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Intermodal connectivity in the Western Balkans: What’s on the menu?

Romain Pison's picture
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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?

Infrastructure sharing in energy and digital development: takeaways from cross-sectoral cooperation

Natalija Gelvanovska-Garcia's picture


Photo: gui jun peng/Shutterstock.com

In many parts of the world, the sharing economy is ever-present for individuals, allowing them to use personal assets—for example, houses and cars—to their fullest potential. If you plan to be away for a period of time, why not rent your space for a few extra bucks?
 
Such a phenomenon exists in infrastructure economics, where the level of asset utilization matters for end-cost. As more consumers use the same infrastructure more frequently, the unit cost for all consumers goes down. Recent projects combining expertise from the World Bank’s digital development and energy teams demonstrate this.

The key to unlocking the economic potential of the Western Balkans? Women.

Linda Van Gelder's picture
Since arriving to the Western Balkans nearly one year ago, I have had the distinct pleasure of working with extraordinary people around the region - one of the most interesting and dynamic locations in the world. Not a day goes by that I am not inspired by the likes of Marija Bosheva’s, who is studying to become a scientist at a new laboratory for oenology and soil science in the FYR Macedonia, or Valoriana Hasi, a young Kosovar now working in ICT after completing a training for women in online work.
 
Stories like these remind me of the vast economic potential of this region, especially if countries here tap into one of their most valuable resources: women.
 

What do we know about the development outcomes of LGBTI people?

Dominik Koehler's picture
We all know, sadly, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people suffer discrimination and stigma. This happens around the world, particularly in developing countries.  But how does this discrimination affect their lives, their development outcomes? 

Let’s find out.
Shutterstock.com

Three policies to promote a more inclusive future of work

Luc Christiaensen's picture
 Arne Hoel/World Bank
Even if the technologies are available, businesses and individuals often lack the necessary skills to use them. And these skill gaps exist at multiple levels. 
(Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank)

As we explained in previous posts, digital technologies present both threats and opportunities for the employment agenda in developing countries. Yet many countries lack the means to take full advantage of these opportunities, because of limited access to technology, a lack of skills, and the absence of a broad enabling environment, the so-called “analog” complements.


The Future of Work: The number of jobs is not the only thing at stake

Siddhartha Raja's picture
Photo of computer lab. Technology is a great job-creating machine. But will these new jobs be better or worse?
Technology is a great job-creating machine. But will these new jobs be better or worse? (Photo: John Hogg / World Bank)

Most of the discussion about the future of work focuses on how many jobs robots will take from humans. But this is just a (small) part of the change to come. As we explained in our previous blog, technology is reshaping the world of work not only by automating production but also by facilitating connectivity and innovation. The changes that digital technology is introducing in the price of capital versus labor, the costs of transacting, the economies of scale, and the speed of innovation bring significant effects in three dimensions: the quantity, the quality, and the distribution of jobs. Let’s see them in detail.

A mixed report: How Europe and Central Asian Countries performed in PISA

Cristian Aedo's picture
 Aigul Eshtaeva / World Bank
While more ECA program countries are participating in the PISA assessment of 15-year-old students' skills, education poverty in these countries has only slightly declined since 2000. (Photo: Aigul Eshtaeva / World Bank)

Recently, the OECD released the results for PISA 2015, an international assessment that measures the skills of 15-year-old students in applying their knowledge of science, reading, and mathematics to real-life problems. There is a sense of urgency to ensure that students have solid skills amidst modest economic growth and long-term demographic decline in Europe and Central Asia (ECA).

The economic benefits of LGBTI inclusion

Georgia Harley's picture
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Civil Rights Defenders/Photo: Vesna Lalic
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is an all too familiar story. Members of this community are frequent targets of violence and other human rights abuses, and often face prejudice and hardship at work, in their communities, and at home.

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.

Testing, testing: How Kosovo fared in its first international assessment of students

Flora Kelmendi's picture
Results of PISA 2015 reveal a wide performance gap between Kosovar students and their peers in the region.
Photo: Jutta Benzenberg / World Bank



A few weeks ago, education policy makers and data analysts around the world were glued to their laptops when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published the results of PISA 2015. More than half a million students – from 72 countries and economies representing 28 million 15 year-olds – had taken the test. PISA, an international assessment administered every three years, measures the skills of students in applying their knowledge of science, reading, and mathematics to real life problems.  PISA is one of the most influential international student assessments, which provides a rich set of information on the systems strengths and weaknesses, supports development of effective policies – and at the same time, benchmarks country's achievements vis a vis other participating countries.

Lessons from Five Years of Helping Governments Foster Incentives Transparency

Harald Jedlicka's picture

Global competition to attract foreign and domestic direct investment is so high that nearly all countries offer incentives (such as tax holidays, customs duty exemptions and subsidized loans) to lure in investors. In the European Union, the 28 member states spent 93.5 billion euros on non-crisis State Aid to businesses in 2014. In the United States, local governments provided and average of US$80.4 billion in incentives each year from 2007 to 2012.

In order to better understand the prevalence of incentives worldwide, the Investment Climate team in the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice of the World Bank Group reviewed the incentives policy of 137 countries. Results showed that all of the countries that were surveyed provide incentives, either as tax or customs-duty exemptions or in other forms. Table 1 (below) shows the rate at which these instruments are used across advanced and emerging economies. For instance, tax holidays are least common in OECD countries and are most prevalent in developing economies. In some regions they are the most-used incentive.[1]





However, despite offering incentives, few countries meet all the requirements of a fully transparent incentives policy. These include: mandating by law, and maintaining in practice, a database and inventory of incentives available to investors; listing in the inventory all aspects of key relevance to stakeholders (such as the specific incentive provided, the eligibility criteria, the awarding and administration process, the legal reference and the awarded amounts); making the inventory publicly available in a user-friendly format; requiring by law the publication of all formal references of incentives; and making the incentives easily accessible to stakeholders in practice. A T&C study now under way on incentives transparency in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region showed that none of the eight countries analyzed has a fully transparent incentives policy. (See Graph 1, below.)





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