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#2 from 2017: Doing good against all odds – remembering the forgotten

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2017. This post was originally posted on February 7, 2017.

The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year.
 - Voltaire
 
Every November 1st, Poland observes All Saints Day or as some call it, the Day of the Deceased. In the middle of the Polish Golden Autumn there is a day when all Poles meet each other at the cemetery. Flowers and candles are lit to honor loved ones who are no longer with us. Most Polish cemeteries are very pristine and well cared for. For me this is a day of national truce and solidarity intertwined with the Roman-Catholic tradition. All Saints Day is celebrated in other countries, but the poignancy and mobility in Poland has no match. The day before and the day after, millions of Poles patiently travel for hours in never-ending traffic jams.
 
I am not always able to attend All Saints Day in my native Poland, but there are always flowers, wreaths, and candles, exceeding the number of my living distant relatives at the grave of my parents. And then there are the invisible friendly hands that clean my family's tomb a few weeks later, before the beginning of winter. The culmination of this holiday is an outdoor mass before dusk, which basically occurs at every cemetery. I must admit that for as long as I can remember; I have always tried to skip the mass service saturated with the presence of thousands of worshipers for the sake of long walks in the marvelous fall festival of lights a few hours later where the cemeteries are almost deserted. Imagine, walking in darkness on the fallen and golden dry leaves amongst the orange glow of thousands of lit candles that blend with a scent of burning wax and the array of thousands of flowers. Surrounded by people who act most courteously towards each other, and then there is the humbling moment of realizing again that death is a destiny for each of us. All of this is accompanied by solemn tranquility and feelings of nostalgia.
 

Transitions and Time Lags: Understanding a Dispiriting but Temporary Phenomenon

Antonius Verheijen's picture


Having spent much of my working life working with and in countries in transition, it remains painful to watch the disillusionment that so often strikes people that had the courage to change a bad political situation, but then are forced to live through economic hardship. It is those that chose change that seem always to suffer most. But one source of hope is that, fortunately, this hasn’t stopped people from trying. This was true for Southern Europe in the late 1970s (though I was still in school at the time), Central and East European countries in the 1990s, several African countries in the 2000s and, as history has a knack for repeating itself, Tunisia today. 

Infrastructure & Africa’s development—the PPP imperative

Fida Rana's picture


Photo: CIFOR | Flickr Creative Commons 

Africa is a continent rich in natural resources and boasts a large young, ambitious, and entrepreneurial-minded population. Harnessed properly, these endowments and advantages could usher in a period of sustained economic growth and increased well-being for all Africans.
 
However, a lack of modern infrastructure is a major challenge to Africa’s economic development and constitutes a significant impediment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
According to a recent report by the World Bank, there are varying trends in Africa’s infrastructure performance across key sectors and regions. In telecommunications, Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a dramatic improvement in the quantity and quality of infrastructure, and the gains are broad-based. Access to safe water has also risen, with 77% of the population having access to water in 2015, from 51% in 1990. In the power sector, by contrast, the region’s electricity-generating capacity has changed little in more than 20 years. At about 0.04 megawatts per 1,000 people, capacity is less than one-third of that of South Asia, and less than one-tenth of that of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The high toll of traffic injuries in Central Asia: unacceptable and preventable

Aliya Karakulova's picture

Did you know that in Kazakhstan we live in the country with the deadliest roads? Every year, 3,000 people die on roads in Kazakhstan, and over 30,000 are injured. Imagine if an airplane crashed every month! Would you fly?

We are 11 times more likely to die in a traffic accident in Kazakhstan than in Norway. Indeed, the numbers for road deaths are high in all Central Asian countries.

The High Toll of Traffic Injuries in Central Asia
Source: WHO, 2013


Globally, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29 years. Not cancer, not heart diseases, and not wars.

Life changing injuries and deaths affect countries in terms of health care and economic costs – the annual economic loss of road deaths in Central Asian countries is estimated at around 3-4% of GDP.

But beyond this monetary value, lies a person’s life. 

A glimpse into state financial institution ownership in Europe and Central Asia

Aurora Ferrari's picture

State-owned financial institutions (SOFIs) are back in vogue. Although the theoretical and empirical debate on state ownership in finance may continue to sway back and forth, the 2007–08 global financial crisis renewed policy makers’ interest in SOFIs as a policy instrument.

This interest is particularly visible in countries in Europe and Central Asia (ECA), where policy makers have turned to SOFIs for countercyclical interventions, as quantitative easing appears to have little impact on economic growth; the cost of bailing out privately-owned financial institutions has mounted; and many countries face significant fiscal constraints. From the publicly-owned British Business Bank (established to assist smaller businesses), to the Investment Plan for Europe (the “Juncker Plan,” which relies on “National Promotional Banks” to intermediate resources from the European Fund for Strategic Investments), SOFIs have been used to fill perceived gaps or complement the public policy toolkit.

Using technology to promote youth employment: How to develop digital solutions

Gabriela Aguerrevere's picture
Partners have developed a human-centered approach in developing digital platforms for youth. Photo: Sarah Farhat/ World Bank

How and when can we use technology to design and implement youth employment programs? We should ask ourselves whether investing in digital solutions is worth the time and money before deciding to include a digital component in our projects, because as much as technology can be transformative and help provide solutions, it is both expensive and time-consuming. Furthermore, we need to make sure we fully understand the problem that we are trying to solve.

Africa’s partnership with the G-20: Compact with Africa in 2018

Jan Walliser's picture
Expansion of the Azito Thermal Power Plant, in Côte d'Ivoire, will improve access to electricity for Ivoirians and help sustain the country's economic growth. © Cedric Favero/IFC
Expansion of the Azito Thermal Power Plant, in Côte d'Ivoire, will improve access to electricity for Ivoirians and help sustain the country's economic growth. © Cedric Favero/IFC


Editor's Note: Below is a viewpoint from Chapter 6 of the Foresight Africa 2018 report, which explores six overarching themes that provide opportunities for Africa to overcome its obstacles and spur inclusive growth. Read the full chapter on the changing nature of Africa's external relationships here.

Germany’s presidency of the G-20 in 2017 introduced a new initiative for supporting African countries’ development: the G-20 Compact with Africa. The compact brings together interested African countries with the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank, and other multilateral and bilateral partners to develop and support policies and actions that are essential for attracting private investment. To date, 10 countries have signed up for the initiative and outlined their aspirations and reform programs under a framework adopted by the G-20 finance ministers in March 2017. 

A Smarter Way to Keep Teachers in Malawi’s Remote Schools

Salman Asim's picture
 
Alberto Gwande, the Headteacher at the Khuzi school near Nathenje, Lilongwe Rural East District, Malawi.
Photo: Ravinder Casley Gera


Alberto Gwande and his students at Khuzi school in Malawi need more teachers. The school is severely understaffed, with only six teachers for nearly 800 students. “I was supposed to receive new teachers last year, but they never came,” recalls Alberto, the headteacher.

Khuzi is 20 kilometres away from Nathenje, the nearest large village with a trading center, and its Pupil-Teacher Ratio (PTR) is 131 pupils per teacher. In contrast, Chibubu school, located four kilometers from Nathenje, has a PTR of 65, while Mwatibu school, located inside the village, has a PTR of just 49. And yet, despite the shortage at Khuzi, it was Chibubu which received four new teachers last year.

E-justice: does electronic court reporting improve court performance?

Georgia Harley's picture


More and more courts are going digital. But does this improve judicial performance?
 
Legal literature on ‘e-justice’ seems to think so. So too does the World Development Report, ‘Digital Dividends,’ which highlights the potential for ICT to improve the transparency and quality of government service delivery.
 
As electronic court reporting is one key aspect of this trend, we want to take the opportunity to look at the pros and cons of improving judicial performance in different contexts.

Can predicting successful entrepreneurship go beyond “choose smart guys in their 30s”? Comparing machine learning and expert judge predictions

David McKenzie's picture

Business plan competitions have increasingly become one policy option used to identify and support high-growth potential businesses. For example, the World Bank has helped design and support these programs in a number of sub-Saharan African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. These competitions often attract large numbers of applications, raising the question of how do you identify which business owners are most likely to succeed?

In a recent working paper, Dario Sansone and I compare three different approaches to answering this question, in the context of Nigeria’s YouWiN! program. Nigerians aged 18 to 40 could apply with either a new or existing business. The first year of this program attracted almost 24,000 applications, and the third year over 100,000 applications. After a preliminary screening and scoring, the top 6,000 were invited to a 4-day business plan training workshop, and then could submit business plans, with 1,200 winners each chosen to receive an average of US$50,000 each. We use data from the first year of this program, together with follow-up surveys over three years, to determine how well different approaches would do in predicting which entrants will have the most successful businesses.


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