By Rabah Arezki, Chief Economist for Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank and Lemma W. Senbet, The William E. Mayer Chair Professor of Finance, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and Immediate Past Executive Director/CEO, African Economic Research Consortium
To overcome current challenges and seize the opportunity to leapfrog, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region needs to simultaneously embrace the technological tide transforming the global economy and clean energy development. This transformation calls for a dual transition: (a) decarbonisation of the economy—moving away from the use of fossil fuel as the main source of energy toward renewable energies; and (b) digitalisation— the digital transformation of traditional activities and the advent of new digital activities. To achieve the transition, MENA needs hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in quality projects, including in renewable energy and telecom sectors. MENA should aggressively join the global momentum for the use of clean, renewable energy (e.g., wind, solar, geothermal) to combat climate change. Likewise, it should aggressively develop the digital infrastructure that is also essential for the development of a digitised financial economy.
By Mahmoud Mohieldin, United Nations Special Envoy for the 2030 Agenda, and Benjamin Singer, Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations
This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in terms of capital flows and debt in developing countries
Before the pandemic started, developing countries had been increasing their debt levels since the 2000s. By the end of 2019, 44% of IDA-eligible countries were already considered at high risk of or in debt distress. Debt servicing costs of least developed countries (LDCs) and low-income countries increased twofold from 2000 to 2019 to reach 13% of government revenue. A growing proportion of this debt was privately owned, or commercial.
Then the pandemic hit, sending countless public health systems, many already under pressure, into disarray. Up to 1.6 billion livelihoods – half the world’s workforce – have been lost. Health and unemployment benefit expenditures skyrocketed at the same time as the release of some US$9 trillion worth of stimulus packages.
Back in 2015, the international community committed to a shared global vision towards sustainable development – the 2030 Agenda – including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Goals identify the areas in which resources are most needed. But with the realisation that meeting the Goals by 2030 would require filling an annual financing gap of 2.5 trillion dollars, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) called upon a broader mobilisation of resources, including private ones.
Five years on, progress remains slow and uneven.
Three critical questions emerge from this context: How can we drive more resources towards the Goals? How can we make sure they are going where they are needed most?
And are they being used in the most effective way?
This blog is part of a special series exploring subjects at the core of the Human-Centred Business Model (HCBM). The HCMB seeks to develop an innovative – human-centred – business model
based on a common, holistic and integrated set of economic, social, environmental and ethical rights-based principles. Read more about the HCBM here, and check out an event about it here
The HCBM project originated in 2015 within the World Bank’s Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development and is now based at the OECD’s Development Centre.
For too long, the financial system worked on its own set of principles focused on attracting clients and maximising short-term profits. These principles, growth within a capitalist and closed economy, are no longer suitable in a circular and sharing economy focused on customer needs as well as on environmental, social and governance rules. Today, several forces are pushing towards a new framework oriented to sustainable development, social innovation and human-centred approaches based on these rules.
In this transition environment, the financial system, plays a key role in driving economic growth towards values of sustainability based on promoting, amongst other factors, greater environmental responsibility, climate resilience, low-carbon, human rights, gender equality, social inclusion and sustainable economic growth. The financial system results from a long-term evolution related to global economic growth and founded on macro-economic choices as well as defined legal, technological and government rules. However, nothing is irreversible. So, in this changing context, sustainable finance plays a key role to support the shift from traditional economies based on high-impact and high-carbon industries to clean-energy and low-carbon sustainable industries.
By João Carlos Ferraz, Instituto de Economia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of Development in Transition. The 2019 “Perspectives on Global Development” on “Rethinking Development Strategies” will add to this discussion
Public finance institutions, or development banks, have “development DNA”. But, can they effectively engage in financing “development in transition” or the call to rethink international co-operation to help countries at all levels of income sustain their development gains? What would it take for such institutions to succeed? How can they anticipate and effectively respond to societal and market needs and aspirations?
Political space for this does exist. A consensus exists that development banks must have at least four priorities: infrastructure, innovation, sustainable environment and firms of smaller size. That’s the easy part! No policy maker or analyst in their right mind would be against these priorities. But, consider the nature of these priorities: each one is time- and place-specific but evolving permanently; they are moving targets. More importantly, they are risk-intensive, given the duration and unpredictability of associated projects and/or the potentially low credit worthiness of economic agents pursuing these priorities. Continue reading “What does it take for a Development Bank to succeed?”
African countries trade much more with countries outside the continent than with each other within the continent. According to the United Nations Economic Council for Africa, trade between African countries stands at about 16% of the continent’s total trade, the lowest intra-regional trade globally. Compare this with 19% intra-regional trade in Latin America and 51% in Asia.
Policies to reduce obstacles to intra-African trade have been a priority for African policy makers. After forging ahead with stronger trade integration within existing Regional Economic Communities (RECs), African policy makers took an additional step in 2018 with the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA). Signed now by 44 African countries, the CFTA marks a milestone on the road towards a single continental market for goods and services. Continue reading “Get the plumbing right: Financial integration should support Africa’s trade integration”
By Astrid R.N. Haas, Manager of Cities that Work, International Growth Centre
This blog is part of an ongoing series exploring the intersection between intermediary cities in developing countries and sustainable development
Many African cities are urbanising rapidly. Yet, they are unable to adequately service their growing populations with the necessary infrastructure and amenities due to a lack of finance. Furthermore, retrofitting infrastructure on a city that has already grown is significantly more expensive. Improving local government finance is therefore very high on these cities’ agendas.
Cities can improve their finances in various ways. Perhaps one of the most underutilised yet high potential methods is property tax. Why? Rapid population growth is generally accompanied by a construction boom, increasing the number of properties. Furthermore, if demand for properties rises faster than supply, this will also increase property values. And such values will further benefit once public investments in infrastructure as well as improvements in service delivery are made. All these factors have a positive impact on property tax collection, and thus have the potential to unleash a virtuous cycle for local government revenue. Continue reading “Data: The first step to improving finance in African cities”
By Michael Sheldrick, Vice President of Global Policy and Government Affairs, Global Citizen1
For the second year in a row, the Trump Administration has proposed slashing U.S. development assistance programs by almost a third. Even though strong support on both sides of the U.S. Congress may prevent many – but not all – of these cuts becoming law, it is clear that the best hope for this period may be maintaining current levels of support. As the largest donor country, U.S. leadership on foreign aid is incredibly impactful. For example, based on our experience at Global Citizen, business leaders and policy makers announced 390 collective commitments in response to campaigns we either led or supported between 2012 and 2017. These commitments totaled more than USD 35 billion with nearly half of that, USD 15 billion, coming from just 5 countries, including the United States. And of the total number of new commitments, the United States makes up a nearly a quarter. In fact, the United States has been one of the largest contributors to many of the causes we champion, be it polio eradication, water and sanitation, or food aid. Continue reading “Who will end global poverty?”
By Alain de Janvry and Elisabeth Sadoulet, Professors at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellows at the FERDI
At the FERDI-IDDRI conference on “Development, Climate and Security” held in Paris on January 15, 2018, Barbara Buchner from the Climate Policy Initiative reported on the state of global climate finance flows for mitigation and adaptation. She made two points. First, finance is under-invested to combat climate change if the COP21 target in temperature increase is to be met. Second, private investment’s role in complementing public investment in climate finance is large, with an estimated 2/3 private for 1/3 public in current total contributions. This stresses the fundamental part private investment can play in meeting the COP21 objectives, particularly at a time when governments face multiple demands on public expenditures.
With public investment targeted to induce private investment, this raises the issue of public investment’s effect as a private investment multiplier. A useful way of thinking about the under-investment issue is consequently how to target public investment to maximise the public-private investment multiplier.
Since its inception in 2001, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has become a highly respected pooled financing institution that scores top marks in independent reviews.1, 2
It has disbursed some USD 40 billion in grants for complex disease control and treatment programmes in fragile and non-fragile countries alike.
Success was far from assured in 2001, as developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, faced a perfect storm of surging HIV/AIDS, multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and surging malaria deaths. Control and treatment interventions were available in high-income countries, but no one knew how to tackle the diseases in resource-poor settings. In particular, HIV/AIDS treatment was deemed impossible in Africa and was outside recommended approaches for tackling the disease.3
The Global Fund was designed precisely to tackle the lack of quality programmes and implementation mechanisms in developing countries. All too often, however, it is seen as just another funding mechanism. Many reviews lump it together with other multilateral mechanisms and trust funds.4
This is a mistake. The Global Fund has unique design principles that set it apart from bi- and multilateral financing mechanisms with the notable exception of Gavi.5