Sustainable Development Practice Group, The World Bank
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Development Economics, Environmental Economics, Natural Resource Economics, Agricultural Economics, Water Economics, Game Theory
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated November 29, 2023
Richard Damania is the Chief Economist of the Sustainable Development Practice Group. He has held several positions in the World Bank including as Senior Economic Advisor in the Water Practice, Lead Economist in the Africa Region’s Sustainable Development Department, in the South Asia and Latin America and Caribbean Regions of the World Bank. His work has spanned across multiple sectors and has helped the World Bank become an acknowledged thought-leader on matters relating to environment, water and the economy. Prior to joining the World Bank he held positions in academia and has published extensively with over 100 papers in scientific journals.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 14
Transport, Economic Growth, and Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A Spatial Analysis(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-01-13) Damania, Richard ; Barra, Alvaro Federico ; Burnouf, Mathilde ; Russ, Jason DanielThe purpose of this study is to demonstrate several techniques which can be used to evaluate pathways to sustainable growth in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) via infrastructure improvement. Decades of conflict and neglect have left the DRC’s transport infrastructure amongst the sparsest and most dilapidated in the world.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-12-10) Zaveri, Esha ; Russ, Jason ; Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Damania, Richard ; Rodella, Aude-Sophie ; Ribeiro, GiovannaThe fallout of nitrogen pollution is considered one of the largest global externalities facing the world, impacting air, water soil and human health. This paper presents new evidence that nitrogen pollution in water is an important determinant of variations in human capital. Data from the Demographic and Health Survey dataset across India, Vietnam, and 33 African countries are combined to analyze the causal links between pollution exposure experienced during the very earliest stages of life and later-life health. Results show that pollution exposure experienced in the critical years of development from the period of birth up until year three – is associated with decreased height as an adult, a well-known indicator of overall health and productivity, and is robust to several statistical checks. Because adult height is related to education, labor productivity, and income, this also implies a loss of earning potential. Results are consistent and show that early-life exposure to nitrogen pollution in water can lower height-for-age scores during childhood in Vietnam and during infancy in Africa. These findings add to the evidence on the enduring consequences of water pollution and identify a critical area for policy intervention.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-12-10) Russ, Jason ; Damania, Richard ; Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Escurra, Jorge ; Rodella, Aude-Sophie ; Zaveri, EshaSalinity in surface waters is on the rise throughout much of the world. Many factors contribute to this change including increased water extraction, poor irrigation management, and sea-level rise. To date no study has attempted to quantify impacts on global food production. In this paper we develop a plausibly causal model to test the sensitivity of global and regional agricultural productivity to changes in water salinity. To do so, we utilize several local and global datasets on water quality and agricultural productivity and a model which isolates the impact of exogenous changes in water salinity on yields. We then train a machine learning model to predict salinity globally in order to simulate average global food losses from 2000-2013. These losses are found to be high, in the range of the equivalent of 124 trillion kilocalories, or enough to feed over 170 million people every day, each year. Global maps building on these results show that pockets of high losses occur on all continents but can be expected to be particularly problematic in regions already experiencing malnutrition challenges.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2019-06) Damania, Richard ; Desbureaux, Sebastien ; Zaveri, EshaMuch micro-econometric evidence suggests that precipitation has wide ranging impacts on vital economic indicators such as agricultural yields, human capital, and even conflict. And yet paradoxically most macro-econometric evidence (especially in the climate economy literature) finds that precipitation has no robust and significant impact on various measures of aggregate economic output. This paper argues that spatial aggregation of weather at the country level explains this result. The paper uses annual subnational gross domestic product data to show a concave relationship between precipitation and local gross domestic product growth between 1990 and 2014. It then demonstrates that when the data are aggregated at larger spatial scales, the impact decreases and eventually vanishes. The impact of precipitation on aggregate economic activity is predominantly felt in developing countries; it is insignificant in developed countries. Agriculture is found to be the dominant pathway. The results have significant consequences for measuring the economic impacts of climate change.
Infrastructure in Conflict-Prone and Fragile Environments: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-05) Ali, Rubaba ; Barra, A. Federico ; Berg, Claudia N. ; Damania, Richard ; Nash, John D. ; Russ, Jason ; Russ, JasonIn conflict-prone situations, access to markets is necessary to restore economic growth and generate the preconditions for peace and reconstruction. Hence, the rehabilitation of damaged transport infrastructure has emerged as an overarching investment priority among donors and governments. This paper brings together two distinct strands of literature on the effects of conflict on welfare and on the economic impact of transport infrastructure. The theoretical model explores how transport infrastructure affects conflict incidence and welfare when selection into rebel groups is endogenous. The implications of the model are tested with data from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The analysis addresses the problems of the endogeneity of transport costs and conflict using a novel set of instrumental variables. For transport costs, a new instrument is developed, the natural-historical path, which measures the most efficient travel route to a market, taking into account topography, land cover, and historical caravan routes. Recognizing the imprecision in measuring the geographic impacts of conflict, the analysis develops a spatial kernel density function to proxy for the incidence of conflict. To account for its endogeneity, it is instrumented with ethnic fractionalization and distance to the eastern border. A variety of indicators of well-being are used: a wealth index, a poverty index, and local gross domestic product. The results suggest that, in most situations, reducing transport costs has the expected beneficial impacts on all the measures of welfare. However, when there is intense conflict, improvements in infrastructure may not have the anticipated benefits. The results suggest the need for more nuanced strategies that take into account varying circumstances and consider actions that jointly target governance with construction activities.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-05) Damania, Richard ; Scandizzo, Pasquale Lucio ; Glauber, A.JThis paper presents a somewhat novel approach to explore the economic contribution of ecosystems. It develops linked models to capture connections between resource stocks and flows and the resulting microeconomic and macroeconomic impacts. A bioeconomic model is developed that is imbedded into a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model. Incorporating imperfect regulation, the bioeconomic model characterizes optimal policies, while the CGE model explores the economy-wide consequences of possible changes to the ecosystem. The model is parameterized and calibrated to the case of the Serengeti ecosystem which is perhaps the most intensively researched biome with a relative abundance of data. This ecosystem is also undergoing rapid change from a host of factors related to developments within and around the protected area system. The analysis identifies the contribution of the ecosystem to the economy and finds that changes in tourism and bushmeat hunting have surprisingly diffuse economy-wide impacts, that are especially large in the rural sector. To guard against overstatement, ecosystem impacts are under-stated relative to other effects. The results suggest that linkages to the natural resource sector (backward and forward multipliers) are important and neglecting these may lead to biased estimates.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2017-03) Chase, Claire ; Damania, RichardWater-related diseases are a major health burden for populations, especially the poor. Meeting global aspirations for poverty reduction will require addressing the global water and sanitation challenge. This discussion paper provides an overview of the poverty-related impacts of inadequate water supply and sanitation services, and highlights the new policy challenges that have emerged in a more populated, polluted, and urbanized world with finite water resources. New approaches that assure sustained changes in individual behavior, more equitable access to services, and incentives for improved water resource stewardship are needed.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-05) Ali, Rubaba ; Barra, Alvaro Federico ; Berg, Claudia N. ; Damania, Richard ; Nash, John ; Russ, JasonTransport infrastructure is deemed to be central to development and consumes a large fraction of the development assistance envelope. Yet there is debate about the economic impact of road projects. This paper proposes an approach to assess the differential development impacts of alternative road construction and prioritize various proposals, using Nigeria as a case study. Recognizing that there is no perfect measure of economic well-being, a variety of outcome metrics are used, including crop revenue, livestock revenue, non-agricultural income, the probability of being multi-dimensionally poor, and local gross domestic product for Nigeria. Although the measure of transport is the most accurate possible, it is still endogenous because of the nonrandom placement of road infrastructure. This endogeneity is addressed using a seemingly novel instrumental variable termed the natural path: the time it would take to walk along the most logical route connecting two points without taking into account other, bias-causing economic benefits. Further, the analysis considers the potential endogeneity from nonrandom placement of households and markets through carefully chosen control variables. It finds that reducing transportation costs in Nigeria will increase crop revenue, non-agricultural income, the wealth index, and local gross domestic product. Livestock sales increase as well, although this finding is less robust. The probability of being multi-dimensionally poor will decrease. The results also cast light on income diversification and structural changes that may arise. These findings are robust to relaxing the exclusion restriction. The paper also demonstrates how to prioritize alternative road programs by comparing the expected development impacts of alternative New Partnership for Africas Development projects.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-05) Damania, Richard ; Wheeler, DavidRoad construction has often been viewed as the precursor to deforestation, especially in tropical forests. Traditional responses to such threats have been reactive, with attempts to mitigate impacts through physical measures, or the establishment of protected areas. These approaches often have not been entirely successful, especially in areas where economic potential is significant. This paper seeks to mitigate such conflicts by proposing a proactive approach to development planning and environmental policy. It develops a high-resolution spatial model of road improvement impacts that includes ecological risks and the economics of forest clearing. The approach is implemented by estimating the potential impact of road upgrading on forest clearing and biodiversity in eight Congo Basin countries. The paper demonstrates how the detailed analysis can identify areas of high ecological priority as well as areas at high risk of forest loss. The paper contributes to several aspects of the literature. First, it provides the most recent and reliable estimates of the drivers of deforestation in the Congo Basin, with the latest high-resolution satellite data on forest cover changes. Second, it presents novel estimates of biodiversity threats by creating an index that combines and synthesizes several measures of biodiversity loss and impacts. It then develops an empirical framework for estimating the ecological impacts of road improvement. Finally, the paper illustrates how the empirical framework can be used to preempt impacts and avoid potential ecological damage.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2015-05) Ali, Rubaba ; Barra, A. Federico ; Berg, Claudia N. ; Damania, Richard ; Nash, John D. ; Russ, JasonThis paper addresses an old and recurring theme in development economics: the slow adoption of new technologies by farmers in many developing countries. The paper explores a somewhat novel link to explain this puzzle -- the link between market access and the incentives to adopt a new technology when there are non-convexities. The paper develops a theoretical model to guide the empirical analysis, which uses spatially disaggregated agricultural production data from Spatial Production Allocation Model and Living Standards Measurement Study survey data for Nigeria. The model is used to estimate the impact of transport costs on crop production, the adoption of modern technologies, and the differential impact on returns of modern versus traditional farmers. To overcome the limitation of data availability on travel costs for much of Africa, road survey data are combined with geographic information road network data to generate the most thorough and accurate road network available. With these data and the Highway Development Management Model, minimum travel costs from each location to the market are computed. Consistent with the theory, analysis finds that transportation costs are critical in determining technology choices, with a greater responsiveness among farmers who adopt modern technologies, and at times a perverse (negative) response to lower transport costs among those who employ more traditional techniques. In sum, the paper presents compelling evidence that the constraints to the adoption of modern technologies and access to markets are interconnected, and so should be targeted jointly.