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January 2017

A year of building sustainable communities in 12 stories

Andy Shuai Liu's picture
What are some of the key issues that will shape global development in 2017?

​From addressing the forced displacement crisis to helping indigenous communities, and from implementing the “New Urban Agenda” to enhancing resilience to disasters and climate change, one thing is clear: we must step up efforts to build and grow economies and communities that are inclusive, resilient, and sustainable for all—especially for the poor and vulnerable.
In the timeline below, revisit some of the stories on sustainable development that resonated the most with you last year, and leave a comment to let us know what you wish to see more of in our “Sustainable Communities” blog series in 2017.

Understanding bureaucracy

Zahid Hasnain's picture

Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.

Photo: © Gennadiy Ratushenko / World Bank

State capacity is clearly fundamental to development, and the motivation and productivity of the personnel working in the state is clearly fundamental to state capacity.

Government bureaucracies typically employ 15 to 30 percent of all workers, and 50 to 60 percent of formal sector or salaried workers in developing countries. This fact alone warrants a detailed understanding of the functioning of public sector labor markets and their influence on the broader labor market, particularly as the characteristics of public sector workers—their gender, age, and skills profiles, for instance—can be quite different from their private sector counterparts.

But more importantly, the motivation of government workers and thereby the productivity of government bureaucracies impacts almost everything else in an economy, from business regulations, to infrastructure provision, to the delivery of services.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Global Internet Report 2016
Internet Society
Today we are at a defining moment in the evolution and growth of the Internet. Large-scale data breaches, uncertainties about the use of our data, cybercrime, surveillance and other online threats are eroding users’ trust and affecting how they use the Internet.  Eroding trust is also affecting the way governments view the Internet, and, is shaping the policy environment for the Internet around the world. The 2016 Global Internet Report takes a close look at data breaches through an economic lens and provides five clear recommendations for a path forward.

What Does “Governance” Mean?
Governance Journal
The normative goals of governance reform are twofold: more effective public policies, and procedures that are legitimate and accountable to the citizenry. Often the phrase “good governance” is intertwined with the anticorruption agenda. Drawing on the author's experience as a visiting researcher at the World Bank and as a scholar of both corruption and comparative politics, this essay unpacks the concept of governance and relates it to debates over ways to balance technical expertise and public participation to achieve better functioning governments.

Getting Togo’s Agriculture Back on Track, and Lifting Rural Families Out of Poverty Along the Way

Joelle Businger's picture
Komlan Souley stands in his rice field that spans three hectares. Small holders dominate the sector in Togo. © Erick Kaglan

On a hot and dusty day in mid-October, I drove out some 70 to 90 kilometers outside of Togo’s capital city of Lomé, leaving the bustling urban center behind to meet with some of the country’s hard working small holder farmers in their fields.

World Bank published latest commodity prices: January 2017

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture
In December 2016, energy prices increased by 15.1%, and the prices of non-energy commodities dropped by 0.2%. Food prices decreased by 0.2% while beverages went down by 7.1%. Raw materials increased by 2%, and fertilizers decreased 16.4%. Metals and minerals went up by 2.8%, and precious metals went down by 6.3%.
To access recent and long-term historical prices and other commodity-related information, please click here.

Addressing the challenge of non-standard employment

Janine Berg's picture

Janine Berg, guest blogger, is a Senior Economist at the International Labour Organization (ILO)

For many developing countries, the existing challenge of informality has been compounded by the challenge of non-standard employment. Photo: Maria Fleischmann / World Bank

Efforts to extend social security to workers in non-standard employment and to build a social protection floor are critical for reducing poverty and part of the challenge of addressing informal employment.

#5 from 2016: Land Tenure: What have we learned four years after approving a set of international land tenure guidelines?

Gregory Myers's picture
Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2016. This post was originally published on June 13, 2016.  

Asilya Gemmal displays her land certificate, given by
the Ethiopian government, with USAID assistance.
"Congratulations, today your baby is four years old,” Iris Krebber, DFID/UK recently emailed me.  Iris was not referring to a child, but rather the Voluntary Guidelines for the Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forest (VGGT), an agreement I had the challenging pleasure of bringing to life by chairing a UN negotiation process that resulted in the first globally agreed recommendations for addressing land, fisheries, and forests governance.  Often colleagues don’t remember my name, but they call me “the land guy,” which I suppose is better than the “dirt guy.”

The call for an international set of guidelines came from many quarters between 2008 and 2010, but was largely driven by concerns raised in international fora by civil society, member states, development partners, and the private sector. These concerns primarily pertained to food security (and specifically food price spikes) and access, and rights to land and other resources by small, medium and large scale producers as they impact investments in food production systems.  
One of the more notable concerns driving the development of the Guidelines was related to large scale land acquisitions (including what some organizations may sometimes refer to as “land grabbing”). Through a technical process FAO developed the initial draft of the Guidelines, and then initiated a process of input and consultation over two years before the document was given to the UN Committee for World Food Security (UN CFS) for negotiation.

As the subject of land rights can be very political (no international guidance can address the plethora of land challenges from Latin America to Africa to Asia and beyond with one-solution fits-all-problems), and civil society organizations, member states, and the private sector often have different views and needs in achieving their respective objectives, you can imagine it was not an easy task for CFS to agree to a set of guidelines.

Tony Atkinson (1944 – 2017) and the measurement of global poverty

Francisco Ferreira's picture

Sir Anthony Atkinson, who was Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics and Fellow of Nuffield College at Oxford, passed away on New Year’s Day, at the age of 72. Tony was a highly distinguished economist: He was a Fellow of the British Academy and a past president of the Econometric Society, the European Economic Association, the International Economic Association and the Royal Economic Society.  He was also an exceedingly decent, kind and generous man.

Although his contributions to economics are wide-ranging, his main field was Public Economics. He was an editor of the Journal of Public Economics for 25 years, and his textbook “Lectures on Public Economics”, co-authored with Joe Stiglitz in 1980, remains a key reference for graduate students to this day. Within the broad field of public economics, Tony published path-breaking work on the measurement, causes and consequences of poverty and inequality – from his early work on Lorenz dominance in 1970, all the way to his more recent joint work with Piketty, Saez and others on the study of top incomes. Over his 50-year academic career, he taught, supervised and examined a large number of PhD students, some of whom came to work at the World Bank at some point in their careers.

Postcards from Quito on the New Urban Agenda

Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: Español

Photos: World Bank

More than two months have passed since the whirlwind that was Habitat III, the UN’s once-every-20-year summit on cities and urban development. From big data to climate change, public spaces to municipal finance, the conference truly seemed to have something for everyone. Long queues to enter the conference aside, what was striking was also the sheer number of young participants at the event, many of whom were students, planners and architects from Quito.

So what did people in Quito really think about the future of cities? We asked visitors to the World Bank’s booth at the Habitat III exhibition to tell us, by writing on postcards, what they thought was needed to create sustainable cities for all. Of the more than 200 postcards received, several recurring themes were clear:

Postcards from Quito on the New Urban Agenda (World Bank Group)

Lessons from Five Years of Helping Governments Foster Incentives Transparency

Harald Jedlicka's picture

Global competition to attract foreign and domestic direct investment is so high that nearly all countries offer incentives (such as tax holidays, customs duty exemptions and subsidized loans) to lure in investors. In the European Union, the 28 member states spent 93.5 billion euros on non-crisis State Aid to businesses in 2014. In the United States, local governments provided and average of US$80.4 billion in incentives each year from 2007 to 2012.

In order to better understand the prevalence of incentives worldwide, the Investment Climate team in the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group reviewed the incentives policy of 137 countries. Results showed that all of the countries that were surveyed provide incentives, either as tax or customs-duty exemptions or in other forms. Table 1 (below) shows the rate at which these instruments are used across advanced and emerging economies. For instance, tax holidays are least common in OECD countries and are most prevalent in developing economies. In some regions they are the most-used incentive.[1]

However, despite offering incentives, few countries meet all the requirements of a fully transparent incentives policy. These include: mandating by law, and maintaining in practice, a database and inventory of incentives available to investors; listing in the inventory all aspects of key relevance to stakeholders (such as the specific incentive provided, the eligibility criteria, the awarding and administration process, the legal reference and the awarded amounts); making the inventory publicly available in a user-friendly format; requiring by law the publication of all formal references of incentives; and making the incentives easily accessible to stakeholders in practice. A T&C study now under way on incentives transparency in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region showed that none of the eight countries analyzed has a fully transparent incentives policy. (See Graph 1, below.)