Journal Issue: World Bank Economic Review, Volume 28, Issue 1

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The Impact of Financial Literacy Training for Migrants
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2014-01-23) Gibson, John ; McKenzie, David ; Zia, Bilal
Remittances are a major source of external financing for many developing countries, but the cost of sending them remains high in many migration corridors. Despite efforts to lower these costs by offering new products and developing cost-comparison information sources, many new and promising inexpensive remittance methods have relatively low adoption rates. The lack of financial literacy among migrants has been identified as one potentially important barrier to competition and new product adoption. This paper presents the results of a randomized experiment designed to measure the impact of providing financial literacy training to migrants. Training appears to increase financial knowledge and information-seeking behavior and reduces the risk of switching to costlier remittance products, but it does not result in significant changes in the frequency of remitting or in the remitted amount.
How Can Safety Nets Contribute to Economic Growth?
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2014-01-23) Alderman, Harold ; Yemtsov, Ruslan
The paper provides an up-to date and selective review of the literature on how social safety nets contribute to growth. The evidence is carefully chosen to show how safety nets have the potential to overcome constraints on growth linked to market failures, and is organized into four distinct pathways: i) encouraging asset accumulation by changing incentives and by addressing imperfections in financial markets caused by constraints in obtaining credit, and from information asymmetries; overcoming such failures helps households to invest into their human capital or productive assets; ii) failures in insurance markets especially in low income setting; safety nets are assisting in managing risk both ex post and ex ante; iii) safety nets are overcoming failure to create assets and other local economy complementary factors to household-level investments; iv) safety nets are shown to relax political constraints on policy. Safety nets have a dual objective of directly alleviating poverty through transfers to the poor and of triggering higher growth for the poor. However, the trade-off between the dual objectives of equity and growth is not eliminated by the potential for productive safety nets; this remains critical for designing social policies.
Food Security and Storage in the Middle East and North Africa
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2014-01-23) Larson, Donald F. ; Lampietti, Julian ; Gouel, Christophe ; Cafiero, Carlo ; Roberts, John
In times of highly volatile commodity markets, governments often try to protect their populations from rapidly rising food prices, which can be particularly harmful for the poor. A potential solution for food-deficit countries is to hold strategic reserves that can be called on when international prices spike. But how large should strategic stockpiles be, and what rules should govern their release? In this paper, we develop a dynamic competitive storage model for wheat in the Middle East and North Africa region, where imported wheat is the most significant component of the average diet. We analyze a strategy that sets aside wheat stockpiles, which can be used to keep domestic prices below a targeted price. Our analysis shows that if the target price is set high and reserves are adequate, the strategy can be effective and robust. Contrary to most interventions, strategic storage policies are counter-cyclical, and when the importing region is sufficiently large, a regional policy can smooth global prices. Simulations indicate that this is the case for the Middle East and North Africa region. Nevertheless, the policy is more costly than a procyclical policy similar to food stamps that uses targeted transfers to directly offset high prices with a subsidy.
Political Reforms and Public Policy: Evidence from Agricultural and Food Policies
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2014-01-23) Olper, Alessandro ; Fałkowski, Jan ; Swinnen, Johan
This paper studies the effect of political regime transitions on public policy using a new data set on global agricultural and food policies over a 50-year period (including data from 74 developing and developed countries over the 1955–2005 period). We find evidence that democratization leads to a reduction of agricultural taxation, an increase in agricultural subsidization, or both. The empirical findings are consistent with the predictions of the median voter model because political transitions occurred primarily in countries with a majority of farmers. The results are robust to different specifications, estimation approaches, and variable definitions.
Preferential Market Access Design: Evidence and Lessons from African Apparel Exports to the United States and the European Union
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2014-01-23) de Melo, Jaime ; Portugal-Perez, Alberto
The least developed countries rely on preferential market access. To benefit from these preferences, proof of sufficient transformation must be provided to customs in importing countries by meeting the rules of origin requirements. These rules of origin are complicated and burdensome to exporters in least developed countries. Since 2001, under the U.S. Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), 22 African countries that export apparel to the United States have been able to use fabric of any origin (single transformation) and still meet the criterion for preferential access (the so-called Special Rule). In contrast, the EU has continued to require yarn to be woven into fabric and then made into apparel in the same country (double transformation). Panel estimates for the 1996–2004 period exploit this quasi-experimental change in the design of preferences. Estimates show that this simplification contributed to an increase in export volume of approximately 168 percent for the top seven beneficiaries, or approximately four times as much as the 44 percent growth effect from the initial preferential access under the AGOA without single transformation. This change in design was also important for diversity in apparel exports because the number of export varieties grew more rapidly under the AGOA special regime.
Network Proximity and Business Practices in African Manufacturing
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2014-01-23) Fafchamps, Marcel ; Söderbom, Måns
Patterns of correlation in innovation and contractual practices among manufacturing firms in Ethiopia and Sudan are documented. Network data that indicate whether any two firms in the utilized sample do business with each other, buy inputs from a common supplier, or sell output to a common client are used for the analysis. Only limited support is found for the commonly held idea that firms that are more proximate in a network sense are more likely to adopt similar practices. Indeed, for certain practices, adoption decisions appear to be local strategic substitutes: if one firm in a given location uses a certain practice, nearby firms are less likely to do so. These results suggest that the diffusion of technology and new business practices may play a more limited role in spurring growth in Africa's manufacturing sector than is often assumed in the present policy discussion.
Policy Barriers to International Trade in Services: Evidence from a New Database
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2014-01-23) Borchert, Ingo ; Gootiiz, Batshur ; Mattoo, Aaditya
Surprisingly little is known about policies that affect international trade in services. Previous analyses have focused on policy commitments made by countries in international agreements, but in many cases, these commitments do not reflect actual policy. This paper describes a new initiative to collect comparable information on trade policies for services from 103 countries across a range of service sectors and relevant modes of service delivery. The resulting database reveals interesting policy patterns. Although public monopolies are now rare and few services markets are completely closed, we observe numerous “second-generation” restrictions on entry, ownership, and operations. Even in instances in which there is little explicit discrimination against foreign providers, market access is often unpredictable because the allocation of new licenses remains opaque and highly discretionary in many countries. Across regions, some of the fastest-growing countries in Asia and the oil-rich Gulf states have restrictive policies in services, whereas some of the poorest countries are remarkably open. Across sectors, professional and transportation services are among the most protected industries in both industrial and developing countries, whereas retail, telecommunications, and even finance tend to be more open.