The global landscape these days is not a pretty one: collapsing commodity prices, weak demand in the OECD economies and a pronounced slowdown in many emerging markets, unpredictable capital flows affecting exchange rates, and a noticeable slump in world trade. This is clearly not a good time to be a Minister of Finance! This is the panorama that surrounds the IMF World Bank Annual Meetings in Lima, October 8-10. The weak global picture is heavy on diagnostics of what is troubling many developing countries, but less robust on the side of policy solutions. In Lima, this will be one of the key topics of discussion during a high-level debate on “Balancing sustainable growth and social equity”.
Thousands of young entrepreneurs from 43 countries across the world took part in a series of online and onsite dialogues as part of the Road to Lima 2015 activities. The inclusion of youth in such an important process was possible thanks to the World Bank Group and the Young Americas Business Trust (YABT).
While Brazil faces a difficult fiscal and economic situation right now, I would like to view national progress on employment and incomes from a long-term perspective, which is valuable when addressing Education and Human Development issues in a broader sense.
Last month, I met an obstetrician in India and in the course of conversation, asked her how many babies she had delivered. “After ten thousand babies, I stopped counting,” she said. Naturally, I was curious to know if anything scared her when she’s delivering a child. Her answer: “I pray that there is electricity for sterilized water and other equipment during the process.” The obstetrician is also the project director for part of a World Bank health project in Nagaland—a remote Northeastern state in India. She is an ardent advocate for the expansion and promotion of solar energy in the primary health care sector because she, like many of her colleagues, believes that more solar energy in the health sector can spur a revolution by boosting the standard and reliability of health delivery services in the country. When I joined the World Bank four months ago as a renewable energy specialist, I had always considered solar in the context of electricity for homes and businesses. But working with other sectors and exploring solar interventions in increasing crop productivity, safe drinking water and child delivery in health centers has shown me the massive potential solar energy has to help other areas of development as well. There is a clear business case for why solar is fast becoming a mainstream technology for providing power even in non-energy sectors like agriculture and water. Until recently, the biggest hurdle in adopting solar power was the high upfront cost (more than $3 per watt before 2010) and lack of project financing for solar projects. But much of that has changed. In the last four years, solar module prices have fallen more than 70% (less than $1 a watt), and per unit cost of solar power (kwh) has fallen from 30 cents per unit in 2010 to less than 8 cents per unit not only in India but also in Brazil, Chile, UAE and other countries.
Rarely does one read about a private utility’s successful program to provide electricity to the urban poor. Rarer still is when the program is a profit-making venture and can serve as a learning experience for other countries around the world. But an Indian private utility, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited, in New Delhi, has been successful in providing electricity to 217 slums—with 175,000 customers—by engaging with the community. It has reduced non-technical losses and improved its revenues from $0.3 million to $17.5 million over the last five years.
As part of an initiative by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) on expanding electricity access to the urban poor, there have been many knowledge exchanges between Brazil, Colombia, Kenya and Jamaica to learn from each other’s experiences and implement best practices. Recently, ESMAP’s team along with delegations from Jamaica and Kenya, visited Tata’s project in India to understand the reason behind their success.
As population and economic growth bump up against finite—and increasingly degraded—water resources, competition between agricultural, industrial, and municipal water uses increases, putting stress on existing water sources. This stress is felt most acutely in urban areas, particularly among the urban poor.
Moreover, urban water management systems are inefficient, leading to an uneven quantity and availability of water and related services. In addition, urban water management must consider the effects of climate change, including rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and climate variability, on water resource availability.
Addressing these challenges requires building resilience not only in cities’ physical infrastructures but also in their social architecture, governance structures, financial systems, and ecosystems. A resilient city can adapt to changing conditions and withstand shocks while still providing essential services.
A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth.
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties.
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.
When the Olympic Games comes to Rio in 2016, new medal-worthy sports will include kitesurfing, golf, and rugby sevens. If the Olympic Committee ever considers including our “sport” – the practice of public-private partnerships (PPPs) – the top medal would surely go to the home-grown Galeão International Airport PPP, which set the 2014 record as the largest PPP deal that closed globally. For this gateway to Rio – which is in the midst of preparing to accommodate more than 10,000 athletes and tens of thousands more visitors for the 2016 Olympics – even the concessions merit global rankings.
Standing by for liftoff
The concession of Galeao International Airport (official name: Rio de Janeiro/Galeão–Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport) got off the ground in the second round of airport concessions. The first round dates back to early 2012, when the government issued tenders for three major airports: Guarulhos (São Paulo), Viracopos (Campinas) and Brasília.
In mid-2012, following the successful outcome of these three projects, the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) approached IFC to assist with a second round of airport concessions, including Confins airport (Belo Horizonte) and Galeão (Rio de Janeiro). IFC teamed up with the Estruturadora Brasileira de Projetos (EBP), a project preparation company owned by some of the biggest Brazilian commercial banks and BNDES. Together, IFC and EBP were responsible for the financial, technical/economic/engineering, and environmental studies.
Since childhood, Gircilene Gilca de Castro dreamed of owning her own business, but struggled to get it off the ground. Her fledgling food service company in Brazil had only two employees and one client when she realized she needed deeper knowledge about what it takes to grow a business. To take her business to that next level, she found the right education and mentoring opportunities and accessed new business and management tools.