Sustainable Development Goals and the updated poverty line

 •  Filed under inequality

Roundup of recent articles on SDGs:

World Bank Policy Research Note: Ending Extreme Poverty and Sharing Prosperity: Progress and Policies

With an estimated 900 million people in 2012 on less than $1.90 a day—the updated international poverty line—and a projected 700 million in 2015, extreme poverty still remains unacceptably high. It has also become more concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. ...

... Three key challenges stand out: the depth of remaining poverty, the unevenness in shared prosperity, and the persistent disparities in non-income dimensions of development. ... unequal progress in non-income dimensions of development requires addressing widespread inequality of opportunity, which transmits poverty across generations and erodes the pace and sustainability of progress for the bottom 40.

World Bank: Post-2015 Development Agenda

WSJ: World Leaders Tackle Development Goals

China’s President Xi Jinping said his country would invest $2 billion in developing countries and set up an additional $12 billion fund, mostly for Africa, by 2030.

Other world leaders drew connections between domestic challenges and meeting these goals. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his priority was eradicating extreme poverty. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said terrorism was a major hindrance to effective development. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said extreme poverty, persecution and war had flooded Europe with refugees and migrants.

A conversation with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde: Implementing the post-2015 development agenda via @dinapomeranz

Daniel Kaufmann: Seizing the governance moment

Even if politically unpalatable to some, the data is clear: The performance around the world is extremely mixed. Countries like Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, and Libya, among others, are in governance crises. These examples contrast sharply with countries like Uruguay, Costa Rica, Estonia, Botswana, and Poland. In fact, any of these rate well above Greece or Italy in rule of law and controlling corruption, hinting at the highly varied performance within rich OECD countries as well—good governance and anti-corruption are also challenges for richer countries.

Tony Blair: How can we ensure the success of the SDGs?

a concerted effort to strengthen government capacity and efficiency would be an excellent complement to the SDGs. But it should be carried out with a practical eye.

... we need to appreciate that there is a cost to multitasking. The SDGs comprise 17 goals and 169 targets – all of them admirable in their own right. But governments in developing countries must be allowed to prioritize them and focus on the rhythm of change that works best for them.

Economist: Beyond Handouts

Most of the SDGs’ predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), have been met, largely because of progress in China and India. ...

... As the SDGs proliferate, donors are putting greater emphasis on measuring results and collecting data. They need data to be more disaggregated and to know where the poor are concentrated, as well as their ages, how they live and what sort of work they do. Advances in technology make this easier. Satellites can more precisely determine where forests are thinning, for example, or where crops are thriving or wilting. ...

... Another feature of the post-MDG consensus that goes beyond aid is a looming campaign against tax avoidance by multinationals and firms that conceal their “beneficial ownership”, thereby depriving poor countries of the revenue they need to better their people’s lot. At a UN conference on financing development in Ethiopia in July, it was decided to set up a body called “Tax Inspectors Without Borders” in Paris in co-operation with the OECD, a club of 34 mostly well-off countries. ...

... Leading the fight against graft in mining, oil and gas is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Under Clare Short, a former British minister for aid, it has steadily gained momentum, with 48 governments (22 in Africa) and 90-odd big companies promising to expose payments and revenue to public scrutiny. The British and American governments have signed up, hoping that France and Germany will follow, though Brazil, China, India and Russia seem unlikely to do so any time soon.

FT editorial: The UN obsession with global targets for poverty

Homi Kharas: The post-2015 agenda and the evolution of the World Bank Group

Compared to the Millennium Development Goals’ focus on poverty reduction and access to social services, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are broader and more ambitious, encompassing areas where multilaterals have extensive experience: infrastructure and energy, governance and institutions, domestic resource mobilization, leverage of the private sector, and improved business environments, and more.

... It puts the responsibility for development squarely on countries themselves; "Cohesive nationally owned sustainable development strategies, supported by integrated national financing frameworks, will be at the heart of our efforts." The role of development agencies, in this view, is to support country-led processes, not replace them

Dollar, Kleineberg, Kraay: Growth, Inequality, and Social Welfare: Cross-Country Evidence

FT Beyondbrics: Personalising data for development

Earlier coverage

Economist: The economics of optimism

Indonesia – a country of 256m people – will not meet its Millennium Development Goal (forerunner of the SDGs) on maternal mortality. Mothers routinely die from complications that could easily be avoided with focused interventions, especially a better referral system. To understand this tragedy, you don’t necessarily need big data, because mathematically the number of maternal deaths is relatively small at 8,800 cases a year. But you do need more granular, systematic and timely data. Imagine a determined government demanding and acting on bi-weekly maps quantifying the problem at the village or sub-district level. Such an approach would fundamentally alter the nature of the debate, by making hitherto abstract statistics personal, tangible and actionable. New communication tools can then help the affected citizens to monitor government performance and provide feedback.

Despite vast opportunities, there are very few examples that have generated sufficient traction and scale to change policy and behaviour and create the feedback loops to further improve data quality.

Several of the eight MDGs have been achieved by this year’s deadline, including halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty. Huge strides have been made towards most of the others, such as halving the proportion of people who are hungry. One of the strengths of the MDGs was that there were only a few of them (the eight goals subsumed just 18 targets) and they were sufficiently clear to be a basis for action. That is in contrast to the SDGs, of which 17 have been proposed, with 169 associated targets. They cover everything from the quality of drinking water to inequality. ...

... David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, has said there are too many proposed SDGs “to communicate effectively”; he thinks there should be 10-12. ...

... Most poverty-reduction measures are more expensive than cutting tariffs, but many are still well worth it. Providing contraception and other reproductive-health services to all who want them would cost $3.6 billion a year, according to Mr Lomborg’s researchers, yet generate annual benefits of $432 billion, $120 per dollar spent. Increasing the nursery school enrolment rate in sub-Saharan Africa to 59% from its current 18% would generate benefits of $33 per dollar spent.

FT: Earth’s poor set to swell as World Bank moves poverty line

The bank is expected to ... [shift] its poverty line to about $1.90 ahead of its annual meetings in Lima, Peru, in early October — a move likely to result in significant shifts in the estimated size and distribution of the planet’s poor.

FT: Poverty: Vulnerable to change

The biggest gains in the fight against poverty in recent decades have come in Asian economies like China and Vietnam, which followed the rise of South Korea and Japan before them. According to World Bank data, one in three of the world’s poor lived in East Asia in 1999; today that figure is 8 per cent. In 1999 there were more than 450m people living on $1.25 a day or less in China and they alone made up a quarter of the world’s poor. By 2011, the latest year for which data are available, that number had fallen to 84m.

More than 80 per cent of the 1bn people struggling to get by on $1.25 a day or less do so in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. India alone is still home to more than 280m of those people.