Brock Smith, Thomas McGregor, Samuel Wills, 28 August 2016

One of the biggest challenges in fighting poverty is to know where it is. This column describes a new way to measure poverty by using satellites to count people who live in darkness at night. This shows that the economic benefits of oil booms don’t trickle down to the very poor.

Ina Simonovska, Joel David, 26 August 2016

The ‘excess co-movement puzzle’ in financial markets refers to the correlation of asset returns beyond what could be expected based on the common movements in fundamentals. Using international data, this column links excess co-movement in firm-level stock returns to the correlated beliefs of sophisticated investors. Co-movement is largely explained by investors’ reliance on common information – in other words, their lack of firm-specific information. This gives rise, in part, to the higher degree of aggregate market-wide volatility.

Holger Görg, Christiane Krieger-Boden, Peter Nunnenkamp, 23 August 2016

In theory, firms in developing countries benefit from viable, well-used, stable, and efficient local financial markets as a source of investment for local firms. Financial markets in the home countries of multinationals can also act as a source of FDI to the developing world when local financial markets are weak. This column discusses recent empirical data that support both arguments, and argues that advocates of tighter regulation for financial markets should consider the wider impact on developing country economies.

Michael Callen, Saad Gulzar, Muhammad Yasir Khan, Ali Hasanain, 21 August 2016

Government employee absenteeism is often a serious problem in developing countries. One potential reason is government positions being appointed as a kind of patronage to reward political loyalty. This column presents the results of an intervention designed to address government doctor absenteeism in Punjab, Pakistan. The programme provided government inspectors with a smartphone app to streamline information flows, and improved inspection rates. The results support the political patronage hypothesis and provide encouraging support for data-driven policymaking.

Eduardo Cavallo, Barry Eichengreen, Ugo Panizza, 08 August 2016

In theory, a poor country with a low saving rate but good growth prospects can build up its capital stock by running a large and sustained current account deficit. This column asks whether this is feasible and productive in practice. A substantial number of countries in recent decades have been able to run large current account deficits for as long as ten years, but such episodes typically do not end happily. Foreign finance does not appear to be the cure for countries with low domestic savings.

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