This post offers guidance to first-time users of large, potentially overwhelming databases. As you will see, with a few pieces of advice, the World Bank database is rather easy to work with.
Selecting a country in the World Bank Database
That absolutely applies to the World Bank’s as well. The organisation’s website contains various databases. The one with the World Development Indicators is a very good starting point for a country risk analysis. If you open this page, the ‘COUNTRY’ menu is already available (if not, click on ‘COUNTRY’ button). Here you can easily select any country by ticking boxes.
Selecting indicators in the World Bank Database
Now you click on ‘SERIES’ button which results in another ‘ticking boxes’ menu. However, as you can choose from 1289 indicators, an alternative selection process would be useful. This is actually offered by the World Bank database, but requires some knowledge of macro-economic categories and World Bank ordering practices.
In fact, the the menu in the left column of the page can help you out here. It is called ‘Dimension Filters’ and has as sub-title ‘Hierarchy’ (see snapshot at the right; click on it to get a better view on it). If you are for example looking for economic growth figures, you need to subsequently select ‘Economic Policy & Debt’ > ‘National accounts’ > ‘Growth rates’. This branch of the menu further offers you key macro-economic indicators such as the growth rates of household and government consumption, investments, exports and imports.
If you would like to find out the GDP shares of just mentioned economic activities, you select in this menu ‘Economic Policy & Debt’ > ‘National accounts’ > ‘Local currency at current prices’ > ‘Shares of GDP & other’. For data on the size of the national economy and the average income per head, please select ‘Economic Policy & Debt’ > ‘National accounts’ > ‘US$ at current prices’ > ‘Aggregate indicators’. The names of the last two indicators in this branch are ‘GDP (current US$)’ and ‘GDP per capita (current US$)’.
Please note that the database offers different approaches to measuring economic activity such as Gross National Income and variables based on Purchasing Power Parity. These approaches fall outside the scope of this post. Finally, other essential menu categories for a country risk analysis are Financial Sector, Poverty, Private Sector & Trade and Public Sector.
Selecting the period in the World Bank Database
Let us now return to the data selection process, which requires one last step. After you have selected one or more useful series, click on ‘TIME’ in the menu in the center column.
This menu is pretty straightforward and offers you the possibility of ticking boxes of the preferred years. For a good analysis of a country, I would recommend the period 2000-2012. However, using data from the years 1990-2012 will give you a deeper understanding of the economic structure of the country.
Downloading your data from the World Bank Database
After concluding these three steps, you can press the ‘download’ button right on top of the page, and select ‘Excel’. The data will be downloaded as a well-structured Excel file that is ready to be edited and interpreted.
I hope that this little guide of the World Bank Database has helped you on your way to find the data you were looking for. Now the really difficult part of your analytical process starts. For example, suppose you notice that in a particular country, investments are at a high level and increasing rather fast. Now, you have to ask yourself: do the investments flow to productive or unproductive sectors in the economy? Will they help expand the country’s export potential? And how sound is the funding of these investments?
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