The Telecom Sector Leads Private Participation in Infrastructure

Recent data from the World Bank’s PPP Group and PPIAF show that the telecommunications sector led private participation in infrastructure in emerging markets in 2013. At $57.3 billion, the telecoms sector barely edged out energy, with both representing 38 percent of total PPI. Although total PPI sank by 24.1 percent in 2013 compared with 2012 levels, the telecom sector fell by only 7 percent, demonstrating its relative resilience.

Unsurprisingly, more than half of PPI telecom investment is in the mobile access segment. The top five projects in the telecom sector in every region are in mobile. The next-largest segment is multi-service providers, with 44 percent of all investments.

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Only Ebenezer Scrooge Could Applaud Such Stark Inequality; The Dickensian Divide of Intensifying Wealth and Poverty


Source: Branko Milanovic

If you thought the wealth gap was vast between the miser Ebenezer Scrooge and the oppressed Bob Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol,” then lend a Christmastime thought for the desperate Dickensian divide that’s now afflicting the global economy.

The biggest economic-policy issue of 2014 has certainly been the outpouring of alarm about the chronically intensifying divide between wealth and poverty – an uproar that has had a transformational effect on the worldwide debate on economic policy. As a seminar at the Center for Global Development recently discussed, the precise statistics on inequality (and the perception of inequality) are subtle, with many nuances of measurement (whether data should be derived, for example, from tax-return filings or from household surveys). Yet this year’s irrefutable interpretation among economists and business leaders has been driven by a landmark of economic scholarship: the bombshell book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty. “Capital” has forced economists, policymakers and scholars to reconsider the inexorable trends that are driving the modern-day economy toward an ever-more-intense concentration of capital in fewer and fewer hands.

No wonder Piketty’s “Capital” was acclaimed as the Financial Times/McKinsey “Business Book of the Year.” Piketty’s analysis has fundamentally changed the parameters of the public-policy debate, and many of its ideas challenge conventional economic theory.

To explore the implications of the alarming trends in income and wealth inequality, there’s no analyst more insightful  than Branko Milanovic, the former World Bank economist who is now a scholar at the LIS Center (working on the authoritative Luxembourg Income Study) at the City University of New York. Milanovic has justly won acclaim for his work, “The Haves and the Have-Nots,” which pioneered the territory now being explored by Piketty.

Confirming the trends that Piketty identified in “Capital” – and taking those insights one significant step further, to measure the wealth gaps both within countries and between countries – Milanovic recently led a compelling CGD seminar on “Winners and Losers of Globalization: Political Implications of Inequality.”

The seminar’s sobering conclusion: If you think the wealth-and-incomes gap is painful now, just wait a decade or two. If allowed to go unattended, the widening economic divide will soon become a dangerous social chasm. That data-driven projection is leading many analysts to dread that inequality (whether between countries or within the same country) threatens to pose a stark challenge to social stability, and even to the survival of democracy.

The breakthtaking “a-ha!” moment of Milanovic’s CGD presentation was the chart (see the illustration, above) – hailed by seminar chairman Michael Clemens and discussant Laurence Chandy as “the Chart of the Century” – that plotted-out the pattern of how globalization has exerted relentless downward pressure on the incomes of the global upper-middle class, which roughly corresponds to the Western lower-middle class.

Globalization has helped promote the prosperity of skilled workers in developing nations, Milanovic explained, with the dramatic surge of China’s economy being the greatest driver of global “convergence.” Yet globalization has had an undeniable downward effect on the wealth and incomes of low- and medium-skilled workers in developed, industrialized nations. That certainly helps explain the angry mood among voters in Western Europe and North America, whose overall incomes and wealth have been stagnating for perhaps 40 years.

At the same time – reinforcing the significance of Piketty’s iconic formula that r>g (that the returns on capital are destined to be greater than overall economic growth) – a vast proportion of the world’s wealth has been concentrated in just the very top echelons of society. Milanovic’s meticulous data (see the illustration, below) confirm the extreme concentration of global absolute gains in income, from 1988 to 2008, in the top 5 percent of the world’s income distribution. Rigorous empirical evidence from multiple sources indeed confirms that most of the global gains in wealth have accrued to the already-vastly-wealthy top One Percent. The data on increasing socioeconomic stratification are, by now, so well-established that only the predictable claque of free-market absolutists and dogmatic deniers cling (with increasing desperation) to the notion that the inequality gap is merely a myth.


Source: Branko Milanovic

Reinforcing Milanovic’s analysis, yet another well-documented study – this time, by the OECD – asserted this month that economic inequality is intensifying within the world’s developed nations. That within-country trend accompanies the yawning inequality gap between developed and developing economies. The OECD thus joined the chorus that includes the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the U.S. Federal Reserve System in sounding the alarm about the way that income and wealth disparities are becoming socially explosive. Even on Wall Street, many pragmatists are warning with increasing urgency that “too much inequality can undermine growth.”

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Striking Gold with Women Entrepreneurs

Women don’t know how to manage Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).
Women can only run retail or services businesses.
Women-led businesses don’t create jobs.
Women don’t really want to grow their businesses – it’s just a hobby for them.

How many times have we heard these and similar sentiments?

There are indeed far fewer businesses led by women compared to men; female-led businesses do tend to be smaller and less profitable; and they do concentrate in the low-productivity retail and services sectors. Yet it is a vast oversimplification to underestimate the already-strong and potentially even greater economic contribution of women entrepreneurs. Even worse is the assumption that the underperformance of women-led enterprises is always something done by choice, or due to something inherently female.

A recent World Bank research report on supporting growth-oriented women entrepreneurs adds nuance to the dispiriting facts above. It focuses exclusively on growth-oriented women entrepreneurs and identifies the crucial elements needed to effectively support them. What merits the focus on growth entrepreneurs? Simply put: their ability to generate jobs, enhance national productivity, and stimulate socioeconomic transformation is greater. What merits the focus, specifically, on women growth entrepreneurs? Simply put: their immense untapped potential. There are an estimated 812 million women in the developing world (according to well-researched projections) with the potential to contribute more fully to national economies as workers and job creators, but who are unable to do so.

We find that firms led by women and men survive at the same rate, women-led firms employ more women as a share of their workforce, and far more dramatically, women and men lead equally productive firms . . . as long as the firms operate in the same sectors.

Unraveling these trends allows us to identify the underlying obstacles that result in both the underperformance of women-led enterprises and their comparable performance in specific sectors. We find that women growth entrepreneurs are held back by a complex intersection of factors – driven both by individual preferences and external constraints. These include gaps in management skills and knowledge, limited financial literacy, lack of access to finance, lack of mentoring, over-representation in low-productivity and low-growth sectors, restricted access to networks and supply chains, and legal and regulatory obstacles. While we now know more about what holds women entrepreneurs back, the support programs by the World Bank and others do not always adequately reflect this knowledge in program design and delivery.

What can we, through the World Bank, do to ensure that our programs have greater impact, are more relevant to women growth entrepreneurs, and demonstrate a replicable model for other development actors and client governments?

The answer: We should start by “gendering” our programs.

In the case of business education for example, “gendering” means more than just limiting program participation to women. Program content must explicitly speak to gender-related challenges like interacting and negotiating with buyers and suppliers in male-dominated markets, navigating team dynamics in a culture where women are not considered “leaders,” and managing intra-household dynamics and mobility constraints. In a related concern, program delivery must also be gender-sensitive: That includes offering in-class examples of successful women-led businesses, inviting successful women as guest speakers, and addressing the patriarchal attitudes of the people implementing the program.

 

 

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Trends in Private Participation in Infrastructure

The private sector has long been a major player in infrastructure projects around the globe. Its contribution is important on many levels: besides making financial, technical and managerial resources available for infrastructure projects, its participation has policy implications that impact investment and development.

The World Bank’s Public Private Partnership Group and the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) support public discussion on the role of private participation in infrastructure, or PPI. To provide relevant information on this topic, they maintain a PPI database that includes information on over 6,000 infrastructure projects implemented from 1984 through 2013 in 92 emerging economies. The information is useful for analysts, policymakers, private sector firms involved in infrastructure, donors, NGOs and other stakeholders.The data can be used to identify regional or sectoral trends. The recently-released 2013 Global PPI Update, for example, shows that PPI in 2013 in emerging markets fell by 24 percent in comparison with 2012, with decreases in Brazil and India accounting for much of the change. The data also show that investments in telecom and energy top the list, each accounting for 38 percent of global PPI.

 

 

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Is Somaliland truly “Open for Business”? Moving past the conventional narrative of a fragile state

Somalia has the reputation of being a mysterious and conflict-ridden land. Who hasn’t heard of the infamous “Black Hawk down” episode, the militant group al-Shabaab or the pirates off the Somali coast?

But in the northwest corridor of war-ravaged Somalia lies Somaliland, a self-declared independent state that claims to be open for business. Really?

It’s easy to dismiss the “open for business” claim by Somaliland’s Ministry of Planning as mere fantasy or wishful thinking. Flying from Nairobi on a painfully slow UN-chartered plane, being greeted at the hotel by Kalashnikov-armed guards, or traveling to your meeting in an armored car is enough to discourage even the most adventurous entrepreneur.

At first sight, Somaliland has all the characteristics of a fragile and conflict-affected situation (FCS). However, you never want to judge a book by its cover. In Somaliland, I’d argue that the conventional narrative of fragility needs to be revisited.

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A New Model to Chip Away at the Infrastructure Financing Gap: Brazil Leads the Way

Infrastructure bottlenecks have created seemingly perpetual traffic jams in and around São Paulo. Photo credit: Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

There’s a lot of time for innovative thought when you’re stuck in traffic in São Paulo.

Perhaps that’s why, in the words for Deborah L. Wetzel, World Bank Country Director for Brazil, “São Paulo has continuously innovated to overcome its infrastructure bottlenecks, often becoming a model to other states in Brazil.”

With a loan signed last month between the state and Banco Santander, and insured by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the state is at the vanguard of infrastructure financing.

Forty-one million people use the state’s transportation networks. While the network is one of the most developed and modern in Brazil, it is still insufficient for the state’s needs.

The State of São Paulo has sought to address the situation for some time, and the World Bank has played an important role through lending and technical assistance. An important component of this work is the São Paulo State Sustainable Transport Project that aims to rehabilitate roads in several key corridors and to reconstruct two bridges.

Yet, with a total cost estimated at $729 million, this project has faced a major financing hurdle. In September 2013, the World Bank approved a $300-million loan toward the initiative. But with growing demand for loans from Brazil’s poorest states, the bank was unable to commit additional funds. The State of São Paulo itself committed $129 million. That left a shortfall of $300 million.

How was the state going to mobilize these funds at a cost that would be acceptable to taxpayers?

A partnership with MIGA was a natural answer. In addition to political risk insurance, MIGA provides credit-enhancement products that protect commercial lenders against non-payment by a sovereign, sub-sovereign or state-owned enterprise.

In an unprecedented move, the State of São Paulo bid out the project to commercial banks with a requirement that their loans be backed by MIGA’s credit-enhancement instrument.

The result:  MIGA issued guarantees to Banco Santander on a $300-million loan. With MIGA’s credit enhancement, the cost of the commercial loan was lower, and the length of the loan was longer, than São Paulo could have achieved on its own. The additional financing will be used to increase the scope of the project’s activities.

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Credit for All: Increasing Women’s Access to Finance

Financial inclusion is important for accelerating economic growth, reducing income inequality, and decreasing poverty rates. Unfortunately, women face more difficulty than men in access to credit, limiting the development of their full market potential and hindering economic gain and entrepreneurship. Discriminatory practices in the granting of credit may mean that qualified applicants do not have the same opportunity to receive credit simply due to their gender.

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