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East Asia and Pacific

1997: Stabilization at the heart of policy choices

Badamchimeg Dondog's picture
As we continue traveling on our 25-day journey through our 25 years’ history, today we look back at the year 1997. Before digging into what the economic and social situation of the country looked like back then and what our Bank colleagues accomplished in Mongolia during the year, I want to quickly reflect on my own life back in the year.

The year of 1997 happened to be a turning point in my life as it was the year when my family moved from the far western aimag of Khovd to the capital city Ulaanbaatar after having lived in the aimag center for well over a decade. The things I remember truly well from the time are, firstly, we did not have power in Khovd, so we had to study in candlelight and cook on gas stoves imported from China or using firewood inside our apartment. Another major thing I had much excitement about at the time was that we were able to get our modest one-bedroom apartment in Khovd privatized, sell it to a local to finally move back to the big city to get closer to our relatives in the south of the country. All in all, in my thirteen year old mind back in 1997, life was somewhat tough with basic living conditions in remote areas still rather poor yet things were changing as I know it, perhaps for the good. Years later now, when I look back into 1997, in my thirty something mind, surprisingly, I get a similar picture. The social and economic situation in the country was still challenging in many ways but the country continued to transition and change, perhaps towards more good.

Singapore: The Pelé of urban design

Abhas Jha's picture

Photo: Nicolas Lannuzel/Flickr
Who is the best soccer player of all time? A Google search will offer this name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pelé. Kicking off in 1958 as a 17 year old World Cup winner, Pele bookmarked his brilliant career a dozen years later with another World Cup triumph for Brazil. 
I like to think of Singapore as the Pelé of urban design. The city regularly appears in the top ranks of globally livableconnected and competitive cities. Pelé once famously said, "Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and, most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”. There is no doubt that Singapore’s accomplishments have been made possible by the hard work, perseverance and far-sightedness of its policy makers.
2013 speech by Peter Ho, Chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, outlines the careful thought, planning and attention to detail behind Singapore’s urban policy, particularly the decisions, influence and foresight of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew over the decades of development. One astonishing success has been the provision of affordable housing and the care with which each neighborhood has been designed, taking care of the smallest details, in order to ensure social cohesion and a sense of community. These details include provisions for hawker centers and high quality public green spaces.

Malnutrition denies children opportunity and stunts economic development

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture

Nearly 50 years ago, books such as Asian Drama: An Inquiry Into The Poverty Of Nations, by the Swedish economist and Nobel laureate Gunnar Myrdal, offered a dire prediction of famine and poverty for the region in coming decades.

1996: Taking stock of the profile of the poor, and the state of state enterprises

Jim Anderson's picture
Photo courtesy of The World Bank Group Archives

In 1996, Mongolia’s GDP growth declined to 2.2% in real terms and consumer price inflation jumped back up to nearly 47%.  The previous year had seen the launch of a project on Poverty Alleviation for Vulnerable Groups, a project which called for a deeper understanding of poverty in Mongolia.  In 1996, Mongolia - Poverty Assessment in a Transition Economy was released.  This was the first poverty assessment for Mongolia to be based primarily on the Living Standard Measurement Survey (LSMS).  The poverty assessment sought to provide an in-depth understanding of the economic, demographic, regional and social characteristics of the poor, and to promote poverty reduction as an explicit objective in the formulation of public policy and resource allocation.

No movie, no map, no money: Local road financing innovations in the Philippines

Kai Kaiser's picture
Access to paradise? Photo by authors.

GoPro videos have become ubiquitous among mountain bikers. The more adventurous the journey the better. Go viral on social media, and you have a winner. You might even get a payout from YouTube. But we want to discuss another way to make money. Money for local roads in the Philippines. We want to discuss a way that officials and citizens could make a GoPro-type movie, convert it into a digital map, and possibly receive a payout from the Department of Budget and Management under a new program called Kalsada.
It’s More Fun in The Philippines!
The Philippines is a tropical archipelago of over seven thousand islands, making for many jewel destinations. The country’s tourism slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tries to capture the spirit of a friendly, welcoming and fun-loving people which the adventurous tourist will experience. Palawan was recently voted as the planet’s best island destination by a top travel magazine. In search of fun, we tried to visit one of its towns, Port Barton, two years ago. But chronic infrastructure means that sometimes you are in for a rough ride. Confronted with bad roads, we were only able to actually make it to this idyllic destination many months later.

1995: Helping implement Mongolia’s Poverty Alleviation Program

Jim Anderson's picture
Photo courtesy of WB Group Archives
Growth picked up to 6.4% in 1995, but it was a short-lived acceleration—it would be another eight years before Mongolia reached that level of growth again.  The World Bank/IDA’s first ever Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for Mongolia noted that, as painful as the first half of the 1990s had been for Mongolia, it was not as bad as in the countries of the former Soviet Union.  Only the Baltic countries had growth resume by 1994.  The CAS attributed Mongolia’s turnaround to five factors: strong monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies to achieve macroeconomic stabilization; an early privatization program which opened the door for a private sector supply response; prompt and continued assistance of the international community; political stability and progress on institutional reforms, including the adoption of several new laws to support the new market-oriented economy; and government commitment: “When controversial decisions need to be taken, reform-oriented views have prevailed within the Cabinet and Parliament. The Government, and society at large, are aware that a return to the past is impossible and emphasize that a market-oriented economy based on democratic principles is central to their development philosophy.”

1994: Assessing the real costs of the economic contraction

Jim Anderson's picture
Today we look at 1994.  At last the economic collapse of the early 1990s bottomed out and growth resumed.  The economic hardship of the first years of transition, however, had taken its toll.  A study on financing of education found that “Between 1990 and 1992, government expenditures and education expenditures were cut by 57.6 percent and 56.0 percent, respectively. The decline in public spending was more than three times as much as the decline in GDP. In 1993, the allocation to education was reduced to 15.2 percent of the state budget, and to 3.8 percent of GDP.”

Enrolments fell generally, but herders' children who attended boarding schools were affected more severely than other children. “Enrollment of boarders in 1992 was only half of that in 1989. In sum, those who bear the brunt of structural adjustment are rural children.”  The challenge of educating herders’ children remains to this day a part of the World Bank program in Mongolia.

Fragility, conflict, and natural disasters – a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to resilience?

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
A partner from the EU assesses damage to an apartment building in Ukraine. Photo credit: EU

It’s a simple yet essential idea: war and disaster are linked, and these links must be examined to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Alarmingly, the total number of disaster events – and the economic losses associated with those events – keep increasing. This trend has been driven by population growth, urbanization, and climate change, leading to increasing economic losses of $150-$200 billion each year, up from $50 billion in the 1980s. But here is another piece of information: more than half of people impacted by natural hazards lived in fragile or conflict-affected states.

1993: Attention turns to Mongolia’s nascent private sector

Jim Anderson's picture
Continuing with our reflections on the 25 year partnership between Mongolia and the World Bank, today we look at 1993.  With GDP having fallen 20% since the transition began, and with an ambitious mass privatization scheme underway, Mongolia was ready for the economy to turn around.  But the rebound would not come just yet.  GDP fell another 3.2% in real terms, and consumer price inflation, which had only just become measurable in a robust way, checked in at 268% in 1993.  

A new Economic Transition Support Credit was passed to finance the critical imports of equipment, spare parts, and other essential inputs needed for the coal and copper mines; essential imports for Mongolian Railways; and to provide resources for the import of lubricants and the replacement of old, inefficient gasoline pumps for the Mongolian Petroleum Import Concern. Keeping machinery working was still a priority.

1992: On the magnitude of Mongolia’s challenges and the speed of reforms

Jim Anderson's picture
Continuing with our reflections on the 25 year partnership between Mongolia and the World Bank, today we look at 1992.  The political and economic changes envisioned by early reformers became lasting institutions with the adoption of a new Constitution and elections to the new State Great Khural later that year.  The reforms were well underway, but the economic difficulties deepened with GDP falling a further 9.3% during the year.  Mongolia faced the challenge of reforming its institutions and dealing with a very sharp economic decline at the same time.  The World Bank, for its part, sought to help keep things running and to contribute ideas on the way forward.