In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow covers stories from the World Bank to Kenya, with stops in Turkey and the BRICS. Enjoy and have a good weekend.
- World Bank Campaigns: Jim Yong Kim, José Antonio Ocampo, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala outlined their visions for the World Bank in recent Financial Times op-eds. (Reports today indicate that Ocampo is withdrawing his candidacy in favor of Okonjo-Iweala.) Kim promised to open the Bank to the views of developing countries and pursue “an evidence-based approach” to development. Ocampo emphasized the fight against poverty and inequality, as well as the need to “mitigate and adapt to climate change.” Okonjo-Iweala outlined “three key challenges” that the Bank must address: job creation, “investments in human capital,” and institutions for governance. Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala also appeared at events sponsored by the Center for Global Development and the Washington Post. The U.S. Treasury Department released Kim’s statement to the Bank’s board.
- Satisfaction in the BRICS: A Gallup poll shows that satisfaction with living standards varies widely among the BRICS. In the 2011 findings, large majorities in Brazil and China expressed satisfaction and believed their standard of living was improving. Numbers were mixed in India, modest in South Africa, and low in Russia. India and South Africa had the largest gaps in satisfaction between rich and poor, though India narrowed this disparity considerably between 2009 and 2011. Russia is the only country where even a majority of the rich did not feel that things were getting better. A Financial Times blog post on the poll notes that economic growth does not always bring happiness.
- Emerging Market Growth: Four items this week explore the economic prospects of Brazil, China, and Turkey. A ForeignAffairs.com piece argues, first, that Brazil’s growth has rested on a fickle foundation of commodities exports. The country must open its economy and boost investment to maintain its progress. Two Economist articles (here and here) highlight Turkey’s yawning current-account deficit, financed uncomfortably by “flighty” foreign investments and exacerbated by low domestic savings. “Few countries that run big external deficits have avoided subsequent stresses,” the Economist concludes. A World Bank update on China is more sanguine. The Bank foresees only a modest slowdown in GDP growth this year to 8.2 percent, with a “mild rebound to 8.6 percent in 2013.” The main risks are depressed demand for Chinese exports and ongoing cooling in China’s property market.
- Better Teaching in Kenya: A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research examines a Kenyan program that enabled local Parent-Teacher Associations to hire primary school teachers on short-term contracts. The teachers appeared in class more often than their civil service counterparts, and students randomly assigned to them scored higher on standardized tests. Test scores also went up overall in schools participating in the program. A simple training session, in which parents were taught how best to recruit, monitor, and evaluate contract teachers, boosted the program’s effectiveness. One upshot: contract teachers can offer far more bang for the buck than civil service ones. A draft paper on a different Kenyan contract teacher program offers a cautionary note, though. Comparing schools where the program was implemented by the government versus an international NGO, the study finds positive effects only from the latter. This bodes ill for scaling up such interventions.