East Asia and Pacific
Over the years, Malaysia has demonstrated great improvements in enhancing upward social mobility as the country continues to advance toward becoming a developed nation. However, this success has not been evenly distributed among the population. A 2016 Khazanah Research Institute study found that 24% of children born to low-skilled parents in Malaysia remained low-skilled as adults. Likewise, 46% of children born to parents in the bottom 40% of the national income distribution remained in the bottom 40%.
The purpose of any education system is to equip learners with the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life. Currently, East Asia is home to seven of the top ten education systems in the world. Despite impressive achievements, these above-average performing systems are not resting on their accomplishments—they continue to deepen the quality of education, tying learning to new and emerging needs. Central to the region’s curriculum reform is a focus on teaching and measuring 21st century skills.
Challenges with decentralization
Seventeen years ago, Indonesia embarked on its so-called big bang decentralization. Almost overnight, responsibility to deliver many public services was transferred to local governments. This was done, in part, with the hope that the decentralization would make local government more agile and responsive to issues facing local communities. However, results have yet to materialize in many locations.
In my view, a key factor driving poor results is the central government’s approach to regulating local governments. In a decentralized environment, the central government has a legitimate role as a regulator to standardize service delivery or financial management procedures. However, in practice, they have been more focused on controlling inputs and processes, with little attention to accountability for results. This approach results in the proliferation of regulatory constraints and a fearful bureaucracy that make it difficult for local leaders to respond to citizen’s problems.
Accumulated scientific evidence shows that proper nutrition and stimulation in utero and during early childhood benefit physical and mental well-being later in life and contribute to the development of children’s cognitive and socioemotional skills. Yet, a critical but often overlooked fact in policy design and program development across the world is the association between maternal depression and childhood stunting -- the impaired growth and development measured by low height-for-age.
Singapore’s transformation into a trade and finance hub that leads global rankings of competitiveness often prompts observers to ask: What is its secret sauce? We at the Singapore Hub for Infrastructure and Urban Development asked Kelvin Wong, Assistant Managing Director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board, or EDB, to share with us the country’s journey in developing its logistics sector, considered among the world’s most competitive and innovative.
Imagine that you live near one of 127 active volcanoes in Indonesia, threatened by the next eruption that could endanger your family. Imagine that your house stands in one of the most seismically-active zones in the world, or that your family lives in one of the 317 districts with high risks of flooding. This is a reality that at least 110 million Indonesians already face, and more could be affected due to the impacts of urbanization, climate change and land subsidence.
The country is known as having a ‘supermarket’ of disaster hazards. Over the past twenty years alone, the Indonesian government recorded over 24,000 disaster events that caused 190,500 fatalities, displaced almost 37 million people, and damaged over 4.3 million houses. The combined losses of these disasters totaled almost $28 billion, or around 0.3% of national GDP annually.
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).
Working in public health brings me close to the stories of brave patients and dedicated medical staff. Very often we also conduct quantitative and qualitative assessments of case studies. In recent years, our work in Malaysia engages a public health concern that has gripped the world – HIV. Our findings have given us hope of winning the fight against the disease.
The Picard leather goods factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh produces bags, purses and wallets that are sold in upmarket stores throughout the developed world under various well-known brand names, and in their own chain of stores in Germany. The factory is clean, efficient and goods are produced under all the relevant international standards.
But Picard are a rarity, and most Bangladeshi manufacturing looks just like it did 50 years ago. They produce cheap goods for the local market, but are a huge distance from producing at global standards. Unfortunately, this is also the case with most manufacturers in emerging economies. And all manufacturing is being changed by a range of new technologies known as Industry 4.0, with manufacturing becoming more global, more automated, more highly skilled, more infused with technology and more integrated with services. Whole manufacturing sectors, but in particular Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) face real challenges if they are to adapt rather than be left behind.