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Law and Regulation

Machine Learning Helps Power Down Electricity Theft in Jamaica

Anna Lerner's picture
  • In Jamaica, about a quarter of electricity produced is stolen or “lost” through non-paying customers and/or accounting errors. Manual detection has failed to make a difference in reducing this theft.
  • ESMAP’s technical assistance team implemented a machine learning model to help Jamaican utility JPS identify and decrease incidents of theft.
  • The machine learning model is based on an open source code, and is available for free to any utility.
About a quarter of the electricity produced by Jamaica’s energy utility, Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is stolen. When traditional, labor-intensive methods failed to produce lasting results, Jamaica tried a different approach: machine learning.
Globally, billions of dollars are lost every year due to electricity theft, wherein electricity is distributed to customers but is never paid for. In 2014 alone, Jamaica’s total power transmission and distribution system reported 27% of losses (due to technical and non-technical reasons), close to double the regional average. While the utility company absorbs a portion of the cost, it also passes some of that cost onto consumers. Both actors therefore have an incentive to want to change this.
To combat this, JPS would spend more than $10 million (USD) on anti-theft measures every year, only to see theft numbers temporarily dip before climbing back up again. The problem was, these measures relied primarily on human-intensive, manual detection, and customers stealing electricity used more and more sophisticated ways to go around regularly metered use. JPS employees would use their institutional knowledge of serial offenders and would spend hours poring over metering data to uncover irregular patterns in electricity usage to identify shady accounts. But it wasn’t enough to effectively quash incidents of theft.

Fresh thinking on economic cooperation in South Asia

Nikita Singla's picture
 Aamir Khan/ Pakistan, Sreerupa Sengupta/ India, Sanjay Kathuria/ World Bank, Mahfuz Kabir & Surendar Singh/ Bangladesh) Photo By: Marcio De La Cruz/ World Bank
Young Economists sharing the stage with Sanjay Kathuria, Lead Economist and Coordinator, Regional Integration (Left to Right: Aamir Khan/ Pakistan, Sreerupa Sengupta/ India, Sanjay Kathuria/ World Bank, Mahfuz Kabir/Bangladesh & Surendar Singh/ India). Photo by: Marcio De La Cruz/ World Bank

That regional cooperation in South Asia is lower than optimal levels is well accepted. It is usually ascribed to – the asymmetry in size between India and the rest, conflicts and historical political tensions, a trust deficit, limited transport connectivity, and onerous logistics, among many other factors.

Deepening regional integration requires sufficient policy-relevant analytical work on the costs and benefits of both intra-regional trade and investment. An effective cross-border network of young professionals can contribute to fresh thinking on emerging economic cooperation issues in South Asia.

Against this background, the World Bank Group sponsored a competitive request for proposals.  Awardees from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, after being actively mentored by seasoned World Bank staff over a period of two years, convened in Washington DC to present their new and exciting research. Research areas included regional value chains, production sharing and the impact assessment of alternative preferential trade agreements in the region.

Young Economists offer fresh thoughts on economic cooperation in South Asia

Mahfuz Kabir, Acting Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies and Surendar Singh, Policy Analyst, Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS International) presented their research: Of Streams and Tides, India-Bangladesh Value Chains in Textiles and Clothing (T&C). They focus on how to tackle three main trade barriers for T&C: a) high tariffs for selected, but important goods for the industries of both countries; b) inefficient customs procedures and c) divergent criteria for rules of origin classification.

Sreerupa Sengupta, Ph.D. Scholar at Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi discussed Trade Cooperation and Production Sharing in South Asia – An Indian Perspective. Reviewing the pattern of Indian exports and imports in the last twenty years, her research focuses on comparing the Global Value Chain (GVC) participation rate of India with East Asian and ASEAN economies. Barriers to higher participation include a) lack of openness in the FDI sector; b) lack of adequate port infrastructure, and long port dwell times; and c) lack of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs).

Aamir Khan, Assistant Professor, Department of Management Sciences, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad presented his work on Economy Wide Impact of Regional Integration in South Asia - Options for Pakistan. His research analyzes the reasons for Pakistan not being able to take full advantage of its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, and finds that the granting of ASEAN-type concessions to Pakistan in its FTA with China would be more beneficial than the current FTA arrangement. The work also draws lessons for FTAs that are currently being negotiated by South Asian countries.

Twitter chat: Economic benefits of environment management in Sri Lanka

Ralph van Doorn's picture

Join us for #SLDU2017: Economic Benefits of Environment Management. This Twitter chat will be hosted by World Bank South Asia

What’s happening?

Join us for #SLDU2017: Economic Benefits of Environment Management. This Twitter chat will be hosted by World Bank South Asia (@WorldBankSAsia) in collaboration with the Institute for Policy Studies IPS (@TalkEconomicsSL).
When is it?
August 21, 2017 from 5.30 – 7.30 pm
Unpacking #SLDU2017
The chat will explore the findings of the Sri Lanka Development Update (SLDU), published this June.
I look forward to engaging with you together with a panel from different areas of expertise.
We’ll be discussing priority reforms with a focus on how Sri Lanka can better manage both its business and natural environment to bolster economic growth and sustain development.
In recent years, natural disasters have left parts of this island nation devastated, exacting a significant economic, fiscal and social toll. The SLDU identifies other challenges as well, pressing the case for fiscal consolidation, a new growth model, improved governance and programs to buffer against risk.
The latest update cautions against adopting piecemeal solutions, noting that the challenges facing the island nation are inter-linked and require a comprehensive and coordinated reform approach.
In the end, we also hope this Twitter chat will allow us to learn from you as we begin our preparations for the next SLDU.
How can you participate?
Never taken part in a Twitter chat before? It’s simple. Just think of this as an online Q&A. @WorldBankSAsia will moderate the discussion, posing questions to panellists. You are encouraged to join in too! Follow along, retweet and engage. If you have a question, simply tweet it out using the hashtag #SLDU2017. We’ll see it and try to get you some answers.

The effects of minimum wages on jobs: Lessons from Seattle

Hernan Winkler's picture
Minimum wages around the world are most frequently set at around 40 percent of mean salaries. (Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank)

What can labor ministers in the developing world learn from the heated debate on minimum wages that Seattle’s dramatic reforms reignited? The answer may be confusion. After more than 6,000 scientific articles, the discussion on the costs and benefits of raising minimum wages is still one of those unresolved million-dollar questions: Many economists claim that it is a very effective way to guarantee decent jobs for workers and to reduce inequality, but other economists and policymakers seem convinced that it would do just the opposite. The recent experiment in Seattle, unfortunately, adds little clarity.

Collecting primary data in Afghanistan: Daunting but doable

Tommaso Rooms's picture

Afghanistan is not exactly an easy place to undertake a rigorous study on the ease of doing business. And collecting primary data for a micro-based study in Kabul and several Afghan provinces can be a daunting task. Just how daunting is underscored by the fact that the country conducted its most recent census almost 40 years ago, in 1979. Vast tracts of the country remain unsafe and many of its provinces are inaccessible.
Despite the security challenges, our experience from the recently launched Subnational Doing Business in Afghanistan report shows that the barriers to collecting micro data are not insurmountable. The data and related findings can help guide business reforms toward the kind of smart regulations that are imperative for attracting private sector investment to the capital city and beyond. A regulatory environment that enables private enterprise, especially small and medium firms, to function and be creative boosts job creation and is, therefore, good for the economy.

The report, the first of its kind in Afghanistan, benchmarks Kabul and the provinces of Balkh, Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar across four Doing Business indicators: Starting a Business, Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity and Registering Property.

The key takeways?
  • Kabul leads in two of the areas measured, Starting a Business and Getting Electricity. Kandahar ranks first in Dealing with Construction Permits and Registering Property, while Balkh comes in second in all four areas measured by the report.
  • Regulatory quality and efficiency vary considerably among the five locations. Rolling out reforms already implemented in Kabul across all of Afghanistan would improve the business environment for entrepreneurs in the provinces.
  • By adopting all the good practices, Afghanistan could move up 11 places in the global Doing Business ranking, to 172.

Why law enforcement is essential to stopping illegal wildlife trade

Simon Robertson's picture

© Steve Slater, Flickr

Have you ever seen a rhino walking into the African sunset? It’s an unbelievable sight. Now let me ask you this- have you ever seen a carcass of a dead adult rhino with its horn sawn off and the body lying on the dusty ground? It is an unforgettable and tragic sight.

The world’s wildlife is under a grave threat of either being slaughtered or captured alive. The wildlife commodities -- whether an ivory tusk, a rhino horn, live birds or reptiles -- are illegally moved through well-organized transnational supply chains and sold in international markets where consumers are willing to pay a high price.

How much bang for how many bucks?

Jim Brumby's picture
Rubens Donizeti Valeriano - Panamericano de MTB XCO 2014 - Barbacena - MG - Brasil. Photo: Daniela Luna
Evidence-based rule-making for private sector development and service delivery


Any visitor to Armenia can testify that the country has delicious food. But diners need to be assured that the khorovats, dolma, or basturma on their plates will not make them sick. How can this be assured?

Some 65 percent of the 320,000 inhabitants of the Brazilian city of Rio Branco use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation, and the popularity of biking is increasing across the country. But Brazil’s 40,000 annual traffic related fatalities makes protective gear a necessity. What is appropriate protection?

What happens if you don’t pay your bill? Lessons from Central and Eastern Europe

Georgia Harley's picture

We all have regular bills to pay for the ubiquitous services we consume – whether they be for utilities (water, heating, electricity etc.), credit cards, memberships, or car payments.  But, not everyone pays.  

So why don’t people pay?  Why are some countries better at this than others?  And what can be done to improve systems for debt collection?

Peer Pressure: Tax competition and developing economies

Michael Keen's picture
A race to the bottom. Graphic by Nicholas Nam/World Bank

Economists tend to agree on the importance of competition for a sound market economy. So what’s the problem when it comes to governments competing to attract investors through the tax treatment they provide? The trouble is that by competing with one another and eroding each other’s revenues, countries end up having to rely on other—typically more distortive—sources of financing or reduce much-needed public spending, or both.

All this has serious implications for developing countries because they are especially reliant on the corporate income tax for revenues. The risk that tax competition will pressure them into tax policies that endanger this key revenue source is therefore particularly worrisome.

Tunisia: Improving local governments’ performance through annual performance reviews

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The story of Krib, the top-performing local government in Tunisia
Tunisia’s transformation in the wake of the Arab Spring has been remarkable, and can be seen through a shift in the role and performance of its cities.
[Download report: Tunisia Urbanization Review - Reclaiming the Glory of Carthage]
Prior to the Jasmine Revolution of 2011, the government of Tunisia was extremely centralized, and citizens had limited ways to hold it to account.  The revolution created a force to change the concentration of power and the ability of Tunisians to hold the government to account. Specifically, the government created a decentralization program supported by the World Bank’s Urban Development and Local Governance Program for Results (UDLGP), along with support programs from other partners including the European Union, Swiss Cooperation.

One dramatic shift the program has introduced is the development and execution of an annual local government performance assessment. Every year, Tunisian cities’ local governments each get assessed by a semi-autonomous agency on a range of areas, which are critical for their ability to effectively govern as well as to deliver services and infrastructure. In the inaugural assessment (2016), the local government of Krib, a town in one of the most lagging interior governorates called Siliana, outperformed all others and achieved the highest assessment score.

To learn more about the program, watch a video with World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG). Check out Tunisia’s first-ever local government website to track the performance of Tunisia’s local governments over time (the results of the 2017 assessment which will be posted soon).