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Nepal one month after the earthquake

Johannes Zutt's picture
Kathmandu after the first earthquake


It has been a month since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit central Nepal on April 25. What happened next? 
 
Having experienced a real threat of death, many survivors manifested avoidance (“I don’t want to talk about it!”), hyper-vigilance (“What’s that noise? Is the ground moving?”), intrusive thoughts (“What if the next big one may come while I’m asleep …?”) -- classic stress reactions.
 
Many Bank staff have had many sleepless nights as the aftershocks continued, more than 250 to date above a magnitude of 4, thirty above 5, four above 6, and—just when we first thought that life was becoming normal again—a 7.3 on May 12.
 
That one came like the first one, in the middle of the day, but it felt like an unwelcome nighttime guest, full of foreboding.  People ran into the streets screaming, or silly giddy on realizing that they had survived another one—but even more terrified at what would come next.  More people died; more buildings collapsed.  People who had moved back into their houses moved out again. 

If Complexity was a person, she would be a Socialist. Jean Boulton on the politics of systems thinking.

Duncan Green's picture

Jean Boulton (physicist, management consultant and social scientist, right) responds to Owen Barder’s Wednesday post on thinking of development as a property of a complex adaptive system.

Jean BoultonI’d like to go a bit further than Owen on the implications of complexity for how we understand power and politics. It is generally the case that the powerful get more powerful and the big get bigger. We know this through bitter experience, captured in complexity language by the notion of ‘positive feedback loops’ which equate to the economists’ ‘increasing returns’. In general there is no reason to expect that economies will self-regulate and find a ‘natural’ balance. Even forests, if left to themselves for long enough, reduce in diversity, increase in efficiency and become ‘locked in’ to ecological patterns that are hard to invade and change and can easily collapse (see below, left). Despite the popularity of the phrase ‘complex adaptive systems’, complex systems do not always adapt.

Instead, complexity suggests that  if we want economic development that equalizes power, reduces inequality and incorporates longer-term environmental goals, there is a need for some sort of regulatory processes to counter the seemingly inevitable coalescing of power and wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Otherwise the rise out of poverty is linked more to growth than to development (development meaning a qualitative change in shape and form of the economy rather than a quantitative change – you can obviously have both). And an economy that is growing can in fact take our attention away from underlying structural exacerbations of inequality. Growth cannot go on forever, as land, water and minerals are consumed – not to mention the impact on climate change – but growth can mask just who captures the bulk of resources and can exert control over governments, markets and societies.
 

Forging a partnership with the Global Infrastructure Hub

Mark Moseley's picture
During the Spring Meetings in mid-April, the World Bank Group committed to addressing the world’s data gaps for infrastructure investments, which will help lower barriers to those investments and help provide services to more people across the globe.

Our team signed an agreement with the recently established Global Infrastructure Hub (GIH) – an initiative of the world’s G20 leading economies – that paves the way for future cooperation.

The GIH came into existence last December, as a result of decisions taken at the November 2014 G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane, Australia. Based in Sydney, the GIH is designed to drive progress on the infrastructure agenda of the G20 and, in particular, to encourage additional private sector involvement with infrastructure development.

It will be a knowledge-sharing network, which will aggregate and disseminate information on infrastructure projects and financing opportunities. The GIH is also designed to assist governments with capacity-building in regard to infrastructure development, by sharing best practice approaches.

Sweden: Decoupling GDP growth from CO2 emissions is possible

Magdalena Andersson and Isabella Lövin's picture
 Decoupling growth from emissions in Sweden


By Magdalena Andersson, Minister for Finance, Sweden
and Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation, Sweden


Sweden is proud to join forces with Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), convening in New York this week. Energy is one of the most decisive issues of our age. Without secure access to energy, we won’t achieve real and lasting poverty reduction. Without the expansion of clean energy, we won’t be able to stop climate change.  

With business as usual and no significant carbon emission cuts, we have only 15 years left before we have emitted enough CO2 to make this planet more than 2 degrees warmer. Then we will see a dramatic increase in droughts, floods, storms and species extinction – and we will have changed the conditions for every generation to come. And we know that it is the poorest who will be hit the hardest by the effects of climate change.

This is not a political statement but a scientific one. Fifteen years left.

So we must start changing our energy systems, going from fossil to renewable, now.

Generosity has limits: Who’s helping Lebanon and Jordan accommodate Syrian refugees?

Ferid Belhaj's picture
Dona_Bozzi / Shutterstock.com

Lebanon and Jordan are providing a global public good to the international community by hosting an incredibly high number of Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict in their embattled country. More than two million are currently residing in Syria’s two resource-poor neighbors, which have been impressively generous in welcoming them in a seamless manner, unmatched in modern history. 

Establish a national PPP Unit to support bottom-up infrastructure investment

Robert Puentes's picture
Photo: flickr/cmh2315fl
By any measure, the United States is a laggard in terms of public-private partnership (PPP) projects. Between 1985 and 2011, there were 377 transportation PPP infrastructure projects funded in the U.S. Those projects comprised just nine percent of the total nominal costs of infrastructure PPPs around the world. Europe leads the infrastructure PPP market, concentrating more than 45 percent of the nominal value of all PPPs.

There appear to be several discrete, but related, reasons why the U.S. has been slow to pursue PPPs in comparison with European and Asian countries:
  • In some cases, there is a lack of consensus, institutional capacity, and expertise to properly promote the benefits and costs of PPP deals. In Pittsburgh, for example, an arrangement to lease the city’s parking operations to a private entity collapsed when the city council voted against the transaction.
  • Deals are getting more complex, politically heated, and cumbersome as some stretch across jurisdictions and even international borders, as is the case with the New International Trade Crossing intended to connect Detroit to Windsor, Ontario.
  • With state and municipal finances under strain, the public sector is trying to transfer greater responsibility to the private sector, including in the arena of project financing.
In this regard, the U.S. Government Accountability Office recently noted that while the U.S. has done much to promote the benefits of PPPs, it needs to do more to assist states and metro areas in thinking through potential costs and trade-offs, as well as assessing national interests.

Closing thoughts on the "Harnessing Digital Trade for Competitiveness and Development" conference

Rosanna Chan's picture

Fiber optic light bokeh. Source - x_tineDigital entrepreneurs have the potential to connect to global markets like never before. Whether selling physical goods on internet platforms, or providing digital goods and services that can be downloaded and streamed, an entirely new ecosystem of innovative micro and small businesses has emerged in the developing world.
 
The World Bank Group hosted some of the pioneers in this space for a full-day conference on Harnessing Digital Trade for Competitiveness and Development on May 19. Here, we heard entrepreneurial success stories—an online platform for jewelry in Kenya, a provider of software solutions in Nepal, an online platform for livestock trade in Serbia—and dove into the constraints and challenges of running a digital business in an emerging economy.
 
The scope of these challenges made these success stories, and the broader potential they represent, even more inspiring. From internet connectivity to logistics, from financial payments to trade regulations, from bankruptcy laws to entrepreneurial and consumer digital literacy-- clearly, more needs to be done to fully harness the potential of digital trade for competitiveness and development and to foster an enabling environment to digital trade.


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