World Bank research plays an increasingly important role in development, as the institution works closely with stakeholders around the world to build long-term infrastructure and social safety nets amid economic shocks.
“It’s all about evidence, evidence, evidence,” said Mahmoud Mohieldin, special envoy for the president of the World Bank. “What works? What doesn’t work? What are the preconditions for success?”
With data and research supporting a sustainable, long-term infrastructure, it’s much easier to convince Bank clients to take steps to promote long-term growth and avoid the rush to focus on short-term fixes, he said. “And the World Bank will be even more in demand than ever to provide support and manage risk.”
The Bank’s Global Financial Development Report, for example, covers timely topics, such as microfinance and financial inclusion, with policy-relevant metrics and country-by-country data, he said. Those quantifiable goals, much like President Jim Yong Kim’s goals to end poverty and boost shared prosperity, make progress more likely. “If you can’t measure it, you won’t be able to manage it.”
Mohieldin, who holds a doctorate in economics and now advises President Kim on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda, financial development and the G20, delved deep into World Bank research during his one-week visit in August at the Development Research Group, the Bank’s research department.
He held in-depth discussions with researchers working on a wide range of topics, such as long-term financial development, household survey data, energy, trade, and the political economy. He also met with staff in charge of Open Data at the Development Prospects Group. He said he will continue the dialogue with researchers and data experts on evidence-based policy solutions.
By spending time with both researchers and practitioners, the visit provided a unique opportunity to reflect on the political economy of reforms, bridging the Bank’s strongest theoretical and policy research and actual cases where change was supported on the ground in Latin America and Africa. It was an opportunity to further discuss proposals for long term finance, infrastructure, new measures of poverty and well-being, and frontier issues such as those to be treated in the upcoming WDR on the Behavioral and Social Foundations of Development.
Mohieldin’s visit is part of the Development Economics Vice Presidency’s Visiting Experts Program, which aims to foster knowledge sharing between researchers and staff from the rest of the Bank. A dozen experts, including country directors, program managers and regional consultants, are spending between one week and six months at the research department this fiscal year.
“Dr. Mohieldin has deep experience in government, academia and international consensus building, and he also has been a staunch supporter of World Bank research,” said Asli Demirguc-Kunt, the World Bank’s director of research. “Our researchers learn a great deal from interacting with him and other field experts, and we look forward to long-term collaborations.”
Since joining the Bank, first as managing director, Mohieldin has worked closely with Senior Vice Presidents and Chief Economists Justin Lin and Kaushik Basu, Demirguc-Kunt and others to put research into policy across the Bank.
As co-chair of the president’s Financial Development Council, he was an advocate for the inaugural Global Financial Development Report, “Rethinking the Role of the State in Finance,” a joint product by the Development Economics Vice Presidency and the Financial and Private Sector Development Network. He chaired the bank-wide review meetings and discussed it with executive directors and other stakeholders.
The second volume, which will be released in November, focuses on financial inclusion, a priority of the G-20 countries. He is also participating in discussions of the concept note for the third annual report, on long-term finance.
“All these are important topics for research – the debate side – and also for practical implications and suggestions – the policy-making side,” Mohieldin said. The research department’s strength, he said, is that “you know how to use analytical tools for problem-solving.”