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December 2016

Taking on 21st Century Development Challenges Together

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Story of IDA: It’s Possible to End Poverty


I recently watched a remarkable work of art take shape. A mural depicting the story of the IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, brings to life the many transformative changes the world has seen since IDA’s founding in 1960. The “green revolution” staved off widespread famine in South Asia in the 1970s. The Montreal Protocol protected the world’s ozone layer. Haiti rebuilt its homes and schools following a devastating earthquake. 

The latest PISA results: Seven key takeaways

Marguerite Clarke's picture
International assessments aren’t perfect but they offer useful insights into how countries can help all students learn to high levels. (Photo: Dominic Chavez / World Bank)


Results for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exercise were released on December 6. The results are instructive, not only because of what they tell us about the science, mathematics, and reading knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds around the world, but also in terms of how they compare to the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results, which were released a week ago (click here to read my blog on key takeaways from the TIMSS results).

Weekly links December 9: A buyers guide to machine learning, M-Pesa and poverty, spurious correlations, and more…

David McKenzie's picture

How countries and communities are taking on gender-based violence

Sweta Shrestha's picture
The stat is appalling: 1 in 3 women worldwide have or will experience intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Although it may take the form of domestic violence, gender-based violence is not merely a personal or family matter. Associated with certain societies' social norms and many other risk factors, such violence leads to severe social and economic consequences that can contribute to ongoing poverty in developing and developed countries alike.

Because violence affects everyone, it takes us all—from individuals to communities, and from cities to countries—to tackle the pandemic of violence against our women and girls.

On Day 15 of the global #16Days campaign, let’s take a look at a few examples of how community groups, civil society organizations, and national governments around the world are making informed efforts to prevent and respond to various forms of gender-based violence.

Join Sri Lanka’s journey to end poverty and promote prosperity

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

A 90 day reflection of the new Country Director of the World Bank
Join Sri Lanka's journey to end poverty and promote prosperity

I take this opportunity to thank all the Sri Lankans that opened their minds and hearts to help me understand the country context and constraints. During my first 90 days in Sri Lanka my colleagues and our clients gave me a warm welcome. I first met our core counterparts in the Government of Sri Lanka when I visited in July 2016. I have since travelled outside of Colombo several times, and I have met with many of our clients, development partners and stakeholders.  I have also had the privilege to meet with our friends from the media, civil society groups, academia and private sector to better understand the current operating environment and discuss solutions to issues of common interest.

Cricket in Sri Lanka is followed with so much passion and enthusiasm. This thrilled me as it is the same in my home country, Zimbabwe. Many things about Sri Lanka and its people and culture bring back fond memories from home.  Sri Lanka to me now is a second home so I am often torn with who to support when Sri Lanka plays Zimbabwe.  It’s even harder to know how to react when Sri Lanka beat Zimbabwe recently.

I recently read an article by Kumar Sangakkara on the Spirit of Cricket.  What an apt article.  It just demonstrated so much what one can do when they find a common thread that they are all passionate about.  Sri Lanka has many lessons to teach and to learn from the game of cricket.

I join my view into that of the article, that all Sri Lankans will need to work together regardless of location, gender, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation and social status. The focus should be on Sri Lanka’s priorities for development and how the Sri Lankan people can work together to win the match of ending poverty and sharing prosperity.

Tackling the vital challenge of financing the world’s water infrastructure needs

Guangzhe CHEN's picture
President of Hungary János Áder (left), President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (middle) and Guangzhe CHEN, Senior Director for World Bank Water Global Practice (left) hosting a press conference at the Budapest Water Summit 2016.

We cannot talk about water and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 without also looking at everything that depends on it: from climate, food and electricity to families, farms and ecosystems. It is thus quite simple, if we don’t get it right on water, then we will not succeed in achieving the other SDGs either.

Water and climate change are also intertwined, with some regions at risk of losing up to 6 percent of GDP by 2050 if the growing challenge of water scarcity is not properly addressed.


So what is standing in between humanity and the SDGs related to water? 

One of the biggest hurdles is the lack of sufficient sources of finance. Financing the SDG sub-targets for water supply and sanitation alone will cost triple historic financing levels - an estimated $114 billion per year between now and 2030. The shortfall for financing irrigation and water resource management sub-targets will likely be as large, if not larger.

It’s not just women that need to support gender equality in the workplace

Ismail Radwan's picture
I was recently awarded the honorary title of “Manbassador” by the Professional Women’s Network (PWN).  PWN is the leading Romanian organization promoting gender equality in the workplace.

In Romania, as in many high-income countries, women have for many years eclipsed men both in terms of numbers of graduates and educational attainment, and yet these advances in education are not matched in the workplace. I hope that all who read this blog will take a moment to think about how they can play a role in supporting women’s empowerment and ending discrimination in the workplace.

Great Gatsby Goes to College

Shwetlena Sabarwal's picture


Nick Carraway, the narrator in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, remembers his father saying, “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone … just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.”

What advantages? For starters, wealth, power, and in today’s developed world - college.

In the U.S., the college wage premium has risen rapidly since 1980 – causing a widening earnings gap between the college and non-college educated. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn over $800,000 more in lifetime income, on average, than those with high school diplomas. In the OECD, the college wage premium averages at 28 percent for male, full-time working employees - ranging from 18 per cent in Sweden to 50 per cent in the Slovak Republic. 

As higher education expanded, college wage premiums were expected to decline. So why are they high and, often, increasing?

The consensus seems to point to increased computerization and automation in labor markets. Technology is expanding the demand for the college educated, at the expense of the non-college educated. This ‘job polarization’ in the labor market, manifests as the growth of high-education/high-wage jobs at the expense of middle-education/middle-wage jobs. This is increasingly visible not just in advanced economies, but also in the developing world. According to the Word Development Report 2016 on Digital Dividends, the share of middle-skilled employment is down in most developing countries for which detailed data are available.

International trade and integration: The latest research

Alejandro Forero's picture

What’s the latest research in international trade and integration? Researchers from the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO recently gathered for a one-day workshop to present their latest research on the topic. The papers presented addressed topical questions in areas as diverse as the links between trade, wage inequality and the poor, global value chains, non-tariff measures, preferential trade agreements, FDI restrictions, and migration. We provide a quick roundup on the papers presented during the workshop.

Unmet Liquidity Needs and the Spread of Sports Betting: Guest post by Sylvan Herskowitz

This is the tenth in our job market paper series this year.
In developing countries, the high costs of credit along with varied impediments to saving, make it challenging for people to raise large sums of liquidity needed for large and indivisible, or “lumpy,” expenditures.  An emerging body of evidence has shown how these constraints push people towards second-best strategies to address their financial needs (Collin et al. 2009 and Banerjee and Duflo 2007).  My job market paper, “Gambling, Saving, and Lumpy Expenditures: Sports Betting in Uganda”, looks at the behaviors of 1,715 bettors in Kampala, Uganda and provides evidence that unmet liquidity needs push people towards sports betting as an unexpected alternative method of liquidity generation.


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