Jean-Marie Baland, Rohini Somanathan, Lore Vandewalle, 07 February 2016

The benefits of microfinance are in the details. This column takes a look at commercial bank lending to Indian self-help groups – smaller, informal community-based groups – as a new and successful microfinance initiative. Different ways of thinking about getting credit to the poorest and most marginalised in society can work, but only if the institutions are properly geared up for their customers.

Ulrik Beck, Benedikte Bjerge, Marcel Fafchamps, 06 February 2016

There are good reasons to think that social networks can reduce barriers to the exchange of production factors. Using data from 51 villages in Gambia, this column examines whether transfers of land between rural households improve efficiency, and whether social networks help or hinder such transfers. The results suggest that social ties may indeed be able to offset the negative impact of a limited or non-existing institutional framework.

Julián Caballero, Ugo Panizza, Andrew Powell, 05 February 2016

The increase in the debt of emerging market non-financial firms has been large. This column argues that to understand the risks, if any, it is important to know the state of corporate balance sheets and what firms have actually been doing. In some cases external debt has been issued to substitute more expensive local debt, in others to finance real investment, and in several countries it has been used to exploit carry trade opportunities. In virtually all cases, however, good information on corporate currency mismatches is hard to obtain. There needs to be better information and better reporting if we are to make headway.

Longfeng Ye, Peter E. Robertson, 01 February 2016

The World Bank has identified 37 countries as being in a ‘middle-income trap’, but few formal tests of the middle-income trap hypothesis exist. This column presents a new test based on a more nuanced observation that incorporates information on a country’s long-run growth path. Only seven out of 46 middle-income countries are found to be potentially ‘trapped’. Some countries that are usually considered to be trapped may just be growing very slowly.

Nils Herger, Steve McCorriston, 31 January 2016

A key feature of globalisation over the last three decades has been the wave-like growth of foreign direct investment. This column shows that conglomerate cross-border acquisitions, which are closely associated with mispricing in financial markets, play a significant role in explaining these developments.

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