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Technology, infrastructure, governance and anticorruption, human development, subjective wellbeing/happiness
Charles Kenny is a senior fellow and the director of technology and development at the Center for Global Development. His current work focuses on gender and development, the role of technology in development, governance and anticorruption and the post-2015 development agenda. He has published articles, chapters and books on issues including what we know about the causes of economic growth, the link between economic growth and broader development, the causes of improvements in global health, the link between economic growth and happiness, the end of the Malthusian trap, the role of communications technologies in development, the ‘digital divide,’ corruption, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. He is the author of the book "Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding, and How We Can Improve the World Even More" and “The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Great for the West.” He has been a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a regular contributor to Business Week magazine. Kenny was previously at the World Bank, where his assignments included working with the VP for the Middle East and North Africa Region, coordinating work on governance and anticorruption in infrastructure and natural resources, and managing a number of investment and technical assistance projects covering telecommunications and the Internet.
The world of business is still extremely gender-unequal. Across the countries in the World Bank’s enterprise surveys, less than one in five firms are run by a woman, for example. Governments could help fix that problem by using their immense purchasing power (close on $10 trillion a year in procurements) to foster the growth of women-owned enterprises. But at the moment—at least in the US—the government is a laggard rather than a leader when it comes to awarding contracts to women owned business. It’s time for that to change.
The World Development Report for 2017 is on Governance and the Law. The report fits into (and helps address) two linked debates about development and the role of the World Bank: first is the tension between best practices, rankings, and learning across economies with the ideas of going with the grain and problem-driven iterative adaption that have culminated in the President of the World Bank, Jim Kim, suggesting “we will never go back to the bad old days when the World Bank and other organizations told countries what to do. We don’t do that anymore.” Second is a debate over the strategic role of the Bank –building consensus and backing holistic endeavors like the SDGs or being more adversarial and pushing prioritization. Luis-Felipe Lopez-Calva, co-director of the Report will discuss these issues with Michael Klein, former vice president for financial and private sector development at the World Bank and a driving force behind the World Bank’s Doing Business indicators. An open discussion will follow.
Martin Kirk and Jason Hickel published a piece earlier this week on the annual Gates Letter. The core critique is that the letter is too rosy. In particular, Kirk and Hickel say of the Gates' letter: "some of their examples are just wrong." The case they provide in illustration is the idea that poverty has been cut by half since 1990. The Gates "use figures based on a $1.25 a day poverty line, but there is a strong scholarly consensus that this line is far too low." Use other poverty lines, and global poverty "hasn’t been falling. In fact, it has been increasing—dramatically.” (See related pieces by Jason here and here). I don't think this critique holds up.
For all the protestations about equality, there’s evidence to suggest both the International Olympic Committee and FIFA turn a blind eye to evidence of considerable discrimination against women when it comes to the opportunity to compete at the highest levels of sport. They should be ready to back their beautiful words into concrete actions that make a difference, and one tool would be banning countries that grossly discriminate from participating in events.
In 2015, there were 77,470,857 visits to the United States from other countries. These visitors brought tremendous benefit: not only did they each spend an average of $4,400 on US goods and services during their stay, but also they helped US firms engage with foreign markets, raise the quality of students here, and help with the diffusion of knowledge. We should want more of these tourists and businesspeople, and the above suggests a real cost to inaccurate visa screening mechanisms—of which blanket bans are a prime example.
There’s increasing appetite in the US to follow the UK model and launch a review of US spending through international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank. There is a lot to be said for such an exercise—my colleague Todd Moss even carried out a mock version for the US a few years ago which suggested plaudits for Gavi and the African Development Fund alongside brickbats for the ILO and UNESCO. But I think the model has a serious weakness if it is going to be applied as broadly in the US as some proposals, including a draft executive order making the rounds, imply. I’d argue for (preferably) limiting the review to like-to-like comparisons covering aid and development institutions or (at least) using different criteria for judging the many different types of international organizations.
Americans have three choices regarding the low-paying, often hazardous jobs most don’t want: keep foreign labor here, continue to import the needed products, or use robots. To pretend otherwise is doing everyone a disservice.
The eighth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 8) covered a “global partnership for development” in areas including aid, trade, debt relief, drugs, and information and communications technology (ICT). Since the goal was formulated, there has been progress as well as gaps in the areas which were covered.
The Sustainable Development Goals are an ambitious set of targets for global development progress by 2030 that were agreed by the United Nations in 2015. A review of the literature on meeting "zero targets" suggests very high costs compared to available resources, but also that in many cases there remains a considerable gap between financing known technical solutions and achieving the outcomes called for in the SDGs. In some cases, we (even) lack the technical solutions required to achieve the zero targets, suggesting the need for research and development of new approaches.