Confronting the hardest problems on the planet requires humility to admit that we don’t know many answers when we start and sometimes we don’t even know the right problem to work on. If we address symptoms rather than root causes, we can exacerbate conditions. Penalizing teachers for example for not coming to school may ignore very real issues related to over-crowded classrooms, transport or meager wages for educators. If you start with the wrong problem, you’ll certainly propose the wrong solution.
Author Archives: WorldBankBlogs
TIMBUKTU, Mali – Months after a rebel attack was rebuffed in Mali, the country is striving to stabilize in order to fight poverty and boost shared prosperity. I’m visiting the West African nation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to underline international commitment to the region.
When Cyclone Phailin struck the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh last week, the predictions were dire. In 1999, a cyclone of comparable strength took 10,000 lives. While Phailin affected up to 8 million people, leaving approximately 600,00 homeless, death tolls are currently estimated to be in the low double digits. What made all the difference between 1999 and today?
President Jim Yong Kim outlined his plan for a leaner, more efficient and tightly knit World Bank Group in his opening address at the Annual Meetings — and listed several ways changes would be visible to countries working with the institution. Among them: reducing by a third the amount of time a project takes to get off the ground; gathering feedback from all beneficiaries on development projects; and openly sharing knowledge and experience, including making it easy to see exactly where the Bank is working and what it is doing. “Together, we must urgently lift a billion people from extreme poverty, help them to regain dignity, help them find hope, and help them change their own lives — and the whole world’s future — for the better,” said Kim. The Development Committee discusses the Bank Group’s new strategy on Saturday. An excited crowd greeted Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old whose fight for girls’ education earned her the European Union’s Sakharov prize for freedom of thought and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination this year.
What tools and tactics should development partners use in the global effort to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity? For the World Bank Group, the next frontier will likely include a strong focus on consistent delivery, ensuring that goods and services reach their intended beneficiaries even in the most challenging settings. How might we fix the delivery bottlenecks that contribute to high and rising global inequality? Like in other industries, consistent delivery in development requires equipping leaders on the front lines with the best available knowledge about what works, while also holding them accountable for generating performance data, and then using these data to adapt their approach to local complexities. We have a deep understanding of how to generate evidence about what works from field experiments and randomized control trials, tools inspired by clinical trials in medicine. However, there is far less consensus about how to achieve a readiness to take smart risks, make adjustments, and focus on the details of implementation.
The global economy, climate change, and a new World Bank Group strategy to tackle extreme poverty will be hot topics next week. That’s when nearly 10,000 delegates, journalists and civil society representatives gather at the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. But you don’t have to be in Washington to take in 38 World Bank Group events that will be webcast Oct. 8-12.
The debate over how to ensure good health services for all while assuring affordability is nothing new. However, it has recently acquired new impetus under the guise of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Discussions around UHC are contentious and as Tim Evans recently pointed out, “a lot of the discussion gets stuck on whether financing of the system will be through government revenue, through taxes, or through contributions to insurance.”
The cool thing about working in infrastructure is everyone knows your business. We’ve all paid bills, lost power during storms, and worried about the quality of the water we’re about to drink. We’ve all been on a dead phone line sputtering, “Hello? Hello?” having just confessed, “I love you,” to a disconnected piece of plastic. And if we in the professional world care about these basic services that are so fundamental to our lives, we know their reliable and affordable delivery is even more crucial for the poor. When a long wait for a new phone connection means no link to the outside world, no power means no study, and tainted water means sick children, then utility services are the difference between stagnation and growth, poverty and opportunity. Everyone knows when services work and when they don’t. But infrastructure economists have long struggled to understand why some utilities work well and others don’t.
Aleem Walji, director of the World Bank’s Innovation Labs, recently gave an interview to Forbes and the Skoll World Forum on all things innovation and development. This blog post highlights some of the key points from that interview. When I joined the World Bank at the end of 2009, I was asked how we could more systematically support innovation. We started by building on the Bank’s own “access to information” policy, which was foundational for our Open Data initiative.
The Group of 20 leaders met for an intense 24-hour period over two days, discussing the situation in Syria and the global economy. Watch this video blog to hear what World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim thought shouldn’t be forgotten in these important discussions.
Lamay, Peru — In this Andean town outside Cuzco, I traveled with Peru’s First Lady Nadine Heredia to the San Luis Gonzaga primary school. This school, and many others in the area, have had poor learning outcomes. But I was impressed by the government’s and the school’s commitment to improve, which will be critical in the efforts to reduce inequality and boost shared prosperity in Peru. Watch this video from a second-grade classroom to learn more. Improving learning in Peru will help reduce inequality
LONDON — I’m just back from the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland, and under the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron, we focused on some critical but often overlooked elements on how the world can end extreme poverty in a generation: taxes, trade, and transparency. Watch the video to see why I feel so strongly about this.
In community-driven development (CDD) projects, communities that have been given control over planning decisions and investment resources for development often decide to undertake small-scale infrastructure projects, such as rural roads, small bridges or schools. A project in Benin has demonstrated that schools built by communities can be built faster at lower cost than those built by outside contractors. An assumption behind CDD is that communities with local knowledge of resources and environment are better positioned to figure out the best way to build their own public infrastructure in their interest. Indeed, there is some evidence that community-built infrastructure can be cheaper when compared to infrastructure built by government or outside contractors (for example, Wong (2012) introduces several cases of “CDD’s cost effectiveness as compared to equivalent works built through other government service delivery mechanisms”). However, much of the available evidence comes from a comparison between “community-built infrastructure” and “other-entity built similar infrastructure” constructed at a different time.
“Five years ago, I was no one,” said Kunta Devi to me, sitting up straight against the wall of her one-room mud hut in Bara, a small village in India’s eastern state of Bihar. “Now, people know me by my own name, not just by the name of my children.” I was sitting on the floor, across from Devi, a mother of eight, who belonged to one of the most vulnerable and socially excluded castes in India. She recalled how when her husband got injured and lost his job a few years ago, the family was pushed over the brink — from subsistence to hunger and poverty. At the time, Devi took a bold step for a poor woman used to living in the shadows of society. She joined a women’s self-help group in her village and took a small loan to raise goats.