The ICP blog series explores ideas and issues under the International Comparison Program umbrella – including innovations in price and data collection, discussions on purpose and methodology, as well the use of purchasing power parities in the growing world of development data. Authors from across the globe, whether ICP practitioners or researchers making use of ICP data, are encouraged to submit relevant blogs for consideration to [email protected].
Earlier this summer, new data published by the World Bank showed that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of India had recently surpassed that of France, and that it was on track to overtake the UK economy too. Many news outlets jumped upon this new ranking of India’s economy, now sixth from top. But most media articles did not mention that the World Bank’s other measure, which compares GDP across countries using purchasing power parities (PPPs), has placed India ahead of both France and the UK for the last 25 years.
The numbers are in: India now ranks 44th in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, a relatively high score compared to other countries at similar income levels. This number matters not just to the logistics sector, but to India’s economy as a whole. Indeed, logistics can directly impact the competitiveness of an entire market, as its ability to serve demand is inextricably linked to the efficiency, reliability and predictability of supply chains.
Broadly defined, logistics covers all aspects of trade, transport and commerce, starting from the completion of the manufacturing process all the way to delivery for consumption. To say that it is a complex business is an understatement.
First, there is always a delicate balance between the public arm, which provides the roads, railways and waterways, and lays down the rules and regulations, and the private sector, which has responsibility for carrying out logistics operations in a smooth and seamless manner. This fine interplay is further complicated by the globalization of manufacturing which—with many more ports of call in the logistic chain—is putting ever-increasing pressure on the sector. In addition, there are very practical challenges in integrating different modes of transport, in speeding up border crossings, and in dealing with trade protections–all of which impact external trade.
But as difficult as it might be, creating a well-functioning logistics sector is essential to any nation looking to compete in the global economy. India is a case in point. To fuel its global ambitions, the country has taken active steps to up its logistics game.
Young people struggle to find jobs. Landing that first job is particularly challenging even for youth with quality education. In 2016, 100 young women under 25 in the Gjakova and Lipjan municipalities in Kosovo were seeking their first opportunity after completing university-level education. They enrolled in the World Bank’s Women in Online Work (WoW) pilot, a training program that aims to equip beneficiaries with the skills they need to find work in the online freelancing market. Within three months of graduation, WoW’s online workers were earning twice the average national hourly wage in Kosovo. Some graduates even went on start their own ventures and hire other young women to work with them.
This blog is based on the report The Web of Transport Corridors in South Asia -- jointly produced with the Asian Development Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency
One of the oldest, the Grand Trunk Road from the Mughal era still connects East and West and in the 17th century made Delhi, Kabul and Lahore wealthy cities with impressive civic buildings, monuments, and gardens.
In India alone—and likely bolstered by the successful completion of the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) highway system—several transport proposals extending beyond India’s borders are now under consideration.
They include the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), linking India, Iran and Russia, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, and the Bangladesh, China, India, and Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor.
The hope is that these transport corridors will turn into growth engines and create large economic surpluses that can spread throughout the economy and society.
These two cities are the economic hubs of China and India respectively, two emerging global powers.
The distance between them, about 5,000 kilometers, is not much greater than the distance between New York and Los Angeles.
But instead of crossing a relatively empty continent, a corridor from Shanghai to Mumbai—via Kunming, Mandalay, Dhaka, and Kolkata—would go through some of the most densely populated and most dynamic areas in the world, stoking hopes of large economic spillovers along its alignment.
“Build and they will come” seems to be the logic underlying many massive transport investments around the world.
However, the reality is that not all these investments will generate the expected returns.
Worse, they can become wasteful white elephants—that is, transport infrastructure without much traffic—that would cost trillions of dollars at taxpayers’ expense.
First, countries need to change the mindset that transport corridors are mere engineering feats designed to move along vehicles and commodities.
Second, sound economic analysis of how corridors can help spur urbanization and create local jobs while minimizing the disruptions to the natural environment, is key to developing successful investment programs.
Specifically, it is vital to ensure that local populations whose lives are disrupted by new infrastructure can reap equally the benefits from better transport connectivity.
For instance, more educated and skilled people can migrate to obtain better jobs in growing urban areas that are benefiting from corridor connectivity, while unskilled workers may be left behind in depopulated rural areas with few economic prospects.
But while corridors can create both winners and losers, well-designed investment programs can alleviate potential adverse impacts and help local people share the benefits more widely.
In that vein, India’s Golden Quadrilateral, or GQ highway system, is a cautionary tale.
No doubt, this corridor had a positive impact.
Economic activity along the corridor increased and people, especially women, found better job opportunities beyond traditional farming.
But this success came at a cost as air pollution increased in the districts near the highway.
This is a major tradeoff and one that was documented before in Japan when levels of air pollution spiked during the development of its Pacific Ocean Belt several decades ago.
Another downside is that the economic benefits generated by the GQ highway were distributed unequally in neighboring communities.
Peru has placed so much emphasis on the importance of identification that it has created a museum dedicated to it. The "Museum of Identification" in Lima demonstrates to visitors the significance of identity in the country’s narrative. In fact, the Incas, centuries before the Europeans arrived, kept track of the population by using “quipus”, an accounting tool based on strings, with each node denoting a village or community.
Peru has continued to prioritize identification, and the uniqueness of each person—long before the Sustainable Development Goals made “legal identity for all and free birth registrations” a global priority (SDG 16.9).
Solar energy is not just for the elite and wealthy. Today, with growing numbers of people taking power generation into their own hands, solar energy has become the world’s most democratic source of power - of the people, by the people, and for the people. However, the pathway to this goal requires a fundamental paradigm shift in the power sector – one in which more and more people take “power” generation into their own hands.
In the words of environmentalist and author Ross Gelbspan, “A common global project to rewire the world with clean energy could be the first step on a path to global peace and global democracy -- even in today's deeply troubled world.”
In Germany, solar rooftops have already set off a transformation. Home to more than 1.7 million citizen-owned solar power systems, Germany now accounts for almost one-fourth of the world's PV capacity. Armed with solar rooftops and smart battery storage, German households have turned into energy producers, are paying lower utility bills, and are fast approaching energy independence.
In California too, solar rooftops have taken center stage. The state is the first in the U.S. to require solar panels on almost all new homes. And as solar rooftop installations rise, domestic storage systems are simultaneously being developed to keep pace. Tesla's Powerwall, for example, enables users to store solar power generated during the day for use at night when the sun goes down.
As the world’s third-largest producer of conventional energy, India too is now rapidly expanding its capacity to generate solar power. The country has set itself an ambitious target of generating 100 GW of solar power by 2022. Today, solar power has emerged as the cheapest source of energy in India, at prices that are a fraction of grid power. In fact, India’s 100 GW solar target, of which 40 GW is to come from rooftop solar, will play a key role in providing 24 X 7 sustainable, affordable, and reliable electricity to 300 million people. Currently, however, only some 2 GW of this 40 GW target has been installed.
To boost India’s solar rooftop program, the World Bank has partnered with the Government of India to provide $648 million to place solar panels on rooftops across the country. The program has financed 600 MW in rooftop solar installations so far, of which 80 MW has already been installed.
Our starting point is to deal with what we know – and the biggest challenge that the future of work faces – and has faced for decades – is the vast numbers of people who live day to day on casual labor, not knowing from one week to the next if they will have a job and unable to plan ahead, let alone months rather than years, for their children’s prosperity. We call this the informal economy – and as with so much pseudo-technical language which erects barriers, the phrase fails to convey the abject state of purgatory to which it condemns millions of workers and their families around the world.
India’s agriculture sector—including animal husbandry, forestry, and fishing—has always been one of the country’s core economic sectors, accounting for about 16 percent of India’s GDP and employing nearly half of the working population. Although India has the second largest arable land pool in the world, agriculture is still mired by challenges such as low effective yield and underemployment. Underinvestment in agri-infrastructure, fragmented land holdings, and lack of knowledge and skills among farmers, are some of the key causes. These challenges in turn have aggravated issues like inflation, farmer distress and unrest, political and social disaffection—all of which have severe socioeconomic ripple effects on other sectors. This significantly curtails the ability of India’s economy to touch double-digit growth.
South Asia is booming. In 2018, GDP growth for the region as a whole is expected to accelerate to 6.9 percent, making it the fastest growing region in the world. However, fast GDP growth has not translated into fast employment growth. In fact, employment rates have declined across the region, with women accounting for most of this decline.
Between 2005 and 2015, female employment rates declined by 5 percent per year in India, 3 percent per year in Bhutan, and 1 percent per year in Sri Lanka. While it is not surprising for female employment rates to decline with economic growth and then increase, in what is commonly known as the U-shaped female labor force function (a term coined by Claudia Goldin in 1995), the trends observed in South Asia stand out. Not only has female employment declined much more than could have been anticipated, it is likely to decline further as countries such as India continue to grow and urbanize.
The unusual trend for female employment rates in South Asia is clear from Figure 1. While male employment rates in South Asia are in line with those of other countries at the same income level, female employment rates are well below.
If women are choosing to exit the labor force as family incomes rise, should policymakers worry? There are at least three reasons why the drop in female employment rates may have important social costs. First, household choices may not necessarily match women’s preferences. Those preferences reflect the influence of ideas and norms about what is women’s work and men’s work as well as other gendered notions such as the idea that women should take care of the children and housework. Second, when women control a greater share of household incomes, children are healthier and do better in school. Third, when women work for pay, they have a greater voice in their households, in their communities, and in society. The economic gains from women participating equally in the labor market are sizable: A recent study estimated that the overall gain in GDP to South Asia from closing gender gaps in employment and entrepreneurship would be close to 25 percent.