Forest and land fires making the news in Indonesia is nothing new. But a hostage drama in the middle of “fire season”? That’s a new twist, and indeed dominated headlines in early September. After collecting evidence of burned land within a palm oil concession in Rokan Hulu, Riau, seven inspectors from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) were taken captive and violently threatened to handover or delete the gathered evidence.
East Asia and Pacific
Can a sustainable water sector be developed simultaneously with a country’s growth? Can the water sector continue to expand and achieve comprehensive coverage and financial sustainability goals to become a recognized global model for water sector management and performance? Can a country without a single sewer line in 1958 have 90 percent of its wastewater treated by 2012?
The answer is yes! The example is Korea.
Following a 2009 earthquake in Qingchuan County, Sichuan Province, Alibaba introduced the “Internet + Poverty Reduction” model, with the core concept to boost economic development in the affected areas with a business model that empowers people to move out of poverty using the Internet.
Alibaba announced its rural e-commerce strategy in October 2014, with a plan to invest RMB100 million (about $14.8 million) over the next three to five years in the development of local e-commerce service systems for 1,000 counties with 100,000 villages.
The program provides valuable services in three areas:
- Easy and affordable access to goods and services in poor areas including: delivery of consumer goods to rural areas and farm produce to cities, mobile phone recharge, utility bills payment, booking airline and train tickets, making hotel reservations, as well as microfinance, online medical consultation, and online learning;
- Provision of ecosystem support for sustainable rural development, including raising awareness about the Internet among local officials, building the capacity of local firms to use the Internet for business, Internet skills training for young people and farmers; and
- Infrastructure development for the new economy, including logistics infrastructure, payment systems, financial services, cloud computing and data collection.
Alibaba’s “Internet + Poverty Reduction” features a number of innovations including e-commerce, job creation, access to finance, tourism development, education and healthcare.
China has 128,000 poor villages with 55.75 million registered poor people. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to lift them out of poverty. Typically, people fall into four categories of poverty, requiring different approaches. Unlike some development players, NGOs are more agile and are innovative in solutions, allowing them to provide support sooner.
The first category comprises those who are temporarily incapable of work due to illness or having school-aged children to support. For these people, rehabilitation or bringing back their capability to work to will help reduce their vulnerabilities.
The second category consists of those who have some resources but lack business skills or efficiency. Working with them to develop new business models and use resources more efficiently will help them get out of poverty.
The third category is made up of those who are capable of work but external conditions or resources like jobs are poor. Relocation or employment skills training may be effective solutions.
The fourth category comprises those who are permanently incapacitated, such as the severely disabled. They should be supported by the social protection system.
Will cash and checks still exist 15 or 20 years from now given the increasing digitization of money? Is the smartphone our new bank? Will many people working in the financial sector industry lose their jobs due to growing use of technology, robots, algorithms, and online banking? Is financial technology (FinTech) the solution to providing financial services to the 2 billion people in the planet that still lack access to finance? Will digital currencies and other innovative FinTech products pose systemic risks in the future? What is the best approach to regulate FinTech companies?
In the past decade, the Islamic finance industry has grown at double digits despite the weak global economic environment. By 2020, the Islamic finance industry is projected to reach $3 trillion in total assets with 1 billion users. However, despite its rapid growth and enormous potential, 7 out of 10 adults still do not have access to a bank account in Muslim countries. This means that 682 million adult Muslims still do not have an account at a banking institution. While some Muslim countries have high levels of account ownership (above 90 percent), there are others with less than 5 percent of their adult population who reported having a bank account.
Reducing poverty and inequality are two important socioeconomic policy objectives for most countries. While some can kill two birds with one stone, others may achieve either or none of these. In China’s special case, poverty reduction goes together with an increase in income inequality for at least the past 20 years. Here, I address some of the underling factors in this mismatched trajectory.
For quite a long time, economic growth, increase in income inequality and reduction of poverty concurred in China. Since 1980, the country has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty. The head count ratio of poverty by the official poverty line, which is about 21% higher than the line that is set at USD 1.9 per day (2011 PPP), has been reduced by 94% from 1980 to 2015 in rural China (figure 1).
In contrast, the Gini coefficient of income distribution among rural residents in China rose from 0.241 in 1980 to 0.39 in 2011 or by 62% according to the official estimation, though it once declined between 1980 and 1985 and was said to decline slightly after 2012.
Figure 1: Change in Poverty head count ratio and Gini coefficient in rural China since 1980
October 17 is End Poverty Day. Every day is a day to end poverty, but it helps to designate one day per year to reflect on this goal and how we can work to achieve it.
In Mongolia, poverty declined from 2010 to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2014. Since poverty rates very closely track overall economic growth, this is not surprising. Growth in labor incomes over the period helped reduce poverty, and this growth, in turn, was generated by increases in real wages in the non-agricultural sector and non-wage income in the agricultural sector. Mongolia’s fondness for universal social transfers also contributed: poverty rates fell from 38.8 percent in 2010 to 21.6 percent in 2014, based on the national poverty lines.
That was then, this is now.
Although the 2016 poverty level is not yet available, we can be sure that the economic downturn has not helped. Overall growth of GDP is projected to be only 0.1 percent for 2016, with production in the non-mining sector declining. And Mongolia’s pro-cyclical policies that funded social programs in the boom years now face opposite pressures. Social welfare programs that are categorically targeted and pro-cyclically funded are more difficult to scale up when times become difficult.
With a large and unsustainable budget deficit (projected to reach 18 percent of GDP for 2016), and with growing levels of debt, Mongolia has little choice but to focus on fiscal consolidation. Can they do so without hurting the most vulnerable people in society?
Most of the world's extreme poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. While over 1 in 10 people live in extreme poverty globally, in Sub-Saharan Africa, that figure is 4 in 10, representing 389 million people - that's more poor people than all other regions combined. Read more in the new report on Poverty and Shared Prosperity