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IMF News

Blog: Do the Math: Include Women in Government Budgets

2 weeks 4 days ago

Transcript of IMF Press Briefing

2 weeks 5 days ago

China’s Evolving Exchange Rate Regime

2 weeks 5 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/50

Paraguay: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

2 weeks 6 days ago

Blog: Equality for All

3 weeks 11 min ago

IMF Staff Completes 2019 Article IV Mission to Bahrain

3 weeks 2 hours ago

IMF Staff Completes 2019 Article IV Mission to Maldives

3 weeks 14 hours ago

Uzbekistan: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

3 weeks 16 hours ago

Do Fiscal Rules Cause Better Fiscal Balances? A New Instrumental Variable Strategy

3 weeks 16 hours ago
Working Paper No. 19/49

Samoa: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

3 weeks 1 day ago

Portugal and the Global Economy: The Way Forward

3 weeks 4 days ago

Nonlinearity Between the Shadow Economy and Level of Development

3 weeks 4 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/48

How Effective is Macroprudential Policy? Evidence from Lending Restriction Measures in EU Countries

3 weeks 4 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/45

Cash Use Across Countries and the Demand for Central Bank Digital Currency

3 weeks 4 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/46

Struggling to Make the Grade: A Review of the Causes and Consequences of the Weak Outcomes of South Africa’s Education System

3 weeks 4 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/47

The Financial Sector: Redefining a Broader Sense of Purpose

3 weeks 5 days ago

IMF Reaches Staff-Level Agreement on the Fifth Review of Sri Lanka’s Extended Fund Facility

3 weeks 5 days ago

Negative Monetary Policy Rates and Portfolio Rebalancing: Evidence from Credit Register Data

3 weeks 5 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/44

Scaling Up SME Financial Inclusion in the Middle East and Central Asia

3 weeks 6 days ago

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2019 Article IV Consultation with Malta

3 weeks 6 days ago

IMF Staff Concludes Staff Visit to Georgia

3 weeks 6 days ago

Sovereigns and Financial Intermediaries Spillovers

3 weeks 6 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/43

Malta : Financial System Stability Assessment

3 weeks 6 days ago
Country Report No. 19/70

Malta : Selected Issues

3 weeks 6 days ago
Country Report No. 19/69

Malta : 2019 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Malta

3 weeks 6 days ago
Country Report No. 19/68

IMF Management Complete the First Review under the Staff-Monitored Program with Somalia

3 weeks 6 days ago

IMF Staff Completes 2019 Article IV Mission and Reaches a Staff-Level Agreement with Armenia on a Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement

4 weeks 4 hours ago

Macroeconomic Gains from Reforming the Agri-Food Sector: The Case of France

4 weeks 16 hours ago
Working Paper No. 19/41

Are Labor Market Indicators Telling the Truth? Role of Measurement Error in the U.S. Current Population Survey

4 weeks 16 hours ago
Working Paper No. 19/40

Improving the Efficiency and Equity of Public Education Spending: The Case of Moldova

4 weeks 16 hours ago
Working Paper No. 19/42

Somalia : First Review Under the Staff-Monitored Program-Press Release; and Staff Report

4 weeks 16 hours ago
Country Report No. 19/67

People’s Republic of China—Macao Special Administrative Region: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

4 weeks 22 hours ago

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with St. Vincent and the Grenadines

4 weeks 1 day ago

Costa Rica: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

4 weeks 1 day ago

St. Vincent and the Grenadines : 2018 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report and Statement by the Executive Director for St. Vincent and the Grenadines

4 weeks 1 day ago
Country Report No. 19/66

Eastern Caribbean Currency Union : Selected Issues Paper

4 weeks 4 days ago
Country Report No. 19/63

Eastern Caribbean Currency Union : 2018 Discussion on Common Policies of Member Countries-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union

4 weeks 4 days ago
Country Report No. 19/62

Five Takeaways from Uruguay's Economic Outlook

4 weeks 4 days ago

The Dominican Republic Implements the International Monetary Fund’s Enhanced General Data Dissemination System

4 weeks 4 days ago

The Republic of Azerbaijan Implements the International Monetary Fund’s Enhanced General Data Dissemination System

4 weeks 4 days ago

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Discussion on Common Policies of Member Countries of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union

4 weeks 4 days ago

IMF Staff Concludes Discussions on the Combined Seventh and Eighth Reviews of Ghana’s Extended Credit Facility Program

4 weeks 4 days ago

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

4 weeks 4 days ago
Country Report No. 19/64

Uruguay : Selected Issues

4 weeks 4 days ago
Country Report No. 19/65

Petra Moser on Italian Opera, World Fairs and Innovation

4 weeks 4 days ago

OECD News - Corruption

Strengthening the Anti-Bribery Convention: Review of the 2009 OECD Anti-Bribery Recommendation

15 weeks 5 hours ago
The OECD Anti-Bribery is the first and only international anti-corruption instrument focused on the ‘supply side’ of the bribery transaction. To ensure that it continues to respond to the challenges of fighting foreign bribery, the OECD has launched a review of the 2009 OECD Recommendation for Further Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (OECD Anti-Bribery Recommendation).

2018 OECD Consultation on Fighting Foreign Bribery

15 weeks 5 hours ago
This Working Group on Bribery consultation with the private sector and civil society will focus on topics suggested by the stakeholders themselves and launch the OECD study, 'Foreign Bribery Enforcement: What Happens to the Public Officials on the Receiving End?'.

2018 OECD Consultation on Fighting Foreign Bribery

15 weeks 5 hours ago
This Working Group on Bribery consultation with the private sector and civil society will focus on topics suggested by the stakeholders themselves and launch the OECD study, 'Foreign Bribery Enforcement: What Happens to the Public Officials on the Receiving End?'.

Internship opportunities working on anti-corruption at the OECD

16 weeks 1 day ago
The OECD Anti-Corruption Division offers short-term internships of 2-6 months for qualified students. These internships provide students with the experience of working in an international organisation on anti-corruption issues and more specifically the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

OECD launches project to support Uzbekistan’s anti-corruption reforms

16 weeks 6 days ago
The OECD and the Uzbekistan Government, with the support of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), has launched a project to strengthen Uzbekistan’s capacity to fight corruption and boost its implementation of OECD Istanbul Anti-Corruption Action Plan (IAP) recommendations.

Monitoring the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention: Call for contributions

17 weeks 5 days ago
In 2018, the OECD Working Group on Bribery launched its fourth phase of monitoring of Hungary and Japan's implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. To assist this evaluation process, the OECD calls for interested parties to provide written submissions on the evaluated countries.

OECD News - Economy

GDP Growth - Third quarter of 2018, OECD

18 weeks 11 hours ago
OECD GDP growth slows to 0.5% in third quarter of 2018

Regulatory framework for the loan-based crowdfunding platforms

18 weeks 1 day ago
In a growing number of OECD countries policymakers are designing specific regulations for lending-based crowdfunding platforms.

To what extent do policies contribute to self-employment?

18 weeks 1 day ago
Using cross-country time series panel regressions for the last two decades, this paper seeks to identify the main policy and institutional factors that explain the share of selfemployment across European countries.

OECD, BSR and Danone launch 3-year initiative to strengthen inclusive growth through public-private collaboration

19 weeks 1 day ago
Business and government should work more closely together to reduce inequality and foster inclusive growth. To help achieve this, at the Paris Peace Forum, Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff, G7/G20 Sherpa and leader of the OECD’s Inclusive Growth Initiative, and Emmanuel Faber, Chairman & CEO of Danone, launched the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) Platform.

Composite Leading Indicators (CLI), OECD, November 2018

19 weeks 1 day ago
CLIs continue to signal easing growth momentum in the OECD area

Growth and economic well-being: second quarter 2018, OECD

19 weeks 5 days ago
OECD household income growth slows to 0.3%, lagging behind GDP growth in second quarter of 2018

OECD News - Finance

2019 OECD Global Forum on Public Debt Management

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23-24 April 2019, Paris - Discussions at the 2019 Global Forum will focus on the funding environment, the role of borrowing instruments in broadening the investor base, technological advances in finance for government bond markets and challenging debt dynamics.

OECD Global Forum on Public Debt Management 2019

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23-24 April 2019, Paris - Discussions at the 2019 Global Forum will focus on the funding environment, the role of borrowing instruments in broadening the investor base, technological advances in finance for government bond markets and challenging debt dynamics.

Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism in Latvia: Overview

1 week 6 days ago
A robust and resilient anti-money laundering and combating of terrorism financing (AML/CFT) regime is the first step towards being able to implement effective legal, regulatory and operational measures. This document describes recommendations made by the OECD in relation to Latvia’s efforts to strengthen its AML/CFT supervisory and control systems.

IOPS International Conference on Pension Supervision and Regulation 2019

2 weeks 6 hours ago
7 March 2019 - The International Conference on Pension Supervision and Regulation this year will focus on Options for creating sustainable pension systems in emerging markets and will take place in New Delhi, India.

IOPS International Conference on Pension Supervision and Regulation 2019

2 weeks 5 days ago
7 March 2019 - The International Conference on Pension Supervision and Regulation this year will focus on Options for creating sustainable pension systems in emerging markets and will take place in New Delhi, India.

OECD Insurance and Private Pensions Committee Elects New Chair

2 weeks 5 days ago
07/03/2019 - The OECD Insurance and Private Pensions Committee (IPPC) has confirmed the appointment of Mr Yoshihiro Kawai, Advisor to the Commissioner, Japan Financial Services Agency, as its Chair.

OECD Insurance and Private Pensions Committee Elects New Chair

2 weeks 5 days ago
07/03/2019 - The OECD Insurance and Private Pensions Committee (IPPC) has confirmed the appointment of Mr Yoshihiro Kawai, Advisor to the Commissioner, Japan Financial Services Agency, as its Chair.

The World Bank - Blog

3 ways to follow World Bank Group activities at the 2019 Spring Meetings

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© Dominic Chavez/World Bank

Our 2019 Spring Meetings is just around the corner and it’s time to get organized. Mainstage speakers include representatives from top-notch institutions and organizations such as the United Nations, National Geographic, World Trade Organization, Bloomberg, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.
 
The Spring Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an event that brings together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives, representatives from civil society organizations and academics to discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness.

This year's events will take place in Washington, D.C., April 8-14, 2019.

Learn about the new ambitious journey—a “moonshot” that will help countries accelerate progress by bringing high-speed connectivity to all. Listen to and engage with experts as they discuss the urgent need to put human capital at the heart of policy solutions. And discover what melting of the Himalayan glaciers, caused by climate change and black carbon from pollution, poses.

If you’re like those of us global development professionals, you’re anticipating meeting other peers who live and breathe ending poverty, attending some great sessions, and hearing some amazing speakers on the mainstage. You’re probably also looking through the schedule trying to figure out which sessions to attend or tune in.
 
We've got you covered!
 
To make that task just a little easier, [[tweetable]]here are three ways to follow what the #WBGMeetings has to offer.[[/tweetable]]

1. Connect with top development experts.

This year’s speakers, delegates and attendees include top thought leaders and experts who will share the best solutions for today’s global development issues.
 
Thousands of delegates from our member countries, observer organization representatives and members of the press attend the Meetings. Hundreds of accredited civil society members also participate in the Meetings. Don’t miss your chance to connect with them face-to-face or online.

© World Bank

If you're attending in person, stop by the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) to participate in an interactive installation to be shared on our World Bank Instagram feed or story on which you can chart your own path toward ending poverty. At the DMZ, you can also take a selfie or record a short video with our Twitter Mirror to be shared with our Twitter audience in English, French, Spanish or Arabic.
 
If you’re a journalist covering the Spring Meetings, the Press Lounge located at the World Bank Lobby would be your go-to zone to conduct interviews, connect, exchange information and get an inside look at what's new at the Meetings.
 
Looking for publications, look no more. The Spring Meetings bookstands will feature World Bank Group and IMF publications for sale. Click here for more information about the World Bank Group publications.
 
If you need a break, check our World Bank Group Visitor Center and get a hands-on experience with our top-notch Virtual and Augmented Reality tools that will show you the history of the World Bank Group and the work we do throughout the world.
 

2. Engage on social media.

We'll be live tweeting our World Bank Group events on our Twitter channels in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Share, like and retweet!
 
 Join the discussion and submit your questions and remarks for events speakers and experts to answer!

© Bassam Sebti/World Bank 3. Watch online if you can’t be at the Meetings in person.

We’ve got you covered with World Bank Live, the World Bank's digital platform for live-streaming and engaging with global audiences. [[tweetable]]Block out time now to watch our events live, and in case you miss it, you can still catch up with your favorite events on our events recap page or watch a replay.[[/tweetable]] Don't forget to tune in to our Facebook Live interviews with top-notch global development influencers, as well as our short 60-second videos with experts sharing their knowledge on all things global development.

© Bassam Sebti/World Bank

[[tweetable]]Here's a rundown of some of the events that we'll be live-streaming on World Bank Live.[[/tweetable]] For more, view the full schedule and subscribe to our Global Newsletter! With our Live Blog, we are also bringing these activities closer to you, so you won't miss a thing! Bookmark, read, watch, share and come back for the recaps.

Investing in People: Power of the human capital

THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CASE FOR HUMAN CAPITAL INVESTMENTS
April 10, 2019 | 14:00 to 15:00 ET, 18:00 to 19:00 GMT | #InvestInPeople
 
BUILDING HUMAN CAPITAL IN AFRICA: THE FUTURE OF A GENERATION
April 11, 2019 | 9:30 to 11:00 ET, 13:30 to 15:00 GMT | #InvestInPeople
 
THE LEARNING REVOLUTION
April 12, 2019 | 14:30 to 16:00 ET, 18:30 to 20:00 GMT | #LearningRevolution

Power of Technology

WILL ROBOTS DISRUPT EAST ASIA’S DEVELOPMENT MODEL? TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE AND THE FUTURE OF JOBS IN THE REGION
April 11, 2019 | 9:30 to 11:00 ET, 13:30 to 15:00 GMT | #EmergingEastAsia
 
CAPITAL MARKET DEVELOPMENT AND THE FIN TECH REVOLUTION: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
April 11, 2019 | 13:00 to 14:30 ET, 17:00 to 18:30 GMT | #FintechRevolution
 
ALL AFRICA’S DIGITAL ECONOMY MOONSHOT
April 12, 2019 | 10:00 to 11:30 ET, 14:00 to 15:30 GMT | #DigitalAfrica

MISSION BILLION: TRANSFORMING COUNTRIES AND EMPOWERING PEOPLE THROUGH DIGITAL IDENTITY
April 12, 2019 | 14:00 to 15:45 ET, 18:00 to 19:45 GMT | #ID4D #MissionBillion
 
GOVTECH: A MAJOR OPPORTUNITY FOR SIMPLER, MORE EFFICIENT AND TRANSPARENT PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
April 13, 2019 | 11:00 to 12:30 ET, 15:00 to 16:30 GMT | #GovTech

Fragility, Conflict and Violence

PREVENTING CONFLICT, PROMOTING PEACE
April 11, 2019 | 11:00 to 12:00 ET, 15:00 to 16:00 GMT | #dev4peace
 
DRIVING PRIVATE INVESTMENT TO FRAGILE SETTINGS
April 11, 2019 | 16:00 to 17:00 ET, 20:00 to 21:00 GMT | #InvestingFCS
 
BEYOND BORDERS: A LOOK AT THE VENEZUELAN EXODUS
April 12, 2019 | 16:00 to 17:00 ET, 20:00 to 21:00 GM | #VenezuelanExodus
 
STATE OF THE AFRICA REGION: THE ROLE OF REGIONAL COOPERATION IN TACKLING FRAGILITY
April 13, 2019 | 9:30 to 11:00 ET, 13:30 to 15:00 GMT | #AfricaSOR

Growth and Poverty

BEYOND UNCERTAINTY: LEVERAGING TRADE TO REDUCE POVERTY
April 10, 2019 | 15:30 to 16:30 ET, 19:30 to 20:30 GMT | #WBGTrade
 
ON THE MENU: CAN FOOD BE THE PLANET’S MEDICINE?
April 10, 2019 | 10:00 to 11:30 ET, 14:00 to 15:30 GMT | #FutureofFood
 
MAKING GROWTH WORK FOR THE POOR
April 12, 2019 | 12:00 to 13:00 ET, 16:00 to 17:00 GMT | #EndPoverty

Environment

FROM SOURCE TO SEA: INNOVATIVE WAYS TO TACKLE MARINE POLLUTION
April 11, 2019 | 14:30 to 16:00 ET, 18:30 to 20:00 GMT | #BeatPlasticPollution
 
MELTING HIMALAYAN GLACIERS: PEOPLE, ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMIES
April 12, 2019 | 10:30 to 12:00 ET, 14:30 to 16:00 GMT | #MeltingGlaciers

Gender

DEVELOPMENT MARKETPLACE: INNOVATIONS TO ADDRESS GENDER BASED VIOLENCE
April 09, 2019 | 15:00 to 16:00 ET, 19:00 to 20:00 GMT | #GBVsolutions
 
BOOSTING GROWTH THROUGH DIVERSITY IN FINANCIAL LEADERSHIP
April 13, 2019 | 14:00 to 15:00 ET, 18:00 to 19:00 GMT | #DiversityInFinance

Got Questions?

We're here to answer them. This is how you can reach us.

The world is going digital—time for the rail industry to jump on board

3 hours 7 min ago
Photo: Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock Over the last five decades, Rail transport has faced major headwinds. The transformation of global supply chains has made the logistics business more challenging than ever, with increasing pressure to deliver fast and flexible services at a lower cost. In that quickly-evolving context, freight rail is grappling with fierce competition from road transport—a trend that will only intensify under the effect of disruptive technologies like autonomous trucks and on-demand mobility services. In addition, railways around the world have been hit by significant government budget cuts, limiting their ability to invest in infrastructure or maintain high service standards. Stiff competition from roads, which have the door-to-door delivery advantage have offered added pain.

At the same time, railways are in the midst of a profound transformation, driven by emerging digital technologies like 5G, big data, the Internet of Things, automation, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. On a recent study tour in China, I had the chance to learn more about these developments, and to reflect on how digitization may help the rail industry reinvent itself.

It is hard to overstate the impact of digitization on the railway sector. In fact, digital technology is disrupting pretty much every component of railway operations:
  • Rolling stock. Advances in automation, self-diagnosing, or real-time geolocation tracking mean that trains are becoming considerably smarter and safer.
  • Control and signaling systems: digital systems can radically enhance the reliability and performance of operations. From an infrastructure/asset management standpoint, they also eliminate the need for outdated railway signal boxes and heavy copper wires.
  • Railway infrastructure. Internet of things sensors and devices are opening new possibilities for obstacle and damage detection, preventive maintenance, linkages with other systems, Government agencies, logistics providers, and transport modes.
  • Revolutionary communications (5G, LTE), and cloud infrastructure (backend) will offer attractive solutions for handling large volumes of data and avoiding bulky rail-side infrastructure
  • Faster self-learning algorithms in Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems make for more efficient dispatching, routing, and maintenance scheduling.
  • Smart monitoring and surveillance systems are changing the way operators manage hazards, intrusions, railway crossings, and driver behavior.
With these breakthroughs, digital development provides a unique opportunity for railways not just to stay relevant, but also to increase their share in the overall logistics market, and to become an integral part of the transition toward greener, more sustainable freight transport. The potential benefits of digitization include:
  • Performance. Automated and predictive systems will lead to fewer delays and breakdowns, optimized dispatching, routing and scheduling, increased capacity with trains running closer together, lower costs, and more.
  • Competitiveness. Digital solutions can substantially improve journey times, reliability, cost recovery, traceability, and coordination with other modes—all of which will increase the competitive edge and the modal share of freight rail.
  • Increased efficiency, less red tape, and lower transaction costs, especially with the integration of blockchain into rail operations. Russian and Kazakh railways are already looking into blockchain to streamline operations and reduce paperwork. IBM and Maersk have implemented successful pilots as well, and major universities around the world are conducting research on blockchain applications in the railway sector.
  • Improvements in safety and security thanks to track obstacle detection, intrusion detection, and other similar systems that are allowing railways to address various types of risks in a smarter, more systematic way.
  • Smaller environmental footprint. By optimizing train operations and giving rail a competitive edge over both road and air transport, digitization is poised to lower the climate impact of logistics.
Despite its many promises, the digitization of rail also comes with a number of challenges, ranging from concerns over privacy and security to regulation, issues related to the ownership of data and proprietary systems, public acceptability, the impact on jobs, and the fear of investing in stranded assets.

The World Bank is well positioned to accompany government agencies, railway operators, and other key stakeholders as they navigate these changes. In the rail sector, harnessing the full potential of technology will require locally relevant solutions, drawing from the experiences of others, and careful decision-making. But one thing is for sure: at a time when digital solutions are transforming almost every industry, railways simply can’t afford to be left behind.
 

Learn more on broader aspects of rail freight beyond the digital front: The Rail Freight Challenge for Emerging Economies: How to Regain Modal Share.
 

Around the World, More Say Immigrants Are a Strength Than a Burden

6 hours 14 min ago
Publics divided on immigrants’ willingness to adopt host country’s customs

Majorities in some of the world’s top destinations for international migrants say immigrants strengthen their countries, according to a new Pew Research Center report with data from 18 nations which host more than half the world’s migrant population.

In 10 of 18 countries surveyed, majorities view immigrants as a strength rather than a burden. Among those 10 are some of the largest immigrant receiving countries in the world: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia (each hosting more than 7 million immigrants in 2017).

In the U.S., the nation with the world’s largest number of immigrants, six-in-ten adults (59%) say immigrants make the country stronger because of their work and talents, while one-third (34%) say immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and social benefits. Views about immigrants have shifted in the U.S. since the 1990s, when most Americans said immigrants were a burden to the country.

Views about the impact of immigrants have also changed in six of the European Union countries surveyed since 2014, the last time the Center asked European publics this question. In Greece, Germany and Italy, three countries that experienced high volumes of arrivals during the 2015 refugee surge, the share saying immigrants make their countries stronger dropped significantly in 2018. By contrast, public opinion shifted in the opposite direction in France, the UK and Spain, countries that received fewer asylum seekers in 2015.

The survey also finds that publics are split on immigrants’ willingness to adopt their societies’ customs and way of life. In six destination countries – Japan, Mexico, South Africa, the U.S., France and Sweden – publics are more likely to say immigrants want to adopt the host country’s customs and way of life than say immigrants want to be distinct. By contrast, in eight destination countries – Hungary, Russia, Greece, Italy, Germany, Poland, Israel and Australia – more people say immigrants want to be distinct than say they are willing to adopt the host country’s customs.

Around the world, there is less concern about immigrant crime than the risk posed of terrorism. In several immigrant destination countries, large majorities say immigrants are not more to blame for crime than other groups. This is the case in Canada, the U.S., France and the UK. Only in South Africa, Sweden and Greece do majorities believe that immigrants are more to blame for crime than other groups. By contrast, majorities in seven European nations – Hungary, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Russia, Germany and the Netherlands – believe immigrants increase the risk of terrorism in their countries.

In addition, majorities in many countries think immigrants in their country illegally should be deported. In seven of the 10 EU countries surveyed, majorities support the deportation of immigrants living in their country illegally.

These are among the findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 19,235 respondents between May 14 and August 10, 2018 in 18 countries. More details about our international survey methodology and country-specific sample designs are available here.
 

Action at scale: how to accelerate access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene in Africa

7 hours 4 min ago



Globally, 2.4 billion people still live without access to basic sanitation – and over 760 million of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today only 27% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population has access to basic sanitation and 220 million people across the continent still practice open defecation – in some countries, this number is increasing, as service providers fail to keep pace with population growth.

The World Bank recently launched the Human Capital Index, which assesses the extent to which human capital in each country measures up to its full potential. Even if a child is well-fed in the first years of life, if the quality of his or her water supply and surrounding environment is poor due to a lack of sanitation, then that child is more likely to get diarrhea and other excreta-related infections, which ultimately lead to poor health, stunted growth, and in many cases, death. We are deeply committed to addressing these challenges in Africa, where 13 countries have already signed on as early adopters to improving Human Capital.
 
With US$13 billion spent on sanitation in the past 25 years, the World Bank is reaching millions of people across the world and in Africa. Harnessing innovative approaches to help end open defecation and assisting households and communities move up the sanitation ladder are core areas of our business. In fact, we are addressing water and sanitation issues with large-scale financing and technical assistance, supporting increasing access to sanitation services, improving the quality of services being delivered, and supporting the professionalization of service providers.
 
But to tackle the pressing sanitation challenges in Africa, we need “action at scale.” As the African proverb goes, “If you want to go far, go together.”  The World Bank looks to Africa’s leaders for political commitment and championship that can allow us to collectively support big leaps and innovations in sanitation. We also count on collaboration with key development partners as a critical element for success. Together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are spearheading an initiative to encourage a radical shift in the way urban sanitation challenges are tackled in a rapidly urbanizing world. We are working with UNICEF, WaterAid, Plan International and USAID to “rethink” rural sanitation programming. We also continue to partner with the bilateral and multilateral development banks on the sanitation agenda to build synergies at the country level, share knowledge, better utilize public funding, and take innovative solutions to scale.

Aiming to generate political momentum for sanitation and hygiene, as well as provide a pan-African forum to showcase best practices and support problem solving, the 5th AfricaSan Regional Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene (AfricaSan5) took place in Cape Town, South Africa, from Feb 18-22. This year, AfricaSan also partnered with the 5th International Fecal Sludge Management Conference (FSM5) to deliver a unique synergistic program that has leveraged the political might of the AfricaSan Conference along with the practical and technical output of the FSM Conference.
 
The Bank co-convened two sessions at AfricaSan: “Funding Urban Sanitation in Africa: The Role of the African Urban Sanitation Investment Fund and Other Mechanisms and Insights” with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and “Investing in Sanitation, Investing in People: Laying the Foundations for Human Capital in Africa” with Africa AHEAD. At FSM5, the Bank delivered one session on “Container Based Systems and Capacity Building” and two half-day workshops: “Public Health Data in Sanitation Planning” and “The Missing Link in the Sanitation Chain: Improving the Conditions of Sanitation Workers.” Sanitation remains a top priority for the World Bank, and these sessions encapsulated the thematic areas of our work in supporting countries to achieve safely managed sanitation and improve the health and quality of life for all people. 

Maria Angelica Sotomayor, Manager for Central Africa, and Awa Diagne, Water Supply and Specialist, World Bank Water Global Practice, together with
Dr. Juliet Waterkeyn of Africa AHEAD at the session “Investing in Sanitation, Investing in People: Laying the Foundations for Human Capital in Africa”   
In Cape Town, we had fruitful conversations with partners too: with the Gates Foundation, we discussed next steps for the recently launched “Urban Sanitation Innovation Partnership (USIP)”; with the African Development Bank (AfDB), we discussed building on our existing collaboration and working more closely in select countries where scale is of the essence; the Toilet Board Coalition presented their work crowding in local private sector engagement for sanitation provision, including the ongoing pilot case in India, and the opportunities for WBG to collaborate with these local coalitions;  with UNICEF, we discussed their new urban approach to sanitation and ways to strengthen coordination across both our teams to help guide country staff in harmonizing implementation strategies.

Dialogues with delegations from Nigeria, Kenya, Burkina Faso and Tanzania allowed us to review their different country sanitation goals, ongoing Bank program support, and critical actions needed to bring access to scale. In particular, the Nigerian delegation expressed strong interest in Bank support and their aspirations to declare Nigeria Open Defecation Free, given their current ranking of having one of the highest numbers of people still practicing open defecation.  Kenya expressed keen interest in replicating the successful countywide inclusive sanitation model piloted in Nakuru. The African Ministers’ Council of Water (AMCOW), who organized the event, presented their strategy for 2018-30 and expressed an interest in collaborating with the Bank on capacity building around the sanitation agenda, as well as on innovative WSS monitoring systems.
 
Clearly, events like AfricaSan5/FSM5 provide an impetus towards achieving commitments from past rounds—the Ngor Declaration on Sanitation and Hygiene—in which African countries and partners committed to accelerating access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and ending open defecation in Africa by 2030. The World Bank is committed to supporting this crucial agenda to help build the economic and social future of Africa envisioned by its leaders and its people.
 
 

7 reasons for land and property rights to be at the top of the global agenda

17 hours 5 min ago
City view in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank

This week, more than 1,500 development professionals from around the world are gathering at the World Bank’s annual Land and Poverty Conference, discussing the latest research and innovations in policies and good practice on land governance.

[[tweetable]]Secure property rights and efficient land registration institutions are a cornerstone of any modern economy.[[/tweetable]] They give confidence to individuals and businesses to invest in land, allow private companies to borrow – using land as a collateral – to expand job opportunities, and enable governments to collect property taxes, which are necessary to finance the provision of infrastructure and services to citizens.

[[tweetable]]Unfortunately, a mere 30% of the global population has legally registered rights to their land and homes.[[/tweetable]]

Without land tenure systems that work, economies risk missing the foundation for sustainable growth, threatening the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable the most. It is simply not possible to end poverty and boost shared prosperity without making serious progress on land and property rights.

The international community has recognized the fundamental role that land plays in sustainable economic growth by including it in 8 targets and 12 indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, to achieve these ambitious goals, [[tweetable]]policymakers and governments will need to deliberately explicitly move secure land and property rights to the top of the global agenda. Here are seven reasons why:[[/tweetable]]

1. Secure land rights are an important pillar for agriculture.

[[tweetable]]As populations and consumption continue to grow, the global demand for food will continue to increase as well.[[/tweetable]] A multifaceted and comprehensive global strategy is necessary to ensure sustainable and equitable food security. This strategy will need to include interventions to increase agricultural yields through improved security of land rights, research and extension, and more agricultural inputs (such as fertilizers). Research has shown that secure land titles provide incentives for farmers to invest in land, borrow money for agricultural inputs and improvements to their land, and enable land sale and rental markets to ensure full utilization of land.

2. Secure land rights are essential for urban development.

In 1950, about two-thirds of the global population lived in rural settlements and one-third in urban settlements. By 2050, we will observe roughly the reverse distribution with more than 6 billion people living in urban areas. [[tweetable]]Most of the increase in urban areas will occur in Africa and Asia.[[/tweetable]] Failure to clarify land rights and fix distorted land policies contributes to increased property values, making them potentially unaffordable to the urban poor. These gaps have already led to the formation of large informal settlements in many cities around the world. According to the World Bank report “Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World,” the top priority for African cities to create more affordable and livable urban environments is to formalize land markets, clarify property rights, and institute effective urban planning.

3. Secure property rights help protect the environment.

Research has shown that people are better stewards of the environment and their natural resource base when their property rights are secure. [[tweetable]]One of the most destructive environmental practices over the last 50 years has been forest degradation.[[/tweetable]] In the 1950s and 1960s, many countries tried to protect the forest by delineating forest boundaries, but failed to do so because the legal status of these lands was unclear.  To reverse this pattern, governments will need to develop policies that improve tenure security in forest areas – so environmentally sensitive land remains as forest – and allow the transfer land use in non-environmentally-sensitive areas to agriculture or other production.

4. Secure property rights and access to land are crucial for private sector development and job creation.

The private sector needs land to build factories, commercial buildings, and residential properties. According to a report that assesses private sector performance in the Middle East and North Africa, the top constraints to the region’s private sector include the lack of access to land as well as issues related to land titling and registration. Companies often use land or property titles as collateral to finance operational costs as well as to expand existing businesses or open news ones, thus creating more jobs.

5. Secure property rights are important for empowering women.

The World Bank Group’s gender strategy highlights access to assets as one of the three main pillars for women’s empowerment. Unfortunately, many women around the world continue to be denied land rights for multiple reasons: i) the legal framework does not fully support equal access to property ownership or use of land titles as a collateral without a male guardian; ii) men don’t always register their properties in the names of both husband and wife, resulting in women often losing their home or land in the case of a divorce or the death of the husband; and iii) in some cultures, women do not inherit land or properties despite having legal rights to do so – they are often forced by male relatives to waive their rights. To close the gap between law and practice on women’s land rights, a multi-stakeholder global advocacy campaign called “Stand for Her Land” has been launched by the World Bank, Landesa, Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) Partners, UN-Habitat, Habitat for Humanity, the Huairou Commission, and local women and communities worldwide.

6. Secure property rights help secure indigenous peoples’ rights.

Many countries do not legally recognize indigenous peoples’ land rights, even though they have lived on their ancestral land for many generations, often predating the establishment of the modern state and even the modern recording of rights. Recognizing indigenous peoples’ land rights is not only a human rights issue, but it also makes economic and environmental sense. Once their land rights are recognized, indigenous peoples will be able to use the resources on their land more sustainably, thus improving their economic and social status as a constructive force in society.

7. Secure property rights are vital for keeping peace.

[[tweetable]]Today, we are witnessing the horrors of war and conflict in many regions around the world. [[/tweetable]] Conflicts force millions of people to flee, leaving their properties behind. Without their property rights legally protected at home, displaced people will not be able to go back to their homes and livelihoods. In fact, peace cannot be fully achieved if land and property rights are not well addressed, potentially triggering a second round of conflict. On a hopeful note, when these conflicts end, secure property rights can become a critical foundation for reconstruction.

With current commitments of approximately $1.5 billion, the World Bank has supported more than 50 countries over the last 25 years to improve land tenure security through policy and legal support, institutional and capacity development, and financing efforts for land titling and digitalizing land registration systems, in addition to analytical products and technical assistance to many countries.

[[tweetable]]Secure land and property rights are not only at the heart of sustainable development, but they should also be lifted to the top of the global agenda.[[/tweetable]]

The good news is that with modern tools to capture data – such as drone mapping and handheld GPS devices – and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, we can do things faster, better, and more cheaply.

[[tweetable]]Our hope is that by 2030, collectively, we can reverse the ratio of tenure security, and see 70% of the world’s population with secure property rights[[/tweetable]] – benefiting from the support of new technology, continued work on legal and policy frameworks, and increased financing. That would bring us one major step closer to achieving inclusive, resilient, and sustainable communities for all. This blog post was originally published on Land Portal.
 
Related:

World Bank topic brief: Land
Blog post: Why strengthening land rights strengthens development
Video blog: Three things to know about women’s land rights today
 

Which debt IT system? A helpful guide for public debt managers

1 day 1 hour ago
Photo: World Bank

As a practitioner with several years of government experience, and later as a public debt management advisor at the World Bank Treasury, I am often faced with these questions from our client countries: “Which Public Debt Management IT System is best for our needs?”, “Shall we build a software from scratch, or purchase an off-the-shelf system?”. With the increased focus on public debt transparency[1], having accurate and reliable debt data has a critical role in ensuring effective risk assessment to support sustainable borrowing and lending practices.

[[tweetable]]A debt management IT system is the backbone of any sovereign debt management office. A robust, well-functioning and user-friendly system allows governments to support their debt related operations.[[/tweetable]] This in turn strengthens the public financial management environment of the country. In a recent Policy Research Working Paper, “Study on Public Debt Management Systems and Results of a Survey on Solutions Used by Debt Management Offices,” we tried to find the answers to these questions.

Starting with an extensive review of the essential requirements of a debt management system, we explored the selection criteria for software that fits the system modernization and integration needs of a debt management office. We also assessed the pros and cons of “in-house” versus “off-the-shelf” systems.

Functions of a Debt Management System – what is mandatory?
The main reason for having a debt management system is to make sure that the records of all debt related transactions are maintained systematically and accurately, allowing governments to meet its debt obligations timely, a major source of reputational risk for the governments.

Given this, such a system at a minimum should be able to (i) securely record and maintain all debt-related transactions such as commitments, disbursements and debt service payments; (ii) produce payment projections of principal, interest, and other fees; and (iii) generate reports at individual instrument and portfolio levels. These functions are mandatory for any debt management system.

A debt management system is fully functional if the aforementioned core functions of recording and reporting are met. However, the system can be further strengthened with additional relevant and desirable functions (see table below), that would support decision making at the technical and executive levels. Some of the functions that are relevant for decision support are the ability to conduct portfolio and risk analyses, plan future borrowings, and connection with Financial Management Information Systems.

Further, a highly desired function by debt managers is the ability to conduct straight through processing of debt transactions, allowing for automatic settlement, payment and registry of debt related transactions. This function is highly-recommended to reduce the operational risk involved in debt management.



To further investigate the landscape of current solutions, we analyzed the survey results of a sample of debt management offices from 31 countries.
 
The survey results suggest that current off-the-shelf systems can handle the critical functions and instruments of most debt management offices of emerging and developing countries. However, if the nature of respondents’ debt portfolios evolves over time, system limitations may present challenges.

Key survey findings:

1. [[tweetable]]Almost all countries (94%) use a software, either developed internally or purchased off-the-shelf, as a solution to capture debt management operations and functions.[[/tweetable]] More than half of them use a public debt management system (DMS). Public DMS is composed of the two information systems currently available for governments, DMFAS and CS-DRMS.    


  2. Low Income Countries (LICs) and Lower Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) seem to have a clear preference for a public DMS, while the upper middle-income countries are almost evenly split between in-house and public DMS. 


  3. Different systems seemed to perform differently across front office, middle office and back office functions.In-house and commercial solutions scored better for the front-office functions, commercial systems fared better in capturing the middle-office functions, and all systems do relatively well for the back office.



4. The most common debts instruments (bills, bonds, floaters, fees and project-finance loans) are captured by all systems. However, the more evolved instruments, which are used less frequently (interest and cross-currency swaps, inflation-linked instruments, guarantees, on-lent debt, and receivables) seem to be less covered. This is partly due to governments’ reluctance in using the available systems and partly due to the limitations of software.



The question of “in-house vs. off-the-shelf” will be faced by many debt managers as the needs of the Debt Management Office (DMO)’s needs evolve, and their current system ceases to cannot capture the additional needs. The answer will depend on the differentiation between functions and coverage that are mandatory, relevant and desirable. Further considerations will be the DMO’s ability to professionally lead the IT project, staff expertise, the time constraints, and the financial resources available to it.

Strengthening the public financial management environment through improving IT systems not only reduces the operational and reputational risk of the government in liability practices but provides one more step towards achieving economic resiliency – essential for the development work in our client countries.
  [1] G-20 note on strengthening public debt transparency – the role of the IMF and the World Bank, June 14, 2018.

Making Analytics Reusable

1 day 2 hours ago
Fernando Hoces de la Guardia (BITSS) leads an interactive session using R Markdown to create dynamic, reproducible documents blending code and writing.

This is a guest blog post by the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS), DIME Analytics, and Innovations in Big Data Analytics teams. This post was written by Benjamin Daniels, Luiza Andrade, Anton Prokopyev, Trevor Monroe and Fernando Hoces de la Guardia. The workshop also included presentations by Mireille Raad and Dunstan Matekenya.

Since 2005, the share of empirically-based papers published in development economics journals has skyrocketed, reaching more than 95% by 2015. Today, lab-style research groups and teams typically maintain in-house capacity for the entire research workflow. This development means that new, scalable methods for ensuring high-quality research design, data collection, analysis, and publications are needed for evidence to remain transparent and credible. We call these workflows “reusable analytics”, because they are research processes that can be verified by outside teams, or repurposed for a different analysis by the same team later on. Research teams almost universally plan to adopt such processes, but there is also a pervasive sense that actually making analytics reusable is costly and difficult. Therefore, our analytics teams are currently putting extensive effort into selecting and developing flexible tools and processes that can be used over and over again—so we can deliver recommendations and trainings for easy-to-learn and easy-to-use reusable analytics.

The DIME Analytics group, the Innovations in Big Data Analytics Team, and the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) recently co-hosted a hands-on workshop on “Making Analytics Reusable”. The workshop offered hands-on training in some core tools for reusable analytics: code collaboration using Git and GitHub, dynamic documents using Stata, R, and Python, and team task management using GitHub issues and project boards. The over-subscribed attendance reflects growing demand for modern principles and practices that accelerate learning, transparency, reproducibility and efficiency in research and policy analysis.

It seems that everybody wants to make their research workflows reusable: it enhances the quality and credibility of work across the board. But truly reusable workflows have two components. Obviously, there is technical understanding—the knowledge of how to write code, programmatically access and manage data, or use Git, as a practical matter. That seems to be what most people who attend our training or workshops think they need most, and there are many technically-oriented resources already available online. However, we think there is a much more subtle conceptual understanding of reusable workflows that people need to develop and is much harder to teach. In this post we will describe what we’ve learned about these processes through teaching them, and how you can start thinking about reusable analytics more effectively.

The more we taught these courses, the more we realized that the mental model most people have of how to get data work done is out of sync with the goal of reusable processes. Making analytics reusable means re-imagining your workflows from the perspective of a different user trying to retrace your steps—be that your future self, your team members or someone across the globe trying to reproduce your work. This is reflected in how to approach the tasks, down to the level of managing file structures and collaboration workflows. During the workshop, we held hands-on session on two tools to help in this process.

Benjamin Daniels (DIME Analytics) teaches participants how to use Git and GitHub in collaborative workflows with version control and simultaneous editing.

Git and GitHub are tools for version control that can be used to track changes in code, results, papers and reports in a more efficient version than naming files like “final_paper_HJAL_rev_v7.doc”. It can make your life a lot easier, but can also be overwhelming at first glance. One essential principle for Git to work, however, can be incorporated into any workflow. It is simply mentally breaking down massive tasks into smaller and smaller parts. This makes it easier to think about how bits and pieces of the workflow can be re-designed with collaboration and reusability in mind. Breaking down tasks leads naturally to breaking down files. In practice, that could mean slowly modularizing code and documents so that multiple people can simultaneously work on them. Instead of my-report.docx, you compile chapter-01.tex, chapter-02.tex, figure-01.eps, and so on. This kind of modularization enables a new, parallel organization of the scope of familiar objects like folders, files, and versions around human-level micro-tasks that are designed to avoid getting entangled with each other.

The other focus of the workshop was how to create dynamic documents in various statistical softwares. R, Stata, or Python can be used to produce interactive “notebooks”, containing both the writing and the code that produces results. Such notebooks—most recently popularized by Jupyter—are arguably an entire new way to write scientific papers, such as Fernando Hoces de la Guardia’s (BITSS) “The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income”. This is the most advanced way to create dynamic documents, but there are other, less technical steps that can be taken to make documents more dynamic and easier to reproduce if you’re not ready to fully invest in that yet. Introduction to the world of dynamic documents usually starts with switching from Word to LaTeX, so you can reference tables and figures without having to copy and paste results every time they are updated. Modularization can help here as well: if instead of my-analysis.do, you have figure-01.do, figure-02.do, and so on, it’s much easier to find how each result in a document was created, and to make changes individually to them or make different people responsible for them.

Teaching these processes as a workflow mindset is new to us—we are only just elaborating the full details for ourselves. [[tweetable]]What we do know is that making your work fully reusable, reproducible, and transparent is a long process—but done right, every step along the way makes all the rest of your work easier, not harder.[[/tweetable]] As we continue to deliver trainings on the technical contents of these workflows, we plan to focus on a more balanced combination of technical skills and conceptual understanding. We want to teach people to realize that the way to truly learn most of these skills is one day at a time, through a process of acculturation, rather than all at once—and that a workshop like “Making Analytics Reusable” is meant to be only the beginning of a journey.

Paradigm Shift: Peru leading the way in reforming mental health services

1 day 5 hours ago



We recently participated in an event held in Lima by Peru’s Ministry of Health and the Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University for the launching of a new report that assesses the initial results at the municipal level of the mental health services reform in the country.

Compelling evidence showing that the community-based initiatives to improve mental health care in Peru are helping close a major access gap that exists in most countries was shared.   

So, what are the main pillars of the Peruvian mental health reform process and its initial impact? 

Knowledge of the health problem and service coverage.  A critical element for the formulation of policy and organizational reform in any health system is to have a well-documented understanding of the nature and characteristics of the burden of disease and service coverage gaps.  In Peru, burden of disease epidemiological assessments documented that each year, one in five Peruvians is affected by a mental disorder, one in ten women in a partnership or union is subject to physical or sexual violence by a partner, and one in ten children has a mental disorder.  When combining mortality and morbidity estimates, mental health and substance use disorders are found to be the leading cause of years of life lost and years lived with disability in the country.  Of all chronic diseases in Peru, mental health problems also account for the greatest economic costs, far outstripping cardiovascular diseases, cancer, or diabetes. Mental and substance use disorders are highest among the poor and marginalized, and those victims of violence, further reducing their economic productivity and slowing the country’s progress towards inclusive social wellbeing and prosperity.

As in most countries, the provision of mental health care has remained largely concentrated in psychiatric hospitals. This model of care, that often serves as “warehouses for the mentally ill”, is associated with large, persistent care gaps.  In 2012, before the introduction of mental health care reforms, just 12 percent of Peruvians estimated to need mental health services received them.

New legal and regulatory framework.  Peru’s Mental Health Law 29889, enacted in 2012, provides the legal framework for the mental health care reform process.  The National Plan for the Strengthening of Community Mental Health 2018-2021, and other normative document formulated by the Ministry of Health, are guiding scaled up implementation of the reform across the country.

Paradigm change in the organization and delivery of services. The network of community mental health centers (CSMCs), as established by Law 29880, is the most important component of Peru’s mental health care reform, bringing service provision out of psychiatric hospitals into local settings, where providers engage patients, families and communities as active partners.  Since 2015, 131 CSMCs have been established and are in operation; by 2021, the Ministry of Health expects to expand the network to include 281 centers nationwide, and 30 units to address the needs of children who are victims of violence.  Staffed by inter-disciplinary teams of clinical and social workers, the centers provide specialized ambulatory services to children and adolescents; adults and the elderly; and persons with substance use disorders. By providing training and in-service mentoring to general primary health care providers, specialized mental health teams at the CSMCs also support the integration of mental health care services into primary care.  By 2018, 524 general health facilities are estimated to have trained personnel to deal with mental health conditions; the Ministry of Health target is to increase the number of general health facilities with trained personnel to 1124.

Complementing the services provided by the CSMC, 50 protected halfway houses (“hogares protegidos”) have been established to provide temporary residential services to people with serious mental disorders who have been discharged from hospitals and have weak family support systems, and to women who are victims of domestic violence.  The Ministry of Health target by 2021 is to have in operation 170 protected halfway houses.  The halfway house uses a model of residential care that respects residents’ human rights and places minimal restrictions on their personal freedoms, thus facilitating their reintegration into the community.  At the same time, while they enjoy considerable autonomy, residents are carefully monitored and mentored by staff present in the facility around the clock.

In addition to first-level facilities like CSMCs and halfway houses, the operation of the community-based mental health care network in Peru includes an important role for general hospitals at the local level. Following WHO norms, short-term inpatient wards have been established in 32 general hospitals in the country, to provide 24-hour medical care and supervision for patients with acute mental disorders, in the same way that these facilities manage acute physical health conditions.  By 2021, the target of the Ministry of Health is to have mental health wards in 62 hospitals.

In parallel with the expansion of the community-based mental health services model, the process of reforming and in some cases the closing of specialized psychiatric hospitals has begun in different regions of the country in accordance with the deinstitutionalization process and to reallocate budget to support the expansion of community-based mental health care.

Innovative health financing model.  The inclusion of mental health services as part of the benefits package offered under Peru’s Integrated Health Insurance scheme (SIS) was a crucial step towards the achievement of mental health parity in the health system. This measure, which was complemented by the development of a revised reimbursement fee schedule to cover the cost of services provision at community mental health facilities and specialized psychiatric hospitals, spurred the significant growth in the provision of mental health services.  It also helped reduce patients’ out-of-pocket payments for mental health services from 94 percent in 2013 to 32 percent in 2016. Also, a 10-year results-based budget program, approved by the Ministry of Economy and Finance in 2014 exclusively for mental healthcare reform, is helping its implementation and scalability.  Similar to the SIS, the Peruvian Ministry of Economy and Finance assigns budgets based on the attainment of predetermined indicators, known as Presupuesto por Resultado (PpR) or pay-for-performance.
   
Gradual but significant coverage expansion.   According to Ministry of Health data, coverage of mental health services has gradually increased in Peru over the past decade, from a low 9.9 percent of people who require care to 26 percent in 2018. As shown in Figure 1, the total number of cases attended for different mental health and substance use disorders accelerated after the 2013 reform reaching more than 1 million cases in 2018.  By 2021, the Ministry of Health target is to increase coverage to 64 percent of the population in need or about 3.2 million people.  Also, evidence from the Carabayllo district, shows that the community-based mental health services is a good value for money alternative to institutionalized care. The average unit cost per outpatient consultations at specialized mental health hospitals was estimated at about US$59, while the cost for standard outpatient consultations at a CSMC is US$12. 

Figure 1:  Number of cases treated for mental and substance use disorders, including violence-related cases, 2009-2018, Peru



The way forward. The Peruvian experience clearly shows that the global fight to transform mental health, can be won.  While significant policy and institutional cultural challenges remain, we left Lima convinced that the progress achieved thus far in Peru, serves to demonstrate that a combination of political will, a paradigm shift in the way services are organized and delivered, domestic resources mobilization and innovative allocation modalities that incentivize the reform process, and active involvement of local governments, affected people, families, and communities, are the indispensable factors to help countries achieve mental health parity.

Related:
Peruvian Mental Health Reform: A Framework for Scaling-up Mental Health Services
World Bank Group Global Mental Health Initiative

The work of measuring work

1 day 5 hours ago

Measurement is on my mind. Partly because of the passing of Alan Krueger (credited with having a major influence on the development of empirical research – notably his influential book Myth and Measurement). But also because a couple of weeks ago, I attended an all-day brainstorming meeting on “Methods and Measurement” hosted by Global Poverty Research Lab at Northwestern University and IPA. The workshop covered a range of topics on gaps and innovations in research methods related to measurement, such as: integrating data sources and applying new methods (such as satellite data and machine learning combined with household surveys to get improved yield estimates), untangling socioeconomic complex data (such as mapping social networks), crafting measurement of concepts where we lack consensus (e.g. financial health), and bringing new tech into our survey efforts (using smartphones, physical trackers, etc.).

The topic of measurement and survey design is not new to Development Impact. David kindly provides a curated list of posts (updated as of fall 2018) on issues of measurement, survey design, sampling, survey checks, managing survey teams, reducing attrition, and all the behind-the-scenes work needed to get the data we need. In just the last few months, there have been at least three more posts (1 & 2 & 3).

You might think that the measurement agenda in development economics is mainly about “new” areas – non-cognitive skills, social networks, mental health, subjective well-being, intrahousehold decision making…. But there is also (still) a big agenda in boring, traditional topics. Consider labor.

The “official” definitions behind labor statistics continue to be redefined. A fact probably known by few readers: the 19th International Conference on Labor Statistics (convened by the ILO in 2013) set forth new definitions of work and employment, including the change that subsistence farmers would no longer be classified as employed (but they are working—read the report to understand the difference). And from this, a work stream now exists on how to adapt household surveys in light of these new definitions, not least because it is not clear how to define subsistence farming. For example, the Women’s Work and Employment Partnership, a collaboration of the FAO, ILO, and the World Bank, is conducting methodological research on measuring work in three countries – Ghana, Malawi and Sri Lanka.

Our measurement approaches (and thereby our surveys and our research) fall short in many areas where employment categories are blurred, including in dependent self-employment (consider the case of mini-bus drivers in Tanzania [gated and ungated] and measuring casual wage work (and the prospect that surveys are vastly under-measuring rural wage work in Africa). And, surprisingly, as a result we still struggle with some basic concepts often fundamental in development economics, including farm labor productivity. Measures of labor productivity are critical to understanding, among other areas, the extent of labor (mis)allocation and patterns of structural change in Africa.

Our study in Tanzania [gated and ungated] set out to study how one aspect of survey design--the recall period over which surveys solicit responses--affects estimates of farm labor in Tanzania (not to be confused with a different Tanzania study on measuring work-- in this blog by Markus). We conducted a randomized survey experiment in the Mara region of Tanzania during the long rainy season of 2014. One group of households received weekly in-person surveys throughout the entirety of the season, during which they would report on the agricultural labor done by each household member on each plot. A second group was surveyed weekly by phone – with much lower costs than face-to-face interviews but not much tested in terms of reliability (for an exception, see this paper on surveying microenterprises). Another set of households were only interviewed at the end of the season – the data that we normally get from household or farm surveys to assess farm labor productivity.

We found that the end-of-season recall survey overestimated time on each farm plot by a factor of nearly four (4!) compared to weekly surveys. This extreme inflation of time farming is due in large part to the cognitive burdens of reporting an estimate of time worked over several months, especially since that work is not regular like a 9-to-5 office job. Read the paper for insights from the fields of social and cognitive psychology to understand the results.
 
Whether this mis-reporting matters depends on what you want to measure. While we find that hours per person per plot are significantly higher in the recall survey, this gap disappears when measuring total household farm hours. This is because while total hours are over-estimated, the number of plots and the people reported to work on the farm are under-reported in the recall survey! Maybe two wrongs do make a right: combining the over-reported hours with under-reported plots and people results in the same aggregate farm labor measure. Does this mean all is well with our data? That depends on what is being studied. The lower hours per person per plot can result in significantly understating agricultural labor productivity depending on how one tackles the analysis.

But does what happens in surveys in rural Tanzania happen in other rural parts of the region? Here are we lucky to have a second study on this topic done in Ghana. They also find over-estimated hours when surveyed with long recall periods (leading to significantly overestimating plot-level labor productivity), the size of the bias is much smaller than in the Tanzania study. And while households under-report both plots and people, as they did in Tanzania, the under-reporting in plots in much smaller in Ghana. They attribute some of the different results to higher education levels among the households in Ghana. A forthcoming third study in Malawi will shed more light.

Stepping back to the start of this blog, I have been thinking about how to build more momentum on studying measurement. First, bring the money. Doing surveys to study survey methods and measurement is an expensive undertaking. A shorter route is embedding survey methods research as an add-on to a research project. Bravo to IPA and the Global Poverty Research Lab at Northwestern University for the call for proposals to offer funding to do just this. Second, journal editors: please support publication of this work, even if it is not your typical development econ paper. Studies that point us towards improved measurement are a critical public good and can help keep researchers from making the same measurement mistakes all over again. Special issues of journals can help (hats off to the JDE for the 2012 Symposium on Measurement and Survey Design). Without publication outlets, needed replication work (like the Ghana study above) is much less likely to happen.
 
 
 
 
 
 

New model for development: Tackling urban vulnerability and public safety

4 days 5 hours ago
 


Crime and violence are still in the top 5 main worries of the world. Globally, one in five people become a victim of violence and crime in their lifetime. But it is not only the cost of human life lost:  Crime and violence hamper economic growth and development, erode social cohesion, affect governance and, in some cases, shake countries' political stability.


The cost of violence and crime is significant. In Latin America, considered one of the most violent regions in the world, the economic cost of insecurity is estimated at approximately 3.5 per cent of GDP, according to some studies. People also change their behavior to avoid crime, firms reduce investments and incur productivity losses, and governments shift the allocation of resources.
Violence is often also passed on from generation to generation with studies showing that boys and girls who experienced violence at an early age have a higher chance of becoming aggressors or victims in their adulthood.

So how can we break this vicious cycle of violence that poses multiple costs to societies, and what can development communities do about it? And how can we use urban development to counter violence and crime?

Let us use the example of Jamaica, where crime and violence are at the top of the agenda of the government and society in general.The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), through the World Bank’s Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP), is implementing a unique integrated model addressing violence from both infrastructure and social angles.  In other words, improvements in the built environment are combined with social interventions to strengthen the community’s social capital and enhance their resilience to violence and crime.

What is an integrated manner? 

Urban upgrading is done through providing and/or improving the delivery of basic services, some of which focus on waste management, better access to water sources, electricity connection, in addition to infrastructure interventions such as road rehabilitation and the removal of zinc fences. So far, more than 650 waste and recycling bins, and 55 skits have been equipped, and zinc fences have been removed over 4500 meters in the 18 project communities More than 3000 households now have access to legal electricity, and communities have paved roads which increased their overall accessibility.

These create a cleaner and more dignified atmosphere for residents. Active community involvement from deciding where infrastructure goes to doing the actual work, coupled with paved streets, guided drainage, upgraded fencing, and clean spaces all give a heightened sense of ownership and community for community members that are also essential in reducing violence.

In combination with the urban upgrading works, social interventions that focus on strengthening social capital in the communities, especially most vulnerable, are delivered, for example conflict mediation trainings and certification, as well as civil registration (birth certificates) to community members. The former builds community capacities in mediating low-level conflicts before they escalate, and the latter contributes greatly in allowing community members to have easier access to public services. So far, over 4500 beneficiaries have received their birth certificates under Operation Certification. A birth certificate is a base document for many other forms of identification including a passport and a national identification card.  It is also a requirement for accessing a range of social services in Jamaica including health and social welfare services provided by the Government of Jamaica. 

Taking ownership

We already see big differences within the communities. Citizens are taking ownership of their space from keeping their neighborhoods clean to painting beautiful designs and murals on their walls.
Trash is collected in collection bins instead of being thrown on the streets. We have also received feedbacks that due to the improved infrastructures that resulted in better community connectivity, more people are feeling safer to venture out to different communities. Children are playing outside too, which was not the case previously in some communities.

When both social and physical interventions are implemented in an integrated manner, their respective impact gets reinforced. The Jamaica’s model can provide innovative lessons to help strengthen safe and inclusive lenses in the broader cities’ resilience discussions.

Weekly links March 22: improving girl’s education, should project management training be done more, a better binscatter, and more...

4 days 8 hours ago
  • Dave starts his blogging in his new home: Over at the CGD blog, Dave Evans and Fei Yuan discuss their new work reviewing 250+ interventions to try and figure out how best to help girls succeed in school. The key finding is that to improve learning for girls, general interventions that improve pedagogy for all students seem to be most effective.
  • Should Professors (and other researchers) be given project management training? Interesting thread by @FaiolaLabUCI with some suggestions of different courses and tools out there to manage projects including materials for a U Wisconsin graduate workshop on project management, suggestions for different software that can help, and more. Anyone done or know of a managing field projects project management workshop/course?
  • Also on twitter, I noticed the lack of economics papers (none in the last 5 months) at the journal Science, and asked the Social Sciences editor for an explanation. Tage Rai very kindly replied, noting some of the challenges with econ papers, authors and referees, and what he is doing to lower barriers to trying this avenue.
  • New Stata and R code for binscatter methods courtesy of Cattaneo et al. – the key features are providing a better way to adjust for covariates than residualizing data, a way of choosing the number of bins in a less ad hoc manner, and the addition on confidence intervals. They note that if the underlying function is non-linear, using linear projections to residualize can result in uninterpretable results – and so implement a partial linear model to adjust by.
  • In Nature, Scientists rise up against statistical significance- “Statistically significant estimates are biased upwards in magnitude and potentially to a large degree, whereas statistically non-significant estimates are biased downwards in magnitude. Consequently, any discussion that focuses on estimates chosen for their significance will be biased.”
  • Job opening: CEGA is looking to hire a director of research (applications due March 31).
  • Funding opportunity: The World Bank Robert S. McNamara (RSM) Fellowships Program (RSMFP) awards grants of up to $25,000 to PhD candidates in developing country universities to conduct development-related research for a period of 6-10 months abroad, under the supervision of an adviser at a host institution.  This is a wonderful opportunity for the most promising developing nation researchers to advance their doctoral work on a development topic with the best international advisors and host institutions in their fields of study (applications due May 2)

Fighting climate change with capital markets

4 days 17 hours ago
© istockphoto.com

As a structured finance specialist in the World Bank Treasury, I work on a trading floor and talk to banks, investors, and development partners daily, so together we can find cost-effective and sustainable solutions to address climate change. [[tweetable]]The World Bank estimates that without urgent action, climate change could push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030.[[/tweetable]] Climate is now a key consideration in all our development projects, and we have committed to ramp up adaptation financing to $50 billion over FY21–25. However, the public sector alone cannot finance the trillions of dollars needed for green infrastructure. [[tweetable]]We need to mobilize significantly more private sector flows to have any realistic chance of achieving climate goals.[[/tweetable]] Enter: bonds and the power of the capital markets. 

[[tweetable]]The World Bank (IBRD) has been borrowing in the markets to finance its lending activities for over 70 years.[[/tweetable]] Over this period, IBRD has introduced several groundbreaking innovations (the first global bond, the first swap, the first bond issued on a blockchain platform, to name a few) and developed a stellar reputation in capital markets. [[tweetable]]We developed the following three innovative solutions to raise awareness and combat climate change.[[/tweetable]]

Green Bonds

[[tweetable]]Ten years ago, we issued the very first labeled green bond.[[/tweetable]] This bond ultimately created a blueprint for the market and catalyzed a sustainability revolution. The World Bank has been a leader in creating standards around use of proceeds and impact reporting—how investors come to understand the impact of their investment. Today, having issued almost $13 billion through more than 150 green bonds, we are advising many of our clients to access this market.

Looking back, I think a big reason why green bonds became a success is because they offered an attractive entry point for institutional investors that, in the aggregate, manage trillions of dollars. [[tweetable]]Like conventional debt instruments, green bonds are straightforward in that they are principal protected[[/tweetable]] – investors are not exposed to the risk of the underlying projects. They are backed by the balance sheet of the issuer. On top of this simple structure, investors get greater transparency on what the funds are used for and the impact generated.

Structured Bonds

[[tweetable]]The World Bank Treasury has for decades customized bonds for institutional and retail investors.[[/tweetable]] Over the last few years, we have structured bonds that meet investor needs while contributing to the climate global goals. For example, we issued bonds with coupons linked to the generation of Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) by projects in China and Malaysia. Other bonds paid coupons linked to the performance of a low carbon equity index. In both cases, the principal was protected, but investors shared risk in the coupon. Under the Pilot Auction Facility, we structured and issued around $55 million in bonds that incentivized investors to reduce emissions of harmful gases like methane by offering a guaranteed return on CERs. These bonds had a full social impact bond-style risk sharing structure where investors retained the economic risk of the projects they were running.

Catastrophe Bonds

In response to client requests for disaster risk management solutions that do not use up credit lines and transfer risks to the market, we developed a program to use the IBRD balance sheet to intermediate these risks. [[tweetable]]Since 2008, we have executed $4.3 billion in coverage for member countries.[[/tweetable]] By transferring risks to capital markets, and providing rapid payouts based on objective triggers, cat bonds change the dialog from crisis to risk management and build greater resiliency. 

[[tweetable]]Unlike green bond investors, the alternative funds that buy these bonds are willing to put their full investment at risk in exchange for higher returns and diversified risk.[[/tweetable]] We have been able to tap into this capital to provide customized solutions to clients at competitive pricing levels. For example, we structured a $450 million transaction for UTE, a state-owned hydro-electric power company in Uruguay. UTE relies on oil to meet its energy needs during times of low rainfall, so a combination of drought and high oil prices raises prices for consumers. We designed a solution that would have protected UTE with payouts in those circumstances.

What’s next?

[[tweetable]]Innovative financing will continue to play a key role in combating climate change.[[/tweetable]] I anticipate several future trends: (1) We will continue to issue bonds linked to the Sustainable Development Goals; (2) we will issue more cat bonds from increased client interest after our high-profile transactions providing coverage to Mexico and the Philippines; and (3) we are exploring ways to reduce risk in renewable energy projects and lower the cost of financing. The path may differ, and the solutions will evolve, but one thing is clear – the future looks cleaner and brighter than ever.

In Papua New Guinea, a modern fight against an old disease: tuberculosis

5 days 3 hours ago
The World Bank has joined the fight to kick TB out of Papua New Guinea. (World Bank / Tom Perry)

My last surviving grandparent, my Nanna, passed away peacefully late last year. And the end of a loved one’s life – particularly the last member of a generation – is a significant milestone in a family’s history. So I found myself spending a fair bit of time learning more about her younger self, which is when I came to know more about Ailsa.

Ailsa was in a few old, grainy black and white photos and was my Nanna’s older sister; my great aunt. I knew little about her and being honest, I had not really given her much thought. She was seven years older than Nanna and had died very young – at the prime age of 24 – of ‘consumption.’ And I’d never really reflected on how – or why – Ailsa had died so young. Like many other diseases and infections, I’d unconsciously assumed that ‘consumption’ was simply a sickness of a bygone era. That it had been beaten for good, and become, through the course of medical progress and history, a tragedy that my own generation was now lucky to avoid.

But ‘consumption’ – so called because of its tendency to consume the weight and bodies of those affected by it – remains a major global battle of modern times. It is now better known by its more accurate name: tuberculosis (TB).

TB remains one of the top 10 causes of death globally, with more than 1.6 million people dying from the disease in 2017, and an estimated 10 million people falling ill with TB each year, including one million children.
 



While modern medicine and drugs have advanced, unfortunately so has TB. Last year I travelled to Daru Island, a small island off the Southwest coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG)’s mainland a few hundred kilometers north of Australia in the Torres Strait, and a place that has become the epicenter in the fight against TB in PNG. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Daru one of the world’s ‘hotspots’ for Multi-Drug Resistant-TB (MDR-TB), a strain of the disease particularly difficult to beat.

MDR-TB’s strength is often built up when a patient begins a course of treatment for ‘standard’ TB, then discontinues that treatment when they feel better. In PNG, nearly 87% of people live in small villages far removed from cities and big towns. Those who are sick or injured are often forced to travel many hundreds of kilometers to get to a hospital or clinic for even the most basic of treatments. Daru, which is home to the biggest public or government-run hospital in PNG’s Western Province, is an area of nearly 100,000-square kilometers of rugged rivers and mountains.

It’s understandable, then, that upon feeling better, patients may want to leave a place like Daru and return to their families and communities as soon as possible. By doing so, this often means patients don’t finish treatment, and as TB remains in their bodies, building a stronger resistance to drugs, it often becomes MDR-TB.
  Daru Island, in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province, is home to some of the highest, per capita, rates of Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) in the world. (World Bank/Tom Perry) My visit to Daru was to document the work being undertaken to ‘kick TB out of PNG’ – to use the words of the bright red van that slowly makes its way around the island, providing x-rays to the people in the island. It’s a fight that has been ongoing for some time, and which the World Bank joined last year through the Emergency Tuberculosis Project.

This is, without hyperbole, life-saving work. This video, which we filmed across Daru Island with the support of the Australian Government and World Vision’s team in PNG, will help you learn more about TB and how it is both detected and treated, as well as give you the chance to meet many of the remarkable people I met last year who are dedicating their lives to this fight:
  Papua New Guinea: Stepping Up the Fight Against Tuberculosis on Daru Island
And for those who want to truly feel transported to Daru, here is an insight into the treatment process, in 360-degree VR:
  360° VR: Fighting Tuberculosis on Daru Island, Papua New Guinea
As you can see, the fight against TB and MDR-TB on Daru is tough; requires significant commitment of many organizations, big and small, and an extraordinary amount of strength – both from those working on the front lines each day, and of course, from those living with TB; who are not only fighting a physical battle, but also a mental one full of doubt, fatigue and stigma. TB survivors like Iru Tofinga are helping to fight this, and giving hope to those going through treatment. Iru is now working as a TB counsellor through the Burnett Institute, supporting others during the long, difficult, and often deeply lonely treatment process:
  Papua New Guinea: meet Iru Tofinga. Mother, Counsellor, TB Survivor
Iru is one of countless stories of those who are dedicated their lives to fighting TB in Daru, and across PNG. Lilian Dada, who works at one of World Vision’s five treatment sites on Daru, provides daily support and counselling to Edna Daii, a mother of two who is now fighting Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB). Says Lilian of her relationship with patients like Edna: “I want all my patients to be well. Because they are part my family.”
          View this post on Instagram                  

Edna and Lilian, who both come from Daru Island, in the remote south-west of #PapuaNewGuinea, have an extraordinary bond. Edna has multi-drug resistant #Tuberculosis. And Lilian, as her dedicated Treatment Supporter, supports Edna each and every day to beat it. There are hundreds of stories, just like Edna and Lilian’s as part of the work we’re supporting to #EndTB in PNG. Watch Edna and Lilian’s story. Type "Papua New Guinea: Edna & Lilian fighting TB, together" in YouTube search, or copy this link to your browser: https://youtu.be/VJob4GJ3b3c ***** Photo ©️ @thomasmperry ***** #TB #PNG #Tuberculosis #DaruIsland #EndTB

A post shared by World Bank (@worldbank) on Nov 24, 2018 at 6:10am PST

And there are others working a little further behind the scenes whose stories deserve equal attention. Pina Paru, known better as ‘Mama’ Pina to most in Daru, prepares hundreds of free, nutritious meals seven days a week, every day of the year, to help TB patients get through their heavy treatment. Says Mama Pina of her motivation to dedicate her life to cooking these meals for TB patients: “I think it comes from down – way down – in my heart. It comes from there all the way to my thoughts. I enjoy my job cooking in the kitchen and I love taking care of the patients.” Her story is below:

TB is unquestionably a tough – often sad – issue to delve into and understand, and I did leave Daru affected by many of the stories I heard of TB and its impacts. Yet the strongest feeling I took with me from Daru was not one of sadness; but hope. That those who are day after day doing what they can to kick TB out of Daru; and eventually, PNG, are remarkable in their strength of character. And their fight is working: since 2012, the percentage of patients not completing their treatment has gone from 30% to nearly zero – a critical objective in fighting TB’s spread on the island.

However, the fight is still immense. Tuberculosis has emerged as PNG’s leading cause of death, with 35,000 new cases a year, making PNG the world’s 10th highest impacted country per capita. While this may seem like a losing battle, Peru’s impressive progress, for example, provides plenty of motivation for health workers and policy makers that strong, sustained interventions do work, save thousands of lives and ultimately change the direction of infection rates.

Medical progress – and the dedication of many thousands of patients, health workers, advocates and policy makers – has brought many countries far from the time when millions of lives, just like my great aunt Ailsa’s, were lost to TB. Yet we know it’s a fight that has a long way to go: current projections suggest that unless the fight is scaled-up, the world will not achieve the Tuberculosis component of Sustainable Development Goal 3.3, and eradication may potentially take 160 years.

That’s unacceptable – we can do more, faster. So let’s use today – World TB Day – as a reminder that we need to get behind efforts like the one in Daru to ensure that anyone, regardless of where they were born, can confidently say that TB has truly – and finally – become a disease confined to the pages of history.

The World Bank’s Land and Poverty Conference: 20 years on

5 days 7 hours ago

Also available in Español |Français

In 1999, when a few enthusiasts agreed to meet annually in an effort to base interventions on land, on solid empirical evidence rather than ideology, few would have expected this effort to have such a lasting impact. Twenty years on, the small gathering has morphed into a conference, bringing together over 1,500 participants from governments, academics, civil society and the private sector to discuss the latest research and innovations in policies and good practice on land governance around the world.

Three examples illustrate how the years have changed the dialogue:

  • In contrast to the then prevailing paradigm of individual titling, research has shown recognition of group rights to often be more effective. The shift towards a continuum of rights facilitated dramatic change in terms of recognition and demarcation of indigenous land rights. Registration of more than 100 mn. ha in Mexico had clear economic benefits and Brazil’s environmental registry reduced deforestation and provides a basis for rights recognition.
  • Aided by advances in technology, high-cost approaches that often just provided rents or bribes to vested interests, were almost completely replaced by ‘fit for purpose’ ways to register individual rights, accompanied by simplified planning. This transformed most of Eastern Europe and China and, building on Rwandan and Ethiopian examples, is starting to make its way into Africa.
  • While gender hardly featured two decades ago, a wealth of evidence shows the far-reaching impact of women having documented, and thus enforceable rights to land and property as households’ most important assets. Joint registration of land increased women’s bargaining power and children’s education across the globe, triggering efforts to make such change permanent, e.g. by clarifying default marital property regimes and provisions for inheritance.
And the current digital economy creates opportunities in at least three respects:
  • Connectivity expands outreach, targeting and facilitating inclusive, participatory processes for first time registration and maintenance to keep records current. It allows leveraging of land rights for financial inclusion through savings mobilization, insurance, and (micro) loans.
  • Satellite imagery allows not only low-cost first-time registration but, more importantly, linking of rights to responsibilities in terms of sustainable land use/management or compliance with planning regulations or building permits, and near-real time compliance monitoring.
  • Interoperability allows making land rights meaningful by linking them to national ID databases, using decentralized ledgers, and taxing (urban) land for own-source revenue generation so that the recent vast increases of urban land values accrue to the public rather than landlords.
If these opportunities are harnessed, going forward documentation of land rights can have a major role in addressing global challenges such as climate change and land degradation, sustainable urbanization, and gender equality.

To do so, research that uses ‘big’ registry data jointly with imagery and surveys will be relevant in three areas:
  • Land rights, empowerment, and structural transformation: Ensuring registries have comprehensive coverage, are gender-balanced, authoritative, secure, financially self-sustaining and interoperable to support investment, efficiency-enhancing land transfers (rather than land grabs or monopolistic markets), and access to finance.
  • Land for competitive green cities: Better land use via forward-looking zoning that lays out arterial infrastructure for cities to expand less haphazardly, allowing low-cost service provision and sustained own-source revenue generation to harness agglomeration economies and create jobs.
  • Political economy challenges: Regulations benefiting special interests, public institutions that simultaneously regulate and own/manage land, and de-facto monopolies on service delivery have affected the land sector since colonial days and can be reinforced in a digital environment if not regulated. Ways to enhance transparency and competition, e.g. through international benchmarking or by working with sub-national entities are thus essential to create a level playing field and empower land owners.
The task of legally securing land rights and ensuring they are used for everybody’s benefit remains enormous: only 22% of countries globally (4% in Africa) have private rights in the capital city mapped or registered.

And the World Bank is uniquely placed to
  1. use policy lending to simplify regulations for registration and planning, reduce cost of service provision, and pilot/evaluate simplified approaches that offer scope for cost recovery;
  2. move legacy land data to a fully digital environment that is interoperable within Government (e.g. ID and firm registries, building permits) and that can be accessed by the private sector (e.g. banks) as needed; and
  3. finance expansion of successful pilots to build complete sustainable systems.
SDG 4.2.1 aims to ensure universal coverage with securely documented land rights by 2030. With limited progress thus far and innumerable obstacles, this seems a near-impossible task. Yet, the past two decades have shown that what was almost unimageable then, is now within reach and, building on its unique ability to link research to operational engagement, the Bank is ready to contribute to achieving this challenge.

Land Conference Website 2019

The World Bank’s Land and Poverty Conference: 20 years on

5 days 7 hours ago

Also available in Español |Français

In 1999, when a few enthusiasts agreed to meet annually in an effort to base interventions on land, on solid empirical evidence rather than ideology, few would have expected this effort to have such a lasting impact. Twenty years on, the small gathering has morphed into a conference, bringing together over 1,500 participants from governments, academics, civil society and the private sector to discuss the latest research and innovations in policies and good practice on land governance around the world.

Three examples illustrate how the years have changed the dialogue:

  • In contrast to the then prevailing paradigm of individual titling, research has shown recognition of group rights to often be more effective. The shift towards a continuum of rights facilitated dramatic change in terms of recognition and demarcation of indigenous land rights. Registration of more than 100 mn. ha in Mexico had clear economic benefits and Brazil’s environmental registry reduced deforestation and provides a basis for rights recognition.
  • Aided by advances in technology, high-cost approaches that often just provided rents or bribes to vested interests, were almost completely replaced by ‘fit for purpose’ ways to register individual rights, accompanied by simplified planning. This transformed most of Eastern Europe and China and, building on Rwandan and Ethiopian examples, is starting to make its way into Africa.
  • While gender hardly featured two decades ago, a wealth of evidence shows the far-reaching impact of women having documented, and thus enforceable rights to land and property as households’ most important assets. Joint registration of land increased women’s bargaining power and children’s education across the globe, triggering efforts to make such change permanent, e.g. by clarifying default marital property regimes and provisions for inheritance.
And the current digital economy creates opportunities in at least three respects:
  • Connectivity expands outreach, targeting and facilitating inclusive, participatory processes for first time registration and maintenance to keep records current. It allows leveraging of land rights for financial inclusion through savings mobilization, insurance, and (micro) loans.
  • Satellite imagery allows not only low-cost first-time registration but, more importantly, linking of rights to responsibilities in terms of sustainable land use/management or compliance with planning regulations or building permits, and near-real time compliance monitoring.
  • Interoperability allows making land rights meaningful by linking them to national ID databases, using decentralized ledgers, and taxing (urban) land for own-source revenue generation so that the recent vast increases of urban land values accrue to the public rather than landlords.
If these opportunities are harnessed, going forward documentation of land rights can have a major role in addressing global challenges such as climate change and land degradation, sustainable urbanization, and gender equality.

To do so, research that uses ‘big’ registry data jointly with imagery and surveys will be relevant in three areas:
  • Land rights, empowerment, and structural transformation: Ensuring registries have comprehensive coverage, are gender-balanced, authoritative, secure, financially self-sustaining and interoperable to support investment, efficiency-enhancing land transfers (rather than land grabs or monopolistic markets), and access to finance.
  • Land for competitive green cities: Better land use via forward-looking zoning that lays out arterial infrastructure for cities to expand less haphazardly, allowing low-cost service provision and sustained own-source revenue generation to harness agglomeration economies and create jobs.
  • Political economy challenges: Regulations benefiting special interests, public institutions that simultaneously regulate and own/manage land, and de-facto monopolies on service delivery have affected the land sector since colonial days and can be reinforced in a digital environment if not regulated. Ways to enhance transparency and competition, e.g. through international benchmarking or by working with sub-national entities are thus essential to create a level playing field and empower land owners.
The task of legally securing land rights and ensuring they are used for everybody’s benefit remains enormous: only 22% of countries globally (4% in Africa) have private rights in the capital city mapped or registered.

And the World Bank is uniquely placed to
  1. use policy lending to simplify regulations for registration and planning, reduce cost of service provision, and pilot/evaluate simplified approaches that offer scope for cost recovery;
  2. move legacy land data to a fully digital environment that is interoperable within Government (e.g. ID and firm registries, building permits) and that can be accessed by the private sector (e.g. banks) as needed; and
  3. finance expansion of successful pilots to build complete sustainable systems.
SDG 4.2.1 aims to ensure universal coverage with securely documented land rights by 2030. With limited progress thus far and innumerable obstacles, this seems a near-impossible task. Yet, the past two decades have shown that what was almost unimageable then, is now within reach and, building on its unique ability to link research to operational engagement, the Bank is ready to contribute to achieving this challenge.

Land Conference Website 2019

Small water enterprises need strong government

5 days 7 hours ago


Photo: Courtesy of Safe Water Network​

World Water Day is always a good time to take stock of where we are in achieving the water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most PPPs relate to relatively large investments in major infrastructure run by utilities. But in the developing world’s rapidly growing small towns and urban peripheries, we need something else.
 
Enter safe (also called small) water enterprises, an exciting group of dedicated social entrepreneurs who are beginning to gain traction providing high quality water to communities not served by utilities. For example, our friends at Safe Water Network recently announced they are now serving more than a million people in India and Ghana (more about that in this blog.) A 2017 report by Dalberg suggested a potential market of 3.9 billion people for safe water enterprises. 

A commonality among these enterprises is a dedication to professional management and focus on the twin bottom lines of providing high-quality service while covering costs. On this latter point, although aspiring to attract private funding and, eventually, achieve profitability (itself a necessary precursor for attracting funding) the reality is that most are heavily subsidized through philanthropic or other sources, especially for capital investments.

Clearly this is limiting and means they are struggling to scale-up despite often running fairly exemplary businesses. Why is this so? I keep coming back to the systems-level challenge they face. At risk of oversimplifying, I think that, in focusing on getting the business side right at the enterprise level, most of these enterprises are putting insufficient effort into engaging with the broader system in which the enterprises function. This broader system goes under many names: the market, the enabling environment, the regulatory environment.

In essence, most small water (and sanitation) enterprises operate in a legal and regulatory gray zone, outside of the regulated and utility-provided mainstream. This, contradictorily, permits the flexibility to experiment with a wide range of tariff and business models, yet provides an almost insurmountable barrier to growth. Why? Primarily because, operating in a public and social sector means that their ability to charge is strongly limited. As a result, getting close to recovering capital costs typically requires a timeframe of 15 to 20 years—or longer. Yet few (if any) countries provide the legal and regulatory frameworks for small private operators to run secure concessions for this length of time.

This means that small water enterprises rely on a range of cobbled together, legally dubious, local agreements (typically with local governments). The result, as for so many other models for rural and informal WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) services, is that there is no viable model for crowding-in the private capital that we are so often told is the only solution to meeting the WASH SDGs. After all, what private investor would provide a company with a 20-year loan where ownership of assets is unclear?

I came away from a recent meeting with a group of committed safe water enterprise pioneers at Stanford University thinking they have much to offer the sector, not least in their focus on professionalization and delivery of a quality service. But, also feeling they are not immune from the hard systems-level challenges of our sector: providing a service that is also a human right in a politicized and weakly developed regulatory and legal environment.

It’s not that there isn’t room for the private sector to provide WASH services in the semi-formal landscape of secondary towns and urban peripheries. Rather, the private sector faces the same systems-level challenges as the public, municipal, or community-managed sector.

Addressing those challenges is, above all, the responsibility of governments (supported by their development partners). [[tweetable]]If small water and sanitation enterprises are trying to understand one part of the service provision challenge, only government can provide the other: an enabling environment that allows service providers to thrive, while holding them accountable.[[/tweetable]] External agencies, international financial institutions such as the World Bank Group, and others who wish to support and convince the private sector to move into such spaces, need to also engage to help to build that enabling environment.

We just partnered with Water.org and the World Bank on a paper about mobilizing finance for WASH that unpacks what is meant by the enabling environment and presents real examples of how innovators are overcoming these bottlenecks in the sector.

It’s this need to think across the different elements of service delivery that, to me, is at the heart of bringing a systems approach to WASH. And it was at the heart of what we explored, with a rich mix of governments, development partners, service providers and other actors within the WASH system, including safe water enterprises at our symposium last week. You can learn more about our work and the symposium here.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the World Bank Group, its Board of Executive Directors, staff or the governments it represents. The World Bank Group does not guarantee the accuracy of the data, findings, or analysis in this post.

We look forward to hearing from you: The draft updated Guidance on PPP Contractual Provisions is open for public consultation to capture inputs and recommendations by all relevant stakeholders to feed into the new edition. Submit your feedback here by April 30, 2019.

 
 
Related Posts
 
What do private companies look for in a performance-based non-revenue water project?

Kigali Water: Lessons from one of sub-Saharan Africa’s first water PPPs

Harnessing the Nile’s potential through private finance

Water PPPs that work: The case of Armenia

Leveraging commercial finance for water: will it hurt the poor?

Innovative Finance in the Water and Sanitation Sector

 

Working with administrative tax data: A how-to-get-started guide

5 days 9 hours ago
Administrative tax data are great for so many different reasons: you can study taxpayer responses to tax policy reform (most obviously! see Pomeranz & Vila-Belda (forthcoming), and Slemrod 2017 for reviews), but also non-tax questions, for instance related to intergenerational mobility, firm production networks, or who becomes an inventor, to just name a few. For practitioners in development organizations, tax data can help prepare technical assistance and investment projects, or monitor their implementation.

This blog collects some thoughts on how to get started in working with tax admin data. First, it provides a primer on what tax data is, describing the different types of tax data, modes of accessing tax data and briefly reviewing the main upsides and downsides of working with tax data. Second, I discuss some practical advice on the logistics, from building a first contact with the tax authority (TA) to pitching a project and formulating a data request. This draws on my PhD research and experience at the World Bank, where I work with tax data from various countries, including on a new pilot project between different World Bank units (the Macro, Trade and Investment Global Practice, the Research Department and the Global Tax Team) which investigates what can be learned from comparing micro tax data across countries.

For a more detailed discussion of tax data, see this guidance note, and for insights from a survey with 70 researchers working with administrative tax data, see Pomeranz & Vila-Belda (forthcoming).
  Types of tax data What do we mean by administrative tax data? Tax data are collected by the TA in the process of exercising its functions – collecting government revenue. There are five broad categories of tax data (for an illustration with data from Costa Rica, see the data sections in Brockmeyer et al 2019 and Brockmeyer & Hernandez 2018).
  • Tax Register: the list of all registered taxpayers at a point in time, with the unique identifier, name, geographic location, and (for firms) sector and legal form;
  • Taxpayer self-assessment declarations: declarations that taxpayers submit themselves (e.g. firms submit corporate income tax and VAT declarations (e.g. Figure 1 below for Costa Rica), individuals may submit personal income tax declarations);
  • Informative declarations and withholding declarations: forms submitted to the TA by third parties that report on taxpayers’ taxable transactions (e.g. firms report purchases from other firms, credit card companies report retailers’ card sales, procurement agencies report firms’ sales to the government); these data are often at the transaction-level; they are used for tax compliance purposes;
  • Customs data: transaction-level records of imports and exports, should be shared with the TA (but unfortunately that’s not always the case);
  • Process and HR data: records of TA internal processes, e.g. audits; spell data on work history, remuneration and bonuses of TA employees;
Most of these data would have unique taxpayer identifiers that allow merging across datasets. The self-assessment, customs and informative declarations usually have monotonically increasing form numbers, which allow sorting and eliminating duplicates. As the tax identifiers might be unique to the TA, merging tax data with data from other government agencies may require merging based on names/addresses.

Figure 1: Costa Rica’s VAT declaration form

  Modes of accessing tax data Different countries provide access to their tax data in different ways. From least to most restrictive, these are the options I have encountered:
  1. The data is available online (believe it or not, some Scandinavian countries actually publish identified tax data; Mexico publishes de-identified data).
  2. The TA extracts and hands over the data to specific individuals/institutions under a Memorandum of Understanding (this is how researchers work with data from Senegal and Pakistan).
  3. The TA extracts de-identified data for specific institutions under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), requiring that the data be considered confidential, with restricted access in a secure computer outside of the TA premises but regulated by a data security plan which, among other provisions, requires that the computer is not connect to the internet (e.g. some state governments in Brazil have provided data access this way).
  4. The TA provides remote access to the data to selected/screened individuals via a secure server (this is theoretically possible, but I have not seen an example).
  5. The TA provides access to the data onsite (e.g. at the Datalab at the UK TA (HMRC)). In this case, external partners can either work onsite or work with a TA staff who runs do-files/scripts.
In any case, the data should be de-identified securely but systematically, so that the panel structure of the data is preserved, and the same de-identification algorithm applies to all datasets, so that different datasets can be merged. An MoU may specify how and for what purpose the data can be used, detail procedures for safe handling of data, and any conditions on results publication (e.g. results must be such that no data point published is based on less than X observations, results need to be discussed with TA prior to publication). 

Data can be analyzed in Stata or R, but given the potential unavailability of STATA at government offices and the free availability of R, junior researchers should probably invest in R.
  Upsides and downsides of tax data It is good to be mindful of a few characteristics of tax data when preparing to work with them.

Upsides
  • Tax data contain the universe of the formal sector. Unlike survey data, they are less prone to selective non-reporting at the top of the income distribution. Unlike census data, they contain more detailed information, and are collected at high frequency.
  • Most types of tax data are now collected electronically, which minimizes errors (e.g. Figure 2 below, which shows the online tax filing portal for Costa Rica).
  • As the data is the product of actual economic processes, it measures variables with high precision, unlike survey data in which respondents provide ballpark figures as their response has no consequence for themselves.
Downsides
  • The fact that the data is directly economically relevant for those people who provide the data (mostly taxpayers or their transaction partners) also means that the data is not necessarily good in capturing real economic outcomes. Self-assessment declarations in particular capture reported outcomes. Informative declarations are more likely to capture real outcomes, as the reporting agent has less incentive to misreport and is often more tightly monitored.
  • Tax data can be poor on demographic information on individuals and households unless they can be merged with other government data (studies in Denmark and Sweden have exploited the ability to merge across various types of administrative data).
  • Lots of documentation is available to understand tax data (tax returns, tax laws and decrees that explain the tax system), but unlike survey/census data, tax data is not collected for primarily analytical purposes, and is thus not accompanied by researcher-friendly codebooks. Understanding the data requires knowledge of the relevant language and a regular exchange with the TA. 
Figure 2: Online tax filing portal for Costa Rica
Building a connection with the tax authority Once a research (policy) question that requires access to tax data is identified, some diplomacy and entrepreneurial spirit is usually necessary to make the project happen. Here are some practical steps, primarily for junior researchers.
  • Find a context/country that you know well or have some connection to, ideally one that is not yet over-researched, so as to avoid overlap with other research teams.
  • Identify a contact person or local champion in the TA (great if someone senior who has the TA’s trust can introduce you).
  • Spend time to understand
    1. the country’s tax system, its particularities, and policy challenges [read World Bank and IMF reports, the country’s tax laws, reports by the TA, and above all, talk to people];
    2. the data structure (here, I mean to try to understand the tax return forms and other data formats – postpone direct discussions about the data for a bit);
    3. then link a+b to the broader question you want to study, derive a more specific formulation of the question and hypothesis, and flesh out your methodological approach (quasi-experiment/RCT/structural).
  • After many “learning meetings” and some informal discussions about the project, pitch your project to your government counterpart. Then continue the dialogue by integrating feedback, adjusting your project to fit realities on the ground and policy needs, and, if needed, re-pitch your project until you have buy-in. Then start discussing the data request and associated logistics (you might have touched on this topic previously in an informal way).
  • Obviously, the key ingredient for a successful project pitch is a policy-relevant project which allows the government to improve on or learn something they would otherwise not be able to achieve, and which is in line with their mandate and actual policy challenges. In addition, it can help to weave into your pitch some of the following: evidence that other countries provide access to their tax data for research (ideally “aspirational” peers = slightly more developed countries); examples of the policy impact of projects using tax data; evidence of your own track record using tax admin data/policy impact, if applicable.
Overall, be mindful of internal politics in government agencies. External partners can have convening power (and the required innocence and independence) to bring competing government departments to the same table, but they might also inadvertently exacerbate rivalries. You will likely need buy-in from both the data guardians and the people in charge of the policy you aim to work on (this split may correspond to TA and Ministry of Finance).

In terms of capacity building, local ownership and quality of the project (and potentially also ease of accessing data), it can be a good idea to identify not just a local champion but an actual co-author (Juliana Londoño-Vélez and Pierre Bachas have fared very well with this). Formulating a data request Once the government counterparts have agreed to the project, a formal data request can be prepared. It would reiterate the (agreed upon) purpose of the data use, the benefits of the study, and specify the mode of data access (or propose further discussions on this).

It would then detail the data needed:
  • Type of dataset (e.g. annual corporate income tax declarations);
  • Sample (e.g. all corporations in all tax offices);
  • Period covered;
  • Identifiers: unique taxpayer ID (de-identified), tax year, declaration submission date, declaration number;
  • Variables: list the line items/boxes on the tax return that are needed (if the tax return isn’t too long, it’s often easiest to request all variables, which makes the request easier to deal with for the person extracting the data, prevents issues due to errors in variable selection, and limits the need for follow-up requests to add variables);
  • Any additional variables that need to be merged into the data (e.g. sector codes for all firms from the tax register).
Whether or not you want to request an explicit ex-ante permission to be able to publish the results you find is a sensitive and context-specific question, but it is important to convey (at least implicitly) that you are not intending to prepare a top-secret report but rather a public good.
 
Once the data has been accessed, it is important to maintain a regular exchange with the TA, communicate intermediate results, seek feedback and consult on the final dissemination strategy and policy discussion surrounding the results. After all, improving policy design – either directly or indirectly, by improving our knowledge – should be the key objective of the analysis.
 

Lado Apkhazava – one exceptional teacher’s recipe for unlocking Georgia’s human capital potential

5 days 11 hours ago
I am very happy I met Lado Apkhazava, a truly gifted, committed, and professional Civics Education teacher from Guria - one of Georgia’s poorest regions. Lado’s innovative and student-centered approach is transforming the culture of teaching and learning at his public school in Chibati.
 
Lado is bringing much creativity and passion to his teaching, making students work in teams around exciting projects and empowering them to participate in the daily running of the school.  Inspired by Lado, more and more teachers are adopting elements of his approach and working in teams to achieve better learning outcomes for their students.

Lado’s teaching style and innovative approach to education have not gone unrecognized and he is now one of the top 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2019.

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As a professional teacher myself, prior to joining the World Bank, I remember very well the enormous emotional fulfillment you feel when you are able to empower and inspire young people to acquire knowledge and help them achieve remarkable things. At the same time, I know that being a good teacher is a huge responsibility that requires passion, devotion, and patience. 

My meeting with Lado reinforces my belief in the critical role teachers play in developing the human capital of a nation. Healthy, educated, productive, and resilient people can take advantage of new technological economic opportunities.
 
In 2018, the World Bank Group launched the Human Capital Project, aimed at accelerating investments in human capital as a critical step in boosting inclusive and sustainable growth. Georgia wants to be one of the few countries selected as an “Early Adopter” of this project. This presents an excellent opportunity for the country and the World Bank Group to continue working together and drive transformational progress.
 
Why is investing in human capital vital for Georgia?
 
We all agree the country has made tremendous progress on multiple fronts since gaining independence a generation ago. It ranks high on governance and doing business indicators. Considerable improvements in infrastructure and other foundations for economic growth have been made, and it has positioned itself as a leading tourism destination. Georgia now has mature institutions and a vibrant civil society.
 
But there are still serious challenges facing the country - including a widening income gap, an aging and shrinking population, and other social and economic difficulties creating vulnerabilities to external shocks. Now is the right time to prepare the people of Georgia for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead by building on the progress of the past.

Rapid technological change, coupled with globalization and demographic developments, require Georgia to prioritize human capital as a key strategy. At present, human capital contributes about 48 percent of Georgia’s wealth, compared to 70 percent for high income countries (measured by the value of earnings over a person’s lifetime).

With Georgian students continuing to perform below their peers in international learning assessments, it’s difficult to fully mobilize the competitive potential of this country, its economy, and its people.

While two decades of education reform have established significant improvements, more needs to be done. The teaching and learning culture in Georgia must be advanced to improve learning outcomes.

The time for action is now. We at the World Bank are heeding this call – through programs like the Inclusion, Innovation and Quality Education Project in Georgia being prepared at the moment. It aims to expand access to preschool education and improving the quality of education, as well as the learning environment, eventually helping accelerate the human capital development.

It is time to pave the way for Lado - and teachers like him - to unlock the potential of this country by inspiring its youth. As Lado perfectly phrased it: “The future is in education.”

Lado has a good chance to win the Global Teacher Prize 2019 this Sunday, March 24th. And even if he doesn’t, he has already made Georgia - and all of us - very proud!

Who Trains the Best Computer Scientists?

6 days 2 hours ago



Computing is perhaps one of the hottest professions today. And as technology becomes a ubiquitous part of life, the demand for computer professionals will only increase. In the United States alone, over 500,000 ICT jobs will be created within the next decade, and by 2024 almost three-quarters of STEM job growth will be in computer-related occupations. Higher education systems have responded swiftly, with a rapid increase in the quantity of computer science (CS) undergraduate programs. While the quantitative expansion in programs has been quite visible, what about their quality? What skills do computer science graduates bring with them? Are some countries doing a better job equipping their computer graduates with core skills?

To answer these questions, a cross-national team, including the World Bank, embarked on an ambitious exercise: to identify the key computing skills of the entering and graduating class of computer science engineers in four major economies: China, India, Russia and the United States. Together, these four countries train nearly half the CS professionals in the world.

Led by Stanford University’s Professor Prashant Loyalka, we first identified all undergraduate CS majors from China, India, Russia that had similar course requirements and content with undergraduate CS majors in the United States. We then took nationally representative samples of institutions including elite and non-elite programs in each country. We next randomly sampled smaller administrative units (departments and classes) within each of the sampled programs in China, India, and Russia and selected all seniors in those administrative units. Sampled seniors in the three countries took a two-hour, computer-based, standardized CS exam from the Major Field Test® suite of assessments designed by Educational Testing Service (ETS), which assesses how well CS seniors master CS-related concepts, principles, and knowledge. For the United States, we used ETS data from the same test.

Based on this work, a paper released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this week, provides interesting insights.

  • The United States trains the best computer graduates by far: We find that CS seniors in the United States substantially outperform seniors in China, India, and Russia. The average computer science student in the United States ranks higher than about 80 percent of students tested in China, India, and Russia. Seniors in elite institutions in the United States similarly outperform seniors in elite institutions in China, India, and Russia by approximately 0.85 Standard Deviations (SDs). Importantly, the skills advantage of the United States is not because it has a large proportion of high-scoring international students.
Figure 1: Computer Science Skills across China, India, Russia, and the United States Source: Prashant Loyalka and others (2019). Computer Science Skills Across China, India, Russia, and the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. March 2019Notes: Mean estimates for China, India, and Russia are each statistically lower than the mean estimate for the United States (P = 0.000). Mean estimates are not statistically different between China and India (P = 0.435), China and Russia (0.914), and India and Russia (P = 0.509). Estimates are reported as effect sizes (in standard deviation units). Scaled CS exam scores were converted into z-scores using the mean and SD of the entire cross-national sample of exam takers. As such, the overall mean of the standardized score across all four countries is zero. Standard errors are adjusted for clustering at the institution (university/college) level.
  • Women students lag behind their male counterparts in all countries: We find consistent but moderate differences in CS skills between female and male students within all four countries. Males score 0.15 SDs higher than females in China, 0.24 SDs higher in India, 0.25 SDs higher in Russia, and 0.41 SDs higher in the United States.
     
  • Colleges’ “value-added” may differ in China, India and Russia: While the skill levels of entering computer science freshmen are much higher in China than in India and Russia by the end of college, Chinese, Indian, and Russian students have comparable skill levels. This suggests that CS program quality and rigor may be lowest in China and highest in India.
 The study has important policy implications.

First, it underscores the need to understand what college students are learning, something not captured in current international comparative assessment studies or even college rankings.

Second, it emphasizes the need to understand what is happening in settings that boost student learning, such as the United States, or in settings where students may be learning at a faster pace, such as India.

Third, the gender gap in skills suggests that more effort may be needed to attract and retain higher achieving female students into computer science and ensure that they have equal opportunities to receive a quality education.

 

Trees and forests are key to fighting climate change and poverty. So are women

6 days 17 hours ago
Liberian woman's forest product market stand. © Gerardo Segura/World Bank

According to WRI's ‘Global Forest Watch’, [[tweetable]]from 2001 to 2017, 337 million hectares of tropical tree cover was lost globally – an area the size of India.[[/tweetable]]
 
So, we appear to be losing the battle, if not the war, against tropical deforestation, and missing a key opportunity to tackle climate change (if tropical deforestation were a country, it would rank 3rd in emissions) and reduce poverty. A key question, then, is what can forest sector investors, governments and other actors do differently to reverse these alarming trends?

One way to speed up our efforts is to proactively include the role of women in the design of forest landscape restoration and conservation efforts. It is only recently that people developing forest restoration programs have thought about their impact on women, and the risks of failure that come with ignoring women’s needs and potential contributions.
 
We know that men and women access, use and manage forests differently, with differing knowledge and roles in the management of forests and use of forest resources. Although there is still limited evidence of the magnitude and breadth of impacts achieved by implementing gender-responsive policies and practices in the forest sector, we are starting to see more evidence that taking into account gender differences could lead to behavioral changes that increase tree cover and improve the livelihoods of the poor.
 
[[tweetable]]Considering gender differences in the use of, access to, and benefits from forest landscapes has led to more fair and effective design of interventions and institutional arrangements that have maximized program results and successes in addressing deforestation in many countries.[[/tweetable]]  
 
For example, in Brazil, supporting women’s non-timber forest product (NTFP) microenterprise groups resulted in increased incomes and empowerment, as well as a reduction in deforestation. In India and Nepal, increasing women’s participation in community forest management groups led to improved forest conservation and enhanced livelihoods. In Uganda, a gender-transformative ‘adaptive collaborative management’ approach for communities resulted in tens of thousands of trees being planted by women for the first time both on-farm and in forest reserves, improved food security, and the election of 50% women leaders in forest management groups.  In Kenya, the Green Belt Movement launched by Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, with women’s empowerment at its core, has planted over 51 million trees.
 
The thought of designing and implementing gender-transformative landscape initiatives of any type (projects, programs, policies, capacity strengthening efforts, etc.) can be daunting for development practitioners or decision makers without experience considering gender. It doesn’t have to be.
 
A recently released paper from the World Bank’s Program on Forests (PROFOR) examines the types of gender inequalities that exist in forest landscapes, and the gender considerations or actions that many countries are taking to address these gaps. It reviews and synthesizes a wide range of World Bank and partner projects and forest sector investments in different regions.
 
The PROFOR paper aims to stimulate greater understanding of potential opportunities by providing suggestions for gender-responsive actions that developers and leaders of forest projects, programs and policies can consider. Depending on which forest actor you are, applying and tailoring these suggestions to your context specific circumstances can ensure more effective and equitable impacts:

  • A developer or investor in forest landscape projects can consider establishing performance-based contracts with joint spousal signatures for planting and protecting trees on farms, as well as near and inside forests, or including budget line items for gender-targeted NTFP activities.
  • Governments, particularly forest-related agencies, can train forest personnel in the collection of sex-disaggregated data and inclusive, participatory engagement and forest landscape management planning processes, or facilitating registration for forest-related programs in easily accessible spaces where women already go (e.g. schools, health care centers).
  • Investors, development agencies and private sector actors can find ways in which to make direct payments to women (e.g. via cellphone) for forest restoration and agroforestry activities or supporting rural women’s leadership capacity and strengthening activities. 
PROFOR’s paper, along with a guidance note for project designers, provide many more examples of how gender analysis and actions can contribute in forest landscapes and of how this research is already being applied on the ground. For example, the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) includes several countries that are using this tool to design REDD+ readiness and large-scale programs that ensure women are partners in the planning, operation, and deployment of climate finance.
 
The bottom line is that [[tweetable]]greater investment in forest landscapes and agroforestry will be critical in efforts to address climate change and rural poverty challenges in many countries.[[/tweetable]] The success of these investments will be enhanced by considering gender-responsive activities and actions when designing and implementing forest landscape projects and programs.

The Middle East and North Africa cannot miss the Fourth Industrial Revolution

1 week 4 hours ago

The traditional route of industrialization for developing countries may no longer be available for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This should not be a source of regret, as the aspirations of the region’s young and well-educated population extend far beyond auto assembly lines. Furthermore, the repetitive work of an assembly line will increasingly be performed by machines rather than people. The rapid pace of technological change that is propelling this process, dubbed the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," offers new opportunities for developing countries. Opportunities the MENA region cannot afford to miss. 

Technological transformation could be a way for the region to leapfrog into the future. While MENA missed the earlier boat on industrialization, there was extensive investment in the health and education of the population. This human capital can be the source of the creativity and skills needed to drive the new digital economy. Young people have been quick to adopt new technology, and the 'Arab Spring' showed how adept they were with social media. Yet to unleash the transformative effect of technology, the mobile devices that are in every pair of hands need to become more than instruments to communicate grievances. They need to become tools to innovate, launch businesses and create new opportunities. 

One of the major obstacles holding back the launch of a thriving digital economy is the lack of access to digital payments. This is a problem of regulation rather than innovation. The lack of competition in the banking sector has allowed incumbent banks to retain their dominant positions free of the pressure to innovate and offer new services. Regulators need to stop favoring incumbents, and introduce new regulations that guard against risk, while also encouraging innovations. This would allow for the emergence of non-bank operators offering digital payment systems such as MPESA in Kenya, which has both increased financial inclusion and laid the foundation for e-commerce. 

[[tweetable]]Digital payments and e-commerce are a way for less developed and more isolated communities to overcome their social and geographic handicaps.[[/tweetable]] For new businesses and start-ups, it can mean bypassing the need for prohibitive investments in infrastructure and marketing. It is estimated that rural on-line stores in China created more than 28 million jobs in 2017. In Morocco, home-based female weavers are selling rugs and other textiles over the internet and keeping large shares of the profits, while in Egypt a young start-up is marketing healthy homemade meals. 

The evidence shows that these start-ups and small and medium enterprises are the greatest source of jobs. Digital payments systems, coupled with access to high speed internet, would both connect them to customers and increase their productivity. A connection to the cloud, for instance, would provide low cost access to the latest software. More importantly, these systems would allow these start-ups and small businesses to integrate with the national economy. These same systems would also allow the MENA economy to integrate more effectively with the global economy. 

There is widespread concern that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be a net destroyer of jobs. Right now, most people in MENA work in the informal sector where their jobs are already vulnerable. Digital technology would be a boost; allowing them to increase their productivity while linking them to more income generating opportunities. One of the biggest challenges the region faces is the ever-growing number of unemployed university graduates. The new digital economy would create a demand for higher skills, and education systems should adapt to deliver them. 

At the same time, embracing new technologies and transforming the economy will be disruptive, and the process will need to be undergirded by revamped social safety nets. Now, social safety nets are tied to occupations, and mostly those in the public sector, which excludes the large majority of the population in the informal sector. Modern systems are needed focused on individuals and their specific needs. 

One risk the region will have to contend with are the juggernauts of the new economy. The world is dominated by big tech giants that are likely to prey on countries that have relatively weak systems for protecting personal data, which in the digital economy is as valuable as oil. Locally, to cope with this risk, centralized states favoring rentier economies can actually get stronger instead of playing their role as mere enablers. Countries in MENA should adopt regulations flexible enough to accommodate the fast-moving industries underpinning the new economies and reassuring enough to allow for venture capital engagement and the transition from start-ups to growth and jobs generating 'scale-ups'. This will promote the emergence of national champions that are driven by local talents. Local tech firms will need the right conditions to grow to the point where they can project globally and be in a position to partner with global tech giants. This will require developing and mobilizing the right talents, including drawing on the pool of skills and knowledge in the diaspora. Local platforms can begin by offering local solutions to local problems and eventually connect to global value chains. 

[[tweetable]]Missing out on the Fourth Industrial Revolution would leave the MENA region on the wrong side of the digital divide.[[/tweetable]] The region would be excluded from the global value chains of goods and services. Without the cloud and the access to the latest software it provides, start-ups and small enterprises would be less competitive. People living in less developed countries would be left waiting for infrastructure that links them to opportunities or forced to travel in search of them. On balance, the returns on digitization are potentially higher for developing countries. The MENA region is in position to reap its rewards. It will require changing regulations that now favor incumbents, and creating competitive economies driven by innovation. This is the only formula capable of meeting the aspirations of the region’s youth. 

The authors are, respectively, the World Bank Vice President and Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa

Think local, act local: Working with civil society for better development outcomes in Burkina Faso

1 week 6 hours ago

We love local. Whether it’s buying vegetables directly from your local farmer, frequenting a neighborhood business, or working as a community activist, many of us believe that solutions to some of our most pressing problems lie at least in part in a small series of actions taken from the ground up. This may be especially true in countries with limited state capacity, where community-based organizations (CBOs) are often among the highest-functioning entities at the local level. In some settings, producer cooperatives or savings and credit groups, for example, have stronger financial management capacity than local governments. Parent-teacher organizations, women’s associations, hometown associations, or other membership-based groups can be highly effective community mobilizers.

Leveraging local capacity is central to community-driven development (CDD) approaches. Broadly speaking, communities are engaged, through external facilitation and financial support, to define their own priorities in some a specific area, identify challenges, and participate directly in implementing solutions. Positive impacts on a range of outcomes have been documented in several settings, from Afghanistan (Beath et al, 2012) to Uganda (Björkman and Svensson, 2009; Björkman et al., 2017) to the Philippines (Labonne and Chase, 2011), for example. But there are important criticisms of the approach, including that it can be prone to elite capture (Platteau and Gaspart, 2003; Ensminger, 2012) and places excessive demands on citizens (Khwaja, 2004). Furthermore, such approaches can be costly and unsustainable: when external facilitation and funding are removed, for example because the project ends, this form of “induced” participation typically does not continue on its own (Mansuri and Rao, 2013).
 
Ok, so thinking locally can work for development, but there are limits in terms of cost, sustainability, etc. What are alternative models that leverage the core of CDD - thinking and acting locally - while avoiding the pitfalls?
 
Through the REGLAB research initiative in Burkina Faso (co-led with Malte Lierl at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies), we’ve developed a model which seeks to tap into the local knowledge, capacity, and mobilization potential of high-functioning CBOs and channel these towards promoting positive development outcomes for the broader community. CBOs are often high-capacity local entities. However, they primarily exist to serve their members, not the community as a whole, and lack direct incentives to get involved if local governments fail to live up to their responsibilities. If high-functioning, local CBOs had a more comprehensive interest in municipal government performance, could they become a source accountability pressure on local government with a resulting improvement on service delivery for their community as a whole?


 
The idea is simple: A high-functioning CBO is identified and is offered the possibility of a cash payment which depends on the year-to-year change in their municipal government’s performance. And…that’s basically it!
 
Cash grants are not conditional on any specific actions the CBOs undertake, they are simply a function of the annual change in their municipal government’s performance. This is measured through the independently administered SUPERMUN system. CBOs can lobby for better municipal services, or use their social networks to nudge local decision makers, or inform and mobilize other parts of the population, or do whatever they think will work best in their local context. In other words, CBOs will be tasked to think and act locally, something in which they already excel. Other than receiving training on the rules of the game, they will be left to their own devices.

 

 We tried this in six proof-of-concept pilot communes and found that selected CBOs did indeed come up with ingenious ways to better their municipality’s performance. One of the pilot CBOs even recreated the municipal-level performance statistics at the village level and used this to lobby, for example, for investments in water in underserved areas of the municipality.
 
But was this an anomaly, or can it work at scale? To find out, we are now launching a nationwide RCT involving 349 of Burkina Faso’s 351 municipalities.
 
What do you think will happen? We’d love to hear your thoughts! 

The economic lives of young women in the time of Ebola and lessons from an empowerment program

1 week 8 hours ago
 
Seven years ago, I blogged about some work I was doing looking at the impacts of an adolescent girls empowerment program in Uganda.   Today I wanted to write about a sequel, in a very different context.    In a recently released working paper, Oriana Bandiera, Niklas Buehren, Imran Rasul, Andrea Smurra and I look at the impacts of the same program in Sierra Leone. 
 
To review the program basics: this is BRAC’s ELA program.   It consists of a club where girls 12-25 can come and hang out.    They then get some life skills training – ranging from reproductive health to leadership.   Girls can also can take vocational training, with the offerings tailored to the local market.   Finally, older girls (18 and older) are also eligible for microfinance loans.   
 
In Uganda, where we looked at all of these components except for microfinance, we found impressive effects.   Girls were more likely to work (but also stay in school), earning enough money to buy their own air time, hair care, and the like.    They were much less likely to have a kid and sex against their will.   And they had more progressive views on gender roles.   For more on the Uganda results you can read the most recent paper here.   
 
In an effort to unpack the effects of different program elements, we set out to do a multi-arm randomized control trial in collaboration with BRAC in Sierra Leone.   But, as the program was implemented, the Ebola epidemic hit Sierra Leone, as well as neighboring countries.   
 
Aside from the direct impacts from mortality (Sierra Leone had about 14,000 cases of which close to 4000 resulted in death) there were a number of far reaching indirect impacts.   First, in an effort to stem the spread of the disease, the government imposed quarantines, limited travel and closed things such as markets in certain areas which had significant impacts on the economic activities of men and women.  Second, schools were closed for an entire (2014-15) academic year.   And finally, Sierra Leone’s limited health resources were diverted into caring for patients and preventing the spread of the epidemic, limiting their ability to do other things.  
 
All of these measures probably made a big difference in curtailing and ultimately halting the spread of the epidemic.    But, as they were implemented across different communities, they had significant impacts for the adolescent girls in those communities.   We collected data from village leaders as the crisis was winding down on these disruptions and use it to classify communities into high disruption and low disruption.     We also separate girls by cohort: girls 12-17 (younger girls) who are much more likely to be in school and older girls (18-25) who are much more likely to be working. 
 
In high disruption communities, younger girls suffer a strong shock to their enrollment.  Even when schools reopen, they are 16 percentage points (32% of the baseline mean) less like to be in school.    They shift their activity towards income generation, increasing this by 19 percentage points (238% of the baseline mean).  
 
This disruption also changes how girls interact with men, with girls spending an average of an additional 1.3 hours with men, a 48% increase over the baseline mean.   And this translates into reproductive outcomes: girls in high disruption villages are 10.7 percentage points more likely to be become pregnant, with most of these pregnancies occurring out of wedlock.  
 
So, given what we found in Uganda, did participating in the ELA club activities help ameliorate these impacts?   Short answer: Yes.   First of all, the drop in enrollment for girls who lived in high Ebola-related disruption communities is about half if they’ve been exposed to the clubs (8.1 percentage points).    And they have a smaller increase in purely engaging in income generating activities (5.8 percentage points).  Instead, we see a significant shift towards both being in school and working.    And all of this translates into higher literacy and numeracy among these girls.  Indeed, we also find improvements in business skills, attitudes towards gender roles, and health related knowledge among girls (in both high and low disruption communities).  
 
In both high and low disruption communities, both younger and older ELA girls spend less time with men.   And in high disruption communities, this is matched with a fall in out-of-wedlock pregnancies of 7.5 percentage points, with girls more likely to stay in school (8.5 percentage points).   It’s worth noting that at this time the government put in place a policy that prohibited visibly pregnant girls from going to school – so one could imagine how these results might be linked.
 
However, as younger girls are less available as partners, we see a shift in attention by men to older girls.  In treated villages, older girls are more likely to report an increase in unwanted sex (5.3 percentage points) and in transactional sex (5.4 percentage points).    The increase in transactional sex is in line with work from other contexts (e.g. Dupas and Robinson’s work on political violence in Kenya) that shows transactional sex is a coping mechanism used in the face of aggregate shocks.   Note however, that in case, this increase does not come with increased pregnancy. 
 
Adding all of this up, the impacts here show two things.     First, the Ebola crisis had a pretty wide range of negative impacts on adolescent girls in the communities that were more disrupted.   Second, the ELA program did a fair bit to dampen the negative impacts of the crisis: helping younger girls stay in school (while working) and avoiding the increased likelihood of having a child.    Will these protective results be the same in other contexts?    Stay tuned for forthcoming results from South Sudan.     
 

E-commerce for poverty alleviation in rural China: from grassroots development to public-private partnerships

1 week 14 hours ago
A young woman is selling products on-line. Photo: Xubei Luo/World Bank

China’s rapid development of e-commerce has begun to reshape production and consumption patterns as well as change people’s daily lives. In 2016, the World Bank and the Alibaba Group launched a joint research initiative to examine how China has harnessed digital technologies to aid growth and expand employment opportunities through e-commerce development in rural areas. The research seeks to distill lessons and identify policy options to enhance the positive effect of e-commerce on the reduction of poverty and inequality. Emerging findings from that research show that rural e-commerce evolves from grassroots development to become a potential tool for poverty alleviation with public-private partnerships.

E-commerce has grown quickly in China. Total e-commerce trade volume increased from less than 1,000 billion yuan (US$120.8 billion) in 2004 to nearly 30,000 billion yuan (US$4.44 trillion) in 2017. While e-commerce is more developed in urban areas, online retail sales in rural areas have grown faster than the national average. From 2014 to 2017, online retail sales in rural China increased from RMB 180 billion to 1.24 trillion, a compound annual growth rate of 91%, compared to 35% nationally.


And the potential for continued growth remains strong. The number of Alibaba Taobao Villages – a cluster of e-tailers  - grew from 212 in 2014 to 1,311 in 2016, and to 3,202 in 2018. While over 95% of the Taobao Villages cluster in the eastern region, particularly in Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Jiangsu, they have started to spread to the inland region, going from 4 shops in 2014 to over 100 in 2018.

The formation of Taobao Villages broadly proceeded through three stages:

  • Version 1.0 was mainly about grassroots development: Villagers, often returned migrants with distinct entrepreneurial skills, led the establishment of online businesses and created models for other villagers to follow. Examples include the early Taobao Villages, such as Shaji in Jiangsu province.
  • As e-commerce developed and more Taobao Villages prospered, version 2.0 was accompanied by government support: Local governments provided direct support for infrastructure, e-commerce training, and finance. Examples include Jieyang in Guangdong province.
  • In recent years, as more Taobao Villages formed, the platform-ecosystem version 3.0 has emerged: Local governments are providing support through subsidies for specialized e-commerce service providers and firms to build an e-commerce ecosystem with e-platform companies. Tailored support to villagers includes training and developing suitable local online products and branding. This process is typical of Taobao Villages in locations where the industrial base is weak and human capital (entrepreneurship and skills) more limited. Examples include Xifeng in Guizhou province.
While further research is needed to clarify and quantify the relationship between e-commerce participation and household welfare improvement, numerous anecdotal cases show that people gain wealth and have better lives after participating in e-commerce. Women in particular seem to benefit and account for a large share of e-commerce entrepreneurs. The ratio of women to men entrepreneurs in e-commerce is at or near parity, compared to a ratio of 1:3 in traditional businesses. The average age of female entrepreneurs in traditional businesses is 47.6 while the online counterparts tend to be younger, with those aged 25–29 accounting for 30% and those aged 18–24 nearly 30% on the Taobao platform. The average age of online female entrepreneurs is 31.4.
Success stories in Taobao Villages suggest that digital technologies can contribute to inclusive growth in rural China. They can lower the required skill threshold allowing individuals, including the less educated, to participate in e-commerce and earn more. The experience in Taobao Villages has sparked strong interest among researchers, policymakers, and the private sector to explore the use of e-commerce as a tool for poverty alleviation and rural vitalization. Two initiatives bear mention.

In 2014, the Alibaba Group, in collaboration with the government, launched the Rural Taobao Program to help give rural residents greater access to a broader variety of goods and services and help farmers earn more by selling agricultural products directly to urban consumers in online platforms. The program has four main activities:
  1. Setting up an e-commerce service network in counties and villages;
  2. Improving logistical connections for villages through “two-stage delivery” shipping packages from county centers to villages;
  3. Providing training in e-commerce and promoting entrepreneurship; and
  4. Developing rural financial services through the AntFinancial subsidiary of Alibaba.
The Rural Taobao Program has expanded rapidly, from 212 villages in 12 counties in 2014 to more than 30,000 villages in 1,000 counties in 2018, spreading from the coast to inland.

The Rural E-commerce Demonstration Program, launched jointly by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Commerce in 2014, aims to contribute to poverty reduction and the modernization of rural areas through the promotion of e-commerce.

Its main activities consist of establishing and improving rural e-commerce public service, fostering rural e-commerce supply chains, promoting connectivity between agriculture and commerce, and enhancing e-commerce training. The program grew quickly and by 2018 had supported 1,016 demonstration counties, covering 737 poverty-stricken counties (89% of the total), including 137 counties with extreme poverty (41% of the total). The share of poverty-stricken counties among demonstration counties increased from 27% in 2014 to 45% in 2015 and 65% in 2016, while in 2017 and 2018, more than 90% were poverty-stricken counties, with the rest underdeveloped.

Many case studies show that strong public-private partnerships can encourage the use of digital technology and e-platforms to support poverty alleviation in rural areas. For example, digital technology improves the quality of agricultural products and e-platforms expand online markets for agricultural products, creating more and better jobs in rural areas.  Fengjie, Chongqing Municipality, is a poor county by national standard with long history of growing citrus. ET agricultural brain is applied to improve orange production quantity and quality. With IoT real time data collection and remote monitoring for smart planting decisions, orange yield has increased. Product standardization and online friendly packaging, together with the online promotion through dedicated channels of the Rural Taobao platforms contributed to higher farmgate price and rapid growth in online sales.

E-commerce has the potential to help support poverty alleviation, but developing it requires much more than connecting people to the internet. Infrastructure and logistics, entrepreneurship and skills, and a conducive environment are crucial. Key challenges are identifying suitable products for online sales that will have a market – in this regard, e-platform companies can help by using their data troves, but it also fundamentally depends on the market. It is especially important to ensure that participation is inclusive. The experience in China offers some ways to accomplish this. For example, with an agent from the village to help villagers navigate the e-platform, place online orders using the agent’s online payment account (collecting villagers’ payments only when the product arrives and the customer is satisfied), and help villagers sell things online without the need to first create their own online account or website, there is a lower threshold for the less advantaged to participate.

To assist such efforts, the government can improve the business environment and provide strategic subsidies to support the participation of e-platform companies, logistic companies, and households and individuals. One challenge is the long-term fiscal sustainability of such subsidies. Emerging lessons show that in addition to supporting logistics, providing subsidized training to build human capital, providing subsidized post-training support to help develop online branding, as well as providing incentives and awards for high-volume online sales can help encourage e-commerce, even in areas where the initial endowments are weak.

Taking stock: Financing family planning services to reach Ghana’s 2020 Goals

1 week 23 hours ago

Ghana recently held a Family Planning (FP) 2020 stock-taking event as a countdown to the country’s FP 2020 goals and commitment made during the 2012 London summit. The conference, which brought together multi-sector stakeholders,  reviewed Ghana’s progress, challenges and options to accelerate achievement of the country’s FP 2020 targets and commitment.

With a high unmet need for family planning compared to many other early demographic dividend countries across lower-middle income countries, three in 10 Ghanaian women who want contraception to space or limit births currently lack access. Access to contraception is a key strategic lever for development – to empower women, improve investments in children, and ultimately contribute to poverty reduction. Unplanned pregnancies, including teenage pregnancy, perpetuated by lack of access to family planning are linked with higher risks of birth complications such as maternal deaths and early child deaths, and malnutrition in children under-five, particularly in the critical window of child development - the first 1000 days. Securing access to family planning services therefore remains a critical component of building human capital in Ghana.

Figure 1: Unmet need for Family Planning across early demographic dividend LMICs (source: Author's analysis of World Bank Health Equity and Financial Protection Indicators database)

In response to this challenge through the FP 2020 commitment, Ghana is taking strides to ensure finance and service availability are not barriers to access FP services. To achieve this, the government has approved a dedicated budget line to finance essential health commodities including contraceptives; and is currently in the process of including access to a wide range of modern contraceptive methods in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) benefit package. The latter strategy complements a national effort to ensure health financing reforms in the country are oriented toward attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Ghana is not alone in this quest and can learn from efforts of other countries that have towed a similar path.

Lessons from Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region suggest including a broad range of FP methods within a Social Health Insurance (SHI) benefit package remains a viable channel to expand FP access for the poorest; at the same time, intensified UHC reforms should be simultaneously explored to ensure broad coverage of population can benefit. While the NHIS premium is exempted for indigents (i.e. people designated as poor) by the Government of Ghana, overall population coverage is modest at 40% in 2014 and even lower in 2017 at 35% based on administrative data. To ensure optimal results from an expanded NHIS benefit package, it is important to expand NHIS coverage particularly amongst the informal sector and poorest population. In Peru, Honduras and Guatemala, despite the inclusion of FP in health benefit packages, out-of-pocket spending (OOPS) for FP remained a substantial part of total FP expenditure; a similar pattern is noted in Chile and Columbia – both countries with high SHI coverage and comprehensive FP benefit packages. The high OOPS is in part attributed to co-payments, variation in service availability and long wait times with some clients resorting to private purchase of FP services. This implies inclusion of FP in an SHI benefit package isn’t a silver bullet to remove all financial barriers to FP access and will require complementary strategies.

Ghana is taking steps to ensure such complementary strategies are in place to support an expanded NHIS FP benefit package. These complementary strategies include increasing the share of domestic financing of FP commodities from 25% to 33% to be assured through funding from the dedicated health commodities budget line. In addition, pilots are underway to ensure Ghana’s Community-based Health Planning Services (CHPS) can provide a range of modern FP methods to communities around them. In the LAC experience, it was SHI coverage, rather than access to free public services (such as Ghana’s CHPS) that was a bigger factor in improving access and uptake of modern FP methods. Reasons for this varied but centered around low service availability and readiness at points of care for free public health services. As a lesson learned, to ensure that the CHPS strategy fully complements NHIS in increasing modern FP uptake, Ghana should ensure commodities security to the last mile, and availability of well-trained frontline health workers across a variety of modern methods who are also vast in human rights and choice-oriented approach to FP services. Given informal reports of varying FP service charges in government facilities which deviate from the official government subsidized FP service rates, partnership with local media houses and a concerted public information campaign can help increase awareness on FP benefit packages and reduce inappropriate rent-seeking behavior by FP service suppliers.

Financing and achieving Ghana’s FP 2020 goals will avert an estimated 2.3 million unintended pregnancies, 30,000 child deaths, and more than 5,000 maternal deaths between 2016 and 2020. Overall, as more FP needs are met, families are better able to tailor family size to available resources, leading to fewer maternal and child deaths, better nourished and nurtured children, with ripple social and economic effects on individuals, families, and the society at large. As an avid advocate for investments in interventions promoting child development and human capital, Ghana’s reinvigoration towards sustainable financing for FP is a welcome development. Acknowledging Ghana’s ongoing challenge with NHIS’ fiscal sustainability, establishing an evidence-based approach towards a prioritized benefit package is more important now than ever. The World Bank, through ongoing advisory services on Ghana’s UHC reforms and operations support for access to maternal, child health and nutrition services, remains committed to support Ghana’s FP 2020 journey as a strategy to boost the country’s human capital and economic growth.

Feeling Ambivalent on International Women’s Day

1 week 1 day ago
Photo: Lakshman Nadaraja/World Bank

On the eve of International Women’s Day, I was at a UN WOMEN side event in NYC when my phone started buzzing with well wishes for a happy women’s day from my friends in Asia, filling me with — ambivalence. To be honest, the day always leaves me with mixed feelings: despite the great strides that the world has made in women’s rights in various ways, for me, it’s also a reminder of how so many women still don’t enjoy our basic human rights.

As we’ve returned from women’s day to what in many ways is still a man’s world, I wanted to share three thoughts about the intersection of women’s rights with our data world today.

Data can make a difference

[[tweetable]]Data can help us improve women’s rights around the world—by helping countries and citizens monitor progress in women’s rights over time, data can help us learn what works (and what doesn’t).[[/tweetable]] Open data on gender inequality can serve as both an accountability mechanism and an incentive for governments to put in place interventions to reduce inequality and make life better for all their citizens. One of the best examples of this kind of data that comes to mind is the Women, Business and the Law project at the World Bank. The team recently put out its 2019 report offering insights on how women’s employment and entrepreneurship choices are impacted by legal gender discrimination. The latest findings show that over the last decade:

  • 35 countries implemented legal protections against sexual harassment at work, protecting nearly two billion more women than a decade ago
  • 22 economies removed restrictions on women’s work, reducing the likelihood that women are kept out of working in certain sectors of the economy, and
  • 13 economies introduced laws mandating equal pay for work of equal value

At the same time, the report makes the case that much more work remains. 56 countries—spanning all regions and income levels—enacted no reforms at all to improve women’s equality of opportunity over the ten-year period.

Source: Women, Business and the Law We need to do a better job of putting data to work

In spite of the ongoing so-called data revolution, not everyone has gotten the Open Data memo. Even today, much of the basic data collected through censuses & surveys are not made publicly available, which vastly constrains their utility to help people make sense of their world. How much good could you do if you were stuck inside a filing cabinet? Not only do we need to free this captive data, but we also need to make better use of the data that we already have. At the Bank’s Development Data Group, one of our mottos is “open data, open code, open knowledge”. We want to move beyond just opening up our data to opening up our analytics as well, so that the public can reap the benefits of open knowledge. One way we’re doing this is by revamping our Gender Data Portal to make data more accessible and discoverable through visualization & stories (watch that space!).

(Collaborate to) innovate or die

One of the main takeaways of the recent Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report 2018 was that we need better data at the individual level. [[tweetable]]When information about resources are only available at the household level, there’s no clear way to understand how those resources are shared within households, and thus to understand how male and female wellbeing differs.[[/tweetable]] Yet, it’s tremendously expensive to measure consumption at the individual level on a nationally representative scale. That’s why we need to research new and innovative ways to understand gender differences within households. One great example is my colleagues’ recent work on measuring asset ownership from a gender perspective, supported by the UN Evidence and Data for Gender Equality (EDGE) project. The plan is for UN EDGE to scale up this experiment as a way of better capturing gender inequality within households; but while we’re waiting, there’s a lot more work to be done. We need to keep investing in partnerships to work together on new measurement and data innovations that will provide the individual-level information countries need to implement better policies for gender equality.

Rising with rice in Côte d’Ivoire 2: More and better jobs by connecting farmers to markets

1 week 1 day ago
Workers operating the rice thresher in the Lopé lowlands in the Hambol Region, Côte d’Ivoire. Photo by Raphaela Karlen / World Bank

In the first post of this blog series, we traveled to the center of Côte d’Ivoire during rice harvesting season and met two people whose livelihoods depended on the outcome: Sali Soro, a smallholder farmer and member of a regional rice cooperative, and Zié Coulibaly, director of the Katiola rice mill.

Their stories illustrate the challenges faced by local farmers and millers and show how the chain is not reaching its full potential in contributing to poverty reduction in Côte d’Ivoire.

The potential for a win-win

Improving agricultural productivity is at the core of poverty reduction in Africa. Better technologies such as improved seeds, irrigation systems and mechanization services, and access to higher-value markets which yield better prices are key ingredients to accomplish this. But they are typically out of reach for most smallholder farmers. They don’t have access to credit and don’t deliver the volumes and quality needed to be able to penetrate these higher value markets. At the same time, following urbanization and a growing middle class in many African countries, the domestic demand for a consistent supply of high-quality food is expanding rapidly, with the gaps now largely met by imports, from within and outside the region.

Value chain development could result in a win-win for all. The approach simultaneously addresses the constraints of the different actors within the chain (input providers, producers, processors, and distributors), thereby reducing transaction costs and boosting overall efficiency of the chain. This potentially creates a win-win for all actors, with the transaction conditions and division of the value added typically stipulated in a contract. Could this also be a solution for the Ivoirian smallholder rice farmers? As the economist usually has it, it depends.

The first step would be getting smallholder farmers to participate in value chains. This is more likely if buyers have limited options to source from large farmers, and if they can enter enforceable contractual relationships with smallholders. The latter in turn depends on the potential for value addition and the specificity of the crop or product. The higher the value added and the more specific the product requirements are, the easier it is to incentivize farmers to uphold the contract by giving them a higher price and the less opportunities there are for side-selling by the farmers or sourcing from other farmers by the firm. For these reasons, contract farming has more often been observed for cash crops and high-value products such as vegetables, fruits, poultry and dairy: not for staple crops like rice.

Second, transaction costs are also important. From the perspective of buyers and suppliers of credit and farming inputs, entering a commercial relationship with many farmers is costly given the many transactions this involves, including to monitor them and ensure good quality products. Farmer organizations and productive alliances can help reduce these costs, while also brokering a greater share of the value added for their members.

Third, equally important is having reliable buyers with the capacity to buy, process and sell to high value markets. Larger firms have often been privileged for private sector-driven value chain development. Yet smaller firms, which are closer to farmers and typically less capital intensive, thus having greater potential for job creation off the farm, can equally fulfill this role. But these firms often need support to overcome challenges ranging from managerial capacity and information gaps to limited access to finance and markets.

Lessons from abroad

Studies of the horticultural value chain in Senegal and Madagascar found that inclusive value chain development contributed to a significant drop in the poverty rate. But what about the experience with contracting in staple foods? A rice contract farming project in Benin built around the cooperative production-processing model like the one Soro and Coulibaly are a part of in Côte d’Ivoire led to expanded rice areas, intensified rice production, increased commercialization of rice, higher prices at the production sites, and ultimately increased farmer incomes.

Encouraged by these insights from the literature and the experience from Benin, the Government of Côte d’Ivoire has embraced the idea of inclusive value chain development. It is now testing such an approach in the context of a social safety net project. Whether it will suffice to overcome the challenges related to value chain development for smallholder rice farming in Côte d’Ivoire remains to be seen. But then again, we won’t know if we don’t try it out and carefully evaluate it.

This is the second post in a blog post series exploring why and how developing the rice value chain can improve job opportunities for the rural population in Côte d’Ivoire. It draws from the literature as well as extensive consultations with public and private stakeholders of the rice value chain and field visits Côte d’Ivoire​.

Rising with rice in Côte d’Ivoire 1: How local farmers and millers are leading the way

Follow the World Bank Jobs Group on Twitter @wbg_jobs

 

How are trade tensions affecting developing countries?

1 week 1 day ago
[[tweetable]]The trade war between China and the United States is hurting consumers and producers in both countries.[[/tweetable]]  As two recent papers show, US consumers are facing significantly higher prices as a result of the tariffs. In addition, producers are losing foreign sales as demand for the targeted goods declines.  
 
Their loss has turned out to be a boon – for now – for exporters of competing products from other nations. Exporters from Brazil, the European Union, Malaysia, Mexico, and India, have substituted lost sales from US and China in each other’s markets. A number of small exporters have also benefitted from large percentage increases in exports.
  Photo: A farmer loads soybean seeds into a planter machine in Parana, Brazil. Alf Ribeiro/Shutterstock
Among economists, the effects of new tariffs between the US and China were expected – it is basic supply and demand. The tariffs imposed on Chinese and American goods made them more expensive, increasing prices for consumers in both countries. Faced with higher prices, importers of goods look for substitutes, which benefits exporters from the rest of the world.
 
Large exporters, such as Brazil, the European Union, Malaysia, and Mexico have been the big aggregate beneficiaries, with Brazil exporting almost $6 billion in additional goods relative to the previous year in product categories where US goods face tariffs. The EU, with its large and diversified export basket, has benefited from both sides’ tariffs – increasing exports to the US and China as a result. (See Figure 1)

Figure 1. Changes in exports to the US and China of tariff-affected products on the $50 bn lists ​



Relative to country size, many poorer countries have also benefitted. As a share of GDP, the tiny Pacific islands of Micronesia and Nauru have increased exports by 0.8 percentage points, due to a relative surge in exports of electrical switches from Nauru to the US, and of skipjack tuna from Micronesia to China.  Kuwait (due to Chinese tariffs on American propane), Malaysia (due to exports of electronic integrated circuits to the US and copper waste and scrap to China), and Brazil (due to Chinese tariffs on US agriculture products) have also seen substantial increases in exports relative to GDP (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Changes in exports to the US and China, as a share of countries’ GDP, Aug-Dec 2018 vs. Aug-Dec. 2017 ​



Substitutability matters
 
Data from the initial round of $50 billion in tariffs – which have been in place since the summer 2018 - show that for developing countries looking to take advantage of the current price difference created by the tariffs, substitutability matters. That is why Brazil has been able to increase its exports so drastically over the past few months. For Chinese importers, Brazilian soybeans are pretty similar to American soybeans. But flipped the other way, American importers have a harder time finding substitutes for products from China, which often include highly customized electronics that are less easily obtained from non-Chinese markets.
 
The diversion means that US exporters of the targeted goods have been hurt relatively more in the initial round of tariffs. Following the announcement of the tariffs, both China and American exports have declined. But US exports have declined by close to $11 billion compared to just $4 billion from China (see figure 3).

Figure 3. Changes in the US and China bilateral trade of tariff-affected products on the $50 bn lists


Short-run gains versus long-term risks
 
Does that mean the trade war can be beneficial for developing countries? In the short run, perhaps. But in the medium run, there are important risks. Just as trade models predicted that other countries will gain, as has occurred, trade models can predict what will happen if tensions escalate.
 
We estimate that several developing countries (Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam) would be expected to achieve net gains in terms of total exports and income in line with the impacts observed to date (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Simulated impacts of trade tensions (Lists 1 and 2 implemented) on total exports in the medium run (% deviations from the baseline​)

 
But, in a more severe trade war, our estimates suggest there are real costs, with losses occurring in all regions. By shaking investor confidence, the escalation to a full-blown trade war could:
  • Reduce global exports by up to 3 percent (at a cost of US$674 billion);
  • Reduce global income by up to 1.7 percent (or US$1.4 trillion);
Roughly half of the global income loss of 1.7 percent would be due to loss of income by developing countries (excluding China) and a third of the global exports decline of 2.7 percent would be due to the loss of exports of developing countries (excluding China).  Trade tensions would depress trade, disrupt global supply chains, and divert trade away from developing countries.
 
[[tweetable]]The bottom line is that short-term benefits for developing countries notwithstanding, there are no real winners in a trade war. [[/tweetable]]For the US, China, and developing countries alike, the news that negotiations between the two superpowers may be reaching a resolution soon is welcome. [[tweetable]]An open, rules-based trading system is the best way for all countries to use their comparative advantages to increase growth and reduce poverty.[[/tweetable]]
 

How can countries better manage investment risks along the BRI?

1 week 4 days ago
What can host countries do to manage risks and attract other private investors?
 
Investors want to ensure that their investment will be subject to predictable and stable rules and are well-protected from arbitrary government conduct. One fundamental set of tools that governments often use is to provide explicit protection for investments through investment treaties and laws.
 
In a recent working paper, we analyze where BRI countries are in providing protection to investments through these tools, using a database on the near universe of investments laws and International Investment Agreements (IIAs) from 21 sample BRI countries.* Following the convention in the legal and international political economy literature, we construct quantitative measures of protection based on coding the textual content of 17 domestic investment laws and 648 international investment agreements. In addition to protection, we include a “balance” analysis on exceptions and carve-outs that explicitly allow States room for legitimate regulatory actions.
 
What are our main findings?
 
Our results show that the level of protection is uneven across legal instruments (IIAs and investment laws), countries, and within the same project corridor. We find meaningful variations in the constructed protection score across the sample investment laws and IIAs. At the country level, there is an interesting typology of the sample BRI economies (Figure 1).  One notable group of countries has a high level of pipeline investments but low legal protection in both investment laws and IIAs (the top left quadrant). These countries can de-risk investments through improvements in their legal instruments.
 
Figure 1 – Legal investment protection and on-going/pipeline BRI investments by China Note: BRI investment is from the WIND database based on publicly available project-level information. High and low protection in investment law indicates protection below and above the median in the sample, respectively. The red dotted lines represent the median values of investment and existing investment protection level in IIAs.
Since many BRI projects are cross-border and depend on the completion of infrastructure along an entire network, improving investment protection is only effective if it addresses the weakest places in an interconnected corridor. Variations in legal investment protection at the country level translate to varying levels of potential risks within BRI projects. For example, the Samarkand-Mashad rail upgrade passes through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, whose protection levels range from medium to low (Figure 2).
 
Figure 2 - IIA protection along BRI rail routes Note: IIA protection is the protection score aggregated over all partner countries. Low, medium, high protection levels are defined by the 33rd and 67th percentiles protection scores in the sample.

 So, what drives the differences in overall protection?
 
We find that differences in overall protection are driven by both substantive variations in standard of treatment and availability of mechanisms to resolve disputes, as well as who countries signed treaties with. Differences in standard of treatment – that is, obligations on host countries regarding the “treatment” they must guarantee to investments - are driven for example, by provisions on expropriation and transfers. Of particular importance is the consistently low score on transparency across all investment laws reviewed. Given the lack of clarity on the overall institutional framework governing BRI projects, this lack of guarantee on transparency can exemplify risk for global investors. Weak protection can also be driven by the network of IIAs partners that countries have. Increasing coverage of IIAs with strategic partners can significantly expand protection for potential investors.
 
Quality of legal protections is only as strong as the mechanisms to enforce them. Challenges in enforcement due to lack of effective institutions and court systems in many of these countries poses an additional layer of risk for investors. Two- thirds of our sample countries rank below the global 40th percentile in the World Governance Indicator’s Rule of Law index. Weak enforcement is reflected through cases of legal violations: 12 of the 21 sample countries have at least 4 or more Investor-State disputes. Even when investors receive favorable arbitral awards, enforcement of these awards itself can be challenging.
 
How can countries better address investment risks?
 
Countries can improve investment protection in several ways. With respect to IIAs, countries with fewer agreements may consider negotiating more with strategically relevant partners (large economies). Countries with old generation IIAs and dated investment laws may consider systematically modernizing these instruments. Provisions on transparency need to be strengthened across the board in both laws and treaties.
 
Alongside strengthening the protection levels provided in the legal instruments, countries should also consider explicit provisions to give themselves some policy and regulatory flexibility. For some countries, given both the pipeline for BRI projects (not yet materialized) as well as high reliance on debt financing, it is important to upgrade their investment protection frameworks, alongside systematically ensuring sufficient balance.  
 
Measures to address the lack of enforcement should be implemented- such as access to effective dispute resolution mechanisms and membership of relevant international conventions. Further, it’s important to strengthen the capacity of government agencies to understand legal commitments to investors, ensure effective enforcement, as well as improve overall service delivery to investors. Soft initiatives like information sharing platforms and publishing guides on applicable laws and regulations can help bridge information asymmetry and bring about more clarity and predictability for investors.
 
 
*Note: While investment protection is determined by a multitude of other legal instruments, we focus on domestic investment laws and IIAs, both of which are fairly standardized instruments presenting the fundamental principles of investment protection in a country’s investment policy regime. We focus on countries along the overland corridors. See the working paper for the detailed sample description.
 

Learning for all: the essential role of teachers in inclusive education

1 week 4 days ago



Inclusive education has been a universally acknowledged goal for over two decades, since Salamanca Statement (1994). This goal has been further strengthened by the Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities (2006) and the Sustainable Development Goals (2015), the former making inclusive education a fundamental human right and the latter tying it to a broader global development agenda. The central role of the teacher cannot be underestimated if we aim to provide universal and inclusive education for all.

Countries across the globe are making efforts to develop inclusive education in their unique contexts. At the same time, the collaborative efforts by international agencies such as the World Bank, UNICEF, IIEP, UNECSO, donors and others in addition to the local and international DPOs focus on building a common understanding of the need for systemic change at the global and local levels.
 
Thus, while we aim at building a common understanding of inclusive education we very often mean different things with the word “inclusion.” That is why international comparative research is needed to shed light on the different understandings of inclusive education in different countries and on the ways in which the unique cultural historical background of a country affects the enactment of inclusion in the local context. The role of teachers is critical in this regard.


Policies supporting inclusive education Key to success are teacher education policies that support positive teacher attitudes and the implementation of inclusive education in each unique country specific context the best possible way, recognizing that approaches that work well in a high-income country (e.g. large cadres of professional support staff) may not be available in a lower-income country. In any case, it is important that the teacher is not left alone but supported by encouraging leadership, other teachers and as much as possible by other professionals available in the school or wider community.
 
For example, studies analyzing teacher perspectives on inclusive education, found that the directly pro-inclusion policy environment in South Africa translated clearly into positive teacher attitudes. However, at the same time, mainly due to the lack of clear implementation goals and resources for support staff, teachers seem to be a bit at a loss about how to enact inclusive practices in their own classrooms. When asked why, they pointed to the lack of knowledge of how to implement inclusive education.    
 
In Finland, the quite vague policy environment allows for various local interpretations of educational arrangements, some of which are clearly more and some clearly less inclusive. However, despite the weak policy guidance, most teachers are motivated to do their best. Mostly because they are supported by a large cadre of professional support staff and in some instances, they have developed innovative inclusive solutions within their own classrooms.
From ‘pockets of inclusion’ towards scalability However, unfortunately many solutions that support inclusive education remain merely as ‘pockets of inclusion’ hidden inside education systems as they are rather individual applications of pedagogy that supports inclusion, than systemic implementation of inclusive pedagogy. Hence, systemic changes are essential for inclusive education to be fully included as part of the overall education planning of all education systems.
Coming up with new questions In many countries, the debate on inclusion is still too often reduced to the question about the proper place to educate children that are not learning optimally. However, inclusion is about utilizing creative approaches to provide quality education for all children in regular schools that are rooted in their local communities. The backbone of these creative support strategies is based on good pedagogical practices and support which is based on positive teacher attitudes, effective and professional teacher education for inclusion that can contribute to adequate teacher efficacy and knowledge and skills for using effective ways of teaching for all children.
Inclusive pedagogy and ongoing professional development are essential To support the learning of all children, it is important, that all teachers learn about inclusive pedagogy during their initial training. They also need enough exposure to teaching diverse groups of learners in general education classrooms, thus promoting their efficacy and making their attitudes more positive towards inclusion.
 
The evidence from efficacy meta-studies supports the notion that the most effective methods of teaching students experiencing challenges with learning can best be described as good pedagogical approaches that can be used with ALL children by ALL teachers. However, we have to recognize that there will always be students who need more intensive or individualized support, and thus it is important to educate some teachers as experts in these more individualized approaches so that they can provide effective support for other teachers and learners within general education classrooms.
Shift in thinking about support is needed The major shift in thinking that is needed is that a child with specific educational need within a general education classroom should not be referred elsewhere to get support. On the contrary, more intensive supports should as a rule be developed within mainstream classrooms where every student can be supported to participate and learn effectively. When needed, the support workers should be referred to the school of the child to work with teachers and students and find inclusive solutions that work for them. This in turn will support learning of the children in the environments they know and feel comfortable in and developing positive learning and social interactions further.
 

Weekly links March 15: yes, research departments are needed; “after elections”, experiences with registered reports, and more...

1 week 4 days ago
  • Why the World Bank needs a research department: Penny Goldberg offers a strong rationale on Let’s Talk Development
  • On VoxDev, Battaglia, Gulesci and Madestam summarize their work on flexible credit contracts, which is one my favorite recent papers – they worked with BRAC in Bangladesh to offer borrowers a 12 month loan, with borrowers having the option to delay up to two monthly repayments at any time during the loan cycle. This appears to be a win-win, with the borrowers being more likely to grow their firms, and the bank experiencing lower default and higher client retention. However, although the post doesn’t discuss it, the product seemed less successful in helping larger SMEs.
  • Political business cycles in Africa – Rachel Strohm  notes a Quartz Africa story on a phenomenon that has held up a number of my impact evaluations – “Having contracts stalled and major projects abandoned is “very common”... The uncertainty is also magnified because newly-elected administrations could take months to form a cabinet and appoint heads of key agencies... as a bulk of voters travel to their ancestral homes to cast their ballot, businesses are forced to shutter or maintain skeletal operations... [this] has even made phrases like “after elections” a colloquial mainstay”.
  • The JDE interviews Eric Edmonds about his experience with the registered report process: “I thought I wrote really good pre-analysis plans and then I saw the template and realized, no, I write really bad pre-analysis plans too. I think just the act of providing that template to give some kind of standardization, is a great service to the profession... I think we need to be in a place where we have pre-analysis plans and we review them, and when we choose to deviate from them in our analysis, we're just able to be clear and to talk about why that is.” (h/t Ryan Edwards)

How can Malaysia realize the potential of its human capital?

1 week 4 days ago
To boost productivity and go the next mile in its development path, Malaysia must improve its human capital through better learning and nutritional outcomes and social protection programs. (Photo: Samuel Goh/World Bank)


Anyone who visits Malaysia will quickly come to realize that Malaysians are blessed with enormous talent, ranging from the myriad of entrepreneurs creating new businesses online to those active in the creative industries including music, culture and sports. But there is also still a widespread sense that Malaysia is not making the most of its human capital, with concerns that despite large investments in education and health, the returns are not as high as they should be, and that a large share of Malaysians are still being left behind.

 
As Malaysia looks towards becoming a high-income and developed nation—particularly one where development progress is measured in much more than just GDP—ensuring that human capital is effectively nurtured, developed and protected will be critical. With the advent of digital and disruptive technologies changing the nature of work, this challenge is becoming ever more central to Malaysia’s future development progress. This puts an increasing premium on cognitive skills, such as complex problem solving, socio-behavioral skills, reasoning and self-efficacy. Building these skills effectively will require a transformation in the way that Malaysia invests in its human capital.
 
Human capital—the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives—has been a key factor behind the sustained economic growth and poverty reduction rates of many countries over the past half century, especially in East Asia. Education, health, and social protection all play vital and complementary roles in the development of human capital.
 
The World Bank’s new Human Capital Index is a cross-country metric designed to forecast a country’s human capital by tracking the trajectory, from birth to adulthood, of a child born today. In the latest edition of the Malaysia Economic Monitor, we investigate how Malaysia fared using this method. We found that overall, Malaysia scores 0.62, meaning that children in Malaysia will be 62% as productive as they could be in adulthood compared to optimal health and education outcomes. Overall, Malaysia ranks 55th out of 157 countries, and while performance is good in some components of the index, it remains poor in others. Relative to other countries, Malaysia does well in child survival, expected years of schooling, and overall health conditions. But, there is significant room for improvement in the areas of child nutrition and learning outcomes.
 
Looking to the future, how can Malaysia continue to improve its human capital and boost productivity? In our report, we identify three priority areas: 

  • To enhance learning outcomes, a key measure would be to provide universal access to high-quality early childhood care and education to ensure that children are “ready for school”. International evidence has shown that the quality of early childhood and preschool education programs are directly linked to better development of children’s cognitive and social skills. Improvements to learning assessment systems could also improve outcomes. Similarly, international evidence shows that the quality of an education system can only be accurately determined by an effective framework for assessment, including classroom-based, national and international comparative assessments. When implemented correctly, this type of continuous assessment can have a major impact on student learning. 
  • Nutritional outcomes must be improved to overcome childhood stunting as a constraint on learning and human capital development. Child stunting affects one in five Malaysian children—a rate that is higher than that of other countries at similar levels of income. There is overwhelming international evidence that malnutrition in a child’s early years of life is associated with significant negative consequences for health, cognition and productivity throughout the course of their life. Further work is needed to better understand why poor nutrition remains a problem in Malaysia, across all states, ethnicities and income strata. 
  • Protecting human capital from the impact of shocks through social welfare programs is of key importance. Rigorous evidence from around the world demonstrates the positive role that social protection programs can play by providing vulnerable households with the income support to fight poverty for human capital development. Malaysia’s current social protection system could be both expanded and reformed to integrate a mixture of mandates and incentives, thereby helping households to invest in human capital.
Accelerating human capital development will be critical for enabling Malaysia’s successful transition to a high-income and developed nation. With human capital, the country can boost productivity to ensure that it stays well on its development path and that no Malaysian gets left behind in the process of growth.  

WEPOWER: Why South Asia needs more women in its energy sector

1 week 5 days ago
The World Bank team, WePOWER strategic and institutional partners, and high school female students from Nepal gathered at the closing session of the Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER), Feb 21, 2019. Photo: World Bank

“There is power in not being alone,”  
Demetrios Papathanasiou - Practice Manager, South Asia Energy Unit at The World Bank

The number of women working in the energy and power sector in South Asia is dismally low.

[[tweetable]]Across the region, women employees represent only 3 percent to 15 percent of energy sector staff[[/tweetable]].

As for women engineers and technicians, the proportion is even lower: less than 1 to 6 percent.

To promote opportunities for women in the power and energy sectors, especially in technical roles, the World Bank and its partners recently organized the first regional conference for Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER).

[[tweetable]]Held in Kathmandu Nepal, the event convened more than 250 engineers and energy-sector professionals from all over South Asia[[/tweetable]] and provided networking and learning opportunities to women and girls.

[[tweetable]]It’s well established that role models and networks can help overcome stereotypes and biases that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields[[/tweetable]].

A recent study found that investing in peer networks and building up proteges as two of the six things successful women in STEM have in common.
 
From a personal point of view, I have learned something powerful during the event: When strong and smart women work together and are supported by men who value women’s engagement as equals, let alone in the engineering or energy sectors, something magical happens.

Women discover that they are not alone. They feel new confidence and freedom and tell their tales of challenges and successes with pride.

I am glad to be on a team that recognizes and celebrates the transformational power of female partnerships and have their hearts and efforts set on connecting and growing the regional and global network for women in the sector.

I came back home inspired and with two key takeaways from the conference:

Lesson #1: A few activities by a critical mass of stakeholders can result in transformative impacts. Here, I would like to mention some of the cumulative impacts based on the incremental activities proposed by the Strategic Partners of WePOWER. For the year 2019-20, the Strategic partners will organize 46 STEM outreach programs in schools across South Asia under Pillar 1 (STEM education); and [[tweetable]]they will provide and facilitate 103 internships across Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka[[/tweetable]] under Pillar 2 (Recruitment).
 
Lesson #2: The conference showed a unanimous consensus on increasing women’s participation in the energy sector and STEM education. There are abundant possibilities for collaborations between the partners; and these collaborations will eventually benefit sector institutions in acquiring and retaining the top talent they will need as their operations and customers grow.

The volume of energy managed by the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) over the next fifteen years will increase from about 5 Tera Watt-hour (TWh) in 2018 to about 12 TWh in 2032. In the same period, the number of customers is expected to grow from 1.8 million to 4.3 million. [[tweetable]]DABS is planning to hire 100 women professionals in the next two years to meet its human resource needs and increase diversity[[/tweetable]].
 
[[tweetable]]Two successful collaborations materialized as the stakeholders were interacting with each other during the WePOWER conference[[/tweetable]]. STANTEC and NEA (Nepal Engineering Association) have formed a Women in Engineering Committee under NEA.

STANTEC and this committee will partner on several activities including outreach to high schools on STEM education, study tours, and technical talks (three proposed in 2019). Similarly, due to the success of the STEM Is for Girls! Game-based Learning Session, there are ongoing efforts to develop a similar program by local partners in Nepal with the help of WEP (Women Engineers in Pakistan).
 
[[tweetable]]Moving forward, we will engage the Institutional Partners, which are South Asian utilities and public-sector agencies, and collaborate with them to develop their incremental activities[[/tweetable]]. 

We are pleased to announce that the Second Partnership Forum for WePOWER is planned at the ADB Headquarters in Manila in November 2019.
 
Related Resources: 
For updates on WePOWER: please join our LinkedIn Group.
Follow us on Twitter: #WePOWERSouthAsia
Watch the WePOWER Voices of Women video here, the WePOWER LinkedIn video here, and the WePOWER First Regional Conference Lessons Learned video here.

WEPOWER: Why South Asia needs more women in its energy sector

1 week 5 days ago
The World Bank team, WePOWER strategic and institutional partners, and high school female students from Nepal gathered at the closing session of the Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER), Feb 21, 2019. Photo: World Bank

“There is power in not being alone,”  
Demetrios Papathanasiou - Practice Manager, South Asia Energy Unit at The World Bank

The number of women working in the energy and power sector in South Asia is dismally low.

[[tweetable]]Across the region, women employees represent only 3 percent to 15 percent of energy sector staff[[/tweetable]].

As for women engineers and technicians, the proportion is even lower: less than 1 to 6 percent.

To promote opportunities for women in the power and energy sectors, especially in technical roles, the World Bank and its partners recently organized the first regional conference for Women in Power Sector Network in South Asia (WePOWER).

[[tweetable]]Held in Kathmandu Nepal, the event convened more than 250 engineers and energy-sector professionals from all over South Asia[[/tweetable]] and provided networking and learning opportunities to women and girls.

[[tweetable]]It’s well established that role models and networks can help overcome stereotypes and biases that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields[[/tweetable]].

A recent study found that investing in peer networks and building up proteges as two of the six things successful women in STEM have in common.
 
From a personal point of view, I have learned something powerful during the event: When strong and smart women work together and are supported by men who value women’s engagement as equals, let alone in the engineering or energy sectors, something magical happens.

Women discover that they are not alone. They feel new confidence and freedom and tell their tales of challenges and successes with pride.

I am glad to be on a team that recognizes and celebrates the transformational power of female partnerships and have their hearts and efforts set on connecting and growing the regional and global network for women in the sector.

I came back home inspired and with two key takeaways from the conference:

Lesson #1: A few activities by a critical mass of stakeholders can result in transformative impacts. Here, I would like to mention some of the cumulative impacts based on the incremental activities proposed by the Strategic Partners of WePOWER. For the year 2019-20, the Strategic partners will organize 46 STEM outreach programs in schools across South Asia under Pillar 1 (STEM education); and [[tweetable]]they will provide and facilitate 103 internships across Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka[[/tweetable]] under Pillar 2 (Recruitment).
 
Lesson #2: The conference showed a unanimous consensus on increasing women’s participation in the energy sector and STEM education. There are abundant possibilities for collaborations between the partners; and these collaborations will eventually benefit sector institutions in acquiring and retaining the top talent they will need as their operations and customers grow.

The volume of energy managed by the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) over the next fifteen years will increase from about 5 Tera Watt-hour (TWh) in 2018 to about 12 TWh in 2032. In the same period, the number of customers is expected to grow from 1.8 million to 4.3 million. [[tweetable]]DABS is planning to hire 100 women professionals in the next two years to meet its human resource needs and increase diversity[[/tweetable]].
 
[[tweetable]]Two successful collaborations materialized as the stakeholders were interacting with each other during the WePOWER conference[[/tweetable]]. STANTEC and NEA (Nepal Engineering Association) have formed a Women in Engineering Committee under NEA.

STANTEC and this committee will partner on several activities including outreach to high schools on STEM education, study tours, and technical talks (three proposed in 2019). Similarly, due to the success of the STEM Is for Girls! Game-based Learning Session, there are ongoing efforts to develop a similar program by local partners in Nepal with the help of WEP (Women Engineers in Pakistan).
 
[[tweetable]]Moving forward, we will engage the Institutional Partners, which are South Asian utilities and public-sector agencies, and collaborate with them to develop their incremental activities[[/tweetable]]. 

We are pleased to announce that the Second Partnership Forum for WePOWER is planned at the ADB Headquarters in Manila in November 2019.
 
Related Resources: 
For updates on WePOWER: please join our LinkedIn Group.
Follow us on Twitter: #WePOWERSouthAsia
Watch the WePOWER Voices of Women video here, the WePOWER LinkedIn video here, and the WePOWER First Regional Conference Lessons Learned video here.

Helping women market traders in Mozambique unlock their sales potential

1 week 5 days ago
Photo: Daniel Jack/World Bank

It’s 40 degrees Celsius and our skin is sticky. There is so much noise, people constantly moving, taxi drivers screaming directions, prices shouted, and sellers calling out to clients. The sun is rising, but inside the market it is completely dark. Pieces of cloth and large plastic bags protect the stalls, the food and the people from the rising heat of the day. The place looks like a beehive of activity.

We are in Fajardo, a retail market in Maputo, Mozambique, perfectly situated between the built-up city and one of its largest slums, Chamanculo. Inside a room, where the remaining paint is now a faded patchwork of beige, there are 40 women. Some are speaking in Changana, the local language. Others are reading the large pieces of papers stuck on the walls, deep in thought. They all sell produce, sitting on the floor around the market. Their products are the cheapest, often with the lowest profit margins.
 
It is time for another session of MUVA+, an intervention designed to enhance the life and business of the poorest female traders selling produce in urban markets. In a nine-week training followed by eight weeks of individualized mentoring, we combine business, management and self-efficacy skills training. The project is an initiative of MUVA, a program that designs, implements, tests and measures innovative approaches for women’s economic empowerment in urban areas.
 
Providing training for subsistence female entrepreneurs aiming to increase their revenue is nothing new, but MUVA does it a bit differently. We focus on fostering the individual aspiration by valorizing their experience and unleashing their potential, rather than focusing directly on their business and teaching the financial skills they don’t have. We also work on the social norms barriers that hinders dreams of personal achievement.
 
A crucial component of MUVA’s approach is to put the participants’ constraints at the centre of the process when developing solutions, while taking into account both the visible and invisible social norms and barriers they face. For us, gender is not only about working with women. To unlock barriers that diminish women’s potential to thrive economically, we combine the learning of hard skills—such as business skills and basic accounting—with access to opportunities such as opening a bank account or facilitating the access to alternative financial inclusion options and transferrable skills.
 
We build on the evidence from a randomized controlled trial study of a training aimed at enhancing the personal initiative of participants. The study, carried out by the World Bank’s Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) and Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation team challenged the “business as usual” approach by showing that enhancing personal initiative competencies in business, such as pro-activity and future-oriented mindset, increase profits more than acquiring classic business skills. For example, women who took part in the pilot personal initiative training in Togo saw their profits increase by 40%, while those who participated in the traditional business training did not see their profits increase on average. 
 
The project combines this evidence with the commitment to put the participants experience at the heart of the learning process. We explicitly recognize that the ones who have “more skin in the game” are better able to define the problem they are facing and are also better suited to find solutions that are applicable to their situations. When we really “shut up and listen” we are impressed with the resilience and capacity of the women to overcome barriers. And we continue to listen. We listen every day.
 
One of the challenges that we face as implementers is the need to re-define our role as experts by letting go of the idea of the primacy of our business knowledge required a profound change in facilitation techniques and attitude. In MUVA+ we take seriously the premise that the experts in subsistence and informal entrepreneurship in urban markets are the women that have been managing their livelihoods for numerous years. How do we translate this in action? We support them to find their own solutions, providing tools that are used in design thinking and Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA), a methodology that rests on the core principles of local solutions for local problems and trying, learning, iterating and adapting.
 
To deliver this, we don’t use teachers. We have facilitators that offer our participants a place where their entrepreneurship is recognized, valued and built on. Our responsibility is to use our expertise and social capital to guide the participants through their life plan, which includes growing their business and facilitating access through the doors that they could not open by themselves. 
 
After a four-month training, one of our participants told us that she never thought of her as having a work that was worth something. Now she pays herself a monthly salary and calls herself an entrepreneur. When MUVA+ started, only 13% of participants confirmed that they did something in the previous three months to increase their sales. By the end of the project, that number had increased to 76%.
 
Two more cycles will be implemented this year, and more results in terms of change in profits and personnel empowerment of the participants will be coming soon. Stay tuned.
 
MUVA is DFID’s largest Female Economic Empowerment programme in Mozambique and has started to implement some of its successful approaches in other countries of Sub-Saharan Africa this year.
 

Lessons from the West Bank’s first PPP: Fragile state + open mind

1 week 6 days ago


“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old,”—good advice from innovation and management guru Peter F. Drucker. This approach was key to a PPP we coordinated in one of the world’s oldest areas, the West Bank.
 
When the International Finance Corporation (IFC) began advising on the first-ever PPP in the Palestinian Territories, we understood that no textbook could guide us. Our expertise was essential; but keeping an open mind, remaining flexible in an ever-changing operational environment, and building upon established relationships were unwritten, and equally important, requirements.
 
When a region’s social or political reality has changed, old rules of doing business simply no longer apply.
 
Our team already had experience with this principle and we never expected business as usual when embarking on this PPP to help find an operator for a landfill and transfer stations for the Hebron and Bethlehem Governorates. But the extent to which the success of the PPP hinged on all of the teams’ willingness to reach for solutions beyond the usual boundaries surprised us all.
 
Why waste?
 
[[tweetable]]Waste disposal is a basic service that any functioning society needs, and it’s among the first to go in conflict.[[/tweetable]] In the West Bank and Gaza, decades of conflict and political instability left municipalities unable to invest sufficiently in solid waste management infrastructure or services. In Hebron and Bethlehem, this meant nearly one million people disposed almost 500 tons of waste every day in unsanitary dumps. Waste not going into dumps was illegally burned or abandoned outdoors. With the volume of waste expected to grow, posing growing health and environmental risks, this was a crisis.

To address this, the World Bank helped establish the Joint Services Council for Hebron and Bethlehem (JSC) to build institutions and capacity to provide well-managed, sustainable disposal services and improve waste management. The World Bank provided funding for the JSC to construct a new landfill and two transfer stations.

Building on research from the 2011 World Development Report, we recognized that harnessing the knowledge and expertise of the private sector in operating new infrastructure could ensure it delivered benefits for the people of the West Bank. The team also felt that [[tweetable]]a well-structured PPP could lay a foundation for greater private investment in an environment seen by many investors as too risky. [[/tweetable]]
Together, JSC and the World Bank asked IFC to structure the first PPP in the West Bank and Gaza and find the right investor to operate and maintain the landfill and disposal facilities.

  New solutions
 
[[tweetable]]Every country and project has challenges, and this is especially true when structuring a PPP in a difficult environment.[[/tweetable]] We needed to remain open to options that would be dismissed elsewhere. For example, it became clear quickly that, despite the great need, JSC would not be able to pay for private sector services. Normally this would mean a project could not go forward, but a solution to the crisis needed to be found.
 
IFC leveraged an existing partnership between the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Output-Based Aid—today known as the Global Partnership for Results-Based Approaches (GPRBA)—to secure a grant that would help ensure the PPP’s sustainability. This meant having clearly defined—measurable—key performance indicators (KPIs) the operator needed to meet for JSC to secure funding. IFC worked with stakeholders and World Bank and GPRBA colleagues to define the KPIs—helping reduce investor risk by securing their revenue stream, build confidence in the project’s bankability, and incentivize local governments to improve fee collection rates.
 
As in other societies affected by protracted conflict, many people were subsisting as waste pickers; improving waste collection and disposal would impact their incomes. The fair treatment of waste pickers was seen by JSC, IFC, and the World Bank as central to the project’s success. Building on earlier work to safeguard the livelihoods of waste pickers, a World Bank grant guaranteed they were trained to work in other areas.
 
This sort of collaboration, building upon the World Bank’s long-established relationships in the area, adapting processes to the specific needs of the public sector, and being open to original solutions, was essential.

Attracting a private partner willing to undertake a “first of its kind” project in the West Bank was not straightforward. Many larger firms were unable to consider working there regardless of the risk allocation, because their boards were reluctant to venture into conflict settings. The team ended up engaging with smaller firms, which tend to have less resources but a greater incentive to succeed in difficult environments.
 
While the project’s result was positive, the challenges of attracting private investment in fragile and conflict-afflicted areas cannot be overstated. But throughout the course of this project, the public and private sectors, donors, and the World Bank Group felt the importance of this project in creating new opportunities for the people of the West Bank. They innovated, adapted, and compromised to make it work.
 
The lesson we took from this is that you must be guided by the standard PPP playbook when working in conflict environments, but not beholden to it. And strong partnerships and innovative thinking must be deployed by everyone involved. Importantly, all of us were motivated knowing we were opening important doors for partnerships in other sectors and improving the quality of life millions of people.
 
See and hear more about the project in this video: Waste Disposal for Better Life in the West Bank
 

Related Posts
 
Powering industry and jobs in Gaza through rooftop solar
 
Beating the odds? How PPPs fare in fragile countries

A brighter future for Gaza?

Waste not, want not: PPPs lead to better waste management in Greece

Making PPPs work in fragile situations  

Spatial Jumps

1 week 6 days ago

Evaluating Infrastructure Development
Investment in infrastructure is a key lever for economic growth in developing countries; to this end, World Bank financing for infrastructure is roughly 40% of its total commitments. Knowing the impact of these investments is therefore crucial for policy, but estimating the impact of these investments is difficult: Infrastructure is frequently targeted towards regions where growth is anticipated and coupled with complementary investments. Therefore, separating the impacts of any one investment from others or even from pre-existing growth trends is hard. This explains why development economists are pretty obsessed with finding ways to estimate the causal impact of infrastructure projects, which has led to many creative solutions. One possible option is to use spatial jumps.

What is Spatial Regression Discontinuity?
For reasons frequently discussed on this blog, simply comparing outcomes before and after the construction of infrastructure (which could be correlated with pre-existing trends), or comparing outcomes in communities receiving the new infrastructure to those not (which could be correlated with productivity, or other targeting criteria) is not going to convincingly capture the causal impact of these investments. Further complicating this, the infrastructure development is often coupled with other government interventions to protect and enhance the returns to these investments.
An alternative is to use a spatial discontinuity in the coverage of an infrastructure, or a sharp change in access to a policy across a border. In an application we discuss at the end of the post, hillside irrigation schemes in Rwanda are gravity-fed, meaning canals carry water through these schemes. For two reasons, this allows us to identify the causal impact of irrigation access. First, this creates a discontinuity in access to irrigation: plots just below the canal receive access to irrigation, while plots just above the canal do not. Second, this requires the canals follow a constant gradient (not too steep, not too shallow); within the irrigation site, relative elevation can’t be manipulated, so we can consider whether plots lie just above the canal or just below the canal “as good as random”.



The essence of this research design is captured in the image above. The canal cuts through the hillside, dividing plots into two sets: the pink and the purple. The pink plots are below the canal, and they receive access to irrigation from the system. The purple plots are above the canal, and they do not receive any access. In practice, we focus our analysis on plots just above and just below (within 50m of) the boundary created by the canal: these plots are shaded darker pink and darker purple in the figure. The close proximity of these plots, but difference in access to irrigation, allows us to assume that any differences in agricultural outcomes and investment on these plots are caused by access to irrigation.
 
How does SRD compare to RDD?
So yes, this is similar to a regression discontinuity design (RDD; see a great curated list of posts on the technical details on this, and other research designs, here). When using a RDD, researchers seek to estimate the effects of a policy with a sharp eligibility threshold by comparing individuals who are just barely eligible for a policy to individuals who are just barely ineligible. Although RDD and spatial regression discontinuity (SRD) are similar in spirit, here are a number of crucial differences in implementing SRD vs. standard RDD (these differences are reviewed at length by Keele and Titiunik and Cattaneo et al., and our discussion follows theirs closely):

  • Differences between RDD and SRD that affect estimation
    • Multidimensional cutoff: Unlike a normal RDD, where a single score determines whether an individual is eligible, in an SRD latitude and longitude determine whether a unit is eligible.
    • Discrete units: Data may only be available at a sufficiently coarse level where the standard RDD assumption (with a sufficiently large number of observations, many individuals would be very close to the cutoff) may not hold. This is common, for example, when county level data in the United States is used to study impacts of policies that vary across state borders.
  • Differences that affect interpretation of estimates
    • Bundled policies: For normal RDD, it’s often the case that only a single policy changes at the eligibility threshold. This is rarely the case in SRD, where multiple policies frequently change across geographic boundaries.
      • This is often addressed by careful understanding of the context, or looking at changes in trends across the discontinuity around a change in a particular policy on one side.
    • Geographic spillovers: In RDD, relatively few individuals (compared to the population) may be near a threshold, so the impact of moving a few individuals across the threshold may be very small on other individuals near the threshold. The same may not be true in SRD, where a policy that targets geographically proximate units may have important spillover effects—this complicates interpretation.
      • Important to note is that, while spillovers often change the interpretation of what’s being estimated, they do not change the fact that estimates are a relative effect of the policy (potentially relative to a positive or negative spillover onto ineligibles).
    • “Manipulation”: In RDD, we are often worried that individuals may choose their score to select themselves into being eligible for the policy; this “manipulation” creates bias, since it means individuals just barely eligible may now be very different from individuals who are just barely ineligible.
      • In SRD, while geographic units may not move, other forms of selection (such as by individuals, or of the boundary itself) may be possible.
  • Differences that affect inference
    • Standard errors: In SRD, both outcomes and eligibility typically exhibit spatial correlation.
      • Conley standard errors or appropriately clustered robust standard errors (see one discussion here) may be used to correct for this.
 
Implementation of Spatial RD
So now that we have highlighted the key differences between SRD and RDD (cutoffs are multidimensional, spatial units are frequently discrete), what tools can we use to measure causal impacts through a SRD approach, and how do they actually work?
 
  • Matching
    • Match each observation to its nearest (spatially) neighbor, and regress differences in outcomes (between that observation and its neighbor) on differences in eligibility. Note that since eligibility varies only at the threshold, the difference in eligibility will be different from zero only when an observation’s nearest neighbor is on the opposite side of the boundary.
    • This approach is valid under the standard matching assumption (see Jed’s great coverage on this) that outcomes for neighboring observations on either side of the boundary would be the same, were it not for the difference in eligibility at the boundary.
  • Normal RD!
    • Use normal RDD! Just make your running variable the distance to the geographic boundary (positive for eligible observations, negative for ineligible observations), and regress the outcome on eligibility, controlling for distance to the boundary and distance to the boundary interacted with eligibility.
    • Intuitively, this is equivalent to taking an average of normal RDD across each segment of the boundary. Therefore, this approach is valid under standard RD assumptions across each segment.
  • A hybrid approach! (Spatial Fixed Effects)
    • For each observation, calculate the average outcome, average eligibility, and average of any other controls of its nearest k neighbors (including that observation), or alternatively all observations within some fixed distance (k is of course selected to remain within some reasonable radius of each observation).
    • Then, subtract from each observation’s outcome (and eligibility, and any other controls) this average; this procedure is known as “spatial fixed effects” (also described by Markus here), and yields a spatially demeaned outcome (or eligibility). Finally, regress the spatially demeaned outcomes on spatially demeaned eligibility, controlling for spatially demeaned distance to the boundary and spatially demeaned (distance x eligibility).
    • In this approach, when only 1 neighbor is selected, and distance to the boundary controls are not included, it collapses to pairwise matching. On the other hand, when all neighbors are selected, it is equivalent to a normal RDD. As a result, spatial fixed effects approaches can be valid even when only one set (matching or RDD) of identifying assumptions hold! 
  • Important for all approaches
    • Granular data: SRD designs are more compelling when there are many observations close to the boundary. To ensure privacy of administrative data, observations may only be geocoded at coarse units that prevent implementation of SRD designs.
    • Placebo checks: Standard balance checks on covariates or outcomes which should not be affected by the policy are an important validation of the design.
    • Know the context: Interpretation of what’s being estimated can be particularly complicated when policies are bundled, or in the presence of spillovers.


An application of SRD in Rwanda
As mentioned, we use spatial jumps to evaluate recently constructed hillside irrigation schemes in rural Rwanda (with co-authors Maria Jones and Jeremy Magruder).
These irrigation investments are considered an important component of closing agricultural productivity gaps between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world — particularly so since, as of 2015, only 3.3% of arable land in Africa was irrigated, compared to 50.5% and 63.2% in South and East Asia, respectively. It is important for policy is to figure out whether this productivity gap exists because of fundamentally lower returns to irrigation, or whether there are constraints that affect farmers’ decisions to adopt irrigation.
In our paper, we implement both (for robustness) RD and Spatial Fixed Effects approaches. We test the validity of each approach by showing key plot and cultivator characteristics that should not be affected by access to irrigation are balanced across the boundary. For inference, we cluster our standard errors by water user group (the set of plots that use the same pipe for access to water, and their neighbors above the canal).
The figure above shows the implementation of RD: we see that during the dry season, 7% of plots just above the canal are irrigated, while 24% of plots just below the canal are irrigated. That adoption of irrigation jumps 17pp at the boundary is what allows us to estimate the impacts of irrigation. At the same time, the small share of plots with access to irrigation that make use of the irrigation infrastructure is a puzzle, and we spend much of the paper investigating potential constraints to adoption.

Celebrating 25 years of LGBT+ advancements at the World Bank Group

1 week 6 days ago
Kristalina Georgieva, Interim World Bank Group President and World Bank CEO, at the 25th anniversary of GLOBE, the World Bank Group Employee Resource Group for LGBT+ staff members.
© World Bank

GLOBE, the World Bank Group Employee Resource Group for LGBT+ staff members, turned 25 this year. On February 19, we held a reception to celebrate our achievements in improving equality and protections for LGBT+ employees at the World Bank Group and discuss the challenges that are ahead of us.

We are a group of LGBT+ employees and allies who have been doing this work for the last 25 years. GLOBE stands on three legs. Firstly, we are a community for LGBT+ staff and employees and allies, secondly we work closely with our partners in HR to make this a more inclusive workplace, and thirdly we work on sexual orientation and gender identity in operations.

“I have personally seen how having GLOBE in existence has made the Bank a better place,” Kristalina Georgieva, Interim World Bank Group President and World Bank CEO, said in her remarks at the event. “My congratulations to you for not only building a community at the World Bank Group, but also for making it a more inclusive place for the people we serve, with the right ideas for development.”

With GLOBE’s support, health insurance coverage was extended to same-sex domestic partners in 1998, G4 visas were granted for same-sex domestic partners in the early 2010s, and child planning benefits for same-sex couples were included in 2016. From early this year, the medical insurance plan now covers gender affirming surgery for all staff and dependents.

“The Bank has been on the cutting edge of LGBT+ issues, where it should be. That makes me very proud of being part of GLOBE and part of the World Bank,” said former GLOBE president John Bryant Collier during a panel discussion, which Ann-Sofie Jespersen, our current GLOBE president, facilitated.

A panel discussion at the event. © World Bank

GLOBE’s achievements also include working with the Human Resources Unit for emergency HIV/AIDS funding for staff in the 1990s, as well as launching a Bank-wide LGBT+ workplace climate survey in 2011, which was repeated in 2015 and is to be held again later this year. GLOBE has also partnered with HR’s Diversity & Inclusion team on drafting a LGBT+ staff resource guide and improving resources and protocols to support LGBT+ staff in situations when their safety is compromised.

“We have come a long way in the form of policies and benefits and inclusion in operations, but there is still a lot of work to do,” said Monish Mahurkar, the International Finance Corporation’s Vice President for Corporate Strategy and Resources. In the 2015 workplace Climate Survey, many LGBT+ employees said they did not tell anyone at work that they belong to the LGBT+ community out of fear of harassment and a negative impact on their professional career.

“One thing that I adore about the World Bank Group is our diversity: people coming from different cultures, different countries, different beliefs and different sexual orientations and gender identities,” said Kristalina Georgieva. “These advances in the last decades are important for us as an institution, but they’re even more important because if we do them in our home institution, we have a leg to stand on while engaging with our clients. (…) In 69 countries, consensual gay sex is outlawed. That means criminalizing people just for loving each other!”

LGBT+ inclusion in World Bank Group operations

Nearly 2.8 billion people live in countries where identifying as LGBT+ is subject to discrimination, criminalization, and even death. In the past five years, the Bank Group has made remarkable progress on building the evidence necessary to underpin policy decisions and promote LGBT+ inclusion in programs. In 2014, the World Bank conducted a first-of-its-kind study in India that helped quantify the costs of LGBT+ exclusion. It has led to similar studies in Thailand and countries of the Western Balkans on discrimination, exclusion, and violence toward LGBT+ people.

“None of the advancement in sexual orientation and gender inclusion in World Bank Group operations could have been possible without the advocacy by folks from the executive director offices, by people in senior management, by civil society, and by GLOBE,” said SOGI Global Advisor Clifton Cortez.

The event at the World Bank Group headquarters in Washington, D.C. celebrated GLOBE’s numerous achievements since it started in 1993. Members in country offices watched via a livestream, and both the in-person and online audiences participated with questions.

Despite the progress, there is still much to do for LGBT+ inclusion, both within the World Bank Group and in operations. GLOBE will continue its work for equality. We think the Bank Group should lead on LGBT+ inclusion and leave no one behind.

Get involved in a group that advocates for this in your workplace, or in society at large.

World Bank Group GLOBE board members contributed to this post. 

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.
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