Starting this month, an estimated 9 million women will be able to get behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia after the historic announcement in September last year lifting the ban on women from driving. While international attention has often focused on the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia, it has often missed the fact that women in several other countries are legally debarred from certain driving jobs. The World Bank’s recently released Women, Business and the Law 2018 report finds that 19 countries around the world legally restrict women from working in the transport sector in the same way as men.
In April, PovcalNet revised the World Bank’s global and regional poverty estimates from 1981 to 2013. The next major update of global and regional poverty estimates is scheduled for October 2018, when the global poverty estimates for the reference year 2015 will be released. This will coincide with the launch of the next Poverty and Shared Prosperity report (the 2016 Poverty and Shared Prosperity report can be found here).
I never imagined, therefore, when I temporarily left Uzbekistan in late 2016, that I would return just a half year later to find the country in the midst of a significant transformation.
Sustainable tourism can be an economic lifeline for many mountain communities and help create job opportunities for their young people – which is all the more important since three-quarters of people living in extreme poverty in Uzbekistan live in rural areas.
Did you know that in Kazakhstan we live in the country with the deadliest roads? Every year, 3,000 people die on roads in Kazakhstan, and over 30,000 are injured. Imagine if an airplane crashed every month! Would you fly?
We are 11 times more likely to die in a traffic accident in Kazakhstan than in Norway. Indeed, the numbers for road deaths are high in all Central Asian countries.
Globally, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29 years. Not cancer, not heart diseases, and not wars.
Life changing injuries and deaths affect countries in terms of health care and economic costs – the annual economic loss of road deaths in Central Asian countries is estimated at around 3-4% of GDP.
But beyond this monetary value, lies a person’s life.
This year, the annual Doing Business Report – by far the most anticipated and cited World Bank publication – celebrates its 15th year. Starting in 2003, the fledgling report, which covers about 130 countries, has grown into its teens garnering admiration and criticism in equal measure. Some absolutely love it, while others argue that its flaws outweigh its strong points.
Regardless, nobody can deny that the Doing Business report has been a major catalyst for reforms across the world – 3,200 reforms of business regulation have been counted to date, spurred by the Report and carried out in line with the methodology of its indicators.
All countries in the region experienced significant welfare losses. In 2015-16, the volume of imports declined 15% in both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and 25% in Kyrgyzstan – a clear sign that households and firms were constrained.
After the initial shock, however, the economies of Central Asia rebounded. This was thanks to supportive fiscal and monetary policies, namely fiscal expansion and relatively lose monetary policy. Growth has picked-up: for Central Asia, as a whole, it is now projected to reach 4.4% in 2017, against 2.8% the year before. Inflation has returned to manageable levels: in Kazakhstan, it has plummeted down from the double-digit rates seen after the fall in oil prices, confirming that the previous spike was merely a one-time adjustment.
But, have the countries of Central Asia done enough to shift the focus from structural constraints to durable prosperity? According to the recently released Economic Update for Europe and Central Asia, important challenges still lie ahead.
At face value, water use for food production today largely occurs at the expense of ecosystems, which is the number one reason for their rapid degradation. Already, a quarter of the world’s major rivers no longer reach the ocean.
According to a new study published by Nature Communications, about 40% of global irrigation water is used unsustainably and violates life-supporting environmental flows of rivers. To achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, these water volumes need to be re-allocated to the ecosystem, which puts a heavy strain on current agricultural water use: food production would drop by at least 10% on half of all irrigated land, with losses of 20-30% at the country level, especially in Central and South Asia.
Slideshow: Reimagining a park, a river, and other public spaces in Seoul (Photos by Judy Zheng Jia / World Bank)
, Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT at the Habitat III Conference last month. But more than being "ugly," the lack of good public urban spaces, such as open spaces, parks, and public buildings, often contribute to low livability in many of the world's congested and polluted cities. In fact, the importance of the issue received recognition in SDG 11, Target 7, which calls for the provision of “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green, and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities,” by 2030.
Global experience shows that disconnected, social mixing, civic participation, recreation, safety, and a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to urban prosperity. Well-designed and well-managed public spaces also offer benefits to environmental sustainability, transport efficiency, and public health improvements, and can equally serve women, the disabled, and people of all ages.
The importance of good urban spaces was the topic of an international workshop—“Vitalizing Cities with Public Space”—held in Seoul on November 14-17, 2016 and co-hosted by the Korea Research Institute of Human Settlements and the World Bank’s Urbanscapes Group. Eight cities from around the world—Seoul, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Chongqing, Kakamega, Zanzibar, Astana, and Tashkent—participated to discuss challenges and opportunities for better urban planning and design.
- New Urban Agenda
- Habitat III
- buenos aires
- Social Inclusion
- Sustainable Development
- Sustainable Communities
- Urban Development
- Social Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- East Asia and Pacific
- Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
Two recently released World Bank reports — one on commodities and the other on remittances — lend insight into an unfolding dynamic in the world today. As oil prices dropped from more than $100 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $27 in the last few months, the money sent home from people working abroad in oil-producing countries also fell. This drop is a major reason remittances to developing countries declined in 2015 to their lowest growth rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.