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June 2016

The paradox of higher education in MENA

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Roof of the University of al-Karaouine in Fes, Morocco, which is the oldest continually operating university in the world - Patricia Hofmeester l Shutterstock


The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was the cradle of higher education.  The three oldest, still-functioning universities in the world are in Iran, Morocco, and Egypt.  The University of Al-Karaouine in Fes has been granting degrees since 859 A.D.  The Ancient Library of Alexandria, in addition to being repository of books and manuscripts, was a center of learning during the Ptolemaic dynasty, with scholars traveling to there from all around the Mediterranean and beyond.  And scholars such as Ibn Khaldoun discovered fundamental economics four centuries before Adam Smith and others. In short, all of us who have benefited from a university education owe a debt to the MENA region.

The staircase of relationships: 10 key questions

Malcolm Morley's picture

If public sector organizations are to maximize the value from public-private partnerships (PPPs), they need to move their joint working within the public sector from transactional to collaboration to true partnership working.  To do this requires them to move up the Staircase of Relationships (see previous blog).
 
In moving up the Staircase of Relationships, performance will improve within the public sector and the public sector will become a more effective partner with the private sector.  Improvement in performance, however, is not enough.  Public sector organizations should be seeking to transform their performance through public-to-public (P2P) partnerships and to transform the performance that they achieve through PPPs.

Taxing ‘public bads’ and investing in ‘public goods’: Constructive tax policies can help prevent harm and help promote progress

Christopher Colford's picture
To tax, or not to tax? That is the question that preoccupied a thought-provoking panel at a recent World Bank Group conference on “Winning the Tax Wars” – along with such pragmatic policy questions as: What products and behaviors should be taxed, aiming to discourage their use? How heavily should taxes be imposed to penalize socially destructive behaviors? If far-sighted, behavior-nudging taxes are indeed adopted, where should the resulting public revenue be spent?

Before memories start to fade about a stellar springtime conference – at which several of the Bank Group’s Global Practices (including those focusing on Governance and on Health, Nutrition and Population) assembled some of the world's foremost authorities on tax policy – it’s well worthwhile to recall the rigorous reasoning that emerged from one of the year’s most synapse-snapping scholarly symposia at the Bank.

Subtitled “Protecting Developing Countries from Global Tax Base Erosion,” the conference focused mainly on the international tax-avoidance scourge of Base Erosion and Profit-Shifting (BEPS). Coming just one week after a major conference in London of global leaders – an anti-corruption effort convened by Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom – the two-day forum in the Preston Auditorium built on the fair-taxation momentum generated by the recent Panama Papers disclosures. Those leaks about international tax-evasion strategies dominated the global policy debate this spring, when they exposed the rampant financial conniving and misconduct by high-net-worth individuals and multinational corporations seeking to avoid or evade paying their fair share of taxes.
 
The Bank Group conference, however, explored tax-policy issues that ranged far beyond the headline-grabbing disclosures about the scheming of rogue law firms and accounting firms, like the now-infamous Panama-based Mossack Fonseca and other outposts of the tax-dodging financial-industrial complex. Conference-goers also heard intriguing analyses about how society can levy taxes on “public ‘bads’ ” to promote investment in “public ‘goods’ ” – as part of the broader quest for broad-scale tax fairness.
 
"Winning The Tax Wars" via revenue-raising strategies

Focusing on Patient Safety and Quality of Care: Preventing Medical Malpractice and Negligence in Kenya

Njeri Mwaura's picture

A recent study on patient safety in Kenya revealed that less that 5% of health facilities, both public and private, have attained the minimum international standards of safety. Although such studies are rare, there is reason to believe that the same picture prevails in most of SS Africa.

Does informality help inclusive growth in Africa?

Kezia Lilenstein's picture
There is great pressure on African governments to produce inclusive patterns of economic growth. Levels of inclusivity in Africa lag those of other developing regions. Part of this gap is due to the fact that the majority of the labour force is not participating in the formal economy in these countries. But the informal labour market absorbs the more vulnerable groups in the economy, including women and youth. Further, most people in informal employment are better off than they would be in unemployment or outside the labor force. So whether informality is good or bad for inclusive growth overall depends on the type of informal employment.
 

Building sustainable cities starts with smart urban design

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The global conversation about urban sustainability focuses primarily on the big picture: how to reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption of cities? How can we provide the infrastructure and services necessary to meet the needs of a soaring urban population? How can cities create enough jobs for everyone?
 
These issues are critically important, no doubt. But what about the city itself as a physical space? What should a sustainable city "look like"? Are there any big design principles that all successful urban planners should follow?
 
Because urbanization is often a chaotic process, many countries feel like they don't have the time or resources to address those questions. Yet evidence has shown that considerations about urban form and design are anything but cosmetic: creating vibrant public spaces within a city, for instance, can boost competitiveness, improve health outcomes, and strengthen social cohesion.
 
In this video, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Jon Kher Kaw delve deeper into the linkages between urban spaces and sustainability, and describe the many benefits that come with a well-designed city.
 
If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.
 
Related:

Blog post of the month: The 2016 Multidimensional Poverty Index was launched last week. What does it say?

Duncan Green's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In June 2016, the featured blog post is "The 2016 Multidimensional Poverty Index was launched last week. What does it say?" by Duncan Green.


This is at the geeky, number-crunching end of my spectrum, but I think it’s worth a look (and anyway, they asked nicely). The 2016 Multi-Dimensional Poverty Indexwas published yesterday. It now covers 102 countries in total, including 75 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.2 billion people. Of this proportion, 30 per cent of people (1.6 billion) are identified as multidimensionally poor.

The Global MPI has 3 dimensions and 10 indicators (for details see here and the graphic, right). A person is identified as multidimensionally poor (or ‘MPI poor’) if they are deprived in at least one third of the dimensions. The MPI is calculated by multiplying the incidence of poverty (the percentage of people identified as MPI poor) by the average intensity of poverty across the poor. So it reflects both the share of people in poverty and the degree to which they are deprived.

The MPI increasingly digs down below national level, giving separate results for 962 sub-national regions, which range from having 0% to 100% of people poor (see African map, below). It is also disaggregated by rural-urban areas for nearly all countries as well as by age.

How can we better help governments to help citizens? Seeking feedback on best practices in building tax capacity

Jim Brumby's picture

In April, the World Bank Group joined forces with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Co-Operation and Development (OECD), and the United Nations (UN) to form the Platform for Collaboration on Tax with the aim of providing better coordination and support to developing countries on tax matters. Among the responsibilities of this new group are to formalize regular discussions among our organizations on standards for international tax issues, strengthen our capacity-building support, deliver joint guidance, and share information on our ongoing work.
 
To that end, we have produced a short guidance note that we expect to present to the G20 in July: “Report on Effective Capacity Building on Tax Matters in Developing Countries”. In preparing this note, our experts have compiled research, reached into their extensive experience on the ground, and incorporated comments from country-level practitioners at a number of meetings – in Tanzania, South Korea, and Washington, D.C. – that were designed to highlight the developing-country perspective. But we know there is more to learn, and before we finalize this note, we would like to hear from you, whether you are a representative from a civil society organization, a tax official, or a citizen who is interested in how your government sets and collects taxes.
 
Deadline: July 8
Where to send feedback: GlobalTaxPlatform@worldbank.org
Next steps: Keep your eye on this space. While we are setting a short deadline for this particular project, we hope to keep the conversation going, and will engage with you on many of the initiatives we have planned.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

CIVICUS
The 2016 State of Civil Society Report, produced by CIVICUS, provides a comprehensive `year in review’ as well as 33 guest essays focusing on the topic of exclusion. Addressing exclusion is an urgent political issue, which gained renewed emphasis with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. In the past year, civil society responded to profound human rights abuses caused by conflicts and worked to alleviate human suffering in the wake of disasters, yet faces major challenges including dubious attempts to silence dissenting voices. CIVICUS documented serious violations of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly in 109 countries over the course of 2015. In an increasingly unequal world where human rights are being undermined, civil society is challenging exclusion in innovative ways.
 

Leave no city behind
Science Magazine

Close to 4 billion people live in cities. As the driver of environmental challenges, accounting for nearly 70% of the world's carbon emissions, and as sites of critical social disparities, with 863 million dwellers now living in slums, urban settlements are at the heart of global change. This momentum is unlikely to disappear, as approximately 70 million more people will move to cities by the end of this year alone. The good news is that recent multilateral processes are now appreciating this key role of cities and are increasingly prioritizing urban concerns in policy-making. Yet, how can we ensure that these steps toward a global urban governance leave no city, town, or urban dweller behind?

Here’s the evidence that low cost reading programs can have a big impact

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Photo: © Dana Smillie / World Bank


The importance of literacy for economic growth and development is already well established in economic research.  Literacy enables people to access information and improve their productivity.  I believe that literacy is crucial to the diffusion of new technologies, especially among the poor. It produces high economic returns, so much so that early literacy is viewed as a threshold for economic development.


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