Tag Archives: developing countries

Economist: A special report on water – For want of a drink

Source: Economist

WHEN the word water appears in print these days, crisis is rarely far behind. Water, it is said, is the new oil: a resource long squandered, now growing expensive and soon to be overwhelmed by insatiable demand. Aquifers are falling, glaciers vanishing, reservoirs drying up and rivers no longer flowing to the sea. Climate change threatens to make the problems worse. Everyone must use less water if famine, pestilence and mass migration are not to sweep the globe. As it is, wars are about to break out between countries squabbling over dams and rivers. If the apocalypse is still a little way off, it is only because the four horsemen and their steeds have stopped to search for something to drink.

The language is often overblown, and the remedies sometimes ill conceived, but the basic message is not wrong. Water is indeed scarce in many places, and will grow scarcer. Bringing supply and demand into equilibrium will be painful, and political disputes may increase in number and intensify in their capacity to cause trouble. To carry on with present practices would indeed be to invite disaster.

Why? The difficulties start with the sheer number of people using the stuff. When, 60 years ago, the world’s population was about 2.5 billion, worries about water supply affected relatively few people. Both drought and hunger existed, as they have throughout history, but most people could be fed without irrigated farming. Then the green revolution, in an inspired combination of new crop breeds, fertilisers and water, made possible a huge rise in the population. The number of people on Earth rose to 6 billion in 2000, nearly 7 billion today, and is heading for 9 billion in 2050. The area under irrigation has doubled and the amount of water drawn for farming has tripled. The proportion of people living in countries chronically short of water, which stood at 8% (500m) at the turn of the 21st century, is set to rise to 45% (4 billion) by 2050. And already 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night, partly for lack of water to grow food.

People in temperate climates where the rain falls moderately all the year round may not realise how much water is needed for farming. In Britain, for example, farming takes only 3% of all water withdrawals. In the United States, by contrast, 41% goes for agriculture, almost all of it for irrigation. In China farming takes nearly 70%, and in India nearer 90%. For the world as a whole, agriculture accounts for almost 70%.

Farmers’ increasing demand for water is caused not only by the growing number of mouths to be fed but also by people’s desire for better-tasting, more interesting food. Unfortunately, it takes nearly twice as much water to grow a kilo of peanuts as a kilo of soyabeans, nearly four times as much to produce a kilo of beef as a kilo of chicken, and nearly five times as much to produce a glass of orange juice as a cup of tea. With 2 billion people around the world about to enter the middle class, the agricultural demands on water would increase even if the population stood still.

Industry, too, needs water. It takes about 22% of the world’s withdrawals. Domestic activities take the other 8%. Together, the demands of these two categories quadrupled in the second half of the 20th century, growing twice as fast as those of farming, and forecasters see nothing but further increases in demand on all fronts.

Read the rest of the story here

http://www.economist.com/node/16136302?story_id=16136302&source=hptextfeature

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What does this authoritarian moment mean for developing countries?

by Pranab Bardhan here

As the petro-authoritarianism of Russia flexes its muscles and the economic prowess of China struts in Olympic glory, developing countries in the world might start rethinking about the lectures on democracy and development they have heard all these years from the West. This is at a time when advanced capitalist democracies are reeling under the shock of unregulated financial overreach and years of living beyond their means, a far cry from the end-of-history triumphalism of capitalist democracy of less than two decades back.

The Chinese case in particular is reviving a hoary myth of how particularly in the initial stages of economic development authoritarianism delivers much more than democracy. This is also backed by the memory of impressive economic performance of other East Asian authoritarian regimes (like those in South Korea and Taiwan in the recent past). The lingering hope of democrats had been that as the middle classes prosper in these regimes, they then demand, and in the latter two cases got, the movement toward political democracy. Continue reading

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World Bank Updates Poverty Estimates for the Developing World

WB: August 26, 2008New poverty estimates published by the World Bank reveal that 1.4 billion people in the developing world (one in four) were living on less than US$1.25 a day in 2005, down from 1.9 billion (one in two) in 1981.

The new numbers show that poverty has been more widespread across the developing world over the past 25 years than previously estimated, but also that there has been strong—if regionally uneven—progress toward reducing overall poverty.

Looking at the new estimates from the perspective of the Millennium Development Goals, a set of internationally agreed development targets, the developing world is still on track to halve extreme poverty from its 1990 levels by 2015. This is the first of eight critical goals. Continue reading

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Reforming Public Financial Management in Developing Countries

From Harvard Kennedy School Insight

Interview with Stephen Peterson

Lecturer in Public Policy
Faculty Chair of the Executive Program in Public Financial Management

Reforming Public Financial Management in Developing Countries:

“In public financial management reform in developing countries, I think what’s important to remember is that modest improvements can have significant effects. … A modest strategy of evolutionary improvement ensures that the systems work while the reform is in place and they can evolve, eventually, to fairly sophisticated reforms. But you don’t move to sophisticated reforms overnight.”

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Aid to developing world falls for second year

Kathryn Blanchflower writing at the Guardian, published on Friday April 4 2008

Aid to the developing world has fallen for the second consecutive year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed today.

Campaigners said the G8 and EU targets to tackle global poverty were in jeopardy as developed country aid to poor nations continued to fall shy of goals.

Figures revealed today that overall aid totalled $103.7bn (£51.8bn) in 2007, representing a fall of 8.4% in real terms.

At the 2005 Gleneagles summit, G8 countries committed to pledge an additional $50bn in aid by 2010. Three years on, this target now looks to be missed by as much as $30bn, said Oxfam, enough to save 5 million lives.

“These figures today leave us in no doubt that the world’s richest countries are failing to meet their promises to the poorest countries, especially in Africa,” said Max Lawson, policy adviser for Oxfam. “The human cost of this failure is huge.”

The EU’s collective spending target of 0.7% of national income by 2015 now also looks badly off track, with aid from the world’s richest countries falling from 0.31% in 2006 to only 0.28% in 2007, as the effect of some one-off debt relief drops out of the data.

Figures from the OECD report show only seven countries met or surpassed the 0.7% target, with Norway (0.95%) and Sweden (0.93%) topping the rankings. Continue reading

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