBV; and (iv) mapping of the existence of and gaps in services for survivors.
 
We specifically focused on developing practice notes that looked at specific actions within and across different subsector investments of the project to both prevent and mitigate GBV risks as well as indicators to monitor impacts of the proposed actions. We developed practice notes for six sectors - health, education, livelihoods, labor-intensive public works, energy, and water, sanitation and hygiene in collaboration with the National Project Implementation Unit and UNHCR.
 
We hope that these practice notes will help to ensure a GBV-risk informed implementation process for the Kenya DRDIP. Training of implementing agency staff at the national and county levels and staff of NGO Facilitating Partners is key, so that we can all contribute to address GBV risks.

Weekly links September 21: scholarship labels, designing for spillovers, does your paper have a bande dessinée version? And more...

5 hours 17 min ago

Re-awakening Kinshasa’s Splendor Through Targeted Urban Interventions

23 hours 4 min ago
The district of Gombe from above. Photo: Dina Ranarifidy/World Bank


While traveling from the Ndjili Airport to the city center of Kinshasa, you will be introduced to a unique urban experience. The ambient chaos, high traffic congestion and crowded streets may remind you of other African cities, but in Kinshasa—Kin as locals fondly refer to her—everything is larger, faster and louder than life.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital is a festival of the senses; a dynamic amalgam of people and places that mix the rich and poor, blending the activities of people with opportunities and people fighting for survival, where fancy multi-story buildings are erected just miles away from massive slums. Although poverty is apparent, the lust for life, the vibrancy of local cultures, and the vivid manifestation of cultural expressions thrive among the Kinois.

Africa’s largest megacity by 2030

With an estimated population of 12 million inhabitants in 2016, Kinshasa is the largest and fastest-growing urban agglomeration in Central Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo Urbanization Review, launched last year, revealed that, if the current urban growth rate of 5.1 per cent is sustained, Kinshasa is likely to host 30 million people by 2030. The city may soon overtake Lagos as Africa’s most populous city. This prospect presents an opportunity to reap potential economies of agglomeration.
 

A daily life in the streets of Kinshasa. Photo: Sameh Wahba/World Bank

Populations faced with multi-faceted urban exclusion

As a country urbanizes, geographic differences in living standards tend to converge. In Kinshasa, however, lack of infrastructure coupled with the city’s flood-prone morphology and poor urban management contribute to the spatial, economic and social exclusion of much of Kinshasa’s population.

Spatial exclusion. An estimated 6.4 percent of the city has planned and well-serviced neighborhoods. Get past the eight-lane divided highway that connects the city center to the airport, you will see many underserved neighborhoods in low elevations, limiting access to basic urban services. In addition, the lack of secure land and property rights, and inadequate planning and land development regulations leave the poor with no option but to settle in flood and erosion-prone areas, or in the under serviced outskirts of the city, increasing their exposure to natural hazards and climate-related risks. According to the Red Cross, the January 2018 heavy rains affected over 2,600 households.

Social exclusion. Spatial segregation has also aggravated social exclusion in the city. People living in spatially disconnected neighborhoods have limited opportunities to participate in local decision-making. The needs of such communities are not systematically considered in urban planning and service delivery, leading to increased social exclusion.  

Economic exclusion. Lack of access to the labor market is a key determinant of poverty in Kinshasa.  Inadequate road networks and transport supply excludes many people from participating in economic activities. In Kinshasa, about 80 percent of trips are made on foot, and only about 15 percent are by public transport, reducing significantly access work opportunities. At the same time, Kinshasa is amongst the most expensive cities in Africa, with prices about 40 percent higher than expected for its level of income and urbanization rate. Your 4-dollar regular cappuccino in a Washington café retails for at least twice as much in Kinshasa!
 

Waste is a sad reality in the precarious district of Matete in Kinshasa. Photo: Dina Ranarifidy/World Bank

Where to start?

The Urbanization Review proposes a policy framework focusing on institutions, infrastructure and interventions (3 Is) to help cities benefit from urbanization. Kinshasa, already at an advanced urbanization stage, requires investment across all three areas - better institutions, more connective infrastructure, and targeted interventions.

  • Institutions are the foundation for development. It is critical for Kinshasa to strengthen its institutional systems for urban planning and property rights. Planning institutions will help pace investments in a sequenced and coordinated way, to match emerging financing opportunities.
  • Infrastructure should be bolstered to ensure that planning and service delivery are based on strong institutional foundations. Breaking the cycle of underinvestment in infrastructure will require a major push to improve the functionality and livability of Kinshasa’s infrastructure. Improving roads and access to services where jobs are concentrated, while upgrading transportation services to expand the labor market pool is key. It will be critical to invest in services and amenities in poor, un-serviced neighborhoods. Yet, given limited investment capacity, the challenge resides in the sequencing and coordinating investments effectively across sectors and space.
  • Lastly, in addition to institutions and infrastructure, Kinshasa will need interventions and investments spatially targeted at priority areas. Well-located and serviced central areas with post-industrial infrastructure present important opportunities as centers for job creation and housing.

Kinshasa is at a crossroads. Decisions made today will influence the trajectory of the city for decades to come. If planning and land tenure institutions remain weak, with deficient investment in infrastructure, Kinshasa may well be on track to earning the dubious honor of the world’s largest slum by 2030.  But if institutional strengthening and infrastructure investments are properly undertaken, Kinshasa will become the prosperous African city it once was—a vibrant urban agglomeration that the Kinois are proud of. The flamboyant elegance of the Sapeurs will only be matched by the background of a prosperous and vibrant Kin la Belle.
 

RELATED

Here’s what everyone should know about waste

23 hours 12 min ago



[[tweetable]]Solid waste management is a universal issue that affects every single person in the world.[[/tweetable]]

As you can see in our new report, What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050, [[tweetable]]if we don’t manage waste properly, it can harm our health, our environment, and even our prosperity.[[/tweetable]]

Poorly managed waste is contaminating the world’s oceans, clogging drains and causing flooding, transmitting diseases, increasing respiratory problems from burning, harming animals that consume waste unknowingly, and affecting economic development such as through tourism.

Without urgent action, these issues will only get worse. Here’s what everyone should know.

 

First, rapid urbanization, population growth, and economic development will push global waste generation to increase by 70% over the next 30 years.

[[tweetable]]Each year, the world generates more than 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste. Without urgent action, this will increase by nearly three quarters to 3.4 billion tonnes over the next 30 years.[[/tweetable]]

East Asia generates about one quarter of the world’s waste, while waste generation is growing the fastest in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

While high-income countries account only for 16% of the global population, they generate over one-third of the world’s waste.


About this series
More blog posts
[To learn more about global trends and data on waste, visit www.worldbank.org/what-a-waste]

Second, in low-income countries, over 90% of waste is mismanaged – it is either openly dumped or burned.

Upper-middle and high-income countries provide nearly universal waste collection. In high-income countries, more than one-third of waste is recovered through recycling and composting.

[[tweetable]]Low-income countries only collect about half of waste in cities, and only about one quarter in rural areas. There is much to be done in collecting waste in low-income countries.[[/tweetable]]

Third, plastics are a profoundly difficult and complex problem.

[[tweetable]]In 2016, the world generated a whopping 242 million tonnes of plastic waste.[[/tweetable]]

We could make about 24 trillion plastic bottles out of it. Their water volume could fill up 4.8 million Olympic-size swimming pools.

Even when plastic waste is collected, many countries don’t have the capacity to process the waste, leading to dumping or mismanagement of it.

[[tweetable]]Plastics in rivers, waterways and oceans, are a particularly growing urgent problem. About 90% of marine debris is plastic.[[/tweetable]]

Waste is growing, but so, too, is the global momentum to find solutions to stem the tide and make waste management more sustainable.

Many solutions already exist. For example, [[tweetable]]there are different ways to curb plastic waste – by producing less, consuming less, and including plastics in overall waste management plans.[[/tweetable]]

The World Bank is increasingly working with developing countries worldwide to invest in sustainable waste management and address challenges related to infrastructure, governance, financing, and capacity.

Solid waste data and planning are also part of the solution. It is important to understand how much and what types of waste are generated – and where. This can help governments create more effective waste management policies and plans for the local context.

Waste management can be costly – it may be the single highest budget item for many local governments. However, [[tweetable]]it makes economic sense to properly manage waste.[[/tweetable]]

Uncollected waste and poorly disposed waste have significant health and environmental impacts.  The cost of addressing these impacts is many times higher than the cost of developing and operating simple, adequate waste management systems.

In an era of rapid urbanization and population growth, solid waste management is a critical piece for sustainable, healthy, and inclusive cities and communities. However, it is often put on the back burner when it comes to urban development.

If no action is taken, we’ll push ourselves and our children to live in a world with more waste and overwhelming pollution. Lives, livelihoods, and the environment would pay an even higher price than they are already.

We already know what needs to be done to reverse that trend. We just need all levels of society to take urgent action.

[[tweetable]]Sustainable waste management is everyone’s business. The time for action is now.[[/tweetable]]

READ MORE:

The economic case for investing in road safety

1 day 3 hours ago

Despite considerable progress in traffic enforcement and medical care, the road crash mortality rate in Thailand remains rather high and has been increasing since 2009. More than 24,000 people lose their lives on the road every year, and traffic injuries are a major public health burden for the country. The human toll and individual loss caused by this epidemic are clearly exposed by the media, and many organizations are actively advocating solutions for this important public concern.

However, there are also hidden costs of road traffic crashes on societies and economies, which are difficult to surmise from traditional traffic crash statistics. This is particularly relevant for a country like Thailand, which also faces a multitude of competing priorities in health and other development related challenges.

Most of the people who are killed or injured in road traffic crashes are in their most productive years, and it is the single largest cause of mortality and long-term disability among young people aged 15-29 in Thailand. But the precise effect of this premature loss of life and healthy years lived on the economic growth of the country has not been easy to assess. Existing estimates of the economic impact of road traffic injuries in the developing world are imprecise and rely on extrapolation from high-income countries. This knowledge gap undermines the ability of governments to set effective budget priorities to address road safety in health, transport and urban planning.

To bridge this gap, a recent World Bank report “The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable,” funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, estimates the economic growth impact of road safety and analyses the cases of China, India, the Philippines, Tanzania and Thailand. The work is part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety which has dedicated 259 million USD over 12 years to implement interventions that have been proven to reduce road traffic fatalities and injuries in low- and middle-income countries. The report shows that, over time, sharply reducing the number of road traffic injuries and deaths would enable these countries to attain substantial increases in economic growth and national income, in addition to the clear welfare gains.

In Thailand, reducing current levels of road injuries by half could translate into an additional 22 percent of GDP per capita income growth, over a period of 24 years. The impressive findings, even with conservative assumptions about motorization and traffic growth, are key to understand the economic relevance of road injuries. Conversely, they imply that failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal target to halving road deaths by 2030— the cost of inaction— would significantly decrease the country’s economic growth potential.

Aside from their direct impact on national productivity, road traffic injuries also cause individual and social welfare losses that can far exceed the economic burden and impact human capital development. This is another important but often overlooked aspect of road traffic injuries. The report finds that, in the five countries analyzed, welfare benefits or the price societies would be willing to pay can be as high as 6 percent to 32 percent of GDP to cut road traffic injuries by half over a period of 24 years.

The report – like previous ones – calls attention to the preventable loss of lives and its economic and social costs.  Experiences from across the world have shown that it is possible to adopt effective policies and interventions that greatly reduce traffic deaths and injuries, and their effect on society.  These results also show that road traffic injury prevention should be regarded as a health priority, since their effect on society and the economy is similar to other health conditions, and their costs are directly absorbed by countries’ health systems.

Thailand has made important strides in the past decade to reduce communicable diseases, maternal deaths, and improve the overall life expectancy. Concerted action in road safety would bring additional far-reaching benefits for public health, wellbeing, and economic growth.
 

Measuring India’s economy using PPPs shows it surpassed France 25 years ago

1 day 4 hours ago

The ICP blog series explores ideas and issues under the International Comparison Program umbrella – including innovations in price and data collection, discussions on purpose and methodology, as well the use of purchasing power parities in the growing world of development data. Authors from across the globe, whether ICP practitioners or researchers making use of ICP data, are encouraged to submit relevant blogs for consideration to icp@worldbank.org.

Earlier this summer, new data published by the World Bank showed that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of India had recently surpassed that of France, and that it was on track to overtake the UK economy too. Many news outlets jumped upon this new ranking of India’s economy, now sixth from top. But most media articles did not mention that the World Bank’s other measure, which compares GDP across countries using purchasing power parities (PPPs), has placed India ahead of both France and the UK for the last 25 years.

if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["PxZJQ"]={},window.datawrapper["PxZJQ"].embedDeltas={"100":744,"200":570,"300":516,"400":476,"500":476,"700":450,"800":436,"900":436,"1000":436},window.datawrapper["PxZJQ"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-PxZJQ"),window.datawrapper["PxZJQ"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["PxZJQ"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["PxZJQ"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("PxZJQ"==b)window.datawrapper["PxZJQ"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"});

July’s data release showed national GDPs quoted in US dollars using market exchange rates (commonly abbreviated to “Xr”). But these exchange rates do not take into account the relative cost of goods and services in a country. For the purpose of estimating the relative cost of living and sizes of the world economies, the International Comparison Program (ICP) compares the prices of common goods and services across the globe, applies appropriate expenditure weights, and calculates purchasing power parities for nearly 200 countries across six regions.

The resulting PPPs show that a basket of goods costing $10 in the USA would cost 8 euros in France, and 177 rupees in India. But when market exchange rates are used, a $10 bill provides 9 euros in France, and around 700 rupees in India.

A basket of goods and services in India, as measured through the ICP, is relatively cheap compared to the same basket in the USA and France. Someone exchanging $10 for rupees at a bank or money exchange in India would be able to buy around four baskets locally with her ╤ 700, while her ten-dollar bill would buy just one such basket in the USA.

Thus, when we compare India’s whole economy with that of France by calculating GDP in PPP international dollars, rather than using US dollars from market exchange rates, we find that India’s economy surpassed that of France in 1993 and is now well over three times as large. And we also find that India's economy is the third largest in the world under PPP terms, higher than Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom, all of which it lags in exchange rate terms.

A disaster that could have been avoided: Enhancing resilience with land and geospatial data

1 day 17 hours ago
Areas affected by the August 2017 mudslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
(Photos: Robert Reid and Ivan Bruce / World Bank)

On August 14, 2017, after three days of intense rain, a massive side slope of the Sugar Loaf – the highest mountain in the north of Sierra Leone’s Western Area Peninsula – collapsed and slipped into the Babadorie River Valley.

The mudslide affected about 6,000 people. Up to 1,141 of them were declared dead or missing. The deadly disaster also caused major destruction of infrastructure near the capital city of Freetown.

What caused the slope to collapse? A complex set of factors, such as record-breaking rainfall and nature of the slope, may have contributed to the incident. However, many expert assessments suggest it was mainly "a man-made disaster" due to the rapid urbanization and expansion of Freetown – coupled with poor urban planning.

Like most West African cities, Freetown is plagued with unregulated building structures, residential housing in disaster-prone hilltop areas, and unplanned settlements that intensify deforestation and increase the risk of mudslides. To make things worse, many of the properties affected by the August 2017 mudslide were encroaching on the Western Area National Park, a forest reserve that still holds one of the last reserves of unspoiled forest in Sierra Leone.

A view of Freetown Sierra Leone on December 3, 2014. Photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Land administration also plays a big part here. Land rights in Freetown are often insecure and extremely difficult to transact, compared to elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. The current process of land registration lacks efficiency and effectiveness, partially due to an inoperative land information system, incomplete and outdated cadastre, a lack of trained surveyors to conduct high-quality land surveying, and the absence of geospatial data sharing protocols.

This situation has not only contributed to difficulties in tax collection, distorted land markets, and poor urban planning, but also undermined the associated disaster risk management.
  An assessment of more than 100 houses near the mudslide area revealed high risks of more mudslides and rock fall in the next rainy season. (Source: World Bank)  Land holds the key to disaster resilience

Had Freetown been able to assess and map out disaster risks in these areas and use that location-based risk information for sustainable land-use planning, the city could have prevented many unnecessary losses of lives and properties. To get there, an essential first step is improving land administration and geospatial information systems.

There is wide recognition that [[tweetable]]national land administration systems and spatial data infrastructure are fundamental for disaster risk management, because:[[/tweetable]]
  • They play a key role in facilitating pre- and post-disaster tenure, land use, land valuation, and zoning information on a unified geospatial platform for planning, monitoring, and implementing emergency responses;
  • The input of this information enhances the capabilities of cities and communities to build resilience and enables local governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector alike to carry out required mitigation and preparedness actions; and
  • Better access to information, along with more secure tenure, leads to better land use and management decisions to enhance resilience and reduce vulnerability.
In the case of Freetown, effective and coordinated services in three key areas – land administration, disaster risk management, and geospatial information production and sharing – may hold the key to helping the city prevent the next mudslide or any other disaster.

Mind the gap: Impact of land data on resilience
 
[[tweetable]]For Sierra Leone or any other country, national land and geospatial information can add important value to building disaster resilience.[[/tweetable]] However, we need to better understand the role of such information at the local level, the responsibilities of the institutions that govern land data, and the impact of land and geospatial data on the overall resilience of society.
 
This leaves a critical knowledge gap in helping national and local governments, civil society, and the private sector significantly improve disaster resilience using existing information and resources, especially at the community level.

Moving forward
About this series
More blog posts

To fill this gap, the World Bank and the University of Melbourne are conducting a study to increase the recognition and understanding of national land and geospatial systems’ important role in resilience building. The study also aims to mobilize investments to increase the resilience, sustainability, and security of land administration and geospatial systems, as well as to improve the quality and accessibility of land and geospatial data services for resilience.

As part of this work, a symposium and forum will take place in Melbourne, Australia from September 24–27, 2018. The event will focus on developing resilience across all environments, melding the theme of “A Smart Sustainable Future for All” with the “Improving Resilience and Resilience Impact of National Land and Geospatial Systems” project. It will be an opportunity to explore the project in depth and generate input into key research outcomes, including a strategic vision and roadmap, individual country action plan templates, and the future direction of the project.

RELATED

Transport and climate change: Putting Argentina’s resilience to the test

1 day 22 hours ago


Would you imagine having to evacuate your village by boat because the only road that takes you to your school and brings the goods is flooded?

In February 2018, the fiction became reality for some residents in the province of Salta, northern Argentina, after heavy rains caused the Bermejo and Pilcomayo river to overflow. The flooding resulted in one fatality, required the evacuation of hundreds of residents, and washed a segment of Provincial Route 54, leaving the village of Santa Victoria del Este completely stranded.

Similarly, a segment of National Route 5 in one of the main corridors of Mercosur has been impassable for more than a year due to the excess flows to the Picasa lagoon. The expansion of the lagoon is forcing 4,000 vehicles a day to make a 165-km detour, and adds one transit day for the 1,560 freight trains running every year between Buenos Aires and Mendoza. The flooding is dragging the economy behind and inflating already high logistics costs—a situation that is made worse by conflicts between provinces on how to deal with the water surplus.

As a matter of fact, a recent World Bank study put the cost of damages and disruptions like these at an estimated 0.34% of GDP a year for riverine flooding, plus 0.32% of the GDP for urban flooding.

To address these risks, Argentina’s Ministry of Transport started a dialogue with the World Bank to explore ways of reducing the vulnerability of the network. With grant funding from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), our team initiated a technical assistance project that will provide important new insights into the magnitude and location of current and future flooding risks on Argentina’s multi-modal transport routes (roads, railways, and waterways), and will formulate recommendations for risk reduction. The study will include three main components:
  1. Vulnerability assessment: systematic identification of all transport nodes and links that are vulnerable to flood hazards.

  2. Criticality assessment: in case of a weather event, which parts of the network are most essential to maintaining connectivity? Answering this question can go a long way in helping prioritize, manage, and allocate resources.

  3. Development of an online data visualization tool to ensure the findings of the study can be used widely, and to support effective decision-making.
These activities entail combining datasets on climate and on the transport network to evaluate current and future risks. This will allow us to simulate potential failures and disruptions, and to assess how they might impact passenger and freight flows. The analyses will then be used to estimate the macroeconomic impact of climate-related damage to the transport infrastructure, looking at both the regional and national pictures.

This initiative is a high priority for the Ministry of Transport, in that it will complement and expand engagements that aim to integrate climate change considerations into infrastructure development. In addition to this technical assistance, the World bank is also making climate change adaptation an integral part of its lending portfolio. The $300-million Northwestern Road Development Corridor Project, for instance, will include improved design standards and introduce more stringent road maintenance regimes to enhance climate resilience.  

Disasters like the one in Santa Victoria del Este are likely to become more frequent under the effect of climate change, and their impact on people and the economy will continue to grow. To address this challenge, it is time for governments and international donors to scale up their support to resilience planning. Argentina’s efforts to assess climate risk thoroughly and identify appropriate responses are definitely a step in the right direction.
 

Creating markets in Timor-Leste through a landmark port PPP

2 days 2 hours ago


Flickr | AusAID | Timorese construction worker breaks ground on new Dili port

As recently as 2006, Timor-Leste was in crisis. Only a few years into independence, the country was torn by riots and political turmoil. Not surprisingly, its business climate was one of the region’s worst.

But [[tweetable]]Timor-Leste’s fortunes have changed dramatically. Income from oil, coupled with greater stability and a long-term economic plan, led the World Bank to describe the country’s social and economic development as remarkable[[/tweetable]]. Nonetheless, Timor-Leste remains a fragile state, and with oil accounting for 80 percent of GDP, it is the world’s second most oil-dependent nation.

The Timorese government knew it needed better economic infrastructure to create jobs, attract investment, and open its economy, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has helped through the landmark investment in the Tibar Bay Port. The transaction is the first public-private partnership (PPP) in the country’s history—with private financing estimated to be at least five times more than any previous investment outside the oil and gas sector.

As the government’s transaction adviser, IFC has helped structure and bid out the transaction, providing support through to financial close, which recently occurred on August 30th .  With construction underway, the project exemplifies the Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) approach, drawing on public funds to leverage large-scale private financing.

IFC also helped the government introduce global environmental and social standards for infrastructure and attract world-class investors to the country for the first time. French transport giant Bolloré won the 30-year concession through an open and transparent tender. Bolloré will invest $150 million in the first stage of construction, with the government contributing $129 million.

Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister, Taur Matan Ruak, said, "With the implementation of the port project, through a PPP, which represents the largest private investment to date in public infrastructure in the country, the government gives a signal to other investors that Timor-Leste is an attractive place to do business.” The Prime Minister added that he was confident "the project will progress with environmental impacts duly protected" thanks to "the implementation of the major mitigation measures chosen for this project in accordance with best environmental practices and the performance standards of the IFC.”

The port will eliminate a major economic bottleneck caused by congestion at Dili Port that added millions in costs to shippers for delays—affecting trade, reducing exports, and making goods more expensive. It will also open the country to a myriad of economic opportunities in southeast Asia.

Given Timor-Leste’s reputation at the time for instability, attracting strong international investors to the project was indeed challenging. The government had no experience with PPPs and the country lacked a track record for large foreign investments. The perception of high risk was understandable. So how did the government and its partners pull the project off? From my perspective on the ground, I credit five key success factors:
  1. The government was serious about executing a world-class project. It provided strong leadership and set up the institutional mechanisms needed to follow through on this commitment. It established a PPP unit within the Ministry of Finance with a clear mandate to facilitate PPPs—in addition to a Project Management Unit. Legislative changes also made the environment more hospitable towards PPPs and to the port specifically.
     
  2. The government also recognized that it lacked capacity in key institutions and worked closely with IFC to address this. IFC worked with multiple government structures, from line ministries through to parliamentarians and the Cabinet. This strengthened government’s ability to understand and manage the complex PPP development process.
     
  3. IFC recognized that, in a very low-capacity environment, results would take more time than usual.  IFC needed to be persistent and stay the course with the client, emphasizing capacity development, if a successful outcome was to be achieved. IFC adapted its advisory tools to provide support over a six-year timeframe, covering multiple phases of concept development, transaction structuring, tendering, and financial close.
     
  4. IFC also worked with the government to build understanding of the project with local communities and civil society. Often, PPPs are met with suspicion because the process is opaque; it is easy to imagine that back-room deals are being made that do not support the public interest. Effective strategic communication addresses this risk.
     
  5. The project structure was carefully designed to balance the interests of government and potential private sector investors. Issues such as exclusivity, termination, and handover after the 30-year period required careful consideration. IFC also conducted intensive environmental and social scoping in line with its performance standards.
[[tweetable]]The Tibar Bay Port PPP promises to be a game changer for Timor-Leste[[/tweetable]]. The port is the foundation for government efforts to establish new logistics and industrial zones nearby to diversify Timor-Leste’s economy, create new economic opportunities for its citizens, and open the door for future private investment in infrastructure. The project sends a powerful message to investors to take notice of this emerging market and builds confidence among the Timorese people.

Learn more about the environment for PPPs in Timor-Leste from the World Bank Group’s PPP Knowledge Lab.
 
Related Posts:

When (and when not) to use PPPs

Ukraine: How international partnerships are contributing to the development of transportation infrastructure    

A comic strip abstract on politics and bureaucracy

2 days 3 hours ago



To what extent do politicians really keep bureaucrats focused on delivering public services?  Politicians may distort the technical processes of the executive for political gain. 

In a new research paper, I find that Nigerian politicians are a mixed bag for delivering infrastructure projects in local constituencies.  The paper finds that political interference in the bureaucracy increases the likelihood that a project is launched by 18 percent, but at the cost of reducing project quality by 15 percent and increasing the reported misuse of funds. The results highlight the fundamental tension between bureaucratic inaction and political corruption.

Is this abstract too wordy for you?  Would you prefer a comic strip?  Then here is my attempt at a potentially more engaging way to read my paper … in three panels.  As more researchers are presenting their work in comic strip form (see here and here for great examples), I thought I’d try a comic strip abstract.  (The images are drawn from my collaboration with Albert Ohams on a graphic novel about bureaucracy in the developing world – www.watergetenemy.org.)

Let us know if you have examples to share of presenting research in this way.

Do impact evaluations tell us anything about reducing poverty? Vol. II: The empire stagnates

2 days 4 hours ago
This post is coauthored with Aletheia Donald
Four years ago, Markus looked at 20 impact evaluations and wrote a post concluding that most of them didn’t have much to say about reducing poverty (where was poverty was defined as expenditure, income, and/or wealth).  This summer Shanta Devarajan asked for an update on twitter, so here it is. 

We broadened the scope this time, picking 10 impact evaluations each from respected impact evaluation outfits with poverty in their title or in their mission – for a total of 40 impact evaluations.  We picked the most recent complete papers on their website in the order they appeared (and none of them come close to 2014, so they’re all new relative to the earlier post).

Let’s start with the paper introductions. Here poverty shows up: 27 of the 40 mention poverty in the introductions. So the motivation does seem to be there.  

OK, then, how many of the impact evaluations take place in overwhelmingly poor countries?  In 2018, 5 of the 39 evaluations take place in countries with poverty rates above 50% (one country has no recent internationally comparable poverty data).   In 2014, this was 3 of 19.  So, no better on this metric.  It’s a perennial problem – the poorest countries in the world are ones in which it is more difficult to work, particularly since conflict correlates highly with this level of poverty. 

Maybe then, these impact evaluations are working with poor populations?   Not so clear.   Of the 40 impact evaluations we looked at, 9 of them mention the poverty level of the area in which the program takes place and 12 give us poverty statistics for the actual impact evaluation sample and mention them in the text.   Accounting for evaluations that do both, we are left with 16 of the 40 where we have some idea of the poverty level of the program participants.   Of the impact evaluations in overwhelmingly poor countries, 3 of the 5 tell us that they’re working with the poor.  

So, if we add all of this together, in less of half of the evaluations do we know if the results are for poor people or not (keep in mind, that when authors tell us about the poverty status of the beneficiaries, sometimes they are not working with the poor).   A potentially interesting tangent: when we took a gander at the affiliation of authors, we found that having a discussion of the poverty level of participants was less common in papers where academics made up a over a third of the authors.    

What about impacts on measures of poverty?  If we confine ourselves to a money metric notion of poverty (income, expenditures, consumption, assets), only 13 of our 40 include this in the outcomes for which they measure impacts.  In 2014, this was 7 of 20.     So not great news.    There is somewhat better news on the examination of heterogenous effects by poverty levels.  Here we find that 8 of the 40 impact evaluations contain this analysis – in 2014, this was only 1. 

The sector of intervention most likely to have a discussion of the poverty of the program area or some measure of poverty as an outcome was social protection. Out of the 8 papers that had both, an entire 6 were from social protection. Of course, these interventions, which tilt heavily towards cash transfers (often with accompanying interventions) lend themselves to this.   And maybe the push towards direct comparisons (as discussed in last Friday’s post) will help other types of interventions take a harder look at their poverty outcomes, as well as deepen our discussion of which outcomes mean the most for poverty reduction.       
 
This post is the first of two posts on how much impact evaluations tell us about improving life outcomes for the most vulnerable. Post 2 – by David Evans and Fei Yuan – will go up next Monday.
 

The number of extremely poor people continues to rise in Sub-Saharan Africa

2 days 4 hours ago

if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["g7Udj"]={},window.datawrapper["g7Udj"].embedDeltas={"100":879,"200":602,"300":531,"400":477,"500":477,"700":450,"800":450,"900":450,"1000":450},window.datawrapper["g7Udj"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-g7Udj"),window.datawrapper["g7Udj"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["g7Udj"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["g7Udj"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("g7Udj"==b)window.datawrapper["g7Udj"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"});

Globally, extreme poverty has rapidly declined. New poverty estimates by the World Bank suggest that the number of extremely poor people—those who live on $1.90 a day or less—has fallen from 1.9 billion in 1990 to about 736 million in 2015.

However, the number of people living in extreme poverty is on the rise in Sub-Saharan Africa, comprising more than half of the extreme poor in 2015. Forecasts also indicate that by 2030, nearly 9 in 10 extremely poor people will live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Find more information and the latest poverty estimates at World Bank PovcalNet and Poverty & Equity Data portal.

 

Unlocking economic growth through integrated natural resource planning and governance

2 days 19 hours ago
Photos: CAD Productions

Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in the West African Sahel, includes sparse and dry forests, woodlands, wooded and shrub savannas, and a large desert area to the North. The country relies heavily on agriculture, yet faces shrinking arable land and increasing soil degradation. Enhancing factors such as climate change and rising demand for land and natural resources in general are creating a downward cycle from which forest degradation appears as one of the particularly challenging consequences. It is also the first step towards soil degradation, which reduces the area of arable land, further increasing the pressures on the remaining land and forest resources.

An integrated approach

In such landscapes, climate change mitigation and adaptation policies are closely related, and only an integrated approach combining all aspects of sustainable forest and land management can reverse this trend.

Gassan, one of the 32communes supported by the FIP, is representative of what is happening throughout the country. Most families in Gassan rely on agriculture, but also woodworking, commercial hunting, and fruit harvesting. For some, forest-based activities offer a way out of poverty. In addition, households use plants, seeds and animals from natural forests and woodlands for food, energy, medicine, fodder, housing, furniture, among other essentials of their daily living. Forests also act as important windbreaks to limit erosion, soil carbon producers which restores soil fertility, facilitators of pollination, and filtering agents that maintain water quality.


Strengthening local governance to avoid conflicts and overexploitation of natural resources

Unfortunately, the numerous services that natural resources offer have often led to overlapping rights generating conflicts and overexploitation of these commons. This can only be resolved through strong forest and land governance.

With this in mind, Burkina Faso is currently developing a strategy to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) based on four pillars:

  • Improving land use planning;
  • Securing land rights;
  • Improving the management of agro-sylvo-pastoral systems;
  • Building capacity, adapting the policies, and promoting good governance.

In Gassan, as in all 32 communes supported by the program, the government seeks to strengthen local governance through a participatory approach, where local users of the natural resource base discuss and agree on how to better manage their landscape. To facilitate this process, the FIP piloted a three-step approach that can be replicated in the remaining communes of the country as well as other countries facing similar natural resource-based issues.

The first step relied on intensive participatory discussions using the Terristories© methodology (developed by the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (Cirad)), an innovative approach based on role play that brings together all local actors (farmers, pastoralists, forest dependent users, women, youth, etc.) to discuss issues openly and forge agreements capable of accommodating the various interests. The Securing Land Rights at Scale through Participatory Role-Play research paper explains in detail the process as followed in the FIP.  

Setting up the participatory process was a challenge. It involved selecting participants, assessing land tenure issues, identifying participant’s challenges and concerns, listing their propositions both in terms of hard and soft investments, and translating these into a coherent municipal vision based on a zoning plan and a set of REDD+ investments. Both outputs were then endorsed by the local authority.

The second step, currently under implementation, involves supporting each commune as they develop their own Integrated Development Project for REDD+ (PDIC/REDD+). Each PDIC/REDD+ is based on the zoning plan and the REDD+ investments list previously developed, and details the practical arrangements as well as the timeline for the different activities to be implemented. The idea is to give municipalities a practical tool to help them realize their vision of a sustainable landscape.    

The final step corresponds to the implementation of the pre-planned activities and investments coherently detailed in the PDIC/REDD+ document.

As a result of this process, all 32 communes will have designed their own specific strategy to improve their natural resources management, thereby contributing to reducing forest degradation while fostering economic development and limiting the effects on climate change.

The following video shows how Burkina Faso’s REDD+ National Investment Plan supports an integrated and multi-sectoral approach to address the direct and indirect drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.

The documentary featured is part of a series on forest livelihoods in selected countries with dynamic forest and REDD+ activities including Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, and Mozambique.

RELATED

Why understanding disaster risk matters for sustainable development

2 days 19 hours ago

Risk financing, social protection, seismic risk, and open data – these are just some of the key themes that have drawn hundreds of urban resilience and disaster risk management experts and practitioners to Belgrade, Serbia this week for Understanding Risk (UR) Balkans.
 
Spanning a network of over 10,000 worldwide, UR members are joined by a shared commitment to share knowledge and experience that can help governments and communities alike better understand the risks from natural hazards. By advancing a deeper understanding of risk in countries across the globe, the UR community is also driving change toward sustainable development.
 
As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of disasters, and as rapid urbanization makes more people and assets vulnerable to natural hazards, [[tweetable]]there is a real urgency for governments and communities to fully comprehend the risks they face so that they can develop appropriate disaster risk management policies and strategies.[[/tweetable]] Last year, global losses for disasters surpassed $330 billion, a new record.
About this series
More blog posts

[[tweetable]]What are the main hazards that threaten people’s well-being and livelihoods? Which populations and assets might be most vulnerable and exposed to losses?[[/tweetable]]

[[tweetable]]To protect and build upon the development gains of recent decades, governments and communities need to have a more complete picture of risk in all its dimensions.[[/tweetable]] The good news is that the emergence of innovative technologies, such as real-time mapping and machine learning, is making it possible to understand risk faster and more cost-effectively than ever before.

[[tweetable]]When governments and communities have a fuller grasp of the risks they face, only then can they chart a path forward that mitigates these risks and brings them closer to a more sustainable future.[[/tweetable]] Check out our video interview from the 2018 Understanding Risk Balkans conference, hosted by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the World Bank and the Government of Serbia, with the financial support of the European Union, to hear more on our thoughts about the importance of understanding risk for sustainable development – in the Balkans and beyond.
 
READ MORE 

New child and adolescent mortality estimates show remarkable progress, but 17,000 children under 15 still died every day in 2017

3 days 5 hours ago

This blog is based on new mortality estimates released today by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME)

if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["Gczfa"]={},window.datawrapper["Gczfa"].embedDeltas={"100":771,"200":575,"300":521,"400":477,"500":477,"700":450,"800":450,"900":450,"1000":450},window.datawrapper["Gczfa"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-Gczfa"),window.datawrapper["Gczfa"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["Gczfa"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["Gczfa"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("Gczfa"==b)window.datawrapper["Gczfa"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"});

There has been remarkable progress in reducing mortality among children and young adolescents in the past several decades. Between 1990 and 2017, the global under-five mortality rate dropped by 58 percent from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births to 39 deaths per 1,000 live births. During the last 17 years, the reduction in under-five mortality rates accelerated to an average 4% annual reduction, compared to an average 1.9% annual reduction between 1990 and 2000. For children aged 5-14, mortality dropped by 53 percent, from 15 deaths to 7 deaths per 1,000 children.

if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["U4LNs"]={},window.datawrapper["U4LNs"].embedDeltas={"100":614,"200":519,"300":476,"400":476,"500":450,"700":450,"800":450,"900":450,"1000":450},window.datawrapper["U4LNs"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-U4LNs"),window.datawrapper["U4LNs"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["U4LNs"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["U4LNs"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("U4LNs"==b)window.datawrapper["U4LNs"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"});

However, while a substantial reduction from the 14.3 million in 1990, an estimated 6.3 million children under age 15 still died in 2017, mostly from preventable causes. The vast majority of these deaths—5.4 million—occurred in the first five years of life. Nearly half of the deaths of children under age 5 were accounted for by neonatal deaths (2.5 million). The first month of life is the most vulnerable period for children. Progress toward reducing neonatal mortality between 2000 and 2017 has been 1.5 times slower than for older children (under 5 deaths after the first month of life) for the same period.

The World Bank’s World Development Indicators database shows nearly half of births in Sub-Saharan Africa and more than a quarter of births in South Asia were not attended by skilled health staff. To further reduce child deaths, universal access to quality, affordable health services is critical, particularly around the time of birth and through the early years. This includes access to safe, quality, affordable obstetric, anesthesia and surgical care.

The report says in 2017, 118 countries already had an under-five mortality rate below the SDG target (no more than 25 deaths per 1,000 live births). Among the remaining 77 countries, progress will need to be accelerated in about 50 countries to achieve the SDG target by 2030.

if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["ykfWN"]={},window.datawrapper["ykfWN"].embedDeltas={"100":770,"200":571,"300":502,"400":476,"500":476,"700":450,"800":450,"900":450,"1000":424},window.datawrapper["ykfWN"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-ykfWN"),window.datawrapper["ykfWN"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["ykfWN"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["ykfWN"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("ykfWN"==b)window.datawrapper["ykfWN"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"});

Children continue to face large regional and income disparities in their chances of survival. More than 80 percent of global under-five deaths occur in just two regions — Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest under-five mortality rate in the world, with 76 deaths per 1,000 live births. This translates to 1 in 13 children dying before their fifth birthday, 14 times higher than the average ratio of 1 in 185 children dying before age 5 in high-income countries.

if("undefined"==typeof window.datawrapper)window.datawrapper={};window.datawrapper["IjwNJ"]={},window.datawrapper["IjwNJ"].embedDeltas={"100":640,"200":519,"300":476,"400":476,"500":476,"700":450,"800":450,"900":450,"1000":450},window.datawrapper["IjwNJ"].iframe=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-IjwNJ"),window.datawrapper["IjwNJ"].iframe.style.height=window.datawrapper["IjwNJ"].embedDeltas[Math.min(1e3,Math.max(100*Math.floor(window.datawrapper["IjwNJ"].iframe.offsetWidth/100),100))]+"px",window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if("undefined"!=typeof a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var b in a.data["datawrapper-height"])if("IjwNJ"==b)window.datawrapper["IjwNJ"].iframe.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][b]+"px"});

The chance of survival highly depends on where and to whom children are born. By country, Somalia has the highest under-five mortality rate, at 127 per 1,000 (1 in 8 children dies), while Iceland and Slovenia have the lowest ratio, at 2.1 per 1,000 (1 in 476 children dies). Children in Somalia are 60 times more likely to die in the first five years of life than those in Iceland and Slovenia.

Disparities persist within countries as well. Globally, under-five mortality rates among children in rural areas are 50 percent higher than among children in urban areas. Babies born to uneducated mothers are more than twice as likely to die before the age of five than those born to mothers with secondary or higher education. According to the press release, reducing inequality by assisting the most vulnerable newborns, children and mothers is essential for achieving the target of the Sustainable Development Goals in ending preventable childhood deaths and for ensuring that no one is left behind.

Last year, World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim announced the Human Capital Project, an accelerated effort to encourage investment in people as a critical step to boosting economic growth and ending extreme poverty. Investing in the health and education of all people is critical to build the human capital needed for future prosperity and better quality of life. Improving the survival chances of newborns, children and young adolescents remains an urgent challenge.

Continued efforts to produce reliable and transparent child mortality estimates to monitor SDG 3

As we wrote in our earlier blog on child mortality, the UN’s original Millennium Development Goals brought statisticians together to produce better data to monitor progress. The UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) was formed in 2004 to share data on child mortality, harmonize estimates within the UN system, improve methods for child mortality estimation, and to report on progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. The group includes UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division as full members, and it continues to produce reliable and transparent child and adolescent mortality estimates in order to track countries’ progress towards SDG target 3.2. All data, estimates and details on UN IGME methods are available on the Child Mortality Estimates (CME INFO) website at childmortality.org. The new UN IGME child mortality estimates are also available in the World Bank’s World Development Indicators and HealthStats databases.

Ten Years after Lehman: Where are we now?

3 days 23 hours ago

The tenth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers is a good opportunity for us all to reflect on the global financial crisis and the lessons we have learned from it. By now, there is widespread agreement that the crisis was caused by excessive risk-taking by financial institutions. There were increases in leverage and risk-taking, which took the form of excessive reliance on wholesale funding, lower lending standards, inaccurate credit ratings, and complex structured instruments. But why did it happen? How could such a crisis originate in the United States, home to arguably the most sophisticated financial system in the world? At the time, my colleagues and I argued incentive conflicts were at the heart of the crisis and identified reforms that would improve incentives by increasing transparency and accountability in the financial industry as well as government. After all, if large, politically powerful institutions regularly expect to be bailed out if they get into trouble, it is understandable that their risk appetite will be much higher than what is socially optimal.

So, where are we now, after ten years of reform? There has been progress in some dimensions: banks have stronger capital positions, and there is emphasis on higher-quality capital. Reliance on wholesale funding instead of deposits has decreased. There is greater oversight of the largest institutions, with stress tests and requirements to submit living wills (resolution plans). Derivative markets are smaller. Bank governance and pay policies have received greater scrutiny.

But much has remained unchanged. The crisis was resolved in a way that bailed out large institutions, which inevitably makes them more willing to risk insolvency in the future—the so-called “moral hazard” problem. Safety nets and deposit insurance coverage expanded in countries all around the world. It is particularly difficult to resolve insolvent banks, especially across borders. This “too-big-to-fail” subsidy not only makes banks more eager to take risk in the future, but also gives them incentives to become larger and more complicated to maximize the subsidy. It is possible to observe in the data how market participants valued this subsidy for large international banks after the crisis, but also by observing simple trends in bank size: From 2005 to 2014, the total asset size of the world’s largest banks increased by more than 40 percent. This greater concentration and market power in the banking sector is likely to be associated with lower levels of systemic stability. Our research also shows “good” corporate governance of large banks—defined in terms of their board composition, compensation, and independence—is associated with higher risk and lower capital in countries with more generous safety nets, to be able to better exploit them. This suggests that well-managed institutions simply take better advantage of the subsidies for excessive risk-taking, further underlining the severity of the problem.

Another unintended effect of the crisis was the populist reaction. While banks were supported in dealing with the excessive risks they took, insolvent households with subprime mortgages received much less support. It is not surprising that many observers place the blame for the populist backlash we see today against globalization, international finance, and big business on the crisis and the way it was resolved.

What about capital regulations? Did we learn the right lessons from the crisis? Partially. Bank capital is important because banks that hold more capital should be able to absorb losses with their own resources, without becoming insolvent or necessitating a bailout with public funds. In addition, by forcing bank owners to have some “skin in the game” minimum capital requirements are expected to counterbalance incentives for the excessive risk-taking that limited liability and safety subsidies generate. However, many banks that were rescued during the crisis were actually in compliance with minimum capital regulations shortly before and even during the crisis.

In our research we see that these regulatory capital requirements set as a proportion of risk exposure were mostly dismissed by market participants at the time of the crisis, since the risk exposures did not reflect actual risk. The stock returns of large banks were actually much more sensitive to a simple leverage ratio than risk-adjusted capital ratios. This highlights an important principle when it comes to regulation: complex regulations are not always better and in fact may lead to manipulation and regulatory arbitrage and are difficult to supervise and enforce, particularly in developing countries where supervisory capacity is lacking. And one size certainly does not fit all. Our recent research shows that greater capital indeed reduces system-wide fragility, and this link is stronger in countries with weaker public and private monitoring of risk. Hence, we would expect developing country banks to hold higher levels of capital to compensate for this weaker monitoring.

Overall, our research supports the view that the emphasis on strengthening capital requirements and introducing leverage ratios was appropriate. But, properly measuring risk-exposure is very difficult, particularly for large and complex organizations, which puts into question the usefulness of emphasizing the risk-weighted concepts of bank capital that remain at the core of Basel regulations. In our next Global Financial Development Report, we are going to explore how new capital regulations have been adopted around the world, drawing upon the latest round of the World Bank Regulation and Supervision Survey currently in the field.

Finally, there are important trends that make it even more challenging to provide effective oversight of banks. Technological change, globalization, and the resulting concentration of market power are making us rethink regulation in banking and industry alike. With the crisis fading from our memories, the industry pressure on regulators to once again reduce transparency and accountability will intensify. The fintech revolution since the crisis has already greatly increased the pace of financial innovation, making it ever more difficult for regulators to catch up with the industry. (For example, Quicken Loans has already become America’s largest home lender, fast expanding mortgage lending for-low income households.) The crisis experience has surely increased the confidence of large banks in their ability to socialize their future losses, making them more creative in seeking new risks. 

We cannot be sure when and how the next crisis will strike, but it surely will. Finance is risky business and crises cannot be eliminated. The ultimate goal of public policy is to minimize the frequency and severity of the crises. This is a difficult task that necessitates incentive reforms, which is difficult precisely because existing defects reflect the political preferences of regulated institutions and other politically powerful market participants.

Sources:

Anginer, D. and A. Demirguc-Kunt, 2018. “Bank Runs and Moral Hazard: A Review of deposit Insurance.” Forthcoming in Oxford Handbook of Banking, Third Edition, A. N. Berger, P. Molyneux, and J.O.S. Wilson editors, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Anginer, D. and A. Demirguc-Kunt, H. Huizinga and K. Ma. Forthcoming “Corporate Governance of Banks and Financial Stability,” Forthcoming, Journal of Financial Economics.

Anginer, D. and A. Demirguc-Kunt, D. Salvatore Mare. “Bank Capital, Institutional Environment and Systemic Stability,” Forthcoming, Journal of Financial Stability

Anginer, D. and A. Demirguc-Kunt, M. Zu, 2014. "How Does Competition Affect Bank Systemic Risk?," Journal of Financial Intermediation,  23 (1):1-26; Also see blog post on AAF “Is Bank Competition a Threat to Financial Stability” on 4/10/12.

Ayyagari, M., A. Demirguc-Kunt and V. Maksimovic, 2018 “Who are America’s Star Firms?” World Bank Policy Research Paper

Bertay, A., Demirguc-Kunt, A. and H. Huizinga, 2017 “Are Internationally Active Banks Different? Evidence on Bank Performance and Strategy,” World Bank Policy Working Paper

Caprio, G., Demirguc-Kunt, A. and E. Kane, 2010. “The 2007 Meltdown in Structured Securitization: Searching for Lessons, not Scapegoats.”  World Bank Research Observer, 25:125-155.

Demirguc-Kunt, A., E. Detragiache and O. Merrouche, 2013. “Bank Capital: Lessons from the Financial Crisis,” Journal of Money, Banking and Credit, 45(6).

Demirguc-Kunt, A. “Bank Capital Regulations: Learning the Right Lessons from the Crisis.”  Blog post, AAF. 12/17/2010.

World Bank, 2017/2018 “Bankers without Borders” Global Financial Development Report, World Bank. Washington DC.

World Bank, 2019/2020 “Bank Regulation and Supervision – Ten Years after the Crisis” Global Financial Development Report, World Bank. Washington DC. forthcoming

Should you oversample compliers if budget is limited and you are concerned take-up is low?

4 days 7 min ago

My colleague Bilal Zia recently released a working paper (joint with Emmanuel Hakizimfura and Douglas Randall) that reports on an experiment conducted with 200 Savings and Credit Cooperative Associations (SACCOs) in Rwanda. The experiment aimed to test two different approaches to decentralizing financial education delivery, and finds improvements are greater when Saccos get to choose which staff should be trained rather than when they are told to send the manager, a loan officer, and a board member.

One point of the paper that I thought might be of broader interest to our readers concerns the issue of what to do when you only have enough budget to survey a sample of a program’s beneficiaries, and you are concerned about getting enough compliers.

The problem
The experiment randomized 65 Saccos to get training where they could select who they send (autonomous selection), 65 Saccos to get training of specific people in the organization (fixed selection), and then 70 Saccos to be the control. Treated Saccos would then try to implement this training by training members.

Each of the Saccos has an average of 5,500 members. So the 130 treated Saccos have around 715,000 members, and the 70 control Saccos 385,000. The authors are interested in measuring outcomes at the member level, and have budget to survey 4,000 out of the 1,100,000 members, or 20 members per Sacco.

The authors were concerned that the take-up rate might be low for this financial education training offered by the Sacco, so were worried that if they just randomly sampled 20 out of the 5,500 members from a Sacco, by chance they could end up with very few people who had actually completed training. They did not have a baseline survey, and did not know the take-up rate until they went to the field for their first follow-up survey.

What did they do?
For both treatment and control Saccos, the authors got a roster of all community members. For the control Saccos they simply randomly chose 20 respondents to interview. For the treated Saccos, they matched these rosters to the attendance sheets for the financial education training sessions, and then, for each Sacco, randomly selected 10 trained members and 10 untrained members per Sacco. The actual attendance rate was 21-23%, so this meant they over-sampled compliers relative to non-compliers. In their analysis, they then weight the data using the probability of being selected.

Is this optimal?
The approach used by the authors will yield correct estimates, but does not maximize power. Let C(i) be the number of compliers in strata i, SC(i) the standard deviation of the outcome for compliers, N(i) be the number of non-compliers in strata i, SN(i) the standard deviation of the outcome for non-compliers, and n be the total number of units to be sampled from strata i. Then the optimal number of units to sample from the compliers is:


Now they do not know in advance the standard deviation of the outcomes, and so if we assume that the standard deviations are equal in the two groups, then this reduces to proportional allocation – i.e. if 23% of members in a Sacco took up financial education training, then 23% of the sample of 20, or 5 people, should come from the compliers, and the remaining 15 should be non-compliers. Proportional sampling within strata then has the advantage of making the overall sample self-weighting.

Note that in their case there is an additional level of sampling stratification, which is at the level of the Sacco. This will mean that the optimal proportion of the sample of 20 that should be compliers will then vary across Saccos – Saccos with higher take-up rates will have more trained members interviewed, while those with lower take-up rates will have fewer members interviewed.

So why might you want to oversample compliers?
The formula above suggests that the best thing to do is stratify on compliance, but then sample in proportion to the take-up rate. However, it does give one possible reason to oversample compliers – if you think the treatment will increase the variation in outcomes among those treated, then you will want to sample relatively more compliers.

In discussing this with Bilal, he mentioned a more practical reason: because they did not know the take-up rate in a community until they arrived at a Sacco, the field team had to match the attendance list to the Sacco roster, and then draw the sample. The simple rule of randomly choose 10 trained and 10 untrained to interview then involved much less enumerator calculation and possible discretion than having different sampling fractions in every community that had to be calculated on the spot.

Two other reasons you might want to oversample compliers can come about if compliance is really low:

  • You might be interested in doing take-up regressions to help understand what characteristics are associated with take-up, and so want to make sure you have sufficient numbers of compliers to compare the non-compliers to.
  • You might be concerned that take-up rates are so low that you may need to fall back on alternative non-experimental methods that focus on the impact on compliers, as in this other financial education evaluation.
A couple of final points
  1. I’ve talked here about over-sampling compliers, but of course you may also want to over-sample non-compliers if take-up rates are very high and yet you want to say something about who doesn’t take up a program, or if non-compliance increases variance.
  2. Another example of over-sampling compliers comes up in the Miracle of Microfinance paper – they take a two-step procedure to deal with low take-up concerns. First, they conduct a census and identify characteristics associated with take-up. They then restrict their population of interest to a subset of households that have higher take-up – those who had lived in the area at least 3 years, and that had a women aged 18 to 55. They then note “Spandana borrowers identified in the census were oversampled because we believed that heterogeneity in treatment effects would introduce more variance in outcomes among Spandana borrowers than among nonborrowers, and that oversampling borrowers would therefore give higher power. The results ... weight the observation to account for this oversampling so that the results are representative of the population as a whole”.  However, they do not report how much oversampling took place, or how they decided how much more variance they thought might occur.

Beyond Infrastructure: Trade Facilitation Priorities for the Belt and Road Initiative

4 days 35 min ago
Countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative face a major challenge in facilitating trade. While large investments in trade-related infrastructure capture global headlines, transaction costs generated by inefficient border clearance and trade-related regulatory requirements are one of the major policy risks facing the BRI.
  The trade corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative
A new World Bank Group study assesses the scale of these trade facilitation challenges. Looking specifically at the six BRI land corridors, the research shows that most of these trade corridors perform below global averages. For instance:
  • Times to comply with regulatory and border requirements for import are higher than the global average on all corridors except the New Eurasian corridor, and times to export are higher than the global average on all corridors except the New Eurasian and China-Pakistan corridors;
  • Although it is the global norm for import clearance to take longer than export clearance, the gap between them is higher than the global average along the BRI corridors, suggesting a disproportionate burden for traders importing to BRI countries;
  • Customs and border management agency performance is better than the global average on two of the four corridors; and
  • On trade facilitation benchmarks, including Doing Business and the Logistics Performance Index, only two of the six land corridors rank in the top half of countries globally; and three of the six corridors rank below the global average in all benchmarks covered in our review.
Beyond this overall weak performance, an additional challenge is that within the BRI corridors, there is wide variation in trade facilitation performance. For example, within the New Eurasian corridor, the Czech Republic ranks 19th in the world on customs performance in the Logistics Performance Index, while Belarus ranks 112th.  Given that supply chains are only as strong as their weakest link, and a premium is placed on timeliness and reliability, wide gaps in trade facilitation performance could undermine the potential benefit of the BRI corridors in unlocking new trade opportunities. This will be especially important for increasing the role of BRI countries in global value chains.
 
Six themes have been identified as broad priorities for reform: improving inter-agency coordination; improving transparency; drawing on ICT to streamline processes; making greater use of risk-based approaches; developing transit regimes; and improving information-sharing across borders.  
 
Unsurprisingly, these priorities are shared by most countries wanting to improve trade facilitation, but the relative importance of some issues is higher for the BRI corridors. For example, while transit regimes are essential for all trade facilitation initiatives along economic corridors, it is especially important for the China-Central Asia-West Asia corridor, where more than half of the countries are landlocked developing countries. Another example is transparency, where forty-seven WTO Members have notified all four key transparency requirements of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) – the key multilateral trade agreement in this area – but only eight of the BRI corridor countries have done so.
 
Beyond identifying these challenges, we suggest several concrete next steps to implement reforms in each corridor.
 
First, institutions need to be developed for each corridor to identify, prioritize, implement, and monitor trade facilitation reforms. It appears that the China-Pakistan corridor is the only one that both has an institution for cooperation, and has developed an action plan including trade facilitation measures (although this plan only addresses a small sub-set of the challenges faced).
 
Second, the reform process needs to start with corridor-specific diagnostics, drawing on existing tools like the Trade and Transport Corridor Management Toolkit, Time Release Studies, and WTO TFA gap assessments. These should be a basis or corridor-specific action plans on trade facilitation.
 
Third, each action plan should include a monitoring framework to track whether progress is being made – and the private sector should be seen as a partner in this monitoring.
 
Finally, trade facilitation reforms along the BRI corridors should draw on existing international practices and standards, notably those set out by the WTO TFA and World Customs Organization agreements, as well as other relevant international mechanisms. They should also build on the many reform efforts already underway.
 
In terms of trade facilitation, BRI should be seen as an opportunity to continue, rather than start afresh, the reform agenda in participating countries. This will help ensure that reform efforts reduce regulatory complexity, rather than creating new procedures, processes, or standards for traders to comply with.
 
 

The power of a label: Merit scholarships vs needs-based scholarships?

4 days 4 hours ago



Labels matter. Girls who are reminded of stereotypes about how girls perform in math do worse on math exams (in some circumstances). Publicly revealing the caste of students in India led to worse performance of students from castes that were traditionally lower in the caste hierarchy. In the U.S., posting a banner with vegetables in the form of cartoon characters increased schoolchildren’s consumption of vegetables by 90 percent. These are all forms of labeling. New research suggests that labeling matters in school scholarships – merit-based versus needs-based – as well.

Scholarships based on merit have a real allure. They create incentives for children to exert more effort to learn in school rather than just to attend. In Kenya, merit-based scholarships for primary school students led to learning gains even among children whose initial performance was so low that they had little chance of winning the scholarships. But merit-based scholarships can have adverse impacts as well. In the U.S. – where most scholarships are focused on higher education – merit-based scholarships tend to go to higher income students, and those students are more likely to go on in school anyway. Furthermore, when merit-based scholarships do boost school completion among better off students, they can increase the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students. There’s nothing wrong with well-off students doing well in school, but is that really where scarce scholarship dollars (or shillings or pesos or francs or riels) should be focused? If not, then perhaps need-based scholarships make the most sense. Need-based scholarships for secondary students in Ghana improved learning, reduced fertility, and raised earnings once the students left school.

Scholarships affect student learning through at least three pathways. The first is the direct effect of the money. This comes after the scholarship is awarded, as in the Ghana example, and it should come whether the scholarship is based on merit or need. The second is the effect of merit scholarships on students’ incentives to work hard in school. This comes before the scholarship is awarded – and after, if renewal depends on continued performance, as in the Kenya example. We’d only expect to see this in a merit-based scholarship. The third effect is the labeling effect, which has been little tested and which we observe in a scholarship program from Cambodia.

Ten years ago, fourth-grade students in Cambodia received scholarships that would offset some of their schooling costs through primary school. In some schools, these scholarships were based on merit; in others, they were based on financial need. Three years into the program, Barrera-Osorio and Filmer show that students receiving either type of scholarship were more likely to stay enrolled in school and to show up. Scholarship recipients were between 23 and 32 percent more likely to complete primary school. But only students who received the merit scholarship did better on exams.

Of course, the first suspect in such a result is that different kinds of students received the scholarships. If higher performing students received the merit scholarships and lower performing students received the need scholarships, then we could easily imagine higher learning results among the merit scholarship recipients. But here’s the rub: “High baseline achievers who received the poverty-based scholarship performed no better in follow-up tests than the” control group. Alternatively, “poor individuals who received a merit-based scholarship did perform better on the follow-up test.” In other words, if you look at kids who would have qualified for either program – high-performing, low-income kids – learned more with the merit scholarship, not with the need scholarship. So it’s not just about the students selected: It’s about the labeling.

Nine years into the program – with the recipients now in their early 20s – new results from Barrera-Osorio, de Barros, and Filmer show that the two scholarships diverge in even more ways. Both types of scholarships still lead to more educational attainment. And again, only the merit scholarships led to increased learning – as measured by test scores. But the merit scholarship recipients also reported higher health and higher employment rates. (Notably, the benefits of the merit scholarships did not translate into higher socioemotional skills.) And as before, the results suggest that the same students do better with a merit scholarship than a need scholarship.

Why would this labelling matter? Students who receive merit scholarships are reminded of their academic potential by the scholarship itself, whereas students who receive need scholarships are reminded only of their financial needs. It isn’t hard to imagine which of those would encourage students to focusing on fulfilling their academic potential.

As the authors point out, the solution may be to use merit scholarships, but to ensure that high-need students are among the beneficiaries. This may happen through targeting schools or districts where the vast majority of students have high need, so merit scholarships will reach needy students. Or it could happen with a two-stage targeting process, where merit scholarships are rewarded among students that have been identified as high-need.

It’s great to target the most vulnerable students with financial help, but these results suggest there is value in doing it so that it emphasizes their ability over their needs. 

Improving urban transportation for upward social mobility in Malaysia

4 days 9 hours ago
Access to transportation is essential for improving the upward social mobility of low-income communities in Kuala Lumpur, especially residents of low-cost public housing units. (Photo: Samuel Goh/World Bank)

Over the years, Malaysia has demonstrated great improvements in enhancing upward social mobility as the country continues to advance toward becoming a developed nation. However, this success has not been evenly distributed among the population. A 2016 Khazanah Research Institute study found that 24% of children born to low-skilled parents in Malaysia remained low-skilled as adults. Likewise, 46% of children born to parents in the bottom 40% of the national income distribution remained in the bottom 40%.

As such, one important factor that can potentially contribute to improving socio-economic standing is access to transportation. Transportation facilitates day-to-day activities such as getting to jobs, schools, and healthcare facilities among others. Having a good public transportation system in place in urban areas is especially important as Malaysia is 75% urban and becoming more so. Without reliable transportation, low-income urban households are at a disadvantage in accessing a wider range of opportunities, which could potentially hinder them from moving up the socio-economic ladder.

In the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur, public transit serves as a viable solution for low-income households to reduce limitations in physical mobility. To better understand whether urban low-income communities in Kuala Lumpur have adequate access to public transportation, we randomly selected 30 public housing units and used a 15- and 30-minute walking distance as the benchmarks for proximity to public buses and rail lines.  This walking distance was simulated with ArcGIS software using coordinates from Google Maps.  One caveat of this measurement is that it may not be safe to walk which cannot be measured through a preliminary spatial examination.



The bus stops above represent the bus stops within close proximity to the public housing units that have been randomly selected. These do not represent the full bus network in Kuala Lumpur.

A preliminary spatial analysis of access to public transit from low-cost public housing in Kuala Lumpur is encouraging. Our findings include:

  • All 30 of the randomly-selected public housing units are within a 15-minute walking distance to public bus services.
  • Seventeen public housing units are within a 15-minute walking distance to a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), Monorail, and/or Malayan Railway (KTM) station. Eight of the remaining 13 public housing units are within a 30-minute walking distance to one or more of these train lines.
  • Five of the 30 public housing units do not have any rail stations within a 30-minute walking distance but are within a 15-minute walking distance to a bus stop.
These preliminary findings bring us to two important points:
  1. Urban low-income residents in Kuala Lumpur may be benefiting from the public transportation network, given that public buses and train lines are placed within close vicinity of public housing areas. However, this study only focuses on assessing the proximity of public transportation to low-cost public housing units in Malaysia’s capital. As such, more research should be conducted in Kuala Lumpur and other cities to examine the access of poorer communities to public transportation for inclusive development in Malaysia. Further analysis could also potentially include using “big-data” to simulate travel times by public transit from all neighborhoods to the city’s key job centers, traditional markets, training centers, public hospitals, and top schools to help pinpoint areas that are presently under-served by the public transport network (as is currently being done by a World Bank team using Google Maps data for Jakarta). 
  2. Even though the randomly selected public housing units in Kuala Lumpur are all within a 15-minute walking distance to the nearest form of public transportation, true access also requires affordability. In 2017, transportation was one of the main contributing factors to the rising cost of living in Malaysia. This has hit poorer populations the hardest as transportation is often a big household expense.  The preliminary analysis here only addresses the physical distance of low-cost public housing units to bus stops and transit lines. Further research needs to be done on the affordability of public transportation fares for urban low-income Malaysians to ensure that they can reap the benefits of public transportation for upward mobility.

Better planning to connect public housing areas to accessible and reliable public transportation is vital to ensure that the urban poor have greater access to socio-economic opportunities. As Malaysia sets its sights on becoming a developed and inclusive nation, this needs to be put at the forefront of urban development priorities. Better access to public transportation for urban poor communities could be a big step towards inclusive growth.

World Ozone Day: Taking stock of what it means to stay cool

5 days 10 hours ago



Blogging from the Commemoration event for the 2018 International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer in Beijing, China.

Have you suffered heat stress this summer? If not, you were lucky. Depending on where you live and how wealthy you are, a sweltering and humid couple of days can either be an opportunity to catch up with paperwork in an air-conditioned room, or they can literally mean the difference between life and death. Too much heat can kill you.


Data from Chilling Prospects: Providing Sustainable Cooling for All, a report by Sustainable Energy For All, says that heat waves kill 12,000 people annually around the world, with the potential to reach up to 250,000 by 2050. Over 1.1 billion people globally face increasing risks from lack of access to cooling.
 
Every year, new heat records are set all over the world, and 2018 has been no exception. High temperatures and extreme heat waves were recorded from the Arctic Circle, Canada, and Scandinavia to North Africa, Iran, Japan, and India. Extreme heat affects both health and livelihoods, as vividly depicted in a recent New York Times article from New Delhi. In Japan, 65 people died in one week, and 22,000 were hospitalized. Soaring temperatures above 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40° Celsius) have fueled wildfires in Greece and California, killing hundreds of people.
 
Predictably, as heat rises, so does the demand to stay cool and use refrigeration.

Cooling equipment not only saves lives but also prevents food from spoiling by using cold supply chains, preserves vaccines effectively, and increases a population’s overall productivity. Loss of work undermines economic growth. The Chilling Prospects report says that by 2050, work-hour losses may be as high as 12 percent in the worst affected regions of South Asia and West Africa.
 
In highly populated countries that are either tropical or have a hot climate, a growing middle class is demanding air conditioning, no longer as a luxury but a necessity in hotter countries like India. Current estimates indicate the world is likely to add 700 million air conditioning units to global stocks by 2030.

What is needed now more than ever are cleaner, energy-efficient cooling options for everyone.
 


What are some solutions?
 
Firstly, let’s make sure we take advantage of the technology that is available. Thermal comfort can be improved by building smarter: more shade, better airflow, white roofs and more vegetation in cities can go some way. And where that is not enough, the technology for much more energy-efficient mechanical air conditioning already exists and can—with the right amount of political will, private sector ingenuity, and financial resources—be shared more widely and adopted by many. The good news is that the momentum to do so is finally here.
 
Secondly, the international community has shown that we can make progress if we put our minds to it.  We have restored the ozone layer while reducing the impact on the climate since the Montreal Protocol came into effect thirty-one years ago. This landmark agreement created a roadmap for the gradual phase-out of all types of substances that destroyed the ozone layer: chemicals used in refrigeration, air-conditioning, foam manufacturing, aerosols, as cleaning agents and in fire extinguishing.
 
On January 1st of next year, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer will enter into force. This amendment specifically limits consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a greenhouse gas mainly used in air conditioners and refrigerators as a replacement of ozone-damaging refrigerants. The adoption of the Kigali Amendment in 2016 broadened the scope of the Protocol to also phase down HFCs, which are not ozone-depleting but have a strong climate effect.
 
Under the Kigali Amendment, 197 countries have committed to cutting the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years. This effort has the potential to avoid up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century. So far, the amendment has been ratified by 46 countries.
 
The recent IEA report on “The Future of Cooling” shows how a rapidly increasing cooling demand using current technologies has the potential to undercut the climate targets of the Paris Agreement – if nothing is done to reduce the need for air conditioning and make cooling technology much more climate-friendly.
 
We need to take up the challenge by aggressively promoting integrated approaches, such as better buildings, more efficient air conditioning systems, renewable energy-powered cooling, much more efficient cold storage and transportation systems.
 
As an implementing agency of the Montreal Protocol since 1991, the World Bank Group has channeled more than $1 billion in grants to developing countries to phase out the consumption and production of ozone-depleting substances. In doing so, the Bank has helped to avoid the equivalent of 1.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases (CO2e) escaping into the atmosphere. The Bank also supports local manufacturers like Saijo Denki of Thailand to adopt more environmentally-friendly refrigerant technologies and, in so doing, transforming the market and offering customers more affordable, efficient air-conditioners.
 
The research has been done: we know where the trend is leading. It is now high time for all of us – industry, governments, financial institutions – to take up the challenge and address the emerging cooling crisis. A revolution in cooling is possible: energy-efficient technologies are available and new, integrated cooling solutions are emerging. We now need a global plan of action to stabilize emissions from cooling so that we can achieve the Paris Agreement targets. The World Bank is more than ever committed to working with the public and private sectors to develop new solutions that will help us win the battle against a changing climate while also mastering the challenge of staying cool in a warming world.

Join the conversation!

Celebrate on social media the major accomplishments of the Montreal Protocol in protecting the ozone layer with the #OzoneHeroes campaign. Download the social media toolkit here and read the comic book created in collaboration with Marvel comics!
 












 

Lessons from a cash benchmarking evaluation: Authors' version

6 days 22 hours ago

This is a guest post by Craig McIntosh and Andrew Zeitlin.

We are grateful to have this chance to speak about our experiences with USAID's pilot of benchmarking its traditional development assistance using unconditional cash transfers. Along with the companion benchmarking study that is still in the field (that one comparing a youth workforce readiness to cash) we have spent the past two and a half years working to design these head-to-head studies, and are glad to have a chance to reflect on the process. These are complex studies with many stakeholders and lots of collective agreements over communications, and our report to USAID, released yesterday, reflects that. Here, we convey our personal impressions as researchers involved in the studies.

The Gikuriro cash benchmarking evaluation

The report released this week presents the core results of the first of these benchmarking studies, which compared a relatively standard multi-sectoral USAID child nutrition program against cash transfers. The USAID program, called Gikuriro, provided WASH and behavior change trainings around sanitation and nutrition, delivered productive inputs through farmer field schools, and help beneficiaries set up local savings and lending groups. We ‘benchmarked’ this program against cash by conducting an ex-ante costing of both programs, and then randomizing the cash transfer amounts in a range around the expected cost of Gikuriro. By using regression adjustment in transfer amounts we can then estimate the impact of GiveDirectly at the exact cost of Gikuriro revealed by the costing at the end of the study. And because cash need not be at its most cost effective at these values, our study also includes a larger transfer amount, costing $532 per household, the value of which was chosen by GiveDirectly.

To begin with the results:  the main takeaway is that neither intervention (when evaluated at the low Gikuriro cost of $141 per household) improved child outcomes. The bundled intervention was relatively inexpensive compared to similar programs elsewhere, and this low overall level of spending makes the impact of both programs undetectable on child outcomes. There are interesting differential effects of the programs; the heavy savings focus of Gikuriro did significantly boost this outcome, but individuals receiving cost equivalent cash transfers instead used the additional resources to pay down debt. Cash transfers led to meaningfully better improvements in productive and consumption assets, while Gikuriro improved knowledge about health practices at the village level. So, while neither program was effective in the short term, each has impacts visible at the time of the endline that could be hoped to drive improved outcomes over the longer term.

The intervention that did move child outcomes was a substantially more expensive cash transfer, costing more than four times as much money and actually delivering $532 per household. This transfer led to across the board increases in consumption, assets, and housing value, but more excitingly translated consumption impacts into improvements in dietary diversity, modest and marginally significant improvements in anthropometric outcomes (~.1 SD), and a decrease in child mortality. So we have evidence here that large cash transfers can move child health outcomes, but the study does not speak to what Gikuriro would have achieved if it had spent this larger amount of money.

So, we think the conclusion from our results should not be as simple as ‘cash won’. The study is explicitly not built to directly compare large cash transfers to Gikuriro (which is not a strict benchmarking comparison, as we explain below). Such adversarial framing does a disservice to both the openness of participating organizations to learn, and to the state of knowledge. It took courage and a commitment to transparency for the implementers involved in this study to participate, and we are deeply grateful to CRS, GiveDirectly, USAID, and IPA for sticking with the execution of the study.

Instead, our takeaway is that different means of spending program resources generate fundamentally different types of benefits, and with a more nuanced understanding of these differences we can design programs that are better tailored to deliver specific impacts. For the primary outcomes, impacts per dollar spent are highest in the large transfer arm, but that is only an interesting comparison to Gikuriro to the extent that Gikuriro is optimally sized for cost effectiveness -- and while this was presumably practitioners' ex ante belief, results from our study suggest that belief may be worth revisiting. As we understand more about the outcomes that cash transfers can and cannot deliver, we improve the ability of USAID and other implementers to identify a) the means of delivering resources, and b) the concentration of resources across individuals that is most cost effective. Head-to-head studies are invaluable in allowing us to make these kinds of comparisons.

Broader lessons

Reflecting on the experience and results of our evaluation, we think there are five broad lessons worth sharing.

1. What we mean when we talk about 'benchmarking'

As first conceived of by Chris Blattman and Paul Niehaus, the basic idea of benchmarking development interventions with cash was to provide what might act as a low-cost 'index fund' for investments in development. Technological improvements in the ability to distribute cash to poor households in developing countries have gone through a sea change, and the availability of mobile money channels revolutionizes the efficiency with which cash transfers can be distributed. Much as the advent of low-cost mutual index funds exerted healthy pressure on portfolio managers to justify their fees, low-overhead cash transfers can pose fundamental questions about the value added by aid programs that deliver goods and services in kind.

To operationalize this idea requires careful thinking about the outcomes to study, the population to target, and the value of transfers to use. By contrast with mutual funds, typical development programs target, and value, a wide range of outcomes. A 'strict' definition of benchmarking would study relative impacts on these outcomes holding the beneficiary population constant across arms -- meaning cash would have to follow the targeting rule of in-kind programming -- and holding resources spent per beneficiary constant as well. This isn't necessarily the way that one would design a cash transfer program to maximize cost effectiveness; in our study, cash appears to be more cost effective at larger resource investments. And it's possible that, for a given, broader beneficiary population, cash could do better by targeting differently. More flexible notions of benchmarking may allow departures in these dimensions, but stronger normative judgments will then be needed to weigh, e.g., the merits of providing greater assistance to a smaller number of people.

2. Cash benchmarking pushes donors to justify paternalism in development programs.

Given the many outcomes valued by development programs, in general, no one approach will dominate on all dimensions. When this is the case, benchmarking studies can then serve two purposes: to highlight the tradeoffs across profiles of outcomes between alternative programs, and -- we hope -- to encourage practitioners to think carefully about the tradeoffs that beneficiaries themselves would prefer to make across these outcomes.

As Das, Do and Özler pointed out in 2005, in the absence of external market imperfections, intra-household bargaining concerns, or behavioral inconsistencies, the outcomes moved by cash transfers are by definition those that maximize welfare impacts. Under these (idealized) circumstances, cash is useful as a benchmark not just because it is inexpensive to deliver, but because it reveals the ways that households themselves choose to change their behavior when an absolute income constraint is relaxed.

Markets are not perfect in the real world. Reasonable arguments can certainly be made about how such imperfections are addressed by in-kind programs; for example, there is direct evidence of such imperfections in some settings (e.g., Cunha, De Giorgi, and Jaychandran 2018). Comparing the profile of impacts delivered by cash to the profile of impacts delivered by in-kind programs requires donors to be explicit about the extent to which they either have different preferences than beneficiaries, or to which they believe beneficiaries are constrained by market imperfections in the expression of their own preferences.

3. Getting the costs right is challenging, and important.

Our 'strict' definition of benchmarking requires holding program costs constant across arms, in dollar-at-the-top terms. This contrasts with, e.g., the extant literature on cash vs kind in food support, which has mostly focused on how household responses to transfers that have the same nominal value to the recipient depend on the modality of the transfer. It therefore puts the costing question at the center of the experimental design, whereas many have lamented that reporting of costs in impact evaluations is sometimes an afterthought and varied in quality.

We took two steps to try get this right. In doing so, our guiding principles were that a) the costing should be as symmetric as possible across implementers, and b) we should be costing only those components of the programs whose benefits we are able to measure.

First, we costed both programs in both ex ante and ex post terms -- an exercise that would not have been possible without enormous cooperation from both implementers, and superb help from Liz Brown, a costing expert working neutrally on behalf for USAID and the research program. In the case of Gikuriro, a central challenge was to isolate costs associated with those program elements that were assignable at the village level; these are the program elements whose causal effects we identify. We then had to attribute a share of administrative and overhead costs to these program elements. Since we estimate intention-to-treat effects, we had to work out the effects of non-compliance on cost per eligible household (some costs are averted by non-compliance, some are not).  Because Gikuriro was a national-scale program, to make the comparison with GD fair we synthetically scaled up GiveDirectly's cost structure to a level of implementation equivalent to Gikuriro's full target population. Fixed costs decline with program size, so a level playing field requires us to evaluate both programs at equivalent scales.

Second, we addressed the uncertainty in projected costs by randomizing transfer values in a range around the projected costs of the in-kind transfer. In our pre-specified analysis, we combine this experimental variation in cost per beneficiary with a regression adjustment in order to make comparisons at cost-equivalent transfer values. Some assumptions are required here, and alternatives approaches are certainly possible. But we think more work to develop study designs addressing these issues would be valuable.

4. The time profile of delivery, and impacts, may differ by modality.

Different types of intervention, by their nature, roll out at different paces. In the case of our study, implementers in all arms of the study contacted study-eligible beneficiaries to enroll them nearly immediately after baseline. Monthly cash transfers started to flow shortly thereafter. But Gikuriro's in-kind services took longer to launch. Whether one thinks of this as a feature or a bug of this study is a judgment call. Given that beneficiaries were selected on the basis of having children at risk of acute malnutrition in a critical window of their development, we think there is a strong case that the differential speed of program benefits is a relevant part of the estimand.

These alternative modalities also may differ in the time profile of their impacts. In our study, pressure to implement the program universally in the study districts, as well as ethical concerns for control households containing malnourished children who were not getting access to the programs, meant that the entire group of study villages received the Gikuriro program immediately after the 13-month endline. To address a concern for long-term effects, we included a number of outcomes that we, and the other parties involved, thought would respond quickly and embed any long-term impacts of the in-kind transfers (see Athey, Chetty, Imbens, and Kang 2016 on the use of 'surrogates' for long-term impact). In this particular case, the fact that we don't see movement in knowledge, diet, or anemia is discouraging about the prospect of longer-term impacts from Gikuriro's investment in study households. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that human capital gains reflected in reductions in stunting may have persistent effects.

5. Cash and in-kind programs may have very different effects on the broader population.

An outstanding issue for cash benchmarking as a framework is to resolve how it should think about their effects on people outside their narrow target population. Typical development programs place little weight on these other individuals, and a strictly defined benchmarking exercise might focus exclusively on consequences for its target population.

Recent studies have highlighted the potential for external effects of cash-transfer programs. In our own work the point estimates on village-level impacts are consistent with negative spillovers of the large transfer on some outcomes (they are also consistent with Gikuriro’s village-level health and nutrition trainings having improved health knowledge in the overall population). Cash may look less good as one thinks of welfare impacts on a more broadly defined population. Donors weighing cash-vs-kind decisions will need to decide how much weight to put on non-targeted populations, and to consider the accumulated evidence on external consequences.

Closing thoughts:  Where and when to undertake cash benchmarking to maximize learning

On the implementation side, we can certainly attest that these benchmarking studies are a challenge!  It is complicated enough to design a single RCT with a well-defined eligible group within which we may hope to find impacts. To work with two implementers, each with different implementation timing and strategies as well as different targeting criteria and compliance rates, is a real challenge.

Because of these challenges, and because resources are scarce, we do not emerge from this pair of head-to-head studies feeling that it makes sense to try to impose benchmarking as a blanket way of evaluating development programs. Rather, if a series of such studies can be conducted on comparative impact and the results can be generalized, we would hope that the impacts of cash will be consistent enough across the developing world -- or that we can learn enough about patterns of differential impact across contexts -- that it will be possible to make relatively precise projections of the impacts of cash for many settings.

USAID has a number of studies ongoing in Malawi, Liberia, and the DRC to try to nail down whether there are such consistent, cross-country generalizations that can be made about the effects of cash transfers. Ideally these strategic investments in knowledge about the comparative cost effectiveness of cash transfers in a range of contexts will contribute to better programmatic decisions. We hope that the results of our own study will be used in a manner that encourages more organizations to engage in such comparative cost effectiveness research.
 
 

Lessons from a cash benchmarking evaluation: Authors' version

6 days 22 hours ago

This is a guest post by Craig McIntosh and Andrew Zeitlin.

We are grateful to have this chance to speak about our experiences with USAID's pilot of benchmarking its traditional development assistance using unconditional cash transfers. Along with the companion benchmarking study that is still in the field (that one comparing a youth workforce readiness to cash) we have spent the past two and a half years working to design these head-to-head studies, and are glad to have a chance to reflect on the process. These are complex studies with many stakeholders and lots of collective agreements over communications, and our report to USAID, released yesterday, reflects that. Here, we convey our personal impressions as researchers involved in the studies.

The Gikuriro cash benchmarking evaluation

The report released this week presents the core results of the first of these benchmarking studies, which compared a relatively standard multi-sectoral USAID child nutrition program against cash transfers. The USAID program, called Gikuriro, provided WASH and behavior change trainings around sanitation and nutrition, delivered productive inputs through farmer field schools, and help beneficiaries set up local savings and lending groups. We ‘benchmarked’ this program against cash by conducting an ex-ante costing of both programs, and then randomizing the cash transfer amounts in a range around the expected cost of Gikuriro. By using regression adjustment in transfer amounts we can then estimate the impact of GiveDirectly at the exact cost of Gikuriro revealed by the costing at the end of the study. And because cash need not be at its most cost effective at these values, our study also includes a larger transfer amount, costing $532 per household, the value of which was chosen by GiveDirectly.

To begin with the results:  the main takeaway is that neither intervention (when evaluated at the low Gikuriro cost of $141 per household) improved child outcomes. The bundled intervention was relatively inexpensive compared to similar programs elsewhere, and this low overall level of spending makes the impact of both programs undetectable on child outcomes. There are interesting differential effects of the programs; the heavy savings focus of Gikuriro did significantly boost this outcome, but individuals receiving cost equivalent cash transfers instead used the additional resources to pay down debt. Cash transfers led to meaningfully better improvements in productive and consumption assets, while Gikuriro improved knowledge about health practices at the village level. So, while neither program was effective in the short term, each has impacts visible at the time of the endline that could be hoped to drive improved outcomes over the longer term.

The intervention that did move child outcomes was a substantially more expensive cash transfer, costing more than four times as much money and actually delivering $532 per household. This transfer led to across the board increases in consumption, assets, and housing value, but more excitingly translated consumption impacts into improvements in dietary diversity, modest and marginally significant improvements in anthropometric outcomes (~.1 SD), and a decrease in child mortality. So we have evidence here that large cash transfers can move child health outcomes, but the study does not speak to what Gikuriro would have achieved if it had spent this larger amount of money.

So, we think the conclusion from our results should not be as simple as ‘cash won’. The study is explicitly not built to directly compare large cash transfers to Gikuriro (which is not a strict benchmarking comparison, as we explain below). Such adversarial framing does a disservice to both the openness of participating organizations to learn, and to the state of knowledge. It took courage and a commitment to transparency for the implementers involved in this study to participate, and we are deeply grateful to CRS, GiveDirectly, USAID, and IPA for sticking with the execution of the study.

Instead, our takeaway is that different means of spending program resources generate fundamentally different types of benefits, and with a more nuanced understanding of these differences we can design programs that are better tailored to deliver specific impacts. For the primary outcomes, impacts per dollar spent are highest in the large transfer arm, but that is only an interesting comparison to Gikuriro to the extent that Gikuriro is optimally sized for cost effectiveness -- and while this was presumably practitioners' ex ante belief, results from our study suggest that belief may be worth revisiting. As we understand more about the outcomes that cash transfers can and cannot deliver, we improve the ability of USAID and other implementers to identify a) the means of delivering resources, and b) the concentration of resources across individuals that is most cost effective. Head-to-head studies are invaluable in allowing us to make these kinds of comparisons.

Broader lessons

Reflecting on the experience and results of our evaluation, we think there are five broad lessons worth sharing.

1. What we mean when we talk about 'benchmarking'

As first conceived of by Chris Blattman and Paul Niehaus, the basic idea of benchmarking development interventions with cash was to provide what might act as a low-cost 'index fund' for investments in development. Technological improvements in the ability to distribute cash to poor households in developing countries have gone through a sea change, and the availability of mobile money channels revolutionizes the efficiency with which cash transfers can be distributed. Much as the advent of low-cost mutual index funds exerted healthy pressure on portfolio managers to justify their fees, low-overhead cash transfers can pose fundamental questions about the value added by aid programs that deliver goods and services in kind.

To operationalize this idea requires careful thinking about the outcomes to study, the population to target, and the value of transfers to use. By contrast with mutual funds, typical development programs target, and value, a wide range of outcomes. A 'strict' definition of benchmarking would study relative impacts on these outcomes holding the beneficiary population constant across arms -- meaning cash would have to follow the targeting rule of in-kind programming -- and holding resources spent per beneficiary constant as well. This isn't necessarily the way that one would design a cash transfer program to maximize cost effectiveness; in our study, cash appears to be more cost effective at larger resource investments. And it's possible that, for a given, broader beneficiary population, cash could do better by targeting differently. More flexible notions of benchmarking may allow departures in these dimensions, but stronger normative judgments will then be needed to weigh, e.g., the merits of providing greater assistance to a smaller number of people.

2. Cash benchmarking pushes donors to justify paternalism in development programs.

Given the many outcomes valued by development programs, in general, no one approach will dominate on all dimensions. When this is the case, benchmarking studies can then serve two purposes: to highlight the tradeoffs across profiles of outcomes between alternative programs, and -- we hope -- to encourage practitioners to think carefully about the tradeoffs that beneficiaries themselves would prefer to make across these outcomes.

As Das, Do and Özler pointed out in 2005, in the absence of external market imperfections, intra-household bargaining concerns, or behavioral inconsistencies, the outcomes moved by cash transfers are by definition those that maximize welfare impacts. Under these (idealized) circumstances, cash is useful as a benchmark not just because it is inexpensive to deliver, but because it reveals the ways that households themselves choose to change their behavior when an absolute income constraint is relaxed.

Markets are not perfect in the real world. Reasonable arguments can certainly be made about how such imperfections are addressed by in-kind programs; for example, there is direct evidence of such imperfections in some settings (e.g., Cunha, De Giorgi, and Jaychandran 2018). Comparing the profile of impacts delivered by cash to the profile of impacts delivered by in-kind programs requires donors to be explicit about the extent to which they either have different preferences than beneficiaries, or to which they believe beneficiaries are constrained by market imperfections in the expression of their own preferences.

3. Getting the costs right is challenging, and important.

Our 'strict' definition of benchmarking requires holding program costs constant across arms, in dollar-at-the-top terms. This contrasts with, e.g., the extant literature on cash vs kind in food support, which has mostly focused on how household responses to transfers that have the same nominal value to the recipient depend on the modality of the transfer. It therefore puts the costing question at the center of the experimental design, whereas many have lamented that reporting of costs in impact evaluations is sometimes an afterthought and varied in quality.

We took two steps to try get this right. In doing so, our guiding principles were that a) the costing should be as symmetric as possible across implementers, and b) we should be costing only those components of the programs whose benefits we are able to measure.

First, we costed both programs in both ex ante and ex post terms -- an exercise that would not have been possible without enormous cooperation from both implementers, and superb help from Liz Brown, a costing expert working neutrally on behalf for USAID and the research program. In the case of Gikuriro, a central challenge was to isolate costs associated with those program elements that were assignable at the village level; these are the program elements whose causal effects we identify. We then had to attribute a share of administrative and overhead costs to these program elements. Since we estimate intention-to-treat effects, we had to work out the effects of non-compliance on cost per eligible household (some costs are averted by non-compliance, some are not).  Because Gikuriro was a national-scale program, to make the comparison with GD fair we synthetically scaled up GiveDirectly's cost structure to a level of implementation equivalent to Gikuriro's full target population. Fixed costs decline with program size, so a level playing field requires us to evaluate both programs at equivalent scales.

Second, we addressed the uncertainty in projected costs by randomizing transfer values in a range around the projected costs of the in-kind transfer. In our pre-specified analysis, we combine this experimental variation in cost per beneficiary with a regression adjustment in order to make comparisons at cost-equivalent transfer values. Some assumptions are required here, and alternatives approaches are certainly possible. But we think more work to develop study designs addressing these issues would be valuable.

4. The time profile of delivery, and impacts, may differ by modality.

Different types of intervention, by their nature, roll out at different paces. In the case of our study, implementers in all arms of the study contacted study-eligible beneficiaries to enroll them nearly immediately after baseline. Monthly cash transfers started to flow shortly thereafter. But Gikuriro's in-kind services took longer to launch. Whether one thinks of this as a feature or a bug of this study is a judgment call. Given that beneficiaries were selected on the basis of having children at risk of acute malnutrition in a critical window of their development, we think there is a strong case that the differential speed of program benefits is a relevant part of the estimand.

These alternative modalities also may differ in the time profile of their impacts. In our study, pressure to implement the program universally in the study districts, as well as ethical concerns for control households containing malnourished children who were not getting access to the programs, meant that the entire group of study villages received the Gikuriro program immediately after the 13-month endline. To address a concern for long-term effects, we included a number of outcomes that we, and the other parties involved, thought would respond quickly and embed any long-term impacts of the in-kind transfers (see Athey, Chetty, Imbens, and Kang 2016 on the use of 'surrogates' for long-term impact). In this particular case, the fact that we don't see movement in knowledge, diet, or anemia is discouraging about the prospect of longer-term impacts from Gikuriro's investment in study households. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that human capital gains reflected in reductions in stunting may have persistent effects.

5. Cash and in-kind programs may have very different effects on the broader population.

An outstanding issue for cash benchmarking as a framework is to resolve how it should think about their effects on people outside their narrow target population. Typical development programs place little weight on these other individuals, and a strictly defined benchmarking exercise might focus exclusively on consequences for its target population.

Recent studies have highlighted the potential for external effects of cash-transfer programs. In our own work the point estimates on village-level impacts are consistent with negative spillovers of the large transfer on some outcomes (they are also consistent with Gikuriro’s village-level health and nutrition trainings having improved health knowledge in the overall population). Cash may look less good as one thinks of welfare impacts on a more broadly defined population. Donors weighing cash-vs-kind decisions will need to decide how much weight to put on non-targeted populations, and to consider the accumulated evidence on external consequences.

Closing thoughts:  Where and when to undertake cash benchmarking to maximize learning

On the implementation side, we can certainly attest that these benchmarking studies are a challenge!  It is complicated enough to design a single RCT with a well-defined eligible group within which we may hope to find impacts. To work with two implementers, each with different implementation timing and strategies as well as different targeting criteria and compliance rates, is a real challenge.

Because of these challenges, and because resources are scarce, we do not emerge from this pair of head-to-head studies feeling that it makes sense to try to impose benchmarking as a blanket way of evaluating development programs. Rather, if a series of such studies can be conducted on comparative impact and the results can be generalized, we would hope that the impacts of cash will be consistent enough across the developing world -- or that we can learn enough about patterns of differential impact across contexts -- that it will be possible to make relatively precise projections of the impacts of cash for many settings.

USAID has a number of studies ongoing in Malawi, Liberia, and the DRC to try to nail down whether there are such consistent, cross-country generalizations that can be made about the effects of cash transfers. Ideally these strategic investments in knowledge about the comparative cost effectiveness of cash transfers in a range of contexts will contribute to better programmatic decisions. We hope that the results of our own study will be used in a manner that encourages more organizations to engage in such comparative cost effectiveness research.
 
 

Three key factors for boosting the productivity of Latin American and Caribbean cities

6 days 23 hours ago
In this video, learn the key opportunities to make Latin American and Caribbean cities more productive #s7video_div.s7videoviewer{ width:100%; height:auto; } var s7videoviewer = new s7viewers.VideoViewer({ "containerId" : "s7video_div", "params" : { "serverurl" : "https://worldbank-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image", "contenturl" : "https://www.worldbank.org//", "config" : "/etc/dam/presets/viewer/WB-Standard-Player", "config2": "/etc/dam/presets/analytics", "videoserverurl": "https://gateway-na.assetsadobe.com/DMGateway/public/worldbank", "posterimage": "/content/dam/videos/ecrgp/2018/sep/Raising%20the%20Bar%20report%20-%20Ming%20with%20Ede.mp4", "asset" : "/content/dam/videos/ecrgp/2018/sep/Raising the Bar report - Ming with Ede.mp4" } }).init(); [[tweetable]]With more than 433 million people living in cities, Latin America and the Caribbean is among the most urbanized regions in the world.[[/tweetable]]
 
Yet, [[tweetable]]even though Latin American and Caribbean cities show similar levels of productivity as the global average, their productivity lags that of North American and Western European cities.[[/tweetable]]
 
Closing this gap will help Latin American and Caribbean countries raise their living standards and become wealthier nations.
 
Our latest report, Raising the Bar for Productive Cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, explores the productivity of Latin American and Caribbean cities and the factors that explain it. Using original empirical research, the report documents the relatively high population density, strong concentration of human capital in the largest cities, and other features of Latin American and Caribbean cities that distinguish them from cities in the rest of the world.
Watch this video to learn more about the key findings of the report #s7video_div.s7videoviewer{ width:100%; height:auto; } var s7videoviewer = new s7viewers.VideoViewer({ "containerId" : "s7video_div", "params" : { "serverurl" : "https://worldbank-h.assetsadobe.com/is/image", "contenturl" : "https://www.worldbank.org//", "config" : "/etc/dam/presets/viewer/WB-Standard-Player", "config2": "/etc/dam/presets/analytics", "videoserverurl": "https://gateway-na.assetsadobe.com/DMGateway/public/worldbank", "posterimage": "/content/dam/videos/ecrgp/2018/sep/Raising%20the%20Bar%20report%20-%20Mark%20with%20Ede.mp4", "asset" : "/content/dam/videos/ecrgp/2018/sep/Raising the Bar report - Mark with Ede.mp4" } }).init();
The report also explores [[tweetable]]how three key factors—urban form, skills, and access to markets—determine productivity in Latin American and Caribbean cities.[[/tweetable]] Although these cities benefit strongly from human capital and skills, they fail to reap the wider benefits of urban agglomeration.
 
This is, in part, due to an inadequate enabling environment, as well as excessive congestion forces associated with infrastructure deficiencies and a lack of administrative coordination within metropolitan areas.
 
Further, the [[tweetable]]poor integration of Latin American and Caribbean cities within countries contributes to large performance differences across cities[[/tweetable]], and undermines their aggregate contribution to national productivity.
 
Tackling these problems holds the key to realizing the full potential of Latin American and Caribbean cities as engines of national and regional economic growth.
 
We invite you to read our report, Raising the Bar for Productive Cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, share it on social media, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
 
RELATED:

Three innovative approaches for managing disaster risks

1 week 5 min ago

When Dara Dotz, an industrial designer, travelled to Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010, she saw firsthand the supply chain challenges people were facing that had life threatening consequences – most vividly, a nurse having to use her medical gloves to tie off the umbilical cords of newborn babies, because she didn’t have access to an umbilical clamp. Deploying a 3D printer, Dara was able to design a locally manufactured, inexpensive plastic clamp that could be used in the local hospitals for newborns.
 
From there, Dara co-founded Field Ready, an NGO that is part of the “maker movement,” which pilots new technologies to rapidly manufacture components of essential supplies in the field. Using 3D printing and a range of software, Field Ready works with volunteers to make lifesaving medical components like IV bag hooks, oxygen splitters, and umbilical cord clamps, an approach that has often proven to be both quicker and cheaper than waiting for shipments to arrive.
About this series
More blog posts


This is one example of local innovation and design in disaster situations. [[tweetable]]With trends of rising population growth, increased urbanization, and climate projections of more frequent and intense weather, more people and assets are at risk from natural hazards.[[/tweetable]] Communities and governments need to think creatively and find new ways to build resilience, and some of the latest developments in science and technology can provide promising solutions.

Over the past few decades, there has been an exponential increase in the amount of information and data that is open and available – whether from satellites and drones collecting data from above, or from crowdsourced information and social media from citizens on the ground. When analyzed holistically, this data can provide valuable insight for understanding the risks and establishing a common operating picture.

Cloud to Street is an example of a platform adopting this approach by combining the daily imagery from microsatellites with information from citizens reporting in the field to create maps that show the extent and duration of flooding events. These maps can be used both by first responders and by decision-makers to understand where flood risks are located, and how situations progress over time.

[[tweetable]]Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence can also provide benefits to disaster risk management.[[/tweetable]]

For example, [[tweetable]]algorithms have been developed to analyze scientific data on earthquakes[[/tweetable]] (shaking parameters, soil and seismic hazard characteristics, building characteristics) with real-time responses (digital media, tweets, and on-the-ground reports) to predict how new structures will respond to ground tremors and quakes.

One Concern, a startup out of Palo Alto, has developed a web platform that will alert users when an earthquake occurs, and provide a map of likely structural damage based on machine learning modelling on a block-by-block basis. The algorithm also details what structures could be impacted before, during, and immediately after an earthquake.

These methods to use innovation and new technologies in disaster risk management were recently featured at the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum, a five-day conference that showcases the latest developments in disaster risk assessment. To learn more, watch these short videos featuring the founders of Field Ready, Cloud-to-Street, and One Concern.

Interested in innovative approaches for understanding disaster risk? On September 17-19, 2018, hundreds of disaster risk management practitioners will gather in Belgrade, Serbia to exchange ideas and best practice in gathering, assessing and communicating disaster risk at Understanding Risk Balkans! Stay tuned to Understanding Risk, @WBG_Citiesand @GFDRR for the latest insights and updates from #URBalkans.
 
RELATED

Weekly links September 14: stealth cash vs WASH, online job boards, income-smoothing from bridges, lowering interest rates through TA, and more...

1 week 6 hours ago

Addressing gender-based violence in Nepal

1 week 8 hours ago
Nepal has a high incidence of gender-based violence and women remain — by large — the main victims. Credit: David Waldorf

Last month, I visited Nepal to understand the gravity of gender-based violence (GBV) and how victims can seek help and access confidential and quality support services.   
 
[[tweetable]]Nepal has a high incidence of gender-based violence. And while everyone, regardless of their sex, can be affected, women remain — by large — the main victims.[[/tweetable]]   
 
In 2017, 149 people were killed as a result of GBV in Nepal. 
 
Of these victims, 140 were female, 75 of whom were killed because of domestic violence.  
 
In 2017, out of 680 documented cases, the main perpetrator was a family member or relative in 163 cases of them.  
 
However, such cases are generally unreported due to the stigma attached to GBV. 
 
In this bleak context, it was heartening to hear about an integrated platform that addresses GBV issues and has helped improve response and support to the victims.  
 
[[tweetable]]With assistance from the World Bank’s State and Peacebuilding Fund (SPF), the government of Nepal has set up a helpline and a network of service providers for GBV victims. [[/tweetable]]
 
Since 2017, these programs have supported over 677 cases. 

The National Women Commission (NWC), a government body that protects and promotes women rights and interests, has been at the forefront to address the problems of women who are victims of GBV.  
 
In December 2017, NWC launched its GBV helpline Khabar Garaun 1145, which has received 37,249 calls from November 21, 2017 to June 30, 2018.  
 
Of the total calls, 677 cases were registered in the helpline’s case management system, 413 were referred to partner service providers, and 264 cases were resolved.  
 
On the upside, the reporting of GBV cases has increased, and survivors have started coming forward.  
 
A total of 4559 callers were seeking information about GBV, existing legal protections, and how to access support services. 
 

The government of Nepal has set up a helpline and a network of service providers to help gender-based violence. Credit: Joe Wood

During recent visits to NWC’s service providers such as SAATHI, an NGO that offers shelter to victims, Legal Aid Coordination Committee (LACC), and Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO Nepal), I learned of a case where a 15-year old girl was raped by her alcoholic father.  
 
She managed to escape and was rescued by a police van patrolling nearby. The police referred her to the NWC Helpline which took up her case. After an initial assessment, the NWC, together with LACC and in close collaboration with Nepal police, arrested her father and took him into custody.  
 
As the girl’s stepmother was away in her village, leaving the girl’s two minor half-brothers at home with no supervision, NWC coordinated with Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) to arrange temporary shelter for the boys until her stepmother returned. 

NWC provided psycho-social counseling to the girl, who was then taken to One Stop Crisis Management Center (OCMC) at the Government’s maternity hospital for a medical check-up, provided free of charge by the OCMC.  

The medical report showed that she was seven weeks pregnant. NWC and LACC jointly coordinated with a government lawyer to file a petition at the district court to terminate her pregnancy.  
 
The court fast-tracked the case and issued a verdict in her favor.  
 
After her operation, she was referred to SAATHI to receive long-term shelter.  
 
Sapana Maharjan, a project coordinator at SAATHI, said that with regular counseling the girl is slowly regaining her health and has started going to school.  
 
“I don’t want to think about ‘that phase’ at all. I just want to pursue my studies and be a singer,” Sapana quoted the girl, adding that she has a very good voice. “If she wants to continue her education, we can provide her with schooling up until grade 12.” 
 
The above case is a concrete example of how NWC can play a crucial role in facilitating various services for GBV survivors, through receiving calls made to Khabar Garaun 1145 Helpline, as well as through providing services via its partner NGOs and through other referral mechanisms. NWC’s case management system also ensures an efficient tracking mechanism. 
 
Thanks to these advocacy and awareness efforts, reporting of GBV cases has increased. 
 
[[tweetable]]To meet the needs and expectations of GBV survivors, and help prevent further cases of GBV, a strong service provider referral mechanism needs to be implemented[[/tweetable]], coupled with effective collaboration across supporting organizations. This will help facilitate efficient and timely response. 
 
In a country like Nepal, the stigma associated with GBV and fear of community backlash also prevents victims from seeking appropriate services.  
 
According to Nepal Demographic Survey 2016, 66% of women who have experienced physical or sexual violence have not sought help to end the violence, nor have they shared their experiences. 
 
This can, in turn, aggravate the situation of survivors, leading to prolonged mental and physical suffering, and in some cases, to suicide or death.  
 
It is, therefore, crucial to increase women’s knowledge about existing laws against GBV, and of the services that are available for victims to access. The initiative of NWC to collaborate with the Nepal Police, OCMC, other donor partners, and NGO service providers, to expand the available quality services is commendable and praiseworthy. 
 

Afghanistan makes better nutrition a priority

1 week 1 day ago
Community based, preventative approaches to health care will improve stunting and wasting outcomes for Afghan children.  Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

Last year, Afghanistan became the 60th country to join Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), a global movement to end malnutrition, and thus signaled its strong commitment to invest in a better future for its citizens.

[[tweetable]]This engagement comes at a critical time as more than 40 percent of Afghan children are currently stunted[[/tweetable]]—or of low height for their age.

[[tweetable]]Stunting in early life is a marker of poor child growth and development [[/tweetable]]and will reduce their potential to contribute toward their country’s growth and prosperity.

On the other hand, a well-nourished child tends to complete more years of schooling, learns better, and earns higher wages in adulthood, thereby increasing the odds that he or she will escape a life of poverty.[1] 

As such, [[tweetable]]Afghanistan stands to gain enormous benefits by reducing stunting[[/tweetable]], which in turn can help boost its economic growth, productivity, and human capital development.

To help the Afghan government invest in better nutrition, the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), World Bank and UNICEF have partnered to determine what it would take to reach more children, women, and their families and provide them with essential nutrition services that would ultimately reduce stunting and anemia.

To that end, the new Investment Framework for Nutrition in Afghanistan working paper is a start to better understand the cost, impacts and benefits of expanding the nutrition package of the current Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS), a national program which defines and establishes healthcare standards across the country.

Specifically, [[tweetable]]the study identifies nutrition services that can reach a realistic number of children and women for greatest impact[[/tweetable]]. 

Some good practices are easier to implement than others.

For example, breastfeeding is among the most cost-effective things that can be done to decrease stunting. And encouraging mothers to only breastfeed their newborns in their first six months and then feed them appropriate complementary food will benefit their child in the first critical years of his or her life.

These benefits will then carry on throughout the child’s life by increasing their chances of survival, improving their brain development, and lowering their risks of contracting chronic diseases as adults.

Further to that, the report outlines key trends.

First, [[tweetable]]the report notes that the government has made it a priority to expand BPHS to women and children[[/tweetable]]. 

Yet, by setting conservative targets to deliver essential nutrition services, the MoPH will only modestly reduce the number of stunted children, albeit at a low cost.

[[tweetable]]As the Afghan health system strengthens, setting more ambitious targets will lead to substantially greater impacts to reduce stunting[[/tweetable]], reduce anemia in women, increase the number of exclusively breastfed infants and children fed with appropriate complementary foods, and save lives.

Second, these investments can provide an opportunity to involve communities and reach beyond health facilities. 

Case in point: Children are often brought to health facilities when they are already sick and malnourished.  By shifting the focus to prevention and delivering essential nutrition services closer to families and communities will lead to greater success in preventing stunting and promoting better growth for more children.

Involving communities also aligns with other strategies, such as the Investing in the Early Years initiative, with greater scope to link activities that improve nutrition with other sectors such as community development and education focusing on the critical early years of a child’s life.

[[tweetable]]These initial steps for Afghanistan will go a long way, as the nation strengthens its ability to expand its nutrition program to reach more communities[[/tweetable]].  Nutrition investments are not only among the best value-for-money development actions, they also lay the groundwork for successful investments in other sectors.

As Afghanistan sees a rise in community outreach for nutrition services, [[tweetable]]these investments will help build future human capital and provide an equal opportunity for all Afghan children[[/tweetable]] to drive faster economic growth.

---------

[1] Martorell et al. 2010. Weight gain in the first two years of life is an Important of schooling outcomes in pooled analysis from 5 birth cohorts from low- and middle-income countries. Journal of Nutrition. 140:348-54. Hoddinott et al. 2008. Effects of a nutrition intervention during early childhood on economic productivity in Guatemalan adults. Lancet. 371:411-16. Hoddinott, J., J. Maluccio, J. R. Behrman, R. Martorell, P. Melgar, A. R. Quisumbing, M. Ramirez-Zea, A. D. Stein, and K. M. Yount. 2011. “The Consequences of Early Childhood Growth Failure over the Life Course.” Discussion Paper 1073. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC.

Citizens lead Sierra Leone’s path to quality service delivery

1 week 1 day ago
Community of Mapaki's Community Monitoring Group Members, Ward 112, Bombali District. Photo: World Bank

When was the last time you participated in a community and worked together to reach a common goal? Communities across Sierra Leone are doing just that.

Sierra Leone created 19 Local Councils to deliver efficient services to communities across the country. The World Bank has supported the Government of Sierra Leone’s efforts to establish a decentralized government system to work with local governments through the Decentralized Service Delivery Program I and II (DSDP I and II).  DSDP I placed the framework for decentralized service delivery and social accountability.  Building on this, DSDP II expanded to deliver decentralized services in health and sanitation, education, rural water, and solid waste management to the citizens.  The project supported grant transfer to Local Councils for service delivery as well as capacity building and citizen engagement in monitoring service delivery and fostering community resilience.
 
And, it paid off.
 
DSDP II established Community Monitoring Groups (CMGs) to liaise between communities and local councils, which are responsible for delivering services to the communities. The CMGs monitor project implementation and help ensure that the services delivered respond to community needs.

Citizens Safeguard Water Well in Bombali District

The CMGs in Maboleh and Mapaki communities in Bombali District, located in the northern part of the country, gather weekly to discuss issues that arise. Each community has a water well and water is usually the main topic of discussion, since it is at the center of their community, both physically and emotionally.
 
The water well has been rehabilitated through support from DSDP II and is maintained through a set of rules established by the CMGs. These rules are discussed in communities and presented to the elders to get their blessings before implementation. These rules vary by community, including the penalties for breaking rules. Anyone who breaks them will be fined 5,000 Le (USD 0.65 cents) in both communities.

 “Life is water and life is to humanity,” one of the Mapaki CMG members shares as he emphasizes the need for clean water. For example, in Maboleh, well users must wear a head cover so hair would not fall into the well, clothes washing is prohibited near the well, and slippers must be left outside the well area to avoid unsanitary contamination. Sanitation is a priority in the communities and to stay healthy, everyone must follow these rules. In Mapaki, any fines collected as well as 2,000 Le (USD 0.25) monthly water service fee are used to repair and maintain the wells and pipes.
 
In Mapaki, DSDP II rehabilitated one water well and water pipes to help ensure clean water and easier access for the communities. Water is scarce and one water well with three taps has to serve 2,000 community members. Sometimes there isn’t enough water to reach the second tap when the first tap is being used. The community members go to the first tap to ensure their family gets enough water.

In Maboleh, DSDP II has helped rehabilitate one water well serving several households and the neighboring primary school. Each family can fetch one “rubber” (bucket) of water every day. At the time of my visit, the water level was very low since it hadn’t rained despite the rain season and only four to five “rubbers” can be filled each day. Ya Sama Turay, an 80-year-old member of the CMG in Maboleh, who’s called “Mame”, volunteers to clean the water well every morning. It is her way of giving back to the community.




Citizens Value Education and Health Services in Tonkolili District

As part of the project, council members, community members, and school staff in Tonkolili District are encouraged to have meetings and assume leadership roles to implement health and education projects.
 
The first female chairperson of the district puts a premium on education because she believes it will lead to a prosperous nation. In her view, the district will not be transformed if the people are not educated.  When we met her, she said, the project “is a step in the right direction.”

In Magbass community, the CMG is formed around the rehabilitation of a primary school. The group meets regularly to discuss progress and to mobilize community support for improving education. Ibrahim Sarrah Sesay, a 28-year-old farmer, Magbass CMG member, shares his passion for education and the need for support to help maintain the primary school. In Mabai community, the CMG monitors the delivery of health services at the community clinic. Through word of mouth, surrounding communities now know about the high standard of service available at the Mabai clinic. It’s small but accommodates everyone who needs it. Four visiting nurses and two residential nurses are always on their feet to assist.
 
Martha Fornah, 41 years old, is one of the residential nurses living in the clinic. She knew she wanted to become a nurse at a very young age. Why? “To save lives,” she says. At the clinic, she can pursue her aspiration to take care of people and provide health services in any way she can.



While writing this blog I asked myself the question that I started with—When was the last time you participated in a community and worked together to reach a common goal? For me, it’s been a long time. Visiting these communities made me realize how important it is to actively participate in a community and work together as a team. If being part of a working group might take a lot of your time, maybe responding to a 10-minute survey or simply providing feedback to the community chair will suffice. What’s the point of being part of a community if you don’t speak up and participate? This project showed me that when citizens lead a process to improve services in a community everyone benefits.

Protecting Somalia’s growing mobile money consumers

1 week 1 day ago



The mobile money market is booming in Somalia. Approximately 155 million transactions, worth $2.7 billion or 36% of gross domestic product (GDP), are recorded every month. Mobile money accounts for a high proportion of money supply in the domestic, dollarized economy and has superseded the use of cash; seven out of 10 of Somalis use mobile money services regularly.

The mass adoption of mobile money raises concerns about the magnitude of system vulnerabilities, and potential macroeconomic effects in cases of disruptions – with potentially serious implications on the wider economy. As we explore in the latest Somalia Economic Update (SEU), customers have no guarantee that their e-money can be redeemed for cash, as there is no parity requirement between monetary value held virtually on the mobile money wallets and physical funds held on deposit. Know-your-customer (KYC) data used to identify clients and determining the risks of illegal intentions, is not systemically registered for mobile money wallets, and there are no formal frameworks to protect consumers in dispute cases. The lack of regulatory and supervisory oversight of mobile money services is a source of added concern. 


Mobile money experiences, especially those concerning the protection of consumer rights, have been stifled throughout the reporting period.

So how can Somali authorities protect consumers? The challenge for policymakers and regulators is how to introduce mobile money regulations on a market that has operated without regulatory oversight. Ensuring stability and reliability of the mobile money system is a priority, focusing on safeguards for consumer funds, improving compliance and risk management, reducing opportunities for fraud, strengthening regulatory reporting, and protecting consumer data.

In the SEU, we recommend a phased-in approach for regulating mobile money services. The top priority must be to safeguard consumer funds and ensure continued and undisrupted service delivery. The second priority should be to strengthen service delivery via greater innovation, including stronger agent networks, internal controls, and holding providers responsible for agents. Once the protection of consumer funds and service delivery are guaranteed, it will be important to strengthen consumer protections, including data privacy, and create platforms for complaints and access to redress mechanisms. Regulation could then address the requirement for clear, consistent, and effective reporting and disclosures from providers.

Mobile money services that are regulated and supervised provide opportunities for securely and responsibly expanding financial inclusion. This is amplified by the use of mobile money to transfer more than a billion dollars as remittances to Somalia. Regulation of mobile money is likely to promote greater financial stability and integrity, level the playing field, and boost the system’s usefulness for more advanced applications. Balancing regulatory oversight with space for private sector innovation using the so called “regulatory sandbox,” would allow regulation to keep up with innovation, and could increase the functional utility of mobile money.

Somalia’s mobile money services need to be adequately regulated before serving as a critical enabler for innovation and anchor of financial sector development. A digitized identification system and social protection mechanisms are just two of many examples where innovation backed by financial technology (fintech) can contribute to financial inclusion, equity and resilience.

Educating for the future: The case of East Asia

1 week 2 days ago
Photo by World/Bank

The purpose of any education system is to equip learners with the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life. Currently, East Asia is home to seven of the top ten education systems in the world. Despite impressive achievements, these above-average performing systems are not resting on their accomplishments—they continue to deepen the quality of education, tying learning to new and emerging needs. Central to the region’s curriculum reform is a focus on teaching and measuring 21st century skills.

Among countries with the strongest education systems, attention is shifting from a uniform, teacher-centered, exam-oriented pedagogy towards diverse, student-centered learning pathways that aim to instill capabilities for lifelong learning. This shift represents an increased focus on 21st century skills under three categories: 1) Learning and Innovation, 2) Digital Literacies, and 3) Life and Career Skills.
 
In short, East Asia aspires for its students to know themselves, relate well with others and be worldly as well as think creatively and independently with a sea of ubiquitous knowledge at their fingertips.
  
Learning to learn: Curriculum for the 21st century
 
In Singapore, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Hong Kong (China), 21st century curricular reforms are about doing education differently. Recognizing the fast-changing and increasingly knowledge-based global economy, they are placing more curricular emphasis on “learning to learn” so students can develop the flexibility and adaptability to keep pace with dynamic labor market demands.
 
Specifically, they have set forth new target goals, a new format for the curriculum, and different preferred pedagogies. Countries are reducing the set curriculum. In Hong Kong, for example, it was decreased to four key learning areas. In Japan, 30 percent of its formal curriculum has been reduced, and in Singapore, one third of the formal curriculum has been cut.
 
Among the leading education systems in the region, there is also a common shift away from knowledge acquisition (historically based on rote memorization) toward development of competencies (or skills). In Japan, for example, the change is manifested and framed away from “what do students know” towards “what can they do with what they know.” Examples of how this is demonstrated in classrooms include project-based activities, problem- and theme-based integrated learning, experiential learning, and activities that involve group-based research, debate, discussions and presentations.
 
Towards student-centered assessments
 
In several countries in East Asia, there is recognition that assessment formats should move away from summative functions to performance-based, formative functions, enhancing curricular emphasis on learning to learn. By doing so, the goal is to create assessments that empower learners to conduct self-directed learning activities, and teachers to abandon teaching-to-the-test and mere transmission of information.
 
Recently, some countries in the region with historically high scores on PISA and TIMSS have made efforts to reduce high stakes testing, introducing more student-centered, process-oriented assessments. In 2014, Japan proposed an alternative examination to be implemented starting in 2019, which will deemphasize rote memorization while prioritizing students’ critical thinking, reasoning, and expression skills. In a similar effort, South Korea has implemented an exam-free semester (introduced in 2013, pilot-tested for two years, and implemented nationwide in 2016), which allows teachers to make flexible use of the curriculum for a period of one semester, encouraging student participation through discussion and practice.
 
While the need for 21st century skills is well recognized across the region, understanding, defining and changing teaching and assessment practices to better support learning and measurement of these skills remains a challenge. 
 
There is now more demand and expectation of teachers and they are responding by working longer hours. Assessments have also become more complex now that students are learning to learn rather than simply memorizing information. Evaluating learning that is inherently process-based, such as reasoning or interpersonal skills, is challenging and difficult to define. This approach also requires deeper engagement from parents and communities to understand and support this change – a shift from emphasizing content-based to competency-based learning. These challenges signal a continued work ahead and the need for sharing of best practices among countries.
 
Thus far, the process of 21st century curriculum reform in East Asia has made three things clear:
 
1. Socioemotional skills reinforce cognitive skills
Across the region, attainment of basic competencies in literacy and numeracy, particularly in the less-developed countries of the region, remains a concern. International assessments, such as TIMSS and PISA, reveal that while the region has some of the highest performing education systems, it also has some of the lowest. Cognitive (reading, writing, arithmetic, etc.) and socioemotional skills (conscientiousness, teamwork, empathy, etc.) reinforce one another. Individuals with characteristics such as drive, diligence, perseverance, or good social skills are more likely to apply themselves to acquiring cognitive skills, as well as to have positive relationships with others. Acquiring an early solid base of both is critical because together, they set the course of our life trajectories.
 
2. Assess students to inform learning
Even the best teachers cannot teach around the test. A much stronger focus on competency-based assessment is needed, so that cram schools, widespread extracurricular tutoring, and teaching-to-the-test can truly become things of the past. 
 
3. Select and support teachers throughout their careers
To help teachers become more efficient in implementing 21st century curricular reform, more and better pre- and in-service teacher training and development are needed. In Japan, there are schools whose teachers succeed in linking learning to daily life experiences by closely collaborating with the community. In Indonesia, a movement is underway towards using active learning methods in various subjects.
 
Several countries in East Asia have already begun transforming learning for the 21st century. In order for this transformation to fully take place, sustained political commitment, institutional alignment, continuous professional support for teachers – including strategies to reduce their working hours, and stronger capacity development in competency-based teaching and testing are needed.

At the time the research was being conducted and the blog being written, both Raja and May worked in the East Asia and Pacific region at the World Bank. They now both work in the Middle East and North Africa Region.
 

Some reflections on pathways out of poverty

1 week 2 days ago
Take two numbers: 1 in 3 young people worldwide are not in education, employment or training, and over 875 million people are expected to migrate by 2050.

These figures often reflect unfulfilled aspirations and lack of opportunity.  
People are often in jobs with below poverty-line pay; others have no prospects for a raise and professional advancement; for some others, it is hard to re-enter the job market after a period of unemployment; and, among the youngest, many face daunting obstacles in joining the workforce.
 
But international experience with ‘productive inclusion’ and ‘economic inclusion’ of poor and vulnerable people offers some hope. There is a range of strategies available to help disadvantaged people get into work. These include, wage subsidies, entrepreneurship grants, asset transfers, coaching, apprenticeships, internships, intermediation, and various forms of training.
 
A particular approach, known as the ‘graduation model’, encapsulates many of these measures into a single intervention package. It can help to give a ‘big push’ out of poverty, in most cases into self-employment.
 
What do we know about graduation programs?
 
At their heart lies the principle that it takes more than “just give cash” to address chronic poverty. Graduation models complement cash transfers with measures like access to finance, training, mentoring, and seed capital (e.g., livestock or cash lump sums).
 
In doing so, program implementation involves a fair dose of “hand-holding”: this should not be interpreted as a “top-down” approach to development, but as recognition that getting out of poverty is a process filled with setbacks - and this requires steady support.
 
A lively platform of academics and practitioners is generating a high degree of engagement and a growing evidence-base about the success of graduation. This has helped the approach to evolve into several models and to spread geographically in 43 countries.
 
Evidence from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Pakistan and Peru points to high rates of returns on graduation investments, with substantial impacts on consumption and livelihood choices a year after program completion. Ongoing innovations in the Sahel also hold considerable potential. These programs could be an important component of social contracts.
 
While graduation offers a pathway to entrepreneurship for people with potential or who aspire to having their own businesses, not everyone wants to take this route. That’s why other equally important avenues should be explored with regard to, for example, improving access to wage employment, integration into market value chains, and many other instruments to nurture and encourage them.
 
While the benefits might be considerable, so are the costs. For instance, with an average charge of about $1,000 per participant, critics argue that migration, for example, could be a more cost-effective way of reducing poverty in the long term.
 
There is no magic solution for getting the poor and vulnerable into the diverse world of work. There is also high diversity in people’s skills and experiences, and demand from firms and markets change rapidly. In the poorest contexts, labor markets are evolving in ways that may not resemble textbook trajectories in urbanization, industrialization, and manufacturing.
 
This implies a need for less reliance on one pathway out of poverty, and more emphasis on a menu of options with varying feasibility, costs, benefits, and time-frames. It also implies constant evaluation and adaptation of interventions, e.g., for urban youth, disaster-prone areas and refugee populations.
 
The social protection community worldwide is working in this direction as we continue to strive to turn aspirations into reality. 

You can read more about this in the World Development Report 2019: http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/wdr2019 

India: A logistics powerhouse in the making?

1 week 2 days ago
Photo: Daniel Incandela/Flickr The numbers are in: India now ranks 44th in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, a relatively high score compared to other countries at similar income levels. This number matters not just to the logistics sector, but to India’s economy as a whole. Indeed, logistics can directly impact the competitiveness of an entire market, as its ability to serve demand is inextricably linked to the efficiency, reliability and predictability of supply chains.

Broadly defined, logistics covers all aspects of trade, transport and commerce, starting from the completion of the manufacturing process all the way to delivery for consumption. To say that it is a complex business is an understatement.

First, there is always a delicate balance between the public arm, which provides the roads, railways and waterways, and lays down the rules and regulations, and the private sector, which has responsibility for carrying out logistics operations in a smooth and seamless manner. This fine interplay is further complicated by the globalization of manufacturing which—with many more ports of call in the logistic chain—is putting ever-increasing pressure on the sector. In addition, there are very practical challenges in integrating different modes of transport, in speeding up border crossings, and in dealing with trade protections–all of which impact external trade.

But as difficult as it might be, creating a well-functioning logistics sector is essential to any nation looking to compete in the global economy. India is a case in point. To fuel its global ambitions, the country has taken active steps to up its logistics game:
  • The government has made great strides in improving customs and trade facilitation.
  • It is also spending more on the railways, roadways, inland waterways, and coastal transportation.
  • The recently-introduced Goods and Services Tax (GST) is set to boost the efficient movement of cargo within the country as this movement can now respond to purely economic considerations.
  • The creation of a dedicated Department of Logistics is another step in the right direction. Going forward, it will be essential for the new department to focus on regulating services, setting service level assurances and reliability standards, and taking any other measures that can promote better integration of transport infrastructure and services across the whole logistics chain. To make this happen, the department will need a high-level task force with a clear mandate, a consistent work program, seamless coordination among ministries, and constructive dialogue between the public and private sectors.
Taking on the challenges

While the measures described above have the potential to deliver promising results, many other opportunities – yet untapped - can improve the performance of Indian logistics:
  • While the government is spending more on the transportation network, the capacity, condition, and predictability of these services, and their seamless integration into a multimodal system will need to be improved, as this will be critical to the smooth functioning of the private sector.
  • The “trunk route – feeder network” approach for the development and integration of its logistics infrastructure will need to be used.
  • As for the railways, their carrying capacity and reliability will need to be upgraded, especially since rail is losing market share to roads in overall freight transport operations. The Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight corridors, once complete, will go a long way in developing a separate network of high capacity rail freight infrastructure across the country.
  • Roads could be a useful complement to other modes of transport, but the sector will need extensive reform. Apart from the general lack of organization and regulation in the sector, along with low safety standards, the long hours and less-than-ideal working conditions that most truck drivers have to endure are a significant concern.
  • A digital platform for the logistics community will need to be developed. This can then seamlessly integrate information, documentation and the liability regime of its various components.
  • Across the board, the level of service will need to improve dramatically. Currently, the sector is still plagued with unreliability, delays, frequent damage to cargo, and cumbersome processes. In fact, it is almost obligatory for businesses to set up their own in-house logistics departments in order to overcome these deficiencies and connect the dots between the different components of the logistics chain.
None of these challenges are insurmountable. If the Indian logistics sector can continue building on the current momentum while addressing regulation and integration gaps, there is no reason why the country shouldn’t be able to experience the tremendous benefits of a well-connected economy, both internally and with the world, and move up in the Logistics Performance Index.
 

Solving for water security at the source

1 week 2 days ago

Aerial view looking south toward the Gulf of Mexico down the Wax Lake Delta, Louisiana.
Photo © Carlton Ward Jr.
 

New York City faced a challenge in the 1990s: the city needed a new water filtration system to serve its nearly 8 million people. But the prospect of spending $6 to 10 billion on a new water treatment plant, and another $100 million on annual operating costs, was daunting. So, city officials took a closer look at the source of their water—the Catskill Mountains.
 
Water from the Catskills flows through 120 miles of forests, farmlands and towns to reach New York City. When that landscape is healthy, it acts as a natural purifying system, but certain development and agricultural practices can result in impaired water quality. For city officials, reaching out to local farmers and landowners and compensating them to restore and conserve their lands in the watershed, combined with some land acquisition, proved to be significantly cheaper than building and operating a new treatment plant.
 


New York’s example showed the benefits of public-private partnerships in such situations, and demonstrated that unlocking nature-based solutions can be cheaper, more efficient and produce additional benefits compared to conventional “gray,” built infrastructure. This was the moment of inspiration for water funds.
 
Water funds are a collective investment vehicle in which stakeholders collaborate to implement nature-based source water protection. Downstream water users invest in upstream land and water management practices, compensating upstream land managers for restoration activities and better management of agricultural land. Rural landowners and communities can benefit economically from these investments as well. Mutual benefits are the hallmark of successful water funds.
 
Given that more than 40 percent of source watersheds worldwide have been degraded by development, resulting in impaired downstream flows, [[tweetable]]nature-based source water protection can be one of the most effective ways to improve water quality and quantity for urban areas.[[/tweetable]] A study by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) estimated that 4 out of 5 cities could improve water quality using nature-based solutions, and potentially 1,000 cities globally would see a positive ROI based on reductions in total utility expenditures. Furthermore, these solutions often deliver other forms of value, such as increased agricultural yields, improved community health and carbon sequestration.
 
One example is the Upper-Tana Nairobi Water Fund, which addressed the challenge of severe erosion and nutrient runoff into Nairobi’s water supplies by helping upstream farmers implement practices that both reduce erosion and increase agricultural yields. Today, such activities in the watershed help sustain the water supply for 9.3 million people and will generate an estimated US $21.5 million in long-term benefits for local communities and businesses.
 
Since TNC launched its first water fund in Quito, Ecuador in 2000, we’ve established 34 water funds around the world, with 30 more in development throughout Latin America, North America, Africa, and Asia. But this is not enough. [[tweetable]]By 2025, at least two-thirds of the world’s population will likely be living in water-stressed areas.[[/tweetable]] The question we face now is, how do we implement these solutions at the scale needed to truly make a dent in global water insecurity?
 
It’s not enough for TNC to keep developing water funds, though we will. We also need more partners in the public and private sectors to invest in these practices.
 
Utilities are one of those key partners—especially companies like Veolia and Suez with an international presence. Veolia, for example, is exploring how changing agricultural practices and ecosystem enhancements can ensure more sustainable water supply. Suez, meanwhile, is incorporating wetland restoration into their practices to improve water quality and reduce operating costs. In addition, there are many examples of visionary local utilities actively investing in both green and grey infrastructure to deliver sustainable water to the communities and cities they serve.

Upper Tana Watershed, Kenya. Photo © Nick Hall


 
Of course, it is agriculture and industry—not domestic use—that represents the vast majority of water consumption. Businesses with high water needs have an enormous interest in ensuring they have stable water supplies and can have an equally enormous impact on global water security. Consider the example of PepsiCo. All along its supply chain and production processes, PepsiCo depends on reliable water supplies, and the company has accordingly established an integrated approach to watershed management, including partnerships with TNC to restore watersheds in Latin America and the United States.   
 
To date, more than 100 corporations have invested more than US $38m in water funds. Having more private-sector actors invest seriously in nature-based solutions—and having city and state regulators increasingly realize the benefits of these solutions and incorporate them into government oversight—can help us move the needle on these challenges. On top of that, we can protect ecosystems that deliver a range of other services, including climate mitigation, increased agricultural yields and improved community health. This goes beyond providing clean water—it’s about fundamentally improving sustainable human development around the world.
 
[[tweetable]]Nature can deliver better water security for more than one billion people[[/tweetable]]. It’s an ambitious goal—but with the right partnerships and stakeholders involved we can have a measurable, positive influence on planetary health overall.
 
To learn more about our work with cities and stakeholders to develop water funds, visit nature.org/watersecurity

*The views expressed in this blog are those of the author alone. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Bank.*

Compact with Africa: Linking Policy Reforms with Private Investment

1 week 2 days ago



The G20, World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, and African Development Bank are partnering in a new way to stimulate private investment in Africa

Highlights

  • The Compact with Africa brings together the G20, the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, and the African Development Bank to spark greater private investment in Africa
  • Compact countries are Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia.
  • The first Compact Monitoring Report shows significant progress implementing macroeconomic reforms, with more work needed to improve business environments and deepen financing frameworks.

Over the past year, many of my colleagues in international development have been asking about the G20 Compact with Africa: What exactly is it? What’s in it for African countries? How is it different from what we’re already doing? How does it complement or further the World Bank Group’s ongoing work?

Their curiosity reflects a growing awareness of the role the private sector must play in helping Africa achieve its development goals. The G20, in addition to its high-profile summits and communiques, undertakes some really important work through several “tracks,” including the finance track consisting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors. It was via the finance track that the Compact was launched in March 2017 under the German Presidency of the G20. It focuses on macro-financial issues that are foundational for enhancing infrastructure financing and for increasing private investment in developing countries.

The basic premise of the Compact is that macroeconomic stability, an investor-friendly business environment, and effective financial sector intermediation are necessary conditions to spur private investment. Through improvements under these three “pillars,” the Compact seeks to catalyze increased private sector investment in Compact countries and to strengthen links between G20 initiatives, international organizations, and African countries. Under the Compact:

  • African countries commit to identify needed improvements under the three Compact pillars and to undertake relevant reforms. Many are addressing issues such as domestic revenue mobilization, Doing Business reforms, and easing constraints to SME financing.
  • The “International Organizations”—the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, and African Development Bank—agree to coordinate more closely, step up technical assistance to implement the identified reforms and increase support for infrastructure project preparation.
  • G20 members commit to encouraging their investors and companies to invest in Compact countries.
  • Compact teams in each country are the glue holding all this together. They are led by the country representatives of the international organizations and include senior government officials from finance, trade, and investment ministries.
  • A reform matrix developed by each Compact team prioritizes reforms that Compact partners commit to collectively addressing through a multi-year approach.

During the Spring Meetings, the Bank Group presented the first Compact Monitoring Report to the G20 finance ministers. During this first year, Compact countries made significant progress implementing macroeconomic reforms, with more work needed on business reforms and financial sector deepening. They also have produced brochures making the case for private investment. The report urged Compact countries to undertake more focused diagnostics of sector-specific business constraints and to better prioritize needed reforms. We also recommended that the G20 work more intensively with their private sectors to generate interest about, and eventually investment in, Compact countries.

Three significant features of the Compact separate it from past practice:

  • It is a long-term initiative that reinforces the Bank Group’s Maximizing Finance for Development objectives. Typical Bank Group operations support countries through relatively short-duration investment or development policy operations. By encouraging a constant renewal of reform priorities as country circumstances evolve, the Compact’s open-ended approach makes it easier to sustain attention to institutional reforms over the decade and a half that research tells us is needed for sustainability. The reform matrix therefore offers the Bank Group an additional pathway to supporting reforms.
  • It provides for mutual accountability, continuous check-ins, monitoring, and transparency. Reform matrices are published on the Compact website. Virtual meetings of all the Compact teams and the G20 are held at least quarterly. And there is formal biannual monitoring. All this serves to build confidence about the investment readiness of Compact countries, even in smaller countries seldom mentioned in conversations about African investment.
  • It encompasses the entire continent. Africa initiatives have tended to segment the continent—Arab from Sub-Saharan, Francophone from Anglophone and so on. The Compact embraces Africa in a single initiative, creating conditions for multiple growth poles on the continent centered not just on South Africa in the south but also on countries like Morocco in the north. In this respect the Compact aligns with the ambitions of the recently announced African Continental Free Trade Area and the findings of De-fragmenting Africa that point to enormous opportunities for increased cross-border trade in Africa including in food products and basic manufactures—priority areas for several Compact countries.

The Compact with Africa underscores the idea that development is a joint effort with obligations, commitments, and contributions shared across developing countries, development organizations, and, increasingly, the private sector. In this it is consistent with the pathways now widely understood to be necessary to the achievement of both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Bank Group’s twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Representatives of International Organizations participating in the Compact with Africa present findings of the first Compact Monitoring Report to the G20 Africa Advisory Group. From left: Omowunmi Ladipo, Adviser, Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions (EFI), World Bank Group; Hans Peter Lankes, Vice President, Economics and Private Sector Development, IFC; Sean Nolan, Deputy Director of Strategy, Policy and Review, IMF; Kapil Kapoor, Acting Vice President for Sector Operations, AfDB.

Are Pakistan’s urban professional women immune to sexual harassment?

1 week 2 days ago

Woman face harassment in all type of jobs, no matter where or who. One can’t say that she works in a big firm so she is safe… [but] she doesn’t know who will believe her if she reports harassment – she… fears that the others will say she is asking for it.  Thus, she doesn’t say anything.” -Young working woman in Quetta.

This statement was echoed by 93 educated women of all ages in the Pakistani cities of Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore, and Karachi.

In the era of the #MeToo Movement, focus group discussions with these women affirmed that [[tweetable]]sexual harassment continues to be a part of the experience of urban educated Pakistani women seeking jobs.[[/tweetable]]
 
[[tweetable]]The good news is that there’s legislation to protect against harassment, the bad is that few know about it and fewer feel comfortable reporting harassment. [[/tweetable]]

For employed women, sexual harassment disrupts careers and dampens professional potential; its fear can deter women from entering the labor force at all.

We explore this as part of a study on female labor force participation in Pakistan with the Center for Gender and Policy Studies and support from the Pakistan Gender Platform. 

The women we spoke with talked about experiencing sexual, physical, verbal, non-verbal or psychological harassment at the hands of supervisors, senior staff members and colleagues, as well as strangers in public transport and spaces.

They also highlighted cyberstalking, staring, phone numbers being leaked, lewd comments, stalking in public places and harassment on public transport as common occurrences, and that such harassment occurs regardless of a woman’s age or socio-economic status.


So how do women explain this pervasiveness of sexual harassment?

Key among reasons offered by the women we talked to is what they consider “men’s nature” to discount women’s efforts at careers even when educated. 

A 34-year-old college graduate from Peshawar said, “…a working woman can’t get due respect in society. Being a housewife is honored more in our society.”

Men and women both also may blame women themselves for harassment, asserting that women may invite such behavior by talking or otherwise interacting with unrelated men more than what is strictly necessary in a workplace, or by wearing non-traditional clothes such as jeans.

The women we spoke with unanimously agreed that single women suffered more because men considered them to be sexually available, and several confessed to pretending to be married to avoid such male attention.

The impact of this constant harassment is that some women fear to leave their homes.

Some fear that families would forbid them from working if they talked about the harassment; as a 31-year old unmarried woman in Lahore shared, “If I tell them [my family] about harassment issues, they will restrict me to my home.” Thus, women end up normalizing such behavior. One set of reasons relates to social and patriarchal norms and hierarchy.

As a young woman from Quetta explained: “…a woman has so much shame that she will not raise her voice against these things, she will think log kya kahein ge (what will people say). No-one understands women’s and girls’ problems. In fact others and society start blaming those girls or women themselves.” Consequently, while a few women interviewed may talk to trusted colleagues, parents or spouses if supportive, the more common response is silence, self-censorship, quitting or switching jobs.

Here’s the good news! The respondents recognized that women must speak up for themselves and that Pakistani women have legal recourse against harassment through the ‘Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010.

However, the knowledge that sexual harassment in the workplace is criminalized is limited. Even women familiar with this law “don’t know how to use it or where to report complaints,” as a woman in Karachi noted.

The women also have limited faith in the system: Although they discussed how some companies have proper mechanisms in place to address sexual harassment and had educated their employees about it, many believed harassers, or their powerful allies often serve on biased investigation committees.

Non-literate women or those who are not allowed to venture out of their homes may have even less knowledge of the Act and how it works, said several of the women we spoke with.

Women enthusiastically suggested solutions to increase awareness and understanding through holding community workshops to educate men and women about the Act and its processes; announcements on television and other media; training in the workplace; and, information sessions in schools and universities.

[[tweetable]]Sexual harassment of women in public spaces and at work is a vital issue to address in Pakistan and elsewhere. [[/tweetable]]Yet, research on this type of gender-based violence remains elusive, with limited reliable data on prevalence or solutions.

The upcoming study aims to start addressing this gap in Pakistan, including communities’ and individuals’ own suggested solutions that can then form part of the foundation for subsequent policies on solutions to sexual harassment. Stay tuned for updates on our ongoing research.

Beating the odds? How PPPs fare in fragile countries.

1 week 3 days ago



While discussion about Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) is ramping up with governments and the international development community to seek innovative approaches to mobilize more private sector investment in developing countries, there is a group of countries with an additional layer of complex challenges.

It brings me no pleasure to say this, but a fair number of countries have economic and financial conditions, business environments, and rule of law that are almost always weak. Clearly, these conditions significantly increase the risks of investing in infrastructure for the private sector; consequently, the markets for public-private partnerships (PPPs) tend to be less developed.

We recently looked into how PPPs performed in these countries and evidence from our new report—The State of PPPs in Countries Affected by Fragility, Conflict, or Weak Institutionsindicates that we should not raise expectations about the role MFD may have in the 61 countries analyzed. These are countries that have a country policy and institutional assessment score of less than 3.2, presence of a United Nations mission, and/or refugees/internally-displaced persons comprising more than 10 percent of the population.

The good news is that we found some of these countries were indeed able to bring projects to the market, and even a few were able to create PPP programs. The bad news is that these good performers are the exceptions.

The striking—though perhaps unsurprising—reality is that most of these fragile countries have few or no PPP projects. Investments there remain low both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of gross domestic product. While investment has increased in recent years, the rise has been driven by a small number of countries—mainly Colombia and Nepal. 
         


A little light at the end of the tunnel (pun intended)
What can we learn from those countries that were able to bring projects to financial close? The answer seems to be in developing small renewable energy projects, as most have gained experience in energy PPPs. This is where we see the most projects and the greatest investment volume during the 2012–16 period. In fragile countries where grid infrastructure is nonexistent or seriously damaged, new off-grid and mini-grid renewable energy technologies seem to play a significant role in increasing energy connections. 

There’s additional light: among other reforms, many of the analyzed countries have been strengthening their institutional and regulatory frameworks for PPPs to attract private sector investments, particularly for infrastructure projects. In recent years, some have approved new PPP laws or reformed public procurement laws. That said, the countries still lag with respect to the preparation and management of contracts.

And here are the surprises we found:

  • The overall picture shows that projects in fragile countries do not underperform when compared to other developing countries. The share of cancelled PPP projects in fragile countries was only slightly higher than in other developing countries. It was actually lower when cancellation rates were assessed as a percentage of investments. Contrary to perception, only one-fourth of these projects were cancelled due to lack of security or halted because of civil war, and one-third of those cancelled were terminated during the conflict.  The existing literature suggests that this could be explained by the fact that projects in in these countries have higher support from multilateral development banks and bilateral agencies.
To wrap up, our research shows that, despite efforts to mobilize private sector infrastructure financing, the number of PPPs and investments in fragile countries remains low. We need to do more to come up with innovative approaches to get more private participation in, especially as we know that infrastructure is an important tool that supports conflict resolution and or to helps countries avoid relapse.
 
To find out more about the challenges of developing PPP markets in fragile countries, please read the report here.
 
Related posts:

The 2018 Fragility Forum: Managing risks for peace and stability

Partnerships in post-conflict environments

Making PPPs work in fragile situations

Infrastructure in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States on the PPP Knowledge Lab
 
Handshake: Reconstruction PPPs (issue #9)  









 

 

Religion and widowhood in Nigeria

1 week 3 days ago

African widows often face considerable disadvantage relative to married women in their first union. How much so depends on the society they live in, with pronounced hardship in some contexts, yet benefits to widows in others. In the absence of effective policies, their situation is likely to depend heavily on the social-cultural norms applying to women following widowhood. In a recent paper, Annamaria Milazzo and I investigate this issue by comparing the well-being (as measured by BMI and rates of underweight) of young (15-49) Nigerian widows and non-widows across Christian and Muslim groups using the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) of 2008 and 2013.  

We focus on Nigeria because the ill-treatment of widows is a grave concern there as evidenced by the literature on the indignities and economic consequences of widowhood, the many NGOs focused on the rights of widows, public opinion surveys and DHS data pointing to considerable dispossession among, and violence against widows. We focus on religious groups because of the different processes that the sequel to marriage dissolution takes across the two religions: Islamic inheritance law stipulates a better treatment of widows than does customary family law which often applies to Christians. Islam as practiced in West Africa provides a semblance of a safety net to women who have suffered marriage dissolution, through high, and socially expected, remarriage rates facilitated by the continued practice of polygamy. These differences suggest that widowhood may not have the same consequences for the two groups.

Muslims account for roughly half the population of Nigeria but they tend to live in different areas to Christians, predominating in historically disadvantaged areas with higher poverty and worse access to basic social and infrastructure services.  This is reflected in a pronounced and significant average gap in nutritional status that favors Christian over Muslim women (Fig 1 shows BMI, but the pattern is similar for underweight). This overall Muslim BMI disadvantage is found to be almost entirely explained by women’s worse individual and household level characteristics.





However, a noticeably different picture emerges when women are disaggregated into those who have never been widowed and those who have (Fig 2). Strikingly, the religious gap in BMI is largest for non-widows, and considerably smaller for widowed women, especially at older ages where more widows are found. In fact, the BMI gap is not statistically significant at ages over 40. Indeed, relative to married-once women in each religious group, current widows are found to be disadvantaged among Christian but not among Muslim women. And, remarkably, once women’s attributes are taken into account, the direction of the gap reverses among widows. The paper’s key finding is that among Christians, widowhood is associated with worse nutritional status while it is the opposite among Muslims.

The patterns found in the data provide support for the relevance of religion-specific norms regarding widowhood in explaining our findings independently of other factors that may drive differences across religious groups due to individuals living in different places or belonging to different ethnic groups.  Christian widows also report a higher incidence of cruelty and violence at the hands of in-laws and consistently inferior inheritance outcomes, including significantly higher rates of dispossession than do Muslim widows. The greater acceptability and ease of remarriage through the practice of polygamy also favors widowed Muslims. The revealed nutritional status differentials among widows may or may not be influenced by such practices. At a minimum, they are undoubtedly a reflection of the same socio-cultural norms and processes that attend the shock of a husband’s loss.     

A more or less equal share of Muslim and Christian women experience widowhood. But once it happens, cultural and religious norms combine with a women’s reproductive history and attributes, to determine a widow’s welfare and life outcomes. Muslim widows fare better despite their worse overall endowments.  

Our paper provides new evidence that such practices have impacts on physical wellbeing. Recent research documents the presence of excessive deaths and undernutrition among widows in Africa. We argue that more favorable inheritance rules and social norms that more readily accept and encourage remarriage appear to considerably ease the shock of widowhood for Muslim relative to Christian women in Nigeria. The socio-cultural-religious norms and processes that follow widowhood for Muslim women clearly go some way to protect their health and well-being. The results point to the important role that policy could play in protecting often young women who experience the misfortune of widowhood.   

Some solutions for improving pedestrian safety

1 week 3 days ago
Also available in: Spanish Road with independent space for pedestrians, cyclists and cars in San Isidro. Photo: World Bank We all have an intuitive sense that pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to road traffic crashes. After all, there is only so much the human body can take. At 30 km per hour, a pedestrian has a 90% chance to survive an impact. But if a vehicle hits you at 50 km/h while you’re walking down the street, that collision will have the same impact a falling from the fourth floor of a building.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that road crashes do indeed take a serious toll on pedestrians. In 2013, more than 270,000 pedestrians lost their lives globally, representing almost 1/5 of the total number of deaths.

In the United States, numbers from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal a 46% increase in the number of pedestrians dying on the road, largely due to the expansion of rapid arterial roads in urban and suburban areas.

In Peru, where we’re based traffic crashes data pertaining to pedestrians are just as startling. According to the Ministry of Health, almost half of pedestrians involved in a collision sustain multiple injuries, and 22% of them suffer from trauma to the head. The chances of a fatal outcome or other serious consequences are very high.

Let's put a brake on road crashes

One of the factors contributing to this is the urban environment itself, which has long been planned around the car at the expense of pedestrian mobility, with an obvious lack of safe crosswalks and high vehicle speeds.

Unsafe transit systems and practices also put pedestrians at risk. Minibus operations provide an interesting example: in the absence of designated bus stops, the vehicles tend to stop anywhere on the street to pick up and drop off passengers, often forcing them to weave their way through dense and chaotic traffic.

Yet walking remains the main mode of transport for many Peruvians, accounting for 25% of trips in Lima and Callao or even close to 50% in Cusco. Looking at these numbers, it is pretty clear that pedestrian safety needs to become a much bigger priority. We all have a responsibility to design transport systems that take all road users and not just motorists into account, from children to the elderly, pregnant women, persons with disabilities. etc.

As part of the search for solutions, we were excited to attend Peru’s 2nd National Road Safety Congress last February with several other representatives from the World Bank. One of them was Oliver Braedt, Leader of the Bank’s Sustainable Development Program, who highlighted the key risk factors impacting the safety of pedestrians (please refer to WHO’s manual on pedestrian safety to learn more):
  • Speed: The higher the speed, the higher the probability to suffer serious or fatal injuries. At 30 km/h, the probability of survival is 90%, while at 60 km/h, the probability is 25%. Similarly, higher speeds reduce drivers’ peripheral vision, increase the distance needed to stop completely, and decrease the available reaction time.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol adversely impacts the physical and mental capacity of road users. Drunkenness is considered especially dangerous when the driver is the one who’s intoxicated, as alcohol undermines their decision-making capacity, makes their reflexes slower, shortens their attention span, and affects visual acuity—all of which are essential to safe driving. In addition, several studies have shown that drunk drivers have a tendency to accelerate too much.
  • Lack of adequate pedestrian facilities: we see far too many roads and streets with poor or nonexistent pedestrian facilities. Periodic road maintenance typically stops at the curb, and crowded sidewalks with parked cars often force people to walk alongside traffic. Conditions are particularly critical on arterial roads and at intersections, where the risk for pedestrians increases. Urban development with long blocks that allow cars to reach high speeds and insufficient safe pedestrian crossings also contribute to higher risk.
  • Other factors include a lack of respect for road traffic regulations, distracted driving related with cell phones or headphones, poor visibility due to inadequate street lighting, vehicle headlights that do not work well, and driver fatigue.
Fortunately, there are several actions that have shown to be effective in reducing risk to pedestrians:
  • Creation of dedicated spaces for vulnerable road users, such as upgraded sidewalks, wide pedestrian paths, and even partially or completely pedestrianized streets and squares. Safe crosswalks are key, and should be signposted and positioned appropriately. Other important design features include good visibility, lighting, and the absence of visual obstacles.
  • Speed reduction, which involves establishing speed limits appropriate to each environment and ensuring they are respected. The speed in urban areas, for example, should be limited to 50 km/h, or even 10, 20, 30 km/h in some neighborhoods to encourage walking and non-motorized mobility. Adapting the road infrastructure—by narrowing the road, building refuge islands, curb extensions, raised pedestrian crossings and speed bumps— is key to achieve speed reduction.
  • Promotion of greater awareness through road safety education and training, and by ensuring that the traffic laws that prioritize pedestrians are widely known and properly enforced.
Clearly, pedestrian safety requires a multi-pronged approach that combines smart and inclusive road design, effective enforcement of traffic regulations, prompt post-crash response, and improved road safety education. Governments, planners, engineers, development partners, road users… we all have a part to play in this. By bringing all stakeholders around the same table to implement these solutions in an effective, coordinated way, we can make a real difference and save countless pedestrian lives.
 

Declaring and diagnosing research designs

1 week 3 days ago

This is a guest post by Graeme Blair, Jasper Cooper, Alex Coppock, and Macartan Humphreys

Empirical social scientists spend a lot of time trying to develop really good research designs and then trying to convince readers and reviewers that their designs really are good. We think the challenges of generating and communicating designs are made harder than they need to be because (a) there is not a common understanding of what constitutes a design and (b) there is a dearth of tools for analyzing the properties of a design.

We have been working to address these challenges over the last few years by developing a set of tools that helps researchers “declare” and “diagnose” designs before they implement them and lets readers review and interrogate designs easily.[i]

What do we mean by declaring and diagnosing designs? To make things a little more concrete, here is a simple example of a design declared and diagnosed, using our R packages (DeclareDesign and DesignLibrary):

my_design <- block_cluster_two_arm_designer(N = 500, N_blocks = 50, N_clusters_in_block = 2,  ate = .2)

Here, in a single line of code, you create an object—my_design—that contains a complete description of a particular design. In this case, we declared a two-arm trial that uses blocked and clustered random assignment. Some features of this design are modified explicitly here, such as the basic data structure and the assumed average treatment effect. Other elements, such as the assumed distribution of errors across blocks and clusters, the assignment strategy (matched cluster pairs), and the analysis strategy (regression accounting for blocks and clusters) take on default values, but are nevertheless fully stipulated, accessible, and modifiable.

The diagnosis is done like this:



This diagnosis is done using a Monte Carlo approach in which the design is “run” many times, with different data draws, assignments, and so on. Looking at the distribution of what you find across runs lets you figure out the properties of a design. In this case the design we have declared is pretty poorly “powered” (most of the time the results from running the design are not statistically significant) but the estimator is unbiased (although the answer may not be right in any particular run of the design, it is right on average) and the standard errors perform reliably (“coverage” is close to 95%—that is, about 95% of the time the right answer lies within the confidence intervals produced by different runs of the design).

The idea of the DeclareDesign suite of software packages is to make this kind of exercise possible for a great range of canonical designs as well as arbitrary user-defined designs.

The bigger idea is that the tools encourage a shift towards thinking about designs as portable, self-contained objects that can be easily assessed for completeness and that can be shared, modified, and interrogated in a simple way. Ultimately, we hope, scholars will have access to a large library of declared designs, both canonical designs and actual designs used in prominent research.


What is design declaration and diagnosis? Right now, there is not much agreement over what a research design is. What information do you have to give readers for them to have an adequate understanding of your design?

Our answer is that a design is adequately declared when key properties of a design, such as power, bias, or expected error are calculable from the design. So, assessing design’s completeness depends on the questions you want to be able to ask of a design.

Generating a complete design likely requires that a researcher gives information about four things: their background model (a speculation about how the world works), their inquiry (a description of what they want to learn about the world, given their model), their data strategy (a description of how they will intervene in the world to gather data), and their answer strategy (a description of the analysis procedure they will apply to the data in order to draw inferences about their inquiry). Collectively in this paper we refer to these components as MIDA: Model-Inquiry-Data strategy-Answer strategy.

The one-line declaration of the block-cluster design above implicitly provided information about all four of these components. You can see the explicit declaration of each of these components for a design of this kind here.

If all four of these components are stated formally then it becomes possible to assess whether the data strategy and answer strategy in combination are capable of giving good answers to the inquiry, given the model. In other words, you can then diagnose the design to see if it works, and if not, what problems it has. The actual properties of a design that you care about (what we call the “diagnosands”) likely depend upon the study. In many cases, the questions might be about bias or power, but they could also be about quantities such as the probability that you update in the right direction or the probability that the right policy decision will be made.[ii]
Designs as portable, self-contained objects A nice feature of formal design declaration is that designs can be thought of objects that can be shared and used. If you send me your declared design then I can open it up and inspect it, see what design choices you have made, and what assumptions you are making to justify your design choices. I can then look to see how your design performs under the conditions you assume, but I can also see how it would perform under alternative conditions I might be interested in. For instance, if you sent me the my_design object declared above then I could quickly do the same diagnosis. But I could also alter features of the design, such as the number of units, or assumptions about error structures, or assumptions about the underlying data generating process, and diagnose the modified design to see if I get the same rosy results.

A second nice feature is that once you have declared a design you can use the design not just for assessing design properties, but also for implementation. If a design contains your sampling strategy, your assignment strategy, your analysis strategy, and so on, then you can actually use the design object to do all these things. For instance, the R command fake_data <- draw_data(my_design) generates a fake dataset of the type envisioned by the design. The command get_estimates_data(my_design, fake_data) takes the estimation strategies specified in the design and applies them to a dataset to produce a table of results. Thus, the same code used for power analysis, for example, can be used to do the actual estimation. As it should be.
Why do it? We’re encouraging people to try declaring and diagnosing research designs before implementing them. This can be done relatively quickly if you work from designs in the design library. But if you are going from scratch, doing a good job declaring a design can take time. So, it’s critical that the exercise be worth it.

No surprise, we think it is worth it. We imagine a range of benefits from design declaration. Chief among these:
  • Improving designs. If researchers declare designs ex ante they can adjust properties of designs to improve them. An obvious benefit is to be able to calculate the power, or other properties, of arbitrary designs. By the same token, researchers can quickly assess the performance of different types of estimators for different types of data structure, or the gains and risks associated with different types of sampling or assignment strategies. Perhaps the greatest design gains from declaration come from getting answers to questions that you would otherwise not have asked.
  • Communicating designs. Being able to send someone a fully declared design removes all ambiguity from key features of a design such as sampling procedures or analysis procedures. Posting a design declaration ex ante thus supports advanced forms of pre-registration.
  • Sharing designs. Design development is a public good. A good design can be modified and used by others. Sharing a fully formalized design gives others a leg up in declaring designs appropriate to their problem.
  • Facilitating critique. When you share a design, you make it easy for others to check its properties, but you also make it easy for others to assess how much the properties of your design depend on your assumptions about the world. A researcher might provide a diagnosis under one set of assumptions about the world. If they share their design object, a worried reviewer could modify it and see how things look under different assumptions about the world. Being able to do this could be useful for research funders also. In principle, for example, it can make it easy for a funder to assess what the gains would be from changing sample sizes or to specify their own desiderata as “diagnosands” for research designs that they want to support.

An Illustration: Difficult Design Choices for Factorial Experiments Here is an example of how declaration and diagnosis help answer design questions for a fairly common design—including questions that you might not think of asking if you didn’t engage in design declaration in the first place.

Sometimes researchers have to choose between employing a two-by-two factorial design or a three-arm trial (where the “both” condition is excluded). Should I divide the group in three and give cash to some, business training to others, and maintain a third group as a control? Or should there be a group that gets both cash and training (factorial)? The choice raises questions of power: which design is more powerful?

The answer to that question depends acutely on the estimand: the exact causal question of interest. So let’s be clear about that. Say your primary interest is the effect of each treatment conditional on the other treatment being in the control condition.

Given this inquiry, the three-arm trial seems natural and allows the two comparisons easily. However, there is an interesting argument given in Fisher (1926) that suggests you might be better off going with the two-by-two factorial design.[iii] The reason is that in a three-arm trial you get to use two-thirds of your data for each comparison, whereas for a two-by-two trial you get to use 100% of your data for each comparison, since you get to observe the effect of each treatment conditional on both values of the other treatment.

So far so good. Say now that when you come to specifying a data generating model as part of the design that you realize that there may be interaction effects between the treatments. For example, the training affects the way the cash is used. This possibility gives rise to at least two questions:

First: Do interaction effects introduce a risk of biased estimates? If so, how great is the bias/efficiency tradeoff?

Second: Will I be able to measure interaction effects with any accuracy? What is my power for the “interaction term”?

Both of these questions are quite hard to answer with existing tools. Indeed, often neither is asked. But these questions get answered naturally as part of design declaration and diagnosis.

We illustrate here, imagining a world in which each treatment on its own has an effect of 0.2 but combined there is an effect of 0.6 (this implies a positive interaction of 0.2 points). We declare a factorial design and a three-arm design, specifying the estimand of interest, and diagnose:


 
The figure below represents the results from doing the same exercise over a range of possible interaction effects. It clarifies that if there are weak interactions then you get efficiency gains from the factorial without introducing bias; if there are strong interactions then the bias may trump these gains. For this inquiry, the factorial seems to make most sense when you might least expect it: when there are no interactions. The diagnosis also clarifies how poor statistical power can be for assessing weak interaction effects. And if in doubt, it also points out that if the interaction improves your power it does so only for the biased estimate.
 

 
So, design declaration and diagnosis can make it possible to answer specific design questions as we’ve done above, conditional on conjectures about the world.

As we see it though, the biggest gains from design declaration and diagnosis are not in providing a tool to learn about general principles about research like these. The biggest gains are in forcing these questions on us as researchers during the normal course of planning research. The bias that can arise from factorial designs depends critically on how the estimand is defined and is only apparent when estimands are formally stated. Researchers often worry about the power of main effects but do not ask about the power for estimates of other estimands (or, for that matter, the power of biased estimators). Researchers may be able to answer these questions using first principles but if they are not in the habit of specifying estimands for each estimator the questions mightn’t get asked.  If, however the estimands are declared and the properties of designs to assess them diagnosed as a matter of course, these answers are provided whether or not researchers ask the questions in the first place.
Scope What sorts of designs are declaration good for? For some types of research that is by its nature open-ended, design declaration may not be possible. However, we think that the range of designs that can be declared in this way is very broad. We’ve been able to declare observational designs like two-way fixed effects models, IV designs, regression discontinuity designs, synthetic control, and matching; We’ve declared many experimental designs: blocked, clustered, adaptive, factorial, partial population; we’ve declared qualitative designs like QCA and process tracing. So far, the framework appears flexible enough to accommodate a large variety of research designs, but not so flexible that it’s meaningless.
Next steps We are continuing to develop functionality for design declaration and are trying to do all this as a big open science project. If you like where this is going, there are lots of ways to take part.
  • Most of the core packages have been written in R and are already available on CRAN, with more to come. R lovers you can contribute to these via pull requests on https://github.com/DeclareDesign.
  • We are now working on expanding the design library. Our hope is that the library will contain not just canonical designs but also declarations of actual designs used in prominent social science research. We welcome contributions to the design library. Short of that we welcome suggestions for common designs that should be in the library. You can post these on our wiki here.
  • We will start posting occasional blog posts while we write the book. These posts will be aimed at using declaration and diagnosis to address thorny design questions researchers routinely face. Send us your favorite design puzzles and we will see if we can declare them.
  • We know that many people love Stata. We are working now on developing a basic Stata version as proof of concept. Stata lovers, if you want to contribute to the development of Stata functionality, we’d welcome you warmly. 
  [i] Lots more information on the project here DeclareDesign. Big thanks to EGAP for seed funding and to the John and Laura Arnold foundation for very generous support to help take this to scale. [ii] To be clear, being able to simulate a design like this requires researchers to provide a detailed guess about how the world works and may require more detail than a researcher can confidently stand behind. This is a disadvantage of simulation based approaches that is not shared by analytic approaches that can more readily draw conclusions for whole classes of cases and not just for specific cases. The best response to this concern, we think, is for researchers to think of diagnoses as if-then claims and to check how diagnoses depend on different starting assumptions. We give an example of this below when we look at interaction effects in a factorial design. [iii] Fisher, Ronald. 1926. “The Arrangement of Field Experiments.” Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture of Great Britain 33: 503-13.

 

Sowing the seeds for rural finance: The impact of support services for credit unions in Mexico

1 week 4 days ago

Low and volatile agricultural incomes, poor connectivity, low population density and limited information are just a few reasons that have kept commercial banks away of rural areas in developing countries, where nonbank financial institutions (such as MFIs, cooperatives, or credit unions) have played an important role.

However, these rural institutions tend to be small and often suffer from bad risk management, poor governance, and weak technical and managerial capacity. These constraints are in turn passed on to the borrowers in the form of higher interest rates and credit rationing. The lack of human and organizational capital among lenders is a type of market failure where public interventions may be both effective and market friendly (Besley, 1994).

In a new working paper, we study the effects of a support program launched in 2004 that provided technical assistance to rural financial institutions. The program was led by FND, a development finance institution in Mexico that provides financing to rural firms and second-tier financing to financial intermediaries in rural areas.1 The support program consisted of providing grants for capacity building to financial intermediaries with the objective of helping them to responsibly reach more rural borrowers, by increasing their productivity and strengthening their management.

Although grants can be used to purchase equipment or boost the capital of financial institutions, most grants were used for technical assistance, provided through a network of accredited specialists. Examples of technical assistance include credit risk management, capacity building for management and staff and IT systems selection. The average size of these grants was USD$4,000.

One first challenge that we faced when studying the impact of the support program was the lack of data: only some rural financial institutions keep financial statements, and those that do rarely publish them. We thus decided to focus on credit unions, which make up 20 percent of the grant recipients. Since credit unions are supervised, the National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV) houses a repository of their financial data.

From CNBV, we then obtained financial statements for all credit unions operating in Mexico from September 2002 to December 2012. We merged this information with an FND-provided list of credit unions that obtained a grant through the support program. The final data consists of 124 credit unions, of which 65 received a grant in different years from 2005 to 2008. With this data, we follow all credit unions three years before -and eight years after- the program started.

To estimate the effects of FND grants, we use a staggered difference-in-difference strategy that compares the outcomes of never treated credit unions with credit unions that were treated at different years. To check the robustness of our results and guarantee that treatment and control groups have identical pre-program trends, we also use four propensity score matching techniques.

The hypothesis we test in the data is as follows. Through technical assistance, financial intermediaries can learn how to reduce inefficiencies and become more productive, which would allow them to lower their operating costs. Financial intermediaries can also learn better risk management practices (i.e., improved screening and monitoring of loans) that would reduce their credit risk. Intermediaries can also benefit from the grants by learning how to keep their books and financial statements in order, which would help them raise funding at a lower interest rate. Thus, technical assistance may help rural financial intermediaries to lower their lending interest rates and increase outreach.

However, these spillovers to the final borrowers would depend on the market conditions: in a tight competitive market, credit unions would pass these cost savings on to their clients in the form of better credit terms, whereas in a market in which credit unions have high monopoly power, the gains from technical assistance would then increase their profitability without any spillovers to the final consumers.

To trace out these channels, we first study the effects of the support program on lending interest rates and on four key drivers of lending rates, which are: (i) operating costs, (ii) credit risk, measured by the non-performing loan (NPL) ratio, (iii) the funding interest rate, and (iv) profits, measured by returns-on-assets (ROA). We then examine whether the program allowed financial institutions to expand by looking at the effect on their loan portfolio.

Overall, we find that while the program increased profitability of credit unions, final borrowers also benefited: the grants helped credit unions expand the value of their loan portfolio by about 50 percent (figure 1) and drop their lending interest rates by up to 2.6 percentage points, from a pre-program average of 17.8 percent (figure 2).

Figure 1: Total loan portfolio for credit unions in the treatment and control group

 

Figure 2: Lending interest rates for credit unions in the treatment and control group

Financial markets in rural areas face many challenges that impede their expansion. One of such challenges is the lack of capacity building of financial intermediaries, which limits their size and operations. This constraint has important consequences for the market, as it increases the cost of credit and reduces the volume lent. We find that through technical assistance, financial intermediaries can learn how to raise their productivity and reduce their NPL ratios, with important spillovers to the final consumers, in the form of lower cost of credit and increased supply of loans.

______________________________________

1FND stands for Financiera Nacional de Desarrollo Agropecuario, Rural, Forestal y Pesquero.

Cash grants and poverty reduction

1 week 4 days ago

Blattman, Fiala, and Martinez (2018), which examines the nine-year effects of a group-based cash grant program for unemployed youth to start individual enterprises in skilled trades in Northern Uganda, was released today. Those of you well versed in the topic will remember Blattman et al. (2014), which summarized the impacts from the four-year follow-up. That paper found large earnings gains and capital stock increases among those young, unemployed individuals, who formed groups, proposed to form enterprises in skilled trades, and were selected to receive the approximately $400/per person lump-sum grants (in 2008 USD using market exchange rates) on offer from the Northern Uganda Social Action Funds (NUSAF). I figured that a summary of the paper that goes into some minutiae might be helpful for those of you who will not read it carefully – despite your best intentions. I had an early look at the paper because the authors kindly sent it to me for comments.

Not too high and not too low…

The bottom line of, but perhaps not the most important thing about, this paper is that those large effects – on employment, earnings, and consumption – have disappeared after nine years. Anything that might have remained is either too small (skilled work) or too uncertain (durable assets at the household) to write home about. Nor are there any effects on secondary outcomes for the beneficiaries or their children (health, education, fertility, etc.). The program accelerated, on average, the recipients’ path to a higher, but still modest, equilibrium, but the control group converged to treatment over time. The authors sketch out a simple model that rules out poverty traps for the counterfactual group (those who had successful applications but were randomized out): they are on a steep gradient of increased hours worked, total earnings, and capital stocks over time, meaning that they were able to save and invest. In perhaps what is somewhat a fresh look at the two- and four-year results, the authors also find that this convergence may have been underway sometime between Years 2 and 4.

Before I delve into what I think the main messages (and puzzles) are, and discuss the study’s few limitations, I should say the following: I like this paper. Not many programs like this have nine-year evaluations. The authors tell an interesting and coherent story. This draft is written with care, nuance, and caveats – all of which make the claims much more qualified. I suspect that, wherever it is published, this will be an influential paper on the limits of cash grants on poverty reduction – joining a pipeline of forthcoming evaluations of a variety of cash transfer programs from different countries and contexts.

Why did the treated enterprises stop growing?

I mentioned the authors’ discussion of how and why the control group might have converged to the treated. However, what I missed is perhaps an equally important question: why did the small enterprises of the beneficiaries stop growing?

Here is some useful descriptive analysis that the authors provide in Table 5. You can think of the treatment group as being comprised of roughly three, more or less equally-sized, subgroups (even though the subgroups are endogenous, this way of thinking yields an interesting and useful pattern):

  • A third never received training in a skilled trade: these individuals never ended up having business assets worth more than the grant by NUSAF
  • Another third (29% to be exact) were funded and trained, grew their enterprises decently (or, perhaps, even impressively) by Year 2, but were no longer practicing that skilled trade by Year 4 and were in the process of heavily divesting their assets.
  • Finally, the remaining beneficiaries (38%) were funded, trained, and practicing their new trade by Year 4, but were no longer growing.
It’s almost like the writing was on the wall for the program impacts by Year 4: more than 60% of the program beneficiaries were no longer in business in Year 4. The most successful of the bunch had, on average, stopped investing in the new enterprise involving a skilled trade. Why? It is, of course, realistic to have heterogeneity in the inclination and ability to run a business, but even the endogenously successful ones were satisfied to stay small: continued growth in that selected subgroup would have produced different results in this evaluation, so the question is why people divest or at best stop investing.

Table 7 provides some evidence towards an answer to my question above, but it also raises more questions. It looks like beneficiaries may not be sticking with these enterprises because the returns aren’t that high (or higher than the counterfactual employment options). There are no effects on earnings per hour. But, this is surprising because the controls caught up in employment hours by mainly doing casual labor and petty trade. There are two, equally unattractive, possible explanations: either returns to skilled labor are not higher than those to petty trading and casual/unskilled labor OR they are a bit higher but the program (despite being successfully implemented and taken up at high rates) produced very small numbers (or hours) of skilled trade. A careful reading of the same table shows that the durable effects on skilled trades highlighted by the authors are very small in absolute terms (from 3 to 6 hours per week in C vs. T; or from 3% to 6% of people whose primary occupation is a skilled trade. There are no effects on hours spent on skilled wage labor).

Why is being a tailor or a welder or a hairdresser not better than working in a field or running a small kiosk in terms of earnings? If it is, why don’t more beneficiaries try to make those their main occupation rather than at best a side job? These findings are puzzling – at least to me…

What I take away, however, is that we are seemingly in a setting where the economy is taking off. The program targeted a group of poor people, but by no means the poorest, the least able, or the least educated, who themselves were about to get on a path of increased employment, even if it was not necessarily going to be in a skilled trade. And, all of them self-selected into putting in successful submissions for proposals to start enterprises in skilled trades, in an environment where it is possible to purchase training for those skills and buy materials if one has the funds. Even in this setting, which I would call favorable for success, two thirds of the program beneficiaries were not practicing a skilled trade after four years, and the rest were happy with small enterprises that were no longer growing by Year 4 and making no more money than people in unskilled trades in Year 9. I find this not only puzzling, but also depressing…

In some ways, the findings show how difficult it is to move the needle on poverty reduction with grant programs like this. I have written about some other studies in the pipeline that have shown short-term effects that failed to translate into longer-term effects (see the penultimate paragraph here, for example). Even the programs that show sustained effects after 4-7 years, such as that of BRAC’s ultra-poor program in Bangladesh (that I wrote about here, among other places) have effects that are small in absolute terms. There is still a lot to be said for the conditional and unconditional cash transfer programs that are part and parcel of social protection strategies for many governments with respect to poverty reduction. New papers on the longer-term impacts of some of these are also coming out at a really fast pace: see, for example, here, here, and here for just a few).

What are some of the limitations of the study?

I think there are three:
  • baseline balance and attrition
  • spillovers
  • better (or more consistent) measurement over time
Let’s briefly discuss each of them below. I consider none of these issues to be a fatal blow for this work, but I do think that they should reduce the confidence of the reader in the internal validity of the findings somewhat. How much depends on idiosyncrasies, I think…

Baseline balance and attrition: Impact estimates that do not control for baseline differences are quite a bit different than estimates that do, which indicate baseline imbalance mentioned in the paper. The paper does not go into the reason why baseline data were collected after randomization, which seems to have contributed to the loss of 13 groups, all mysteriously from the control group. [The timing of the randomization could have had a legitimate reason – such as the government needed to know treatment status before meeting the groups.] Whatever the reason, there is not much the authors can do now – other than highlight the issue up front and warn the reader.

Similarly, with attrition, the outlook is not rosy. The authors conducted what is now a common two-phased tracking strategy to interview the study participants. However, the numbers found in Phase 1, selected for Phase 2, and, particularly, found in Phase 2 are low enough that the estimates in Year 9 must be estimated with weighted least squares (WLS), making the analysis of this RCT quasi-experimental. When success in intensive tracking is as poor as it is at the nine-year follow-up (43% in Phase 2, among those randomly selected to be tracked intensively), we know that what Green and Gerber (2012) call “MIPO | X” (missingness independent of potential outcomes conditional on observables) is likely to be violated and the WLS estimation (or corrections using inverse probability weighting) is not sufficient (I wrote a post about this here). Simulations show that the whole two-phase approach to attrition and such corrections work best when numbers tracked and found are high, particularly the success rate in Phase 2, i.e. intensive tracking. With 43%, we get noisy estimates for those tracked, which get amplified with large sampling weights. As the authors point out Manski bounds are too extreme to be useful with this level of attrition and even the sensitivity analysis that assumes +/- 0.25 SD gaps in impacts among those lost to follow-up (Table 9) can only rule out negative and significant treatment effects.

Spillovers to ineligible entrepreneurs in villages/parishes: The question that this project never really tried to sink its teeth into is the obvious question of spillovers. From the detailed descriptions of the program, we learn that most groups chose a single skilled trade (submitting proposals to learn about tailoring, or hairdressing, or else and looking to take advantage of economies of scale to train together), meaning that it is possible that within a year or two of the intervention, a parish may have 15 new tailors or hairdressers or metal/wood workers, etc. It’s not hard to imagine that even in parishes with an average population of about 10,000, this could have crowded out existing skilled trades people. In fact, the third of the treatment group divesting heavily between Years 2 & 4 despite having been trained in a skilled trade earlier may also have suffered from the same competition – depending on the intensity of similar enterprises operating nearby and the number of people practicing the same trade in their original NUSAF group.
  1. In the authors’ defense, this paper devotes two good paragraphs to the topic and briefly discusses the possibilities of positive and negative spillovers. The authors also warn the reader that the cost-effectiveness findings can easily be nullified if there are some negative spillovers on pre-existing tradespeople. Reading these two good paragraphs, I am skeptical of positive earnings effects (there is a small uptick in part-time employment to non-family members, but no accompanying effect on earnings) or beneficial price effects, whereas the crowding out scenario seems more likely (and supported by evidence from Blattman et al. 2016, as cited by the authors themselves).
  2. Still, since the authors know more about these communities (and seem to have collected qualitative data, to complement their main analysis) than anyone else, I wonder if they could illuminate the reader a bit more about such spillovers: can they give us even anecdotal evidence about the program possibly having created too much of the same skill in one place? Could this explain the high migration rates, as well as the stunted growth of these new enterprises?
  3. To the extent that negative spillovers (not from treatment to control; but from eligible to ineligible within treatment areas) are a real possibility, the finding of elusive poverty reduction from lump-sum grants programs is even more disappointing…
Measurement-related design choices: I would have liked to see the following:
  • A higher success rate in the intensive tracking of study participants: this would have not have only lowered the probability of the violation of MIPO | X, but also tightened the bounds in the sensitivity analysis.
  • Some objective measure of child health or development: Many recent studies have shown effects on the height (or nutritional status) of young children exposed to their parent’s positive income shocks (usually through a CCT or UCT). Given the possibility of durability of the effects of such anti-poverty programs for adults, possibly only through their potential effects on early childhood development, it would have been nice to have an objective measure of a predictor of long-term gains, such as the height-for-age z-score, anemia, upper arm circumference, and the like.
  • Consistent measurement of capital stocks and consumption over time: For a study that is about poverty reduction through enterprise creation, it is a limitation to not have consistent measurements of a reliable per capita consumption measure and the stock of business assets at each round of data collection. It would have been nice to show those graphs for the whole study, run regressions using lagged baseline values, etc. Even the trajectory of business assets until year 4 was very instructive and I really missed the year 9 value in that table (Table 5).
The authors cite budget constraints as the reason why they did not pursue measuring children (along with the expense of and difficulty of tracking them), and presumably this applies to some of the other difficult decisions/trade-offs the authors had to make as well. However, I don’t see why the budget needed to be seen as fixed. I wonder if an important (as well as well-known and influential) long-term follow-up evaluation like this one might have been able to go the extra mile to secure more funding needed for key pieces of data collection.

Nostra culpa…

I’d like to finish by quoting a paragraph from the Introduction section of the paper:
 

“Yet while these standard models give us many reasons to eventually expect temporary gains, it is striking how few policy analyses and papers on these programs dwell on convergence – including our own 4-year evaluation of YOP (Blattman et al 2014). We, like many others, implicitly framed the grants program as a potential solution to poverty and failed to weigh what briefer impacts would imply for theory and practice.”
 

Announcing the winners of the 2018 #OneSouthAsia Photo Contest

1 week 4 days ago


Home to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, South Asia is one of the world’s most dynamic regions.

It's also one of the least integrated.

A few numbers say it all: Intra-regional trade accounts for only 5 percent of South Asia’s total trade; Intra-regional investment is smaller than 1 percent of overall investment.

This is a lost opportunity as a more integrated South Asia can better connect people, increase trade, and boost prosperity for all.

To that end, the World Bank Group’s South Asia ran a regional photo competition inviting South Asians to take a picture and caption their vision of One South Asia.

The competition was open for 3 weeks and we received compelling entries.

Our panel has now made a decision and we're delighted to announce the winners of #OneSouthAsiaPhotoContest!
  Better communication, stronger integration! #OneSouthAsia - Jhalak Gope, Bangladesh
#OneSouthAsia is about finding native cuisines from each of the South Asian countries on one dining table, all together  - Arhama Siddiqa, Pakistan 
P.S here is the list of dishes: Pakistan – Haleem, India - Makhani Chicken, Nepal - Momos, Maldives – Roshi, Bhutan - Jasha maru, Sri Lanka - Dosa , Afghanistan -Afghani Pulao, Bangladesh - Fish fried
Peace and unity determine our prosperity. #OneSouthAsia - Suvasies Parajuli, Nepal
Inclusive smile is my vision for #OneSouthAsia - Aswin Kumar, India   Life In a Circle: My vision for #OneSouthAsia is an education for all. - Ziaul Huque, Bangladesh 
Thank you to all participants for sharing their vision of One South Asia.
 
In the next few weeks, we will launch an exciting new book A Glass Half Full: The Promise of regional Trade in South Asia’ which addresses specific barriers, like tariffs, non-tariff barriers, lack of connectivity and trust deficit, that have held back regional trade.

in the meantime, the 5 winners of the #OneSouthAsia Photo Contest are being featured on the World Bank One South Asia webpage as well as on World Bank social media channels. They will also receive a certificate of appreciation and a signed copy of the regional trade report.
 

Announcing the winners of the 2018 #OneSouthAsia Photo Contest

1 week 4 days ago


Home to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, South Asia is one of the world’s most dynamic regions.

It's also one of the least integrated.

A few numbers say it all: Intra-regional trade accounts for only 5 percent of South Asia’s total trade; Intra-regional investment is smaller than 1 percent of overall investment.

This is a lost opportunity as a more integrated South Asia can better connect people, increase trade, and boost prosperity for all.

To that end, the World Bank Group’s South Asia ran a regional photo competition inviting South Asians to take a picture and caption their vision of One South Asia.

The competition was open for 3 weeks and we received compelling entries.

Our panel has now made a decision and we're delighted to announce the winners of #OneSouthAsiaPhotoContest!
  Better communication, stronger integration! #OneSouthAsia - Jhalak Gope, Bangladesh
#OneSouthAsia is about finding native cuisines from each of the South Asian countries on one dining table, all together  - Arhama Siddiqa, Pakistan 
P.S here is the list of dishes: Pakistan – Haleem, India - Makhani Chicken, Nepal - Momos, Maldives – Roshi, Bhutan - Jasha maru, Sri Lanka - Dosa , Afghanistan -Afghani Pulao, Bangladesh - Fish fried
Peace and unity determine our prosperity. #OneSouthAsia - Suvasies Parajuli, Nepal
Inclusive smile is my vision for #OneSouthAsia - Aswin Kumar, India   Life In a Circle: My vision for #OneSouthAsia is an education for all. - Ziaul Huque, Bangladesh 
Thank you to all participants for sharing their vision of One South Asia.
 
In the next few weeks, we will launch an exciting new book A Glass Half Full: The Promise of regional Trade in South Asia’ which addresses specific barriers, like tariffs, non-tariff barriers, lack of connectivity and trust deficit, that have held back regional trade.

in the meantime, the 5 winners of the #OneSouthAsia Photo Contest are being featured on the World Bank One South Asia webpage as well as on World Bank social media channels. They will also receive a certificate of appreciation and a signed copy of the regional trade report.
 

Founded in 2000, the Parliamentary Network is an independent, non-governmental organization that provides a platform for Parliamentarians from over 140 countries to advocate for increased accountability and transparency in development cooperation. Jeremy Lefroy is the current Chair of the Parliamentary Network.

 

The Network – via its international secretariat, regional chapters and country chapters – reaches over 1000 Parliamentarians in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. It strives to increase transparency and accountability in the development cooperation process by fostering the oversight role of parliaments and civil society. The Network has a specific focus on multilateral aid and a sub-focus on the work and modus operandi of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the world’s largest multilateral funders.

 

It provides a platform for MPs and civil society to hold to account their own governments, as well as International Financial Institutions (IFIs), for development outcomes.

Membership is free of charge and open to elected parliamentarians who currently hold a mandate. As a member, you will receive The Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s policy materials, including the quarterly Network Review publication and the Parliamentarians and Development series.

You will also be eligible to attend the Annual Conference and participate in discussions with senior World Bank and IMF leadership. You can also be invited to take part in the Parliamentarians in the Field country visit programme.
In addition, the The Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund often invites partner organizations to join its activities.
PARLIAMENTARIAN PARTNER