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East Asia and Pacific

UN-Habitat Executive Director: Let’s work together to implement the New Urban Agenda

Sameh Wahba's picture
During the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the World Bank delegation met with Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat).

Ms. Sharif became the Executive UN-Habitat in December 2017, succeeding Joan Clos of Spain. She was previously Mayor of the City Council of Penang Island, Malaysia, where she led the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai to achieve its vision of a “cleaner, greener, safer and healthier place to work, live, invest and play.”

In 2011, Ms. Sharif was the first woman to be appointed president of the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai, where she collaborated with the World Bank on urban development projects.

Under Ms. Sharif’s leadership, UN-Habitat has focused WUF9’s theme on “Cities 2030, Cities for all: Implementing the New Urban Agenda” as a tool and accelerator for achieving Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch a video blog of UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif (@MaimunahSharif) and World Bank Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) where they discuss the importance of collaboration and partnership for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
 




 

One small step for international air transport, one giant leap for Tuvalu

Nora Weisskopf's picture
Funafuti International Airport (FUN), Tuvalu. Photo: Deviyani Laxmi Dixit/World bank


It’s not often that Bank staff members help make history – but we did by assisting Tuvalu in becoming the 192nd member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Created in 1944, the ICAO is a UN organization that sets standards and regulations for civil aviation. ICAO membership is important for Tuvalu, as it is a key prerequisite for the development of international air services.

Strategies that work: New South Wales leads infrastructure development in Australia

Mar Beltran's picture


Photo: Dylan's World / Flickr Creative Commons

A decade before the financial crisis, Australia was a bastion of infrastructure successes. The country’s four major airports (Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney) were privatized. Numerous greenfield projects were also launched, for example, extensive highway construction, and new projects were continually added to the pipeline.
 
Some of these new projects, however, faced significant difficulties: some were constructed without robust performance data, leading to overambitious forecasting and overaggressive financial structures. In part, this led Australia to suffer multiple high-profile defaults and brought the country’s infrastructure project pipeline to a halt.
 
But, today, Australia is displaying signs of promise once again. And one state, in particular, is among the developed world’s GDP growth outliers: New South Wales (NSW). The state’s economic growth has reached 3.5%, outstripping the country’s average rate of 2.8%, and even the G20 average (which stands at 3%). As such, NSW’s infrastructure model has likely had a multiplier effect on economic activity—and has been identified as a potential playbook for other jurisdictions.

Reflections on forty years of China’s reforms

Bert Hofman's picture
Photo: ©Li Wenyong/World Bank

Forty years ago in December, Deng Xiaoping delivered his historic speech "Emancipate the mind, seeking truth from facts and unite as one to face the future." This triggered four decades of reforms that have transformed China into the world’s second largest economy.  By some time in the next decade, China will be among the few countries in the world that will have transitioned from low income to high income status since World War II. 

Understanding the path China traveled, the circumstances under which historical decisions were made, and their effects on the course of China’s economy will inform future decision makers.  Increasingly, this reflection is important to the rest of the world as more and more countries see China as an example to emulate.  At the 19th Party Congress in November 2017, China accepted this mantle for the first time since the onset of reforms.

In some ways, China’s reforms were fairly mainstream.  The country opened up for trade and foreign investment, liberalized prices, diversified ownership, strengthened property rights, kept inflation under control, and maintained high savings and investment.  But this is simplifying the reforms and obfuscates the essence of China’s reforms: the unique steps China took reforming its system are what makes its experience of interest (see the Annex). Its gradual approach to reform was in sharp contrast to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.  Although often compared, China and other transition countries were simply too different in terms of initial economic conditions, political development, and external environment.  

Predominantly rural and among the poorest nations on earth, China was marred by the failure of the Great Leap Forward and the political disruptions during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Integration into the global economy was minimal. Industry was inefficient, but also far less concentrated than in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.  Perhaps most importantly, because China retained political continuity, the country could focus on an economic and social transition instead of a political one.

Comparison with much of the Latin American reforms also seems out of place. Brazil, Mexico and Argentina were far closer to a market-based system than China, and their reforms—liberalization and macroeconomic stability—were focused on macroeconomic stabilization, whereas China’s reforms aimed for a transformation of the economic system as a whole.  So there is no need to juxtapose the “Washington Consensus” with a “Beijing Consensus:” the approaches taken served very different purposes indeed.

Are we there yet? – A journey towards sustainable flood risk management in Pacific Island countries

Simone Esler's picture
The Mataniko River floodplain at Koa Hill, Solomon Islands, after the April 2014 flood. Many houses were completely washed away and several lives were lost. (Photo: Alan McNeil, Solomon Islands government)

 

‘Are we there yet?’ On a long road trip, perhaps you’ve asked or heard this question.

Let’s direct this question to the state of urban flood risk management in Pacific Island countries.  In this case, the ‘destination’ is flood-resilient communities.

For Pacific Island countries, no, we’re not there yet, but are we heading in the right direction?

“But what about Singapore?” Lessons from the best public housing program in the world

Abhas Jha's picture
Also available in: Mongolian | Chinese
 
Photo of Singapore by Lois Goh / World Bank

 
As we approach the 9th World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur next week, one of the essential challenges in implementing the New Urban Agenda that governments are struggling with is the provision at scale of high quality affordable housing, a key part of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 of building sustainable cities and communities.
 
When I worked on affordable housing in Latin America, one consistent piece of advice we would give our clients was that it is not a good idea for governments to build and provide housing themselves. Instead, in the words of the famous (and sadly late) World Bank economist Steve Mayo, we should enable housing markets to work. Our clients would always respond by saying, “But what about Singapore?” And we would say the Singapore case is too sui generis and non-replicable.

[Learn more about the World Bank's participation in the World Urban Forum]
 
Now, having lived in the beautiful red-dot city state for two and half years, and seeing up close the experience of public housing in Singapore, one is struck by elements of the Singapore housing experience that are striking for its foresight and, yes, its replicability!
 
Singapore’s governing philosophy has famously been described as “think ahead, think again and think across.” Nowhere is this more apparent than how the founding fathers designed the national housing program, and how it has adapted and evolved over the years, responding to changed circumstances and needs.

It is hard to believe today but in 1947 the British Housing Committee reported that 72% of a total population of 938,000 of Singapore was living within the 80 square kilometers that made up the central city area. When Singapore attained self-government in 1959, only 9% of Singaporeans resided in public housing. Today, 80% of Singaporeans live a government built apartment. There are about one million Housing and Development Board (HDB) apartments, largely clustered in 23 self-contained new towns that extend around the city’s coastal core.
 
How has Singapore succeeded where so many other countries have failed dismally? At the risk of over-simplification, there seem to be four essential ingredients to this astonishing success story:

Announcing Funding for 12 Development Data Innovation Projects

World Bank Data Team's picture

We’re pleased to announce support for 12 projects which seek to improve the way development data are produced, managed, and used. They bring together diverse teams of collaborators from around the world, and are focused on solving challenges in low and lower middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, Latin America, and South Asia.

Following the success of the first round of funding in 2016, in August 2017 we announced a $2.5M fund to support Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development. The World Bank’s Development Data group, together with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, called for ideas to improve the production, management, and use of data in the two thematic areas of “Leave No One Behind” and the environment. To ensure funding went to projects that solved real people’s problems, and built solutions that were context-specific and relevant to its audience, applicants were required to include the user, in most cases a government or public entity, in the project team. We were also looking for projects that have the potential to generate learning and knowledge that can be shared, adapted, and reused in other settings.

From predicting the movements of internally displaced populations in Somalia to speeding up post-disaster damage assessments in Nepal; and from detecting the armyworm invasive species in Malawi to supporting older people in Kenya and India to map and advocate for the better availability of public services; the 12 selected projects summarized below show how new partnerships, new methods, and new data sources can be integrated to really “put data to work” for development.

This initiative is supported by the World Bank’s Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) with financing from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Korea and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland.

2018 Innovation Fund Recipients

Zero docks: what we learnt about dockless bike-sharing during #TTDC2018

Leonardo Canon Rubiano's picture
Dockless bikes typically sport bright colors that make them easy to identify.
Photo: Montgomery County/Flickr

How can we harness the digital economy to make mobility more sustainable? This question was the main focus of this year’s Transforming Transportation conference, which brought together some of most creative and innovative thinkers in the world of mobility. One of them was Davis Wang, CEO of Mobike, a Chinese startup that pioneered the development of dockless bike-sharing and is now present in more than 200 cities across 12 countries. In his remarks, Wang raised a number of interesting points and inspired me to continue the conversation on the future of dockless bike-share systems and their potential as a new form of urban transport.

What exactly is dockless bike-sharing (DBS)?

Introduced in Beijing just under two years ago, dockless bike-share has been spreading rapidly across the world, with Mobike and three other companies entering the Washington, D.C. market in September 2017.

As their name indicates, the main feature that distinguishes “dockless” or “free-floating” systems from traditional bike-share is that riders can pick up and drop off the bicycles anywhere on the street rather than at a fixed station.

This is made possible by a small connected device fitted on each bike that allows users to locate and unlock the nearest bike with their smartphone in a matter of seconds—yet another new derivative of the “internet of things” revolution!

Can Islamic finance unlock funds for development? It already is

Amadou Thierno Diallo's picture

Also available in  العربية | Français



Two years in the making, last week the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDBG) and the World Bank Group officially launched the landmark report Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships at a discussion broadcast online from Washington, D.C. We illustrated that, through partnerships, the power of Islamic finance can be instrumental in unlocking financial resources necessary to meet the tremendous demand for critical infrastructure.
 
In fact, infrastructure PPPs funded with Islamic finance have proliferated in the Middle East, and have flourished in other countries throughout Africa and Asia. Both of our institutions are committed to leverage our competitive advantages, achieve effective interventions, and yield measurable results in scaling up and broadening the use of Islamic finance.


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