Journal Issue: World Bank Research Observer, Volume 20, Issue 2

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Data and Dogma : The Great Indian Poverty Debate
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-09-01) Deaton, Angus ; Kozel, Valerie
What happened to poverty in India in the 1990s has been fiercely debated, both politically and statistically. The debate has run parallel to the wider debate about globalization and poverty in the 1990s and is also an important part of that debate. The economic reforms of the early 1990s in India were followed by rates of economic growth that were high by historical standards. The effects on poverty remain controversial, however. The official numbers published by the government of India, showing acceleration in the rate of poverty reduction from 36 percent of the population in 1993 to 1994 to 26 percent in 1999 to 2000, have been challenged for showing both too little and too much poverty reduction. The various claims have often been frankly political, but there are also many important statistical issues. The debate, reviewed in this article, provides an excellent example of how politics and statistics interact in an important, largely domestic debate. Although there is no consensus on what happened to poverty in India in the 1990s, there is good evidence both that poverty fell and that the official estimates of poverty reduction are too optimistic, particularly for rural India. The issues covered in this article, although concerned with the measurement of poverty in India, have wide international relevance discrepancies between surveys and national accounts, the effects of questionnaire design, reporting periods, survey nonresponse, repair of imperfect data, choice of poverty lines, and interplay between statistics and politics.
Infrastructure Privatization and Regulation : Promises and Perils
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-03-01) Kessides, Ioannis N.
Infrastructure is crucial for generating growth, alleviating poverty, and increasing international competitiveness. For much of the twentieth century and in most countries, the network utilities that delivered infrastructure services such as electricity, natural gas, telecommunications, railroads, and water supply were vertically and horizontally integrated state monopolies. But this approach often resulted in extremely weak services, especially in developing and transition economies and especially for poor people. Common problems included low productivity, high costs, bad quality, insufficient revenue, and shortfalls in investment. Over the past two decades many countries have implemented far-reaching institutional reforms restructuring, privatizing, and establishing new approaches to regulation. This article identifies the challenges involved in this massive policy redirection within the historical, economic, and institutional context of developing and transition economies. It also reviews the outcomes of these policy changes, including their distributional consequences especially for poor households and other disadvantaged groups. Drawing on a range of international experiences and empirical studies, it recommends directions for future reforms and research to improve infrastructure performance.
Housing Policy in Developing Countries : Conjectures and Refutations
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-09-01) Buckley, Robert M. ; Kalarickal, Jerry
This housing policy in developing countries, conjectures and refutations article discusses housing policy in developing economies. It examines recent research findings in light of earlier arguments as to the benefits of more market-oriented approaches. It also looks at whether the recommendations of earlier work have been refuted or developed in subsequent analyses and policy measures. In particular, it reviews the empirical analysis of the effects of policy on housing supply, the richer understanding of the effects that land market regulations have on housing affordability and the functioning of urban areas, and the alleged mysterious effects that researchers claim effective property rights have on housing policy and on development more generally. It also examines the effects of the increased emphasis on community participation, showing how it helps to more fully reconcile the incentives faced by beneficiaries of housing policy and donors. Finally, it examines recent literature on the welfare effects of rent control. The article shows that some of the conjectures as to the likely benefits of more market-based policy have been refuted, but large welfare gains for poor people can still be realized by adapting this approach. Furthermore, this approach appears to be gaining ground as the consensus approach to effective housing policy.
Globalization, Poverty, and Inequality since 1980
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-09-01) Dollar, David
One of the most contentious issues of globalization is the effect of global economic integration on inequality and poverty. This article documents five trends in the modern era of globalization, starting around 1980. The first trend is that growth rates in poor economies have accelerated and are higher than growth rates in rich countries for the first time in modern history. Developing countries per capita incomes grew more than 3.5 percent a year in the 1990s. Second, the number of extremely poor people in the world has declined significantly. The share of people in developing economies living on less than dollar 1 a day has been cut in half since 1981, though the decline in the share living on less than dollar 2 per day was much less dramatic. Third, global inequality has declined modestly, reversing a 200-year trend toward higher inequality. Fourth, within-country inequality in general is not growing, though it has risen in several populous countries (China, India, and the United States). Fifth, wage inequality is rising worldwide. This may seem to contradict the fourth trend, but it does not because there is no simple link between wage inequality and household income inequality. Furthermore, the trends toward faster growth and poverty reduction are strongest in developing economies that have integrated with the global economy most rapidly, which supports the view that integration has been a positive force for improving the lives of people in developing areas
Insights on Development from the Economics of Happiness
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-09-01) Graham, Carol
The literature on the economics of happiness in developed economies finds discrepancies between reported measures of well-being and income measures. One is the so-called Easterlin paradox: that average happiness levels do not increase as countries grow wealthier. This article explores how that paradox and survey research on reported wellbeing in general can provide insights into the gaps between standard measures of economic development and individual assessments of welfare. Analysis of research on reported wellbeing in Latin America and Russia finds notable discrepancies between respondent assessments of their own wellbeing and income or expenditure based measures. Accepting a wide margin for error in both types of measures, the article posits that taking such discrepancies into account may improve the understanding of development outcomes by providing a broader view on wellbeing than do income or expenditure based measures alone. It suggests particular areas where research on reported well-being has the most potential to contribute. Yet the article also notes that some interpretations of happiness research psychologist set point theory, in particular may be quite limited in their application to development questions and cautions against the direct translation of results of happiness surveys into policy recommendations.
Public Debt Management and Macroeconomic Stability : An Overview
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-09-01) Montiel, Peter J.
Recent research suggests that management of the public sector debt can have important effects on a country macroeconomic performance. This Public debt management and macroeconomic stability article provides an overview of the factors that the recent literature has identified as important in determining the optimal composition of the public debt. Based on this analysis, it attempts to establish general guidelines for public debt management in emerging economies. To retain market access and promote domestic financial market development, governments should generally finance themselves at market rates using a wide variety of securities. Beyond this general principle, the optimal composition of the public debt involves a tradeoff between enhancing the government anti-inflationary credibility and reducing the vulnerability of its budget to macroeconomic shocks. Consequently, the optimal composition of the debt depends on a country circumstances. Debt should be heavily weighted toward long-term nominal securities for governments that have anti-inflationary credibility and toward long-term indexed debt for those that do not.