Foster, Vivien

Energy & Extractives
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Infrastructure Economics, Energy Economics
Energy & Extractives
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Last updated: November 14, 2023
Vivien Foster is the Global Lead for Energy Economics, Markets & Institutions for the World Bank Group’s Energy and Extractives Global Practice. She has also held the roles of Sector Manager and Practice Manager, Strategy & Operations for the Practice since 2012. She was a core member of the team that developed and secured Board consensus for the Energy Sector Directions Paper in 2013. She positioned the Bank as a Knowledge Hub for the Sustainable Energy for All initiative developing a program of data-driven flagship global knowledge products, including the Global Tracking Framework and Readiness for Investment in Sustainable Energy, in collaboration with numerous external agencies. She promoted knowledge management in the practice through the establishment of two new Communities of Practice for Energy Efficiency and Energy Access, and created the Live Wire series of knowledge notes as a fast track for sharing and disseminating knowledge. At the Bank, she worked as a Senior Economist in the Latin America Region and Lead Economist in the Africa Region, leading a wide range of analytical, operational and corporate engagements; often cutting across infrastructure sectors and working on the macroeconomic and fiscal interface. In particular, she led the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic a path-breaking knowledge program that covered 40 African countries and produced a large suite of influential analytical reports. She was lead author of “Building Bridges” an innovative analysis of the Chinese role in Africa’s infrastructure development, as well as “Water, Electricity and the Poor” focusing on the design of tariffs and subsidies to preserve affordability of services to the poor. A British national, Vivien joined the Bank in 1999 as a Young Professional. She previously worked as a Managing Consultant of Oxford Economic Research Associates Ltd in the UK, advising private and public sector clients in the water and energy industries, both in Europe and Latin America, focusing particularly on the economic regulation of utilities. She holds a Doctorate in Economics from University College London.

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 81
  • Publication
    Digital Payments and the COVID-19 Shock: The Role of Preexisting Conditions in Banking, Infrastructure, Human Capabilities, and Digital Regulation
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023-11-14) Cull, Robert; Foster, Vivien; Jolliffe, Dean; Lederman, Daniel; Mare, Davide Salvatore; Malarvizhi, Veerappan; Mare, Davide S.
    Treating data collected pre- and post-COVID-19 as a quasi-experiment, this paper examines the importance of presumed enablers and safeguards in driving the observed expansion of digital payments and digital financial inclusion. The analysis interacts drivers of digital payment usage with a country-specific proxy of the severity of the COVID-19 shock, leveraging variation in both the drivers and the quasi-treatment (the COVID-19 shock) to identify the parameters. Although regulation of banks and digital economic activity were correlated with digital payments before and during the pandemic, the capabilities of users and connectivity (to electricity, the internet, and mobile telephony) were responsible for increased use of digital financial services in response to the shock. An interpretation is that governments and the private sector were able to overcome underdeveloped banking systems and weak regulation of the digital economy, but only where there was adequate digital infrastructure, connectivity, and a high share of the population that understood and could make use of digital payments.
  • Publication
    The Economics of Electric Vehicles for Passenger Transportation
    (Washington, DC : World Bank, 2023-03-13) Briceno-Garmendia, Cecilia; Qiao, Wenxin; Foster, Vivien
    "The Economics of Electric Vehicles for Passenger Transportation" provides answers to three critical questions: Why should developing countries pursue e-mobility? When does an accelerated transition to electric vehicles (EVs) make sense for developing countries? How can governments make this transition happen? A key finding from the research is that there is a strong economic case for EVs in many developing countries. This is news because, despite growing momentum and interest in the sector, 90 percent of EV sales are still concentrated in major markets such as China, Europe, and the United States. According to original models developed by the report’s authors, developing countries can look to electric buses as well as to two- and three-wheeled vehicles as entry points to this critical transition. Readers will find many examples of countries already benefiting from e-mobility solutions. For example, Brazil, Chile, and India are leaders in electric bus fleets. Their progress, made possible by innovative financing and procurement practices, is improving mobility in cities, reducing local air pollution, and reducing congestion in fast-growing downtowns. Readers will also see examples from Asian and East African countries, which are embarking on battery-swapping schemes to lower upfront costs of ownership for two- and three-wheeled vehicles. Based on the unique modeling, analysis, and benchmarking of results across 20 developing countries—complemented by a compilation of actual organic and diverse experiences of developing countries with electric mobility adoption—this report provides policy guidance on how governments can accelerate EV adoption, and when and where it makes economic sense to adopt electric mobility more quickly. This report is a critical read for anyone interested in the future of transport and its links with development progress.
  • Publication
    The Impact of Infrastructure on Development Outcomes: A Qualitative Review of Four Decades of Literature
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023-03) Gorgulu, Nisan; Foster, Vivien; Straub, Stéphane; Vagliasindi, Maria
    Policy makers have long used investing in public infrastructure as a means of reducing geographical disparities and promoting growth. The goal of this paper is to provide insights to development practitioners on designing interventions to maximize the development impact of infrastructure. For this, the paper presents a systematic qualitative overview of the literature, covering more than 300 studies conducted between 1983 and 2022, focusing on specific infrastructure sectors, namely digital, energy, and transport. The study also considers various dimensions of development impact, including output and productivity, poverty and inequality, labor market outcomes, human capital formation, and trade, to develop a nuanced understanding of the mechanisms through which infrastructure contributes to these development outcomes, focusing on low- and middle-income countries. As such, it is the most substantive effort of its kind to date. Overall, despite some mixed results, the overwhelming balance of evidence suggests that infrastructure improvements are critical in supporting the development process. Studies on digital infrastructure show that firm productivity, employment, and welfare increase with the arrival of broadband internet coverage. In addition, the availability of mobile phones improves coordination between producers and traders and hence reduces the price dispersion of agricultural products. Turning to rural electrification, significant literature documents the positive impact of infrastructure on household welfare, structural transformation, and human capital formation through increased labor force participation, more time spent on education, and increased indoor air quality. Investments in the reliability of power supply also contribute to firms’ productivity. However, studies based on randomized controlled trials have not tended to find a substantial short-term impact in the context of dispersed rural populations. Finally, there is rich literature on various transport infrastructure-to-development linkages, particularly for rural roads and for Sub-Saharan Africa. While households’ income and consumption benefit from the existence of rural roads, highways are also found to contribute to firms’ competitiveness. Similarly, public transportation, railways, and ports have positive impacts on the development process.
  • Publication
    The Impact of Infrastructure on Development Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-03) Foster, Vivien; Jain, Dhruv; Straub, Stéphane; Vagliasindi, Maria
    This paper presents a meta-analysis of the infrastructure research done over more than three decades, using a database of close to a thousand estimates from 201 papers conducted between 1983–2022, reporting outcome elasticities. The analysis casts a wide net to include the transport, energy, and digital or information and communications technology sectors and the whole set of outcomes covered in the literature, including output, employment and wages, inequality and poverty, trade, education and health, population, and environmental aspects. The results allow for an update of the underlying parameters of interest, the “true” underlying infrastructure elasticities, accounting for publication bias, as well as for heterogeneity stemming from both study design and context, with a particular focus on policy relevant subsectors and developing countries.
  • Publication
    Off the Books: Understanding and Mitigating the Fiscal Risks of Infrastructure
    (Washington, DC : World Bank, 2023) Herrera Dappe, Matías; Foster, Vivien; Turkgulu, Burak
    Developing countries face massive infrastructure needs, but public spending on infrastructure is inadequate, and public investment has been declining in recent years. Rising debt levels and tightening fiscal and monetary conditions are putting further pressure on the funds available for infrastructure, heightening the importance of increasing the efficiency of infrastructure spending. Off the Books: Understanding and Mitigating the Fiscal Risks of Infrastructure shows that however governments deliver infrastructure—through direct public provision, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), or public-private partnerships (PPPs), the risk of fiscal surprises is high in both good times and bad. As a result, infrastructure service delivery often ends up costing significantly more than expected, eroding limited fiscal space for productive spending. This book makes a unique contribution by quantifying the magnitude and prevalence of fiscal risks from electricity and transport infrastructure and identifying their root causes across a range of low- and middle-income countries. Drawing on important new sources of evidence and compiling many others, the analysis sheds light on how much is at stake in the good governance of infrastructure sectors. It allows policy makers to weigh the magnitudes of different types of risks and examine how they vary across contexts. Off the Books shows how a deeper understanding of the fiscal risks of infrastructure can help policy makers target reforms to areas where they can be expected to have the greatest impact. It lays out a reform agenda for mitigating the fiscal risks associated with infrastructure based on building government capacity; adopting integrated public investment management and integrated fiscal risk management; improving fiscal and corporate governance of SOEs; and ensuring robust PPP preparation, procurement, and contract management. The book will be of enormous value to policy makers, practitioners, and academics who have an interest in infrastructure and fiscal policy.
  • Publication
    The Economics of Electric Vehicles for Passenger Transportation (Draft)
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2022-10-31) Briceno-Garmendia, Cecilia; Qiao, Wenxin; Foster, Vivien
    NOTE: The draft report is no longer available. The final report is available from this page and at Electric mobility has garnered growing interest and significant momentum across several major global markets, often motivated by transport sector decarbonization. Together, Europe, China, and the United States account for more than 90 percent of the world’s electric vehicle fleet. For many OECD countries, electric mobility is seen primarily as a lever for transport sector decarbonization, given that many of the other relevant policy options have already been exhausted. This report finds that electric mobility is also increasingly relevant for low- and middle-income countries. As of today, electric mobility for passengers is a comparative rarity across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In some of the LMIC leading markets, such as Brazil, India, and Indonesia, electric vehicles account for less than 0.5 percent of total sales. There are signs that this situation is changing. India, Chile, and Brazil are leading the way in electrifying their bus fleets in their largest cities by introducing innovative financing practices and improved procurement practices. Battery swapping schemes are taking off in Asian and East African countries to lower the upfront cost of two-and three-wheelers. Original modeling for this report suggests that established global policy targets, such as 30 percent of new passenger vehicles to be electric by 2030, will make economic sense for many LMICs under a wide range of possible scenarios.
  • Publication
    GERI 2022: Global Electricity Regulatory Index - ESMAP Report
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2022) Rana, Anshul; Foster, Vivien
    This report introduces the Global Electricity Regulatory Index (GERI), an index which benchmarks a country’s existing regulatory system against theoretical best practice, based on a set of standardized indicators which permit meaningful cross-country comparisons and provide the potential for progress with regulation to be tracked over time. The resulting snapshot of regulatory performance reveals that important progress has been made, but at the same time highlights many remaining significant gaps and shortcomings in the regulatory environment for the power sector in the developing world.
  • Publication
    Understanding Public Spending Trends for Infrastructure in Developing Countries
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-01) Foster, Vivien; Rana, Anshul
    Evidence of public expenditure on infrastructure is extremely sparse. Little is known about the trends and patterns of infrastructure expenditure, and there is no real basis for assessing the adequacy and efficiency of infrastructure spending. Drawing on the World Bank’s novel BOOST database, this paper provides a first relatively disaggregated picture of infrastructure spending trends and patterns for a large sample of more than 70 developing countries covering 2010–18, drilling down into expenditure by sector for roads as well as electricity, and distinguishing operating from capital expenditure. Complementary sources of data are tapped to allow comparison between expenditure patterns on and off budget. The study finds that on-budget expenditure on infrastructure has been low both in absolute terms (1 percent of gross domestic product) and relative terms (5 percent of total public spending), as well as declining over time. Overall, infrastructure spending declined by about one-third over 2010–18 (with the road sector bearing the brunt of the decrease), and now lies well below estimates of the required levels, except in a handful of cases. There is evidence that low-income countries, despite lower spending envelopes, attach greater priority to public investment and infrastructure spending than their middle-income counterparts. Econometric analysis suggests that infrastructure spending in low- and middle-income countries has been historically procyclical, although to a lesser degree than total expenditure. In the transport sector, road funds are shown to play a substantial role in funding road maintenance, appearing to improve the adequacy of funding, while attenuating pronounced capital biases in road sector spending, but there is little evidence of efficiency improvements over time.
  • Publication
    Understanding Drivers of Decoupling of Global Transport CO2 Emissions from Economic Growth: Evidence from 145 Countries
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-10) Foster, Vivien; Vollmer, Sebastian; Zhang, Fan
    This paper examines the extent to which countries have succeeded in decoupling transport emissions from economic growth, and how changes in emissions intensity, economic growth, and population growth have contributed to changes in transportation-related emissions. The paper employs a modified version of the Tapio decoupling model, and demonstrates that over the 1990–2018 study period only 12 of 145 countries achieved “absolute decoupling,” defined as reducing emissions while growing gross domestic product. The majority of the top emitters remain in a “relative decoupling” state, with emissions growing more slowly than gross domestic product. Many of the middle- and low-income countries have not achieved decoupling; their emissions are growing as fast as or faster than gross domestic product. To understand the driving factors of transport-related carbon emissions, the paper conducts index-decomposition and an econometric analysis. The results reveal that while transportation emission intensity has declined in most countries, economic growth and population growth have offset these declines. If these patterns continue, achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement with improvements in efficiency alone seems unrealistic. The paper also shows evidence that higher energy prices are associated with strong emissions reduction.
  • Publication
    Policy Choices Can Help Keep 4G and 5G Universal Broadband Affordable
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-03) Oughton, Edward J.; Comini, Niccolo; Foster, Vivien; Hall, Jim W.
    The United Nations Broadband Commission has committed the international community to accelerate universal broadband, but the cost of meeting these objectives in the context of rapid technological change are not well understood. Using scenario analysis, this paper compares the global cost-effectiveness of different infrastructure strategies for the developing world to achieve universal 4G or 5G mobile broadband. Utilizing remote sensing and demand forecasting, least-cost network designs are developed for eight representative low- and middle-income countries (Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Pakistan, Albania, Peru, and Mexico), which provide the basis for aggregation to the global level. The cost of meeting UN Broadband Commission targets across the developing world is estimated at $1.6-1.7 trillion over the next decade, approximately 0.5-0.6% of annual gross domestic product for the developing world over the next decade. However, by creating a favorable regulatory environment, governments can bring down these costs by as much as three-quarters – to US$0.5 trillion (around 0.15 percent of annual gross domestic product) – and largely avoid the need for public subsidies. While 4G technology remains somewhat more cost-effective at the global scale, 5G NSA can sometimes prove less costly at the national level, particularly for countries with relatively low existing coverage of 4G technologies, and a tendency to be capacity-constrained in terms of demand. Providing that governments make judicious choices, adopting fiscal and regulatory regimes that are conducive to lowering costs, universal broadband may be within reach of most developing countries over the next decade.