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Urban Development

Don’t Throw the Baby with the Bathwater!

Zahid Hussain's picture

Paul Krugman’s September 6 article in the New York Times (How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?) is a humbling warning to the economics profession against the pitfalls of intellectual complacence. It challenges the profession to re-examine the validity of its existing knowledge particularly in relation to globalization and the workings of local and global financial markets.

Granted that economists have to face up to the unpalatable fact that our theoretical apparatus falls far short both as descriptions of how economies function and as prescriptions of how they can be made to function better. The crisis has exposed the limits of economic knowledge. According to Krugman: “The vision that emerge as the profession rethinks its foundations may not be all that clear; it certainly won’t be neat; but one can hope that it will have the virtue of being at least partly right.”

In this process of reappraising existing economic knowledge, there is a real risk of going overboard and wrong the right knowledge. Using the global economic crisis as an excuse, there are emerging tendencies to reject tested economic wisdoms in areas such as the role of foreign capital and trade policy in economic development.

One school of thought that is attempting to rise from the ashes is known as (old) Structural Economics.

Vietnam in pictures: The human toll of natural disasters

James I Davison's picture

Some of my colleagues in the Vietnam office of the World Bank, working with Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspapers, recently organized a photo contest and exhibition on the topic of natural disasters. I thought I’d share some of the finalist entries, which are remarkable in their composition and relevance. It’s important to note that these pictures are not related to the disasters that have hit several East Asian and Pacific countries in recent weeks. Nevertheless, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to click through the pictures below, which focus on the human toll of natural disasters in Vietnam. Check back in a couple days for more photos from the same contest.

Your Comments on Africa's Successes

Shanta Devarajan's picture

The African Successes post has generated a vigorous exchange of ideas.  I appreciate receiving your comments on the study, your suggestions for success stories, and your views on development approaches that have worked and those that have not.  

Les Réussites Africaines

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Ces dernières années, de nombreux pays africains ont commencé à faire preuve d’un dynamisme remarquable.

Le taux de croissance  enregistré au Mozambique est fulgurant, affichant une moyenne annuelle de 8 % sur plus de dix ans. Le Kenya est devenu l'un des plus importants fournisseurs mondiaux de fleurs coupées. Le service M-Pesa, qui permet d’effectuer des transferts d’argent à partir d’un téléphone mobile, rencontre un succès grandissant tandis que le programme KickStart aide les petits agriculteurs à irriguer leurs cultures à moindre coût. Le tourisme rwandais fleurit depuis qu’il s’est axé sur la vie des gorilles et dans la ville de Lagos au Nigéria, les nouvelles infrastructures du BRT (réseau de transport rapide par bus) facilite un développement urbain plus efficace. En deux mots, l’Afrique est en train de vivre une réelle transformation.

World Bank Provides Four Loans Worth Over $4.3 Billion to India

Joe Qian's picture

The World Bank approved four loans worth $4.345 billion dollars yesterday, which is the second largest volume of lending to a single country in a year.

The goal of the four projects is to contribute to improving India's infrastructure and help bolster the country's response to the global economic and financial crisis and lay the foundations for stronger growth in the future.

The financial package consists of:

-Banking Sector Support: $2 billion
-Support for India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited: $1.195 billion
-The Fifth Power Sector Support Project: $1 billion
-The Andhra Pradesh Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project: $150 million

For more information and to watch an interview with India's Country Director Roberto Zagha, please check out the feature story.

Have Innovation and Entrepreneurship Found Solutions for Affordable Housing?

Joe Qian's picture

The recently elected government has recently announced an ambitious goal of eliminating slums in India in its most recent five year plan. Will this be a possibility? If you ask the construction companies, the answer is yes. A number of entrepreneurs and enterprises have embarked on new initiatives to provide affordable housing called such as Tata and its construction of Shubh Griha north of Mumbai.

With the increased rate of economic growth over the last few years, housing developers have tended to focus on the higher end luxury developments causing property prices to soar; I was astounded that luxury apartment homes in Mumbai cost the same as they do in New York and London. As demand for these properties have fallen due to the global financial crisis and increased interest rates, the focus on lower cost housing has increased due to a larger market coupled with acute shortages of housing in urban India.

The Resilience of Bangladesh's Economy May Again be Tested This Year

Zahid Hussain's picture

The Bangladesh economy entered FY10 in a position of strength, notwithstanding some pretty tough global circumstances. Good recovery in agriculture, a sustained growth in exports and remittances, and a steady growth in services helped achieve an estimated overall growth of 5.9 percent in FY09, compared with 6.2 percent in FY08. A decline in international commodity prices driven by the global recession and an improvement in domestic food supplies brought inflation down from 10 percent in FY08 to an estimated 7 percent in FY09. Rice prices have remained stable too at nearly 40 percent below the peak reached in April, 2008. The economy has shown reasonable stability in terms of most other macroeconomic indicators. The external current account has been in a large surplus; the exchange rate has been stable; foreign exchange reserves have reached record high levels of nearly $7.5 billion; fiscal balances have been contained; and private credit growth has remained decent.

This is all good news but it doesn’t mean Bangladesh goes totally unscathed by those tough global circumstances.

Will the Nano Fulfill the Promise of Mobility in Developing Countries?

Joe Qian's picture

Much in the same way the Ford Model T revolutionized transportation in the United States and the Volkswagen Beetle did in Germany, the Tata Nano (small in Gujarati) seeks to do the same for India and the rest of the developing world, with millions still seeking to realize dreams of four wheel mobility. Will the Nano become a resounding success and revolutionize the concept and accessibility of the car, or will it cause increased problems and growing pains in its mission to provide transportation to the broader public?

With a price starting at $2,200 dollars including taxes and fees, the Nano significantly undercuts the current cheapest car in India by almost half and may open the door to aspiring drivers around the world as the most affordable automobile in history (when accounting for inflation). The market potential is seemingly unlimited as only 0.7% of Indians owned automobiles in 2007.

However, economic development has already caused an explosion in the number of motor vehicles perpetuating increased fatalities due to accidents, standstill traffic, and smog filled cityscapes.

Its founder, Ratan Tata says that his inspiration is derived from poignantly watching the way entire families are transported on motorcycles complete with a rider, passenger, along with two children hanging onto the back. He noted the terrible toll in road deaths involving two-wheelers and called for a safer four-wheeled vehicle that will transport families in a dignified manner.

Mongolia's growing shantytowns: the cold and toxic ger districts

David Lawrence's picture


Children breathe thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves in Ulaanbaatar's ger districts, which are home to 60 percent of the city's population.
There’s no capital city anywhere in the world with a housing problem like Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Imagine a city of one million people. Then imagine 60 percent of them living in settlements without water, sanitation or basic infrastructure, often in traditional Mongolian felt tents, known as gers. Then imagine these people relying on wood- or coal-burning stoves for cooking and heating, with fuel costs eating up 40 percent of their income. Then imagine the discomfort of having to get up in the middle of the night when it’s -35 degrees Celsius to go to the bathroom – outdoors.

Worst of all, imagine you and your children breathing the thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, this is not imagination, this is the real situation for over a half million people living in the ger districts of the capital. Not a pretty picture.

Where “Green” Equals “Affordable”…

Ashna Mathema's picture

The construction industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the urban housing constitutes a large part of the construction industry. With the urbanization and lifestyle changes taking place in developing countries, the demand for urban housing can only be expected to grow, and accordingly, the GHGs emitted from its production.

There has been much advancement in green technology in recent years, but  much of this “high performance” green building is high-tech and capital intensive, often with high upfront costs, as a result of which it still remains a luxury supported by rich nations and wealthy individuals. In the developing country context where huge segments of the population are in the lower income segment, lacking access to essential services or housing, this type of approach to addressing climate change is unaffordable and largely irrelevant.