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January 2017

Access to quality information is crucial to tackle Peru’s environmental problems

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture

 Franz Mahr / World BamkBy the early 2000s, Peru faced serious environmental problems. Air pollution in urban areas was so severe that it caused thousands of premature deaths every year. In fact, air quality in Lima was worse than in other large Latin American cities, such as Mexico City or Sao Paulo. Other environmental challenges that damaged people’s health included air pollution inside homes caused by the use of wood for cooking; insufficient access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; and exposure to lead, a highly toxic chemical. Together, these environmental problems caused 12 million cases of illnesses annually, dramatically affecting young children, the elderly, and poor people who couldn’t afford medical care. The World Bank estimated that these negative impacts had an economic cost equivalent to 2.8% of Peru’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2003.
 
One of the main reasons the Peruvian government wasn’t able to respond promptly to these serious environmental problems was the country didn’t have governmental organizations with a clear responsibility for environmental protection. Another important reason was the absence of a system of reliable environmental information to support the government’s decision-making process. For example, there was little awareness about the seriousness of air pollution, largely because most cities didn’t have a functional air quality monitoring network. Even in the few cities that did, the information was not widely disseminated. In the absence of such information, it was difficult to identify which environmental problems were most severe, and to develop actions and assign resources to solve them. In addition, lack of information limited the opportunities for the public—including the poor families and other vulnerable groups that suffered the most from pollution —to discuss their environmental concerns and agree on solutions with government officials.

Rethinking governance for more effective policymaking

WDR Team's picture

We’ve all had those hallway conversations or coffee meetings or been privy to overhearing those chats… the ones where we have quick exchanges on why so many ‘best practice’ polices – such as those designed to reduce teacher absenteeism-- continually fail on implementation. Or why policies such as energy subsidies are so difficult to get rid of when they are universally recognized as regressive and encouraging inefficient energy use.

That’s where today’s launch of the 2017 World Development Report (WDR) on Governance and the Law led comes into play. The new report, co-directed by Luis-Felipe Lopez-Calva and Yongmei Zhou, starts by acknowledging that all countries share a similar set of development goals: to minimize the threat of violence, to promote growth, and to improve equity. But too often, carefully designed, sensible policies to achieve these objectives are not adopted or implemented—and when they are, they too often fall short of achieving their goals. The report argues that the development community needs to move beyond asking “what is the right policy?” and instead ask “what makes policies effective in achieving desired outcomes?” As this WDR suggests, the answer has to do with governance—that is, the process through which state and non-state actors interact to adopt and implement those policies.

Financial constraints and export market participation in the Arab Republic of Egypt

Youssouf Kiendrebeogo's picture

Geographical location, important seaports, and airports are factors facilitating international trade in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The country’s natural access to sea routes through the Mediterranean and Red Seas offers considerable potential for increasing export participation. As a result, Egypt outperforms the average score of the Logistic Performance Index (LPI) of the developing world (Figure 1).[1]

Figure 1: Overall Logistic Performance Index in 2012 (1=low to 5=high)

Logistic Performance Index (LPI) of the developing world

Water, the economy, and development: New insights on a complex challenge

Scott Michael Moore's picture
Photo: Asian Development Bank via Flickr Creative Commons

In the World Bank Water Practice, we often talk about how issues like flooding and droughts threaten our mission to end poverty and boost shared prosperity. But how much do we actually know about how these floods and droughts - "water shocks" - impact farmers, firms, and communities? Perhaps adaptation in the economy has limited such impacts. Or maybe policies have led to economies being more vulnerable to such shocks.

To explore these questions, we recently gathered with leading researchers and policymakers in Oxford, UK, and concluded that while preliminary findings indicate water shocks definitely represent a major challenge to sustainable development in surprising and unexpected ways, there’s still much more we can do to strengthen the evidentiary basis for development policy.

Blog post of the month: Generating political will and public will for positive social change

Lori Ann Post's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For January 2017, the featured blog post is "Generating political will and public will for positive social change" by Lori Ann Post, Amber N. W. Raile, and Eric D. Raile. 

Dr. Amber N.W. Raile, Dr. Eric D. Raile and Dr. Lori Ann Post present Guide to Generating Political Will and Public Will – PPW Toolkit.   

Dealing effectively with social problems requires collective action and coordinated commitment. Those persons most affected by social problems typically constitute weak or powerless constituencies that lack real representation in the halls of power. Consequently, coalitions of stakeholders must make firm commitments if conditions are to improve for the disenfranchised. Helping these immobilized and resource-deprived groups often entails short-run tradeoffs and sacrifices for others in a society, even when social interdependence dictates that sustainable long-run solutions are ‘win-win’ for most or all. Without strong mutual accountability mechanisms, stepping back from the social and policy changes necessary to address these complex issues is simply too easy and too tempting.

Long-term, effective change in complex issue areas typically happens only if the government and key public stakeholders are pushing in the same direction. Political action to address social problems and their deleterious outcomes is not enough to effect large-scale change if opposed or undermined by the public. Efforts originating with the government often coincide with laws that demand change, but not all citizens feel compelled to obey. Similarly, social change efforts driven by nongovernmental entities will flounder if government opposes or refuses to reinforce the change. To achieve success in the fight against adverse outcomes of social problems, the government and large segments of the public must be willing to recognize the problem, understand the problem in a similar way, and agree on solutions.

Resuming PPPs in Sri Lanka – now or never?

Amali Rajapaksa's picture



Sri Lanka has, over the past decade, relied primarily on public funds for most of its infrastructure needs that have come by way of borrowing on concessional and non-concessional terms with limited attempts being made to develop infrastructure with the use of private funds. However, the infrastructure gap continues to widen with the growing limitations in borrowing capacity, and the government is under pressure to deliver infrastructure adhering to practices of good governance and transparency.

The recent budget shed light on several areas where the government could engage the private sector through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Could this bring about accelerated development in infrastructure that the limited amount of public finance alone would not be able to handle?

Advancing global mental health action: lessons from Canada

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

Also available in: Español

A portrait of Miliett Kangar at JFK Medical Center and E.S. Grant Mental Health Hospital in
Monrovia, Liberia on March 07, 2016.  (Miliett did not want to show her face in the picture)
Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

In 2016, a lot of effort was placed on shining the light on mental health as a neglected issue in the global health and development agendas.  The flagship event organized by the World Bank Group (WBG) and the World Health Organization (WHO) during the Spring Meetings of the WBG/IMF held in Washington D.C. was an important step to galvanize attention and commitment to change this situation.

Do Cash Transfers Have Sustained Effects on Human Capital Accumulation?

Berk Ozler's picture

Cash transfers are great – lots of people are telling you that on a continuous basis. However, it is an open question as to whether such programs can improve the wellbeing of their beneficiaries well after the cessation of support. As cash transfer programs continue to grow as major vehicles for social protection, it is increasingly important to understand if these programs break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, or whether the benefits simply evaporate when the money runs out…

Is this time really different? Will Automation kill off development?

Duncan Green's picture

Is this time really different? That’s the argument whenever people want to ignore the lessons of history (eg arguing that this particular financial bubble/commodity boom will never burst) and such claims usually merit a bucketload of scepticism. On the other hand (climate change, nuclear war) sometimes things really are different from everything that has gone before.

Which brings us to technology. Lots of musings are circulating about the rise of Artificial Intelligence, automation etc. Driverless cars will put millions of drivers out of work. Robots will kill off manufacturing jobs. Everything will change.

At the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab talks of ‘the fourth industrial revolution’. The bible is the Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies,  a 2014 book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Even President Obama has caught the bug, in a recent profile in the New Yorker

‘At some point, when the problem is not just Uber but driverless Uber, when radiologists are losing their jobs to A.I., then we’re going to have to figure out how do we maintain a cohesive society and a cohesive democracy in which productivity and wealth generation are not automatically linked to how many hours you put in, where the links between production and distribution are broken.’

Which all raises a whole series of questions – is it true? If so, is that a Good/Bad Thing and for whom? Much too substantial for a blog post, but here are a few thoughts and links.

11 charts from the 2017 World Development Report on Governance & the Law

Tariq Khokhar's picture

What makes government policies work in real life for the benefit of citizens? The answer put forward by World Development Report (WDR) 2017 is better governance – the ways in which governments and citizens work together to design and implement policies.

The report is a detailed exploration of a complex topic. I won’t be able to do it justice in a short blog – I’d encourage you to download the report and summary here.

What I will do though, is pull out a few of the charts and ideas I found most striking while reading through it – have a look below and let us know what you think.

Constitutions have proliferated since the late 18th century

Constitutions – fundamental principles or laws governing countries – have proliferated since the late 18th century. The growing numbers, especially since the 1940s, correspond to the postcolonial increase in the number of independent states, and more recently the breakup of the Soviet Union.

… but they are often replaced or amended

The WDR finds that the effectiveness of constitutions in constraining power through rules is mixed – the average lifespan of a constitution is 19 years, and in Latin America and eastern Europe it is a mere eight years.


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