Along with other leaders from the World Bank Group, I am traveling back from a trip to Silicon Valley where we explored the links between technology and government, or GovTech, and their impact on developing countries and curbing corruption.
One of my favorite memories from the past summer was discovering Saranda, located in the southern part of the ‘Albanian Riviera.’ I was fascinated by the city’s beautiful location - right on the Ionian Sea coast, with its deep blue waters and with the island of Corfu (Greece) visible on the horizon. I was far from being the only visitor as Saranda is full of people during the summer. In fact, while the usual population is around 35,000, in July and August, this figure can swell with an influx of tourists. During 2016, Saranda registered over 700,000 visitors.
Saranda is not alone in this regard. Over the past years in Albania, tourism has significantly increased, especially in places like Ksamil, Saranda, and Durres. From August 2017 to August 2018, according to the national statistical office, Albania hosted 2.1 million visitors - a 16.8% increase compared to the previous year. And most of these tourists came for the sun and beaches in the summer. These figures are expected to continue to grow in the coming years. On World Tourism Day, the Ministry of Tourism and Environment even indicated that Albania aims to attract 10 million tourists by 2025!
In November 2016, we published the “Practical Guide for Measuring Retail Payment Costs”, an innovative methodology that can be customized to country needs and circumstances, without losing the international comparative dimension.
The guide enables countries to measure the costs associated with retail payment instruments, based on survey data, for the payment end users, payment service/infrastructure providers, and the total economy. The guide also enables countries to derive projected savings in shifting from the more costly to the less costly payment instruments.
As in most other regions, trucks reign supreme on freight transport across the Western Balkans, a region that encompasses six countries including: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.
The domination of road transport in the freight sector comes with several adverse consequences, including unpredictable journey times, high logistics costs, congestion, as well as high levels of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. To address this, our team is looking at ways to redirect part of the freight traffic in the Western Balkans region away from roads, and onto more efficient, greener modes such as rail or inland waterways.
You may think we’re trying to bite off more than we can chew here. After all, even advanced economies with state-of-the-art rail infrastructure have been struggling to increase and sustain rail freight transport.
However, as evidenced by the Global Competitiveness and Logistics Performance Indexes, there is strong potential to close gaps in the quality of the Western Balkans transport systems or custom clearing processes. The region has also experienced sustained economic growth (higher, for instance, than OECD countries), while its geographic position makes it a strategic link between Western and Eastern markets, especially considering Turkey’s rail freight developments and global connectivity initiatives.
So where should we start?
We know that the justice system dampens the business climate in many of the countries where we work. In Bank reports, national strategies, and in common parlance, we lament that poorly performing courts delay business activity, undermine predictability, increase risks and constrain private sector growth. Going further, we conclude that weak justice systems disproportionately hamper micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) because they have less buffer to absorb these problems - which can become make-or-break for their businesses.
So that’s the ‘what’ but, precisely, how, do courts impact businesses?
There are the booming megacities such as Tokyo, Mumbai, and Nairobi. Then there are cities that are declining in population, such as Detroit.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where we recently conducted a study on urban growth trends, we found unique demographic patterns affecting the urbanization process in the region.
For example, the region has had fertility rates below replacement levels for more than two decades, and most countries in the region have negative net migration rates.
This signifies that the population of most countries in the region is either growing very slowly or declining, and in some countries urban population has started to decline.
What does this mean for cities?
Resulting from this competition, we find that most of the cities in the region are shrinking while population growth is increasingly concentrated in a few cities. Per our estimates, 61% of the region’s cities shrank between 2000 and 2010, losing on average 11% of their population.
This scale of city population decline is unprecedented.
Let’s find out.
- Sustainable Communities
- Social Development
- Social Development
- Europe and Central Asia
- Macedonia, former Yugoslav Republic of
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Europe and Central Asia
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- former Yugoslav Republic of
- sexual orientation
- gender identity
Action is needed to address these problems and ensure that everyone – regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity - has an equal chance to live a healthy and prosperous life
This is not only the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense: a growing body of evidence indicates that discrimination against LGBTI people has a negative economic impact on society.
Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.
“By introducing an automated customer management system we took a noose and put it around our own necks. We are now accountable!”
This reflection from a manager in the Nairobi Public Water and Sewerage utility succinctly captures the impact of MajiVoice, a digital system that logs customer complaints, enables managers to assign the issue to a specific worker, track its resolution, and report back to the customer via an SMS. As a result, complaint resolution rates have doubled, and the time taken to resolve complaints has dropped by 90 percent.
MajiVoice shows that digital technologies can dramatically improve public sector capacity and accountability in otherwise weak governance environments. But is this example replicable? Can the increasingly cheap and ubiquitous digital technologies—there are now 4.7 billion mobile phone users in the world—move the needle on governance and make bureaucrats more accountable?
Eight years on from the start of the global economic crisis, close to one quarter of the European Union’s population remains at risk of poverty or social exclusion. But one group in particular stands out: Europe’s growing and marginalized Roma population.
The equivalent figure for Roma children stands at 85 percent in Central and Southeastern Europe. Living conditions of marginalized Roma in this region are often more akin to those in least developed countries than what we expect in Europe.