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Small states (SST)

South Asia not realizing full potential of urbanization

Mark Roberts's picture
 
Urbanization Report Cover

Urbanization provides South Asian countries with the potential to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations in both prosperity and livability. And, indeed the region has made strides in the early part of the century when its urban population grew by 130 million. Average GDP per capita is up and absolute poverty is down.

Sharing is scaring: Can shared corporate services save costs in the public sector?

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez's picture
Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank


In late June, we sent two of our bravest colleagues, Marta and Marcelo, on a daring mission into the Tundra, close to the Arctic Circle. Even though the temperature was in the mid-80s (mid-20s Celsius), you could feel the glacial breezes. Since our unit focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, you might wonder what brought them so far north.

The team had arrived in Toronto, Ontario with a mission: to learn more about shared corporate services (SCS) and their potential application to save costs and improve government efficiency in other parts of the world.   

In the late 90s, reeling from a financial crisis, the provincial government of Ontario was faced with a daunting task: to cut a third of its administrative budget in one year. In other words, they had to do more with less. Over the next decade the government managed to save C$43 million in direct costs and C$227 million through efficiency gains. Their secret was an innovative solution borrowed from the private sector.

Why Fatima had to lose her house

Wael Zakout's picture
 Sarah Al Bayya l World Bank

I’ve just returned from a mission to Palestine. During the visit, I met Fatima. She was happily married until last summer, when suddenly she lost everything. 

Urbanization in South Asia: How is it going?

Mark Roberts's picture
 World Bank
Street in old Delhi, India. Credit: World Bank
South Asia’s urban population grew by 130 million – more than the population of Japan – between 2001 and 2011, and is expected to rise by almost 250 million people by 2030. If recent history is any guide, this trend could propel the region toward greater growth and prosperity.
 
A key characteristic of urbanization is that the coming together of people and enterprises in towns and cities  -- a process known as agglomeration – improves productivity and spurs job creation. That’s particularly the case in manufacturing and services. Over the long term, successful urbanization is accompanied by a convergence of living standards between urban and rural areas as economic and social benefits spill beyond urban boundaries.
 
So how is South Asia doing in realizing the potential of its cities for prosperity and livability? What are the challenges facing the region’s countries as their urban populations grow? Are they meeting those challenges or are policy reforms needed?  And, if so, what type of reforms?
 
On September 24, the World Bank will release a new report titled, “Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability.
Urbanization in South Asia Report Cover
Urbanization in South Asia Report Cover.
Credit: World Bank

“Say it loud, say it clear: refugees are welcome here”

Ellen Goldstein's picture


I am the World Bank’s Director for the Western Balkans, and I live in Vienna, Austria, where thousands of refugees, mostly fleeing from conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, are now straggling across the border from Hungary after harrowing trips on crowded boats, uncomfortable stays in makeshift camps, cramped bus rides and long journeys on foot when all else fails.

My father’s parents were refugees to America.  They were Jewish peasants from Russia who fled the pogroms of the early twentieth century.  My mother’s great-grandparents were economic migrants, educated German Jews who went to Chicago in the mid-nineteenth century to seek their fortune in grain futures and real estate.  When my parents married in the early 1950s, theirs was considered a “mixed marriage”: Russian and German; peasant stock and educated elite; refugees and economic migrants.  I know the difference between the latter two:  refugees are pushed out of their home countries by war, persecution and a fear of death; economic migrants are pulled out of their home countries by the promise of a more prosperous life for themselves and their children.

What is a university degree worth in the Arab world?

Christine Petré's picture
 Ramzi Maalouf

Graduation—a long-awaited day in most students' lives. Yet, according to Amir Fakih, himself a recent graduate from Lebanon’s Notre Dame University, a graduation ceremony also comes with grievances. To illustrate his perception of the future for Lebanon’s young university graduates, he decided to dress himself in his graduation gown doing low-income jobs. 

Do global rankings tell the whole truth about universities in the Arab world?

Simon Thacker's picture
Zurijeta l Shutterstock.com

Choosing a college or university is one of life’s pivotal decisions—it can influence your career and future opportunities. For students in the Middle East and North Africa, as elsewhere, that decision depends on many factors, large and small. But in today’s world that choice is increasingly influenced by rankings, that is, how an institution lines up against other universities when it’s rated. 

Which South Asia do you live in?

Prabha Chandran's picture




This blog is part of the series #OneSouthAsia exploring how South Asia can become a more integrated, thus more economically dynamic region. The blog series is a  lead up to the South Asia Economic Conclave, an event dedicated to deepen existing economic links through policy and investments in regional businesses.

Which South Asia do you live in? The one which offers world-class metros and malls, super-specialty hospitals, gourmet eateries and designer homes where servants make your meals, drive your car or clean your mess? 

Or do you live in the South Asia where sanitation, water and electricity are a luxury, where filth, ignorance and violence means death comes early and more frequently from illness, poverty and natural disasters? Statistically, the latter is more likely.

Having lived in Southeast Asia, where the emergence of the Tigers has transformed the lives of millions of poor through investment in human development, infrastructure and exports producing high growth rates, the visible poverty and chaotic streets of South Asia are troubling. So, too, is the contrast provided by India's dollar billionaires -- the third-largest rich man's club in the world.

Greening the Energy Sector in the Middle East and North Africa

Charles Cormier's picture
 Robert Robelus l World Bank

One question that often arises when I meet colleagues who work on climate change is how the energy sector in the Middle East will adapt to a carbon-constrained world.   In May 2015, my inbox was flooded with articles that quoted the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia, Mr. Ali al-Naimi, who declared that Saudi Arabia aspires to be a global power in solar and wind and could start exporting renewable energy instead of fossil fuels in the coming years.

​Caribbean PPPs come of age: Boot camp-style workshops kick off new approach to partnerships

Luciana Guimaraes Drummond E Silva's picture
Street scene in Delmas, Haiti
“Plantain nu eat like rice” — a Caribbean saying roughly translated as “Make do with what is available to you” — applies to the region’s experience with public-private partnerships (PPPs) as well as to life on the islands. For many decades, implementation of PPPs in the Caribbean has been mixed; government officials and citizens alike have had to “make do” with these results.  

Some partnerships have successfully delivered new or improved roads, ports, airports, bulk water treatment facilities, and electricity generation plants, along with other high-quality infrastructure facilities. However, other promising PPPs faced challenges that were never overcome. ​In many cases, the complexity of the PPP development and implementation process meant long delays in delivering projects; others resulted in questionable value or unexpected costs to governments or consumers. 

To help Caribbean governments fulfill the promise of PPPs to deliver improved infrastructure assets and services, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), the World Bank Group (WBG), and the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) have created the Caribbean Regional Support Facility. This US$1.2 million program was launched at the High-Level Workshop on Practical Implementation on PPPs in Saint Lucia on June 15.  An important component of its near-term activities, an upcoming series of boot camp-style workshops, will increase technical capacity among Caribbean government officials, offering the depth and breadth that’s been missing from the PPP market.

Jamaica, Kenya take cues from India on electrifying urban slums

Sunita Dubey's picture
Residents in Wazirpur, India share with us how electricity access has spurred their hope for a better, more dignified life. (Photo by TPDLL)
Residents in Wazirpur, India share with us how electricity access
has spurred their hope for a better, more dignified life. (Photo: TPDLL)
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.

Part of the #Youthbiz movement? Share your story!

Valerie Lorena's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية
 



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.

Arab world needs a new deal on energy to end the black outs

Charles Cormier's picture
Skyline of Dubai with high voltage power supply lines - Philip Lange l Shutterstock.com

When I started working in the Middle East and North Africa region two years ago, the surprising thing I discovered is that although the region is known as an energy powerhouse – it produces 30% of the world's oil, has 41% of the known gas reserves, and hydrocarbons are its most important export - the countries in the region barely meet domestic demand for electricity, partly due to a chronic shortage of gas.

​Integrating West African economies PPP-wise

François Bergere's picture
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What do Benin, Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Togo and Mali have in common? Apart from being members of the eight-country strong West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), they share a common status as low-income countries, faced with huge infrastructure needs and financing challenges.
 
Furthermore, they have decided that one way to address these challenges and sustain their economic growth was to promote public-private partnerships (PPPs) through a regional framework and strategy. This initiative is supported by the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) for the World Bank, and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Expertise France on the French cooperation side.
 
Which is why — on July 2-3 in the midst of sweltering weather in the leafy  suburbs of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso,  which  is also  home to  UEMOA headquarters — 20 or so experts and decision-makers attended a two-day seminar to discuss the framework and strategy. Beyond PPIAF and AFD, regional participants included representatives from the UEMOA Commission, the Regional PPP unit at the West African Development Bank (BOAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF), the Organization for Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA), and the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).
 
The issues we covered included the need to:

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