It is always good to have a quick look at the curtain raisers for the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings. They give a sense of where the IFIs are going. This year, they come out right after a joint WTO-IMF-World Bank expression of support for open trade and international cooperation. IMF Christine Lagarde’s “Building a more resilient and inclusive economy” brings some good news about the health of the global economy including in low income countries helped by a much awaited rise of commodity prices. She zooms in on equitable growth arguing that technology has increased income gaps and will slow employment growth in emerging and low income countries. She points to governments’ responsibility to provide lifelong learning (from ECD to online senior course) and to maintain intergenerational equity in ageing societies. World Bank Jim Kim focuses on “Rethinking development finance” which is about using billions of public money to leverage trillions of private finance. What is worth keeping an eye on, here, is the new IDA $2.5 billion private window that came out of the last replenishment round concluded last December. Note the focus on fragile contexts which could shake up operations on the ground. And note the push to change the organization’s culture and incentivize staff to work at facilitating investments rather than designing loans: the Bank is “putting in place a tracking system that captures indirect forms of mobilization, and figuring out how to reward staff who focus on advisory programs, building markets, and creating the environment for investment”. Heads up!
Tom Jackson writes about technology in Africa. His March round-up helps us keep up with the fast financial services transformation in Kenya. Safaricom-supported M-Pesa, the super successful mobile money transactions system born in Kenya a decade ago, has since spread to India, Afghanistan and Romania. But Kenyan banks who originally tried (and failed) to regulate M-Pesa out of their industry just launched a competitor product, PesaLink, cutting transaction costs, allowing real-time inter-bank transfers, and attracting 2 million customers in two months. Safaricom responded by launching an M-Pesa App, and halving its fee. And it is now possible for Kenyans to buy government treasury bonds through their phones.
My graph this week is from Ana Moraru’s “Ghost village project” that uses monthly data of household power consumption to map population density and identify patterns of rural-urban migration in Moldova. Moraru works with the UNDP-sponsored Moldova Social Innovation Hub and tells us that this project is meant to inform a major 2018 administrative reform and associated local investments in public services in a context where internal migration is only documented by low frequency census data.
My quote this week is from Kevin Watkins’ interview with Sarah Brown in her Better Angels series “[The SDG agenda] ought to appeal to anyone who is driven by values and by a sense of solidarity, compassion and empathy. We need hard skills that are harnessed to good values. We need economists, people who understand finance, people who understand the law. Because these are great instruments for achieving change.” [30’]
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