global_prosperity_wonkcast
International development experts share their views about ways wealthy countries can promote prosperity in developing countries.

TPP? TTIP? In the world of trade negotiations, there is no shortage of acronyms. And who better to break them down for us than Harsha Singh, former deputy director general at the World Trade Organization? Harsha recently visited CGD to join Kim Elliott in leading a roundtable to discuss with other trade experts the implications of these proposed mega-regional trading blocs for developing countries. After the roundtable, I invited Harsha to join me on the Wonkcast to explain the development implications of these trade deals to interested non-experts, with a particular focus on the impacts of smaller, poorer countries who are unlikely to be included.

Proposals for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would include the US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Japan; and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is proposed to include the US and EU, arose in part out of frustration with the World Trade Organization's Doha Round, Harsha explains. 

The TPP and TTIP aim to enhance trade and investment among members, but they could also pose huge challenges for small, poor countries that find themselves excluded, he says. One of the primary concerns “is the diversion of markets away from their products to those who get preferential treatment as members of these mega-regionals.” Harsha says that while most of the focus has been on tariff preference erosion, nontariff barriers to market access may pose a much more serious problem. 

“The important thing is not just meeting the standards, but also the system which is used to determine that the standard actually is consistent with what is being demanded," Harsha explains. "That system can often be exclusionary.”

For more on these issues, read Kim Elliott's account of the roundtable discussion and listen to the Wonkcast. Among the topics we tackle: the impact of the mega-regional trade deals on the big emerging market economies, Brazil, China, and India, and the global value chain for an iconic 21st century product: the iPhone.

My thanks to Kristin Sadler for a first draft of this blog post and to Kristina Wilson for recording and editing the Wonkcast. 

Direct download: Harsha_Singh_6.30_edit2_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:39 PM

TPP? TTIP? In the world of trade negotiations, there is no shortage of acronyms. And who better to break them down for us than Harsha Singh, former deputy director general at the World Trade Organization? Harsha recently visited CGD to join Kim Elliott in leading a roundtable to discuss with other trade experts the implications of these proposed mega-regional trading blocs for developing countries. After the roundtable, I invited Harsha to join me on the Wonkcast to explain the development implications of these trade deals to interested non-experts, with a particular focus on the impacts of smaller, poorer countries who are unlikely to be included.

Proposals for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) arose in part out of frustration with the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round, Harsha explains. (The TPP is proposed to include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Japan; TTIP would include the United States and the EU.)

The TPP and TTIP aim to enhance trade and investment among members, but they could also pose huge challenges for small, poor countries that find themselves excluded, he says. One of the primary concerns “is the diversion of markets away from their products to those who get preferential treatment as members of these mega-regionals.” Harsha says that while most of the focus has been on tariff preference erosion, nontariff barriers to market access may pose a much more serious problem. 

“The important thing is not just meeting the standards, but also the system which is used to determine that the standard actually is consistent with what is being demanded," Harsha explains. "That system can often be exclusionary.”

For more on these issues, read Kim Elliott's account of the roundtable discussion and listen to the Wonkcast. Among the topics we tackle: the impact of the mega-regional trade deals on the big emerging market economies, Brazil, China, and India, and the global value chain for an iconic 21st century product: the iPhone.

My thanks to Kristin Sadler for a first draft of this blog post and to Kristina Wilson for recording and editing the Wonkcast. 

Category: -- posted at: 6:22 PM

Is the revolution upon us? When it comes to data, the development world seems to be saying yes, Yes, YES! To look beyond the hype, I invited Amanda Glassman, a CGD senior fellow and director of our global health policy program, to join me on the show to discuss a new report from the Data for African Development working group that looks at Africa’s statistical capacity, warts and all. It turns out that the revolution may not be all it’s cranked up to be, and that well-intentioned outsiders—donors especially—are too often part of the problem.

A partnership with the  African Population and Health Research Center in Nairobi, the working group found that in Africa such statistical fundamentals as taxes and trade, births and deaths, and growth and poverty are frequently outdated, inaccurate or simply unavailable.  How badly out of whack? In recent months Ghana and Nigeria have recalculated the size of their economies and come up with GDP estimates that are more than two-thirds larger.

I ask Amanda if big data is going to solve these problems. Is there hope that Africa will simply be swept up in a big data tsunami?

Amanda has her doubts. In much of Africa, she says, statistical capacity is at such a standstill: it has remained unchanged for the last ten years according to the index of statistical capacity published by the World Bank.

“Certainly big data and new technologies are very exciting, and offer some really interesting opportunities to collect new data… On the other hand, if countries don’t have a national statistical system in place that to just produce the basics, they will be missing opportunities to harness these new capabilities and the opportunities to use big data.”

Why the lack of progress? Amanda says there’s plenty of blame to go around (she calls it “collective guilt”), specifically a mis-match between the priorities of African governments and the donors. Governments need sub-national data to help guide budgetary and policy decisions, she explains, while external donors often want national-level data to make allocation decisions across countries.

How to resolve this tension? The working group proposes a data compact that would be initiated by an African president or minister of finance and draw upon the support of interested external funders. The compact would be a means for all interested parties to agree upon a phased set of actions to address data problems, and a method for tracking progress. The compact could even take the form of a pay-for-performance endeavor (see CGD’s Cash-on-Delivery Aid proposal for one such example).

“The idea would be to say ‘we’re going prioritize some aspect of the building blocks (such as data on births and deaths) that we have not achieved in our country,’” Amanda explains. Compact participants would agree on measures of progress in the accuracy, timeliness and openness of that data. A big, high-level political commitment could be useful in mobilizing the necessary funding from a combination of donors and governments, she says.

We close our conversation with a look toward the post-2015 development framework. Will the working group’s findings and recommendations become a part of that ongoing debate? Absolutely, Amanda replies. “We’ll do our very best to let it be known that this would be a good idea. Certainly were engaged in the process and talking to all the different people who are involved.”

To learn more about the working group’s findings and recommendations, listen to the Wonkcast, see Amanda’s blog post, or read the report

Category: -- posted at: 1:14 PM

Is the revolution upon us? When it comes to data, the development world seems to be saying yes, Yes, YES! To look beyond the hype, I invited Amanda Glassman, a CGD senior fellow and director of our global health policy program, to join me on the show to discuss a new report from the Data for African Development working group that looks at Africa’s statistical capacity, warts and all. It turns out that the revolution may not be all it’s cranked up to be, and that well-intentioned outsiders—donors especially—are too often part of the problem.

 A partnership with the  African Population and Health Research Center in Nairobi, the working group found that in Africa such statistical fundamentals as taxes and trade, births and deaths, and growth and poverty are frequently outdated, inaccurate or simply unavailable.  How badly out of whack? In recent months Ghana and Nigeria have recalculated the size of their economies and come up with GDP estimates that are more than two-thirds larger.

 I ask Amanda if big data is going to solve these problems. Is there hope that Africa will simply be swept up in a big data tsunami?

 Amanda has her doubts. In much of Africa, she says, statistical capacity is at such a standstill: it has remained unchanged for the last ten years according to the index of statistical capacity published by the World Bank.

 “Certainly big data and new technologies are very exciting, and offer some really interesting opportunities to collect new data… On the other hand, if countries don’t have a national statistical system in place that to just produce the basics, they will be missing opportunities to harness these new capabilities and the opportunities to use big data.”

 

 Why the lack of progress? Amanda says there’s plenty of blame to go around (she calls it “collective guilt”), specifically a mis-match between the priorities of African governments and the donors. Governments need sub-national data to help guide budgetary and policy decisions, she explains, while external donors often want national-level data to make allocation decisions across countries.

 How to resolve this tension? The working group proposes a data compact that would be initiated by an African president or minister of finance and draw upon the support of interested external funders. The compact would be a means for all interested parties to agree upon a phased set of actions to address data problems, and a method for tracking progress. The compact could even take the form of a pay-for-performance endeavor (see CGD’s Cash-on-Delivery Aid proposal for one such example).

 “The idea would be to say ‘we’re going prioritize some aspect of the building blocks (such as data on births and deaths) that we have not achieved in our country,’” Amanda explains. Compact participants would agree on measures of progress in the accuracy, timeliness and openness of that data. A big, high-level political commitment could be useful in mobilizing the necessary funding from a combination of donors and governments, she says.

 We close our conversation with a look toward the post-2015 development framework. Will the working group’s findings and recommendations become a part of that ongoing debate? Absolutely, Amanda replies. “We’ll do our very best to let it be known that this would be a good idea. Certainly were engaged in the process and talking to all the different people who are involved.”

 

 To learn more about the working group’s findings and recommendations, listen to the Wonkcast, see Ananda’s blog post, or read the report

 

Direct download: amanda_620.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:02 PM

If data wants to be free, then PovcalNet, the world’s leading dataset on global poverty, is happier today because it was recently made available for download in bulk by my guests on this week’s Wonkcast, CGD research fellow Justin Sandefur and research assistant Sarah Dykstra. Scraping the data was no easy task: it required devising code that queried the database for one answer at a time, 23 million times, over nine weeks, then reassembling the 8 million resulting data points answers into a single dataset.  They then posted the dataset and a related paper online for the use of researchers around the world.

Justin and Sarah tell me that they were motivated to scrape the PovcalNet website in part because they needed the full dataset for their own research, and in part because they knew other researchers had a similar need. Lacking the full dataset, they and others previously had no option but to spend hours pointing and clicking, one number at a time, to get the specific information they needed. (The code needed to run the queries was beyond what we could manage here at CGD, so the pair turned to Sarah’s brother, independent programmer Benjamin Dykstra.)

Since individual data points were already online—albeit not in a readily accessible format—the project involved no “hacking.” I ask whether they tried first just asking the World Bank for the dataset. Justin explains that, "...the underlying raw data isn’t even available to many researchers within the Bank.”

I say that this surprises me, especially given the Bank’s open data policy.

“There’s a lively internal debate in the World Bank about whether or not this data should be public,” Justin tells me. “But not all data that the World Bank has are covered by the open data policy…it was pointed out to us that PovcalNet is not.”

The value of having the full dataset publicly available became evident soon after, when the International  Comparison Project (ICP) released new Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) numbers—something that only happens every five to six years. Combining the scraped PovcalNet data with the newly updated PPP numbers, Justin and Sarah produced a startling new estimate: it seems that global poverty had fallen by half. Their blog post announcing this finding set off a fiery debate in the comments field, starting with comments from CGD non-resident fellow Martin Ravallion, who in a long career at the World Bank earned a reputation as one of the world’s leading experts on poverty measurement.  These comments in turn led to revisions in the blog post.

Justin says that the entire process illustrates the importance of making research data publicly available. 

“We’re living in a new era where there are a lot of people participating in this analysis and this conversation, and a million eyeballs can find lots of mistakes.” Justin says. “So let’s put all the data and the code in the public domain and open up that conversation.”

So, what exactly was the World Bank’s response to their efforts and the resulting new poverty estimates?

“Annoyance is probably the right word,” Justin says. “The stance of the research department now seems to be, reading between the lines, that ‘we don’t really trust these [new PPP] numbers, and we’ll reserve judgment on whether we should use them yet.’”

It’s an exciting story, with some unexpected twists and turns. To hear it, and learn what Justin and Sarah have planned next, tune in to the full Wonkcast. 

Category: -- posted at: 8:53 PM

If data wants to be free, then PovcalNet, the world’s leading dataset on global poverty, is happier today because it was recently made available for download in bulk by my guests on this week’s Wonkcast CGD research fellow Justin Sandefur and research assistant Sarah DykstraScraping the data was no easy task: it required devising code that queried the database for one answer at a time, 23 million times, over nine weeks, then reassembling the 8 million resulting data points answers into a single dataset.  They then posted the dataset  and a related paper online for the use of researchers around the world.

Justin and Sarah tell me that were motivated to scrape the PovcalNet website in part because they needed the full dataset for their own research, and in part because they knew other researchers had a similar need. Lacking the full dataset, they and others previously had no option but to spend hours pointing and clicking, one number at a time, to get the specific information they needed. (The code needed to run the queries was beyond what we could manage here at CGD, so the pair turned to Sarah’s brother, independent programmer Benjamin Dykstra.)

Since individual data points were already online—albeit not in a readily accessible format—the project involved no “hacking.” I ask whether they tried first just asking the World Bank for the dataset. Justin explains that: "...the underlying raw data isn’t even available to many researchers within the Bank.”

I say that this surprises me, especially given the Bank’s open data policy.

“There’s a lively internal debate in the World Bank about whether or not this data should be public,” Justin tells me. “But not all data that the World Bank has are covered by the open data policy…it was pointed out to us that PovcalNet is not.”

The value of having the full dataset publicly available became evident soon after, when the International  Comparison Project (ICP) released new Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) numbers—something that only happens every five to six years. Combining the scraped PovcalNet data with the newly updated PPP numbers, Justin and Sarah produced a startling new estimate: it seems that global poverty had fallen by half. Their blog post announcing this finding set of a fiery debate in the comments field, starting with comments from CGD non-resident fellow Martin Ravallion, who in a long career at the World Bank earned a reputation as one of the world’s leading experts on poverty measurement.  These comments in turn led to revisions in the blog post.

Justin says that the entire process illustrates the importance of making research data publicly available. 

“We’re living in a new era where there are a lot of people participating in this analysis and this conversation, and a million eyeballs can find lots of mistakes.” Justin says. “So let’s put all the data and the code in the public domain and open up that conversation.”

So, what exactly was the World Bank’s response to their efforts and the resulting new poverty estimates?

“Annoyance is probably the right word,” Justin says. “The stance of the research department now seems to be, reading between the lines, that ‘we don’t really trust these [new PPP] numbers, and we’ll reserve judgment on whether we should use them yet.’”

It’s an exciting story, with some unexpected twists and turns. To hear it, and learn what Justin and Sarah have planned next, tune in to the full Wonkcast.

 

 

Direct download: justin_sarah_final3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:09 PM

My guest on this Wonkcast is CGD senior fellow Liliana Rojas Suarez, who serves as chair of the Latin American Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee (CLAAF). CLAAF is comprised of financial economists and former senior financial officials from the region who meet twice a year to study a current policy issue. They then issue a statement offering advice to policymakers in the region and others interested in Latin American financial regulatory issues—or just in the region’s overall economic health.

At their recent meeting here at CGD, CLAAF members considered the question: How would a Chinese Slowdown Affect Latin America? Liliana summarizes their conclusions—and recommendations for Latin American policy makers—in a blog post available here in english and en espanol.

Prefer to get your Latin American financial regulatory advice on the run, or perhaps while working out on the Stairmaster or stationary bicycle? We cover it all, and more, in this 22 minute Global Prosperity Wonkcast. Listen now, or download it for future listening.

Category: -- posted at: 6:29 PM

My Guest on this Wonkcast is CGD senior fellow Liliana Rojas-Suarez, who serves as chair of the Latin American Financial Regulatory Committee (CLAAF). At thei recent meeting here at CGD, CLAAF members considered the question: How would a Chinese slowdown affect Latin America?

Direct download: CLAAF-Liliana.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:47 PM

Spatially explicit econometric studies… say that five times fast.

My guests on this week’s Wonkcast are CGD’s Jonah Busch and Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon, who have conducted a meta-analysis of 117 such studies to discover what drives deforestation—and what actions slow or prevent it.

Their ambitious study, the first to use this approach on such a large scale, covers two-thirds of the world’s tropical forests. For those who want to cut to the chase, this CGD brief offers a succinct summary of the findings.

In the Wonkcast we discuss why a development-oriented think tank like CGD is tackling deforestation: because intact forests provide many benefits to poor people, and because deforestation is an important driver of climate change, which in turn undermines development efforts. We then unpack the study’s main findings.

Kalifi, who did most of the number crunching, explains the criteria for selecting the 117 studies included in the meta analysis, and how she and Jonah then distilled the many factors that may drive or slow deforestation into 40 variables.

The big take-aways:

“Keeping roads out of an area, making sure that road networks are planned in a way that connects people, gets them to market but doesn't open up new frontier areas of remote forests” helps to protect the forest,”  Jonah tells me.

Similarly, designating protected areas has frequently been effective. While many of these are in remote or especially scenic areas, Jonah says the meta-analysis showing that they have been effective suggests that designating more protected areas in places that are subject to deforestation pressures holds promise.

Among the surprises: strengthening land tenure and community forest management projects—two popular approaches to slow deforestation—were not proven on balance to be effective.  

“I was expecting to see that community forest management lined up with less deforestation,” Jonah says. “If this were the case it would be a nice win-win for local economic development and forest protection…But while there were slightly more cases where community forest management was associated with less deforestation rather than more deforestation, it wasn't a statistically significant difference.”

In contrast, he says, payment for ecological services, for example, by paying a community to protect a forest watershed, tended to work, although the approach is comparatively recent so there are relatively few studies of such efforts.

We end the Wonkcast with a discussion of the links between the findings of the new meta-analysis and REDD+, the global effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

For more on REDD+, see the CGD initiative Tropical Forests for Climate and Development, of which Kalifi and Jonah’s new meta-analysis is an important contribution.  

Category: -- posted at: 10:27 PM

Spatially explicit econometric studies… say that five times fast.

 My guests on this week’s Wonkcast are CGD’s Jonah Busch and Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon, who have conducted a meta-analysis of 117 such studies to discover what drives deforestation—and what actions slow or prevent it.

 

 Their ambitious study, the first to use this approach on such a large scale, covers two-thirds of the world’s tropical forests. For those who want to cut to the chase, the CGD brief offers a succinct summary of the findings.

 

 In the Wonkcast we discuss why a development-oriented think tank like CGD is tackling deforestation: because intact forests provide many benefits to poor people, and because deforestation is an important driver of climate change, which in turn undermines development efforts. We then unpack the study’s main findings.

 

 Kalifi, who did most of the number crunching, explains the criteria for selecting the 117 studies included in the meta analysis, and how she and Jonah then distilled the many factors that may drive or slow deforestation into 40 variables.

 

 The big take-aways:

 

 “Keeping roads out of an area, making sure that road networks are planned in a way that connects people, gets them to market but doesn't open up new frontier areas of remote forests” helps to protect the forest,”  Jonah tells me.

 

 Similarly, designating protected areas has frequently been effective. While many of these are in remote or especially scenic areas, Jonah says the meta-analysis showing that they have been effective suggests that designating more protected areas in places that are subject to deforestation pressures holds promise.

 

 Among the surprises: strengthening land tenure and community forest management projects—two popular approaches to slow deforestation—were not proven on balance to be effective.  

 

 “I was expecting to see that community forest management lined up with less deforestation,” Jonah says. “If this were the case it would be a nice win-win for local economic development and forest protection…But while there were slightly more cases where community forest management was associated with less deforestation rather than more deforestation, it wasn't a statistically significant difference.”

 

 In contrast, he says, payment for ecosystem services, for example, by paying a community to protect a forest watershed, tended to work, although the approach is comparatively recent so there are relatively few studies of such efforts.

 

 We end the Wonkcast with a discussion of the links between the findings of the new meta-analysis and REDD+, the global effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

 

 For more on REDD+, see the CGD initiative Tropical Forests for Climate and Development, of which Kalifi and Jonah’s new meta-analysis is an important contribution. 

 

 

 

Direct download: jonah_kalififinal.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:19 PM