Journal Issue: World Bank Research Observer, Volume 27, Issue 2

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International Grain Reserves and Other Instruments to Address Volatility in Grain Markets
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2012-08) Wright, Brian D.
In the long view, recent volatility of prices of the major grains is not anomalous. Wheat, rice, and maize are highly substitutable in the global market for calories, and when aggregate stocks decline to minimal feasible levels, prices become highly sensitive to small shocks, consistent with the economics of storage behavior. In this decade, stocks declined due to high global income growth and biofuels mandates, making markets unusually sensitive to subsequent unanticipated shocks, including biofuels demand boosts in reaction to high petroleum prices, the Australian drought, and other regional grain production problems. To protect their own vulnerable and politically influential consumers, key exporters restricted supplies in 2007, exacerbating the price rise. Understandably, vulnerable importers are now building strategic reserves. To reduce costs and disincentive effects, reserves should have quantitative goals related to targeted distribution to the most vulnerable in severe emergencies. For countries with significant animal feeding or biofuels industries, options contracts to protect the consumption of the most vulnerable from harvest shocks are likely to be more cost-effective than emergency reserves.
Using Contingent Valuation in the Design of Payments for Environmental Services Mechanisms : A Review and Assessment
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2012-08) Whittington, Dale ; Pagiola, Stefano
As the use of payments for environmental services (PES) programs for conservation has grown in developing countries, the use of stated preference methods, particularly contingent valuation (CV) surveys, to estimate the maximum amount that users of environmental services (“buyers”) would be willing to pay has also increased. This paper reviews 25 CV studies conducted in the context of PES programs (CV-PES) and assesses their quality and usefulness for designing PES programs. Almost all these studies attempt to estimate the demand of downstream water users for upstream watershed protection and, more generally, for improved water services. Most studies were methodologically uninspired and generally low-quality applications of stated preference methods, with limited policy relevance. The quality and usefulness of CV-PES studies could be substantially improved at only a modest increase in costs.
School Feeding Programs and Development : Are We Framing the Question Correctly?
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2012-08) Alderman, Harold ; Bundy, Donald
School feeding programs are politically popular interventions. They are, nevertheless, difficult to assess in terms of effectiveness since their impact is partially on education and partially on school health. They are, additionally, a means to augment consumption by vulnerable populations. The authors look at recent evidence from in-depth studies and argue that while school feeding programs can influence the education of school children and, to a lesser degree, augment nutrition for families of beneficiaries, they are best viewed as transfer programs that can provide a social safety net and help promote human capital investments.
The Odds of Achieving the MDGs
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2012-08) Go, Delfin S. ; Quijada, José Alejandro
Three questions are frequently raised about the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Where do developing countries stand? What factors affect their rate of progress? Can lagging countries achieve these goals in the few years remaining until 2015? This paper examines these questions and takes a closer look at the variation in the rate of progress among developing countries. We argue that answers from the available data are surprisingly positive. In particular, three-quarters of developing countries are on target or close to being on target for all of the MDGs. Among the countries that are falling short, the average gap for the top half is about 10 percent. For those that are on target, or close to it, solid economic growth, policies, and institutions have been the key factors in their success. With improved policies and stronger growth, many countries that are close to being on target could achieve these targets by 2015 or soon after.
The Challenges of Bankruptcy Reform
(Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2012-08) Cirmizi, Elena ; Klapper, Leora ; Uttamchandani, Mahesh
The 2008 financial crisis was followed by a global economic downturn, a credit crunch, and a reduction in cross-border lending, trade finance, and foreign direct investment, which adversely affected businesses around the world. The consequent increase in the number of firm insolvencies in the corporate sector highlights the need for commercial bankruptcy laws to liquidate efficiently unviable firms and reorganize viable ones, so as to maximize the total value of proceeds received by creditors, shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders. The authors summarize the theoretical and empirical literature on bankruptcy design, discuss the challenges of introducing and implementing bankruptcy reforms, and present examples of how policymakers are trying to take advantage of the current economic downturn as an opportunity to engage in meaningful reform of the bankruptcy process. They also review the main principles of efficient insolvency laws and bankruptcy procedures.