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East Asia and Pacific

Dynamic Ulaanbaatar—photographs from 1990s and the present

Jim Anderson's picture
One regret from my time in Mongolia in the 1990s is that I did not take more pictures. I wasn’t alone in this respect—people generally didn’t carry cameras, and whenever I pulled out my 35mm Nikon I got a lot of stares.  I had to buy and develop film in Beijing and, well, I just didn’t take nearly as many photos as I should have.  Happily, I did take some.

In the spring of 1997 I conducted the research for a study of Mongolia’s informal sector. It was the first such study in the country and there was a blank slate in terms of information.  I was fascinated by how rapidly it had grown, by questions about the size of the sector, by how people working in the informal sector see and organized themselves, by informal entrepreneurship and the spontaneity of markets.

I had as much fun as I have had in my career before or since, poring through statistics, interviewing taxi drivers and shoe shine boys. I interviewed officials on how they decide to provide permission for kiosks to set up shop and how they collaborate with informal (i.e., private, independent) buses. I worked with the NSO and the Ulaanbaatar city statistics department to do a survey to put some numbers with the stories.

Urban jungles in jeopardy

Ivo Germann's picture
Why the world’s cities are at risk – and what we can do to make them more resilient



We may not know exactly what the world will look like in two decades, but we know this: it is going to be a world of cities.
 
The global population is becoming increasingly urban, and at an astonishing rate. Each year, urban areas are growing by an average of more than 75 million people – more than the population of the world’s 85 smallest countries combined.
 
For the world’s economy, this is great news, since cities produce 80 percent of global GDP, despite currently being home to only 55 percent of the population. But it is a problem for urban infrastructure, which can’t keep up with such fast-paced growth. As a result, cities, already vulnerable, are becoming increasingly susceptible to natural disasters – from flooding and landslides that can decimate informal housing settlements, to earthquakes that can devastate power grids and water systems.
 
These risks could be disastrous for the urban poor, 881 million of whom currently live in slums (up 28 percent since 2000). And climate change – which is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters – will only exacerbate the problem. For this reason, multilateral and government institutions now see resilience and climate adaptation as integral pillars of development.
 
The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), for example, considers low-emission and climate-resilient economies to be key to global competitiveness. A recent report by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) found that climate change may force up to 77 million urban residents into poverty by 2030 – unless we take action to improve the resilience of cities around the world.

Project Safety 101 for Kids in Tuvalu

Nora Weisskopf's picture



When I was in primary school, there was a large construction project happening on the road in front of our house. I remember it was loud, dusty and the subject of constant complaints from our neighbors. However, my most vivid memory is of all the shiny, majestic machinery being delivered by the workers in their bright orange uniforms.

There was an immediate fascination among the children with these powerful and temptingly dangerous machines. Of course our parents all drilled us with the same message – “Do not go near, do not touch, do not interfere with the nice men repairing the roads,” and so we abided, but the curiosity and thrill of potentially touching these metal monsters never entirely subsided. Luckily, working in the transport sector now I get to be around construction equipment all the time!

Managing PPP risks with a new guide on guarantees

Victoria Rigby Delmon's picture



Just two years ago, Ghana was experiencing unstable commodity prices and a deteriorating macroeconomic situation. Yet, through a unique combination of World Bank guarantees nearly $8 billion in private investment was mobilized for the Sankofa Gas Project—the biggest foreign direct investment in Ghana’s history. The transformational project helped address serious energy shortages and put the country on a path to economic growth.
 
This is just one example illustrating how risk mitigation products play out in practice to encourage private sector investment and improve people’s lives.

Second-generation capacity development: A story of Malaysia-Laos knowledge exchange on reforming civil service

Jana Kunicova's picture

What do you imagine when you hear the words “capacity development”? Most development professionals associate capacity development with training, seminars and perhaps study tours.  Most of the countries the World Bank works in require a significant boost in their capability to implement policies, programs and projects, especially in countries supported by the Bank’s fund to the poorest, International Development Association (IDA).

For training to be sustainable and have high impact, it should be targeted to a particular public sector problem, and coupled with initiatives to improve organizational and institutional capacity. 

How do we achieve sustained growth? Through human capital, and East Asia and the Pacific proves it

Michael Crawford's picture
Students at Beijing Bayi High School in China. Photo: World Bank


In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had  almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the  average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in  the EAP  region put themselves on a path that focused on growth  driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in  schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While  improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in  labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades  EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no  slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.

High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation  are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore  the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central  determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means  to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the  demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not  enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and  average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity  and growth without stoking inequality.

In China, conserving the past helps the poor build a brighter future

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
How cultural heritage and sustainable tourism help reduce poverty
 
China has seen a booming tourism industry during the last few decades, thanks to a fast-developing economy and growing disposable personal income. In 2015 alone, the travel and tourism sector contributed to 7.9% of China’s GDP, and 8.4% of the country’s total employment. Not surprisingly, cultural heritage sites were among the most popular tourist destinations.

But beyond the well-known Great Wall and Forbidden City, many cultural heritage sites are located in the poorer, inland cities and provinces of the country. If managed sustainably, tourism in these areas can serve as a unique opportunity to help local communities—especially ethnic minorities, youth, and women—find jobs, grow incomes, and improve livelihoods.
 
“[Sustainable tourism] is not only the conservation of the cultural assets that are very important for the next generations to come, but, also, it’s the infrastructure upgrading, it’s the housing upgrading, and it is the social inclusion to really preserve the ethnic minorities’ culture and values – it is an interesting cultural package that is very valuable for countries around the world,” says Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, a Senior Director of the World Bank.
 
To help reduce poverty and inequality in China’s lagging regions, the World Bank has committed to a long-term partnership with China on cultural heritage and sustainable tourism—with the Bank’s largest program of this kind operating around 20 projects across the country. These projects have supported local economic development driven by cultural tourism.
 
“Over the years, the program has helped conserve over 40 cultural heritage sites, and over 30 historic urban neighborhoods, towns, and villages,” according to Judy Jia, a Beijing-based Urban Analyst.
  
Watch a video to learn from Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Judy Jia how cultural heritage and sustainable tourism can promote inclusive growth and boost shared prosperity in China, and what other countries can learn from this experience.



Also available in: 中文

Chart: Globally, 70% of Freshwater is Used for Agriculture

Tariq Khokhar's picture

In most regions of the world, over 70 percent of freshwater is used for agriculture. By 2050, feeding a planet of 9 billion people will require an estimated 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in water withdrawals.

Water Access in the Philippines: Fixing the Institutions that Fix the Pipes

Aileen Castro's picture
Photo: NorthEyes Production/World Bank

As we celebrate World Water Day, I find myself thinking about my work and one central question: how do you reach 8 million Filipinos with no access to clean water? I remember growing up in Pampanga, a province north of Manila, and visiting my aunt’s house every weekend where I had to pump water from a deep well and carry buckets so we could water plants, wash clothes, and clean the backyard pig pen. Fortunately, these days there’s always water from the faucet so we don’t work as hard to do chores.

But the story isn’t the same for everyone. While our local water utility largely improved its services over the years, I can’t say the same for the rest of the country, especially in rural areas. While there are already over 4,700 water utilities in the Philippines, about half are very small and unregulated.

Creative transactions: the Philippines NAIA Expressway Project

Lulu Baclagon's picture


Photo Credit: Flickr user Storm Crypt

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) come in many shapes and sizes, often accommodating unusual partners. The Philippines NAIA Expressway Project—better known as NAIAX—provides a perfect example.


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