Journal Issue: World Bank Research Observer, Volume 25, Issue 2

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Ideas and Innovation in East Asia
(World Bank, 2010-08-02) Brahmbhatt, Milan ; Hu, Albert
The generation, diffusion, absorption, and application of new technology, knowledge, or ideas are crucial drivers of development. The authors examine the exceptionally fast growth in domestic innovation efforts in Korea, Taiwan (China), Singapore, and China, drawing on information about R&D as well as patent and patent citations data. They also use the World Bank Investment Climate Surveys to investigate sources of technological innovation in the other middle- and low-income East Asian economies. They then evaluate the role of three main channels for knowledge flows to East Asia—international trade, acquisition of disembodied knowledge, and foreign direct investment. Results from estimating an international knowledge diffusion model using patent citations data show that, while East Asian innovations continue to draw heavily on knowledge flows from the US and Japan, citations to the same or to other East Asian economies are quickly rising, indicating the emergence of national and regional knowledge stocks as a foundation for innovation.
Nuclear Power and Sustainable Energy Policy : Promises and Perils
(World Bank, 2010-08-02) Kessides, Ioannis N.
The author examines the challenges and opportunities of nuclear power in meeting the projected large absolute increase in energy demand, especially electricity, throughout the industrialized and developing world, while helping to mitigate the threat of climate change. A significant global nuclear power deployment would engender serious risks related to proliferation, safety, and waste disposal. Unlike renewable sources of energy, nuclear power is an unforgiving technology because human lapses and errors can have ecological and social impacts that are catastrophic and irreversible. However, according to some analysts, advances in the design of nuclear reactors may have reduced their associated risks and improved their performance. Moreover, while a variety of renewable energy sources (hydro, wind, modern biomass, solar) will play important roles in the transition to a low-carbon economy, some analysts perceive that nuclear power is the only proven technology for generating electricity that is both largely carbon-free, not location specific (as with wind, hydro and solar), and amenable to significant scaling up. Thus given the projections of threats from climate change, and if the considerable strain experienced by world energy markets in recent years is a harbinger of things to come, then there is a rationale for examining the pros and cons of nuclear power as a supply option within low-carbon strategies. It should be noted that despite the emerging centrality of climate change and security of supply in the energy policy debate, nuclear power is still viewed with a great deal of skepticism and in fact continues to elicit considerable opposition. Indeed the views on nuclear power in the context of sustainable energy policy are highly divergent. A thorough evaluation of all aspects of the issue is warranted.
Estimation of Water Demand in Developing Countries
(World Bank, 2010-08-02) Nauges, Céline ; Whittington, Dale
A better understanding of household water use in developing countries is necessary to manage and expand water systems more effectively. Several meta-analyzes have examined the determinants of household water demand in industrialized countries, but little effort has been made to synthesize the growing body of literature evaluating household water demand in developing countries. This article reviews what is known and what is missing from that literature thus far. Analysis of demand for water in developing countries is complicated by abundant evidence that, contrary to what is observed in most developed countries, households in developing countries have access to, and may use more than one of several types of, water sources. The authors describe the different modeling strategies that researchers have adopted to estimate water demand in developing countries and discuss issues related to data collection. The findings from the literature on the main determinants of water demand in these countries suggest that, despite heterogeneity in the places and time periods studied, most estimates of own-price elasticity of water from private connections are in the range from −0.3 to −0.6, close to what is usually reported for industrialized countries. The empirical findings on decisions relating to household water sources are much less robust and should be a high priority for future research.
Impact Assessments in Finance and Private Sector Development : What Have We Learned and What Should We Learn?
(World Bank, 2010-08-02) McKenzie, David
Until recently rigorous impact evaluations have been rare in the area of finance and private sector development. One reason for this is the perception that many policies and projects in this area lend themselves less to formal evaluations. However, a vanguard of new impact evaluations on areas as diverse as fostering microenterprise growth, microfinance, rainfall insurance, and regulatory reform demonstrates that in many circumstances serious evaluation is possible. The purpose of this paper is to synthesize and distill the policy and implementation lessons emerging from these studies, use them to demonstrate the feasibility of impact evaluations in a broader array of topics, and thereby help prompt new impact evaluations for projects going forward.
To Mitigate or to Adapt : Is that the Question? Observations on an Appropriate Response to the Climate Change Challenge to Development Strategies
(World Bank, 2010-08-02) Shalizi, Zmarak ; Lecocq, Franck
Climate change is a new and important challenge to development strategies. In light of the current literature a framework for assessing responses to this challenge is provided. The presence of climate change makes it necessary to at least review development strategies—even in apparently nonclimate-sensitive and nonpolluting sectors. There is a need for an integrated portfolio of actions ranging from avoiding emissions (mitigation) to coping with impacts (adaptation) and to consciously accepting residual damages. Proactive (ex ante) adaptation is critical, but subject to risks of regrets when the magnitude or location of damages is uncertain. Uncertainty on location favors nonsite-specific actions, or reactive (ex post) adaptation. However, some irreversible losses cannot be compensated for. Thus, mitigation might be in many cases the cheapest long-term solution to climate change problems and the most important to avoid thresholds that may trigger truly catastrophic consequences. To limit the risks that budget constraints prevent developing countries from financing reactive adaptation—especially since climate shocks might erode the fiscal base—“rainy-day funds” may have to be developed within countries and at the global level for transfer purposes. Finally, more research is required on the impacts of climate change, on modeling the interrelations between mitigation and adaptation, and on operationalizing the framework.
Scale Economies and Cities
(World Bank, 2010-08-02) Gill, Indermit S. ; Goh, Chor-Ching
This paper summarizes the policy-relevant insights of a generation of research on scale economies. Scale economies in production are of three types: internal economies associated with large plants, localization economies that come from sharing of inputs and infrastructure and from greater competition among firms, and urbanization economies that are generated through diversity and knowledge spillovers. The benefits (and costs) of localization and urbanization are together called “external (dis) economies” because they arise due to factors outside any single household, farm or firm. The empirical literature yields some stylized facts. Internal scale economies are low in light industries and high in heavy industries. External scale economies are amplified by economic density and dissipate with distance from places where economic activity is concentrated. Scale economies are most visibly manifest in towns and cities. To simplify somewhat, towns allow firms and farms to exploit internal scale economies, medium-sized cities help firms in an industry exploit localization economies, and large cities and metropolises provide urbanization economies to those who locate within or nearby. Scale economies have implications for policy makers. The first is that because urban settlements rise and thrive because market agents demand their services, they should be seen as creatures of the market, not creations of the state. The second is that because settlements of different sizes provide differing services, towns, cities, and metropolises are more often complements for one another, not substitutes. Third, as a corollary, policymakers should aim to improve the functioning of urban settlements, and not become preoccupied with their size.