The Visiting Experts Program brings operational staff to the research department in the Development Economics Vice Presidency for up to two months to foster stronger links between operations and research.
What drew you to apply for the Visiting Experts Program?
Because my work merges both the practical implementation of complex development programs and projects and the current state of knowledge in the academic and research community in the same fields of development, it was a natural fit for me to apply to the program. In my mind, combining field experience with current research is one of the best ways to ensure success in the World Bank’s mission to alleviate poverty and increase shared prosperity. In fact, one of the main attractions of working for the World Bank Group, is in fact, the opportunity to deliver on both these fronts.
The challenges of matching these two unique frontiers can be formidable in practice. Development practitioners are so busy meeting the demands of delivering reforms with sometimes not very easy government or private sector clients that they can’t always incorporate the practical application of high quality and practical policy oriented research and recommendations of the type the Development Research Group produces.
For me the VEP program represents an opportunity to work with my DEC colleagues to examine an innovative development intervention in South Asia on sector regulations and level of investment, and make this rigorous collaboration available to development practitioners in the World Bank Group and beyond.
What did you hope you would gain from participating?
I have already gained much more than I had originally hoped. I have had access to top researchers across the department and managers and thought leaders such as Asli Demirguc-Kunt, Director of Research, and Sole Martinez Peria, Research Manager for Finance and Private Sector Development, who embody the drive and passion for the work we do.
“Moreover, I was reminded of how easy it is to lose perspective on the big picture when delivering on the operational needs of the organization.”
Goran Sumkoski Program Manager
Moreover, I was reminded of how easy it is to lose perspective on the big picture when working from within the organization. But given the unique combination of capacities across the World Bank Group—from top academic research to the nitty gritty of implementing difficult projects in the villages of Bangladesh—we have to fight against this tendency.
Can you tell us more about what research product(s) you have in mind? Do you see any future collaboration beginning to develop?
My current research focuses on the links between sector regulations and levels of private investment in the corresponding infrastructure sectors (e.g., gas, electricity, roads, and communications). It is based on a unique set of OECD-style indicators on Product Market Regulation in Energy, Gas, Transport, and Communications compiled by me and my colleagues for all seven infrastructure sectors in Bangladesh for the period between 1975 and 2013, with the goal of examining whether the impact of these regulations on investment in developing countries is of the same nature, scope and magnitude as it is for the OECD countries.
“Goran shared his wealth of knowledge on business regulations in Bangladesh and was very helpful in facilitating contacts for people in the group conducting research projects in the country.”
Sole Martinez Peria Research Manager, Finance and Private Sector Development Team
I am exploring questions such as: Is there an ideal system of sector regulatory outcomes – best regulatory practices type – that developing countries can strive toward? Or are there universal institutional and governance “handles” that are conducive to and facilitate improved regulatory outcomes and, even more importantly, ways to manage and maintain the regulations in a credible, transparent, accountable way and on a sustainable basis thus managing to keep both investors and citizens happy? Can such simplified regulatory outcomes lead to more investment? Or what comes first and causes the other, regulatory simplification or investment? And whether improved regulatory improvements lead to more efficient infrastructure outcomes even at the same level of investment?
Can you tell us how this experience will benefit you afterward?
In addition to the research on sector regulations and investment, I am also discussing research initiatives with colleagues in the research department and other parts of the Bank such as improving tax compliance; competitiveness and regulation; methodology for a regulatory failure index to measure the gap between expected and achieved outcomes of regulatory reforms; etc. The connections and knowledge exchanges during my stay will extend in depth and breadth well beyond my visit of two months.
Outside of the VEP program, how do you think researchers and operational experts like you can work better together every day?
My hope is to work closer with my DEC colleagues going forward. This could take the form of regular and targeted Knowledge Talks between DEC and field offices, or virtual exchanges on knowledge-sharing platform such as Spark to create ad hoc gatherings of development practitioners and researchers around concrete development topics and interventions. Operations would benefit from the way researchers go at a problem and researchers would benefit from interventions tried in the field.
Any suggestions for the Bank's research agenda and how to put research findings to good use?
The research agenda at the World Bank should continue to focus on designing, developing, and providing unique practical and measureable development solutions. Along these lines, it might be useful to establish a Visiting Researchers program for researchers to work directly with their colleagues in the field, which I believe would result in more coherent and coordinated approaches and development solutions that would be much easier to develop to scale.