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Europe and Central Asia

Time to think differently: How to help the internally displaced in Georgia

Ewa Sobczynska's picture
In the early 1990s and 2008, secessionist conflicts led to the internal displacement of 6 percent of Georgia’s population, making it one of the countries with highest incidences of internal displacement.
 
We tend to think that the displaced will be able to go home soon, but in reality, they remain displaced for years. A total of 246,974 men, women and children from the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are still unable to return, now living in the capital city of Tbilisi and in smaller urban and rural areas close to their regions of origin.
 
Mother and baby
Mother and baby in Tbilisi. (Photo: World Bank)

After more than 25 years since the first wave of displacement, Georgia’s internally displaced are a diverse group. Some live in independent private housing, are employed and have managed to provide good education to their children. Others continue to live in collective centers, are spatially and socially isolated from the rest of the population, and have been chronically poor and unemployed since they became displaced.

While meeting the immediate needs of the displaced is important at the outset, such changes over time suggest that we need to think differently about how better to support them in the long term.
 
One example is the monthly benefit of 45 Lari (approximately 20 USD) provided to all internally displaced citizens by the Georgian government, regardless of their levels of poverty or employment. Some of the country’s poor, who have not been displaced, have begun to question this benefit.
 
After all, why should someone who is not poor, receive such support?
 
In 2014, the Government of Georgia asked the World Bank to study this question. Should the benefit for the internally displaced be adjusted, and what are the implications, including social and poverty impacts? Here are some of the main observations from the report, Transitioning from Status to Needs Based Assistance for IDPs: A Poverty and Social Impact Analysis, which our team prepared: 
  • Georgia’s displaced and non-displaced are equally likely to be poor. However, the displaced tend to rely on social transfers, remittances, and informal jobs, and are more likely to be unemployed for long periods of time. Those in rural area have significantly less information, opportunities for employment, or access to good quality education and services.
  • Those who still live in non-renovated, public collective centers experience inadequate living conditions. These households are often socially isolated, separated from friends and family and unable to form ties in uncertain housing conditions. Regardless of income, these households remain extremely vulnerable.
  • The displacement "status," – i.e., formal recognition of having been displaced from a conflict area – has a strong symbolic and political value among the entire Georgian population. To the displaced it signifies hope of returning to their homeland. To others it signals the state’s commitment to reintegrating the two occupied territories. For many – rich or poor – holding this status is a matter of dignity.
Research confirms the diverse economic and social situations of the displaced. It also recognizes the political difficulties of removing such a symbolically important benefit, or targeting it exclusively to the poor.
 
But given fiscal constraints in Georgia, providing benefits to those that do not necessarily need them is problematic in the long term. In this regard, the report supports the eventual phasing out of the benefit, already initiated by the Georgian government, while taking steps to help those in need, with the following recommendations: 
  • Livelihoods support is essential especially for households at risk of falling into poverty, with activities that are tailored to the diverse needs of this population, their skills and  location. Access to land for those in rural areas with agricultural skills, and access to finance and training for those who are entrepreneurial, are two activities that could work well with these groups.
  • Addressing housing conditions and supporting access to private housing is important. Currently, 80 percent of government assistance for the internally displaced goes for housing. These resources could gradually be reallocated towards livelihood assistance for the poorest. 
  • The poorest households, eligible for social assistance, should be encouraged to apply to the Targeted Social Assistance program – the regular social assistance program for vulnerable Georgians.

It is perhaps most important to ensure that the population, both displaced and not, understands why these reforms are necessary. The time has come for an adjusted approach, so that scarce resources can be used more effectively to benefit those in need, especially the poor and vulnerable.
 

Why are women working less under capitalism than communism?

Joanna Tyrowicz's picture
A woman works in a call center. Photo: © Flore de Préneuf / World Bank

The last three decades have seen a transition from central planning to market systems across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). But over the same period there has been a consistent decrease in women’s employment. Prior to the transition, CEE countries were characterized by a relatively high employment ratio among women. Gender employment gaps were generally lower in CEE under central planning and then increased over the course of transition. 

From a rubber boat in the sea to swimming in Rio: A story of resilience

Bassam Sebti's picture


On a chilly October day in 2015, 24-year-old Rami Anis boarded a rubber boat in the Aegean Sea in Turkey. His destination was Europe and his goal was a better life away from war and hardship.

Looking at the people around him on the boat, he was horrified. They were children, men, and women. The fact that they might not make it never escaped his mind, even though he is a professional swimmer.

“Because with the sea, you can’t joke,” said the Syrian refugee.

But on Aug. 11, Rami will not be worried about swimming in the sea. He, instead, will be swimming at the Olympics. He made it safely to Belgium after days of heart-wrenching journey, from Istanbul to Izmir to Greece before setting off a trek through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and eventually Belgium.

Rami will be competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team — the first of its kind — and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the opening ceremony. 

Steak, fries and air pollution

Garo Batmanian's picture
 Guangqing Liu
Photo © : Guangqing Liu

While most people link air pollution only to burning fossil fuels, other activities such as agriculture and biomass burning also contribute to it. The complexity of air pollution can be explained by analyzing the composition of the PM2.5, one the most important air pollution indicators. 
 

Renewables, solar, and large size projects trending in new data on private participation in infrastructure

Clive Harris's picture



Translations available in Chinese and Spanish.

Many of you are already familiar with the PPP (Public-Private Partnerships) Group’s Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) Database. As a reminder for those who aren’t, the PPI Database is a comprehensive resource of over 8,000 projects with private participation across 139 low- and middle-income economies from the period of 1990-2015, in the water, energy, transport and telecoms sectors.

We recently released the 2015 full year data showing that global private infrastructure investment remains steady when compared to the previous year (US$111.6 billion compared with US$111.7 the previous year), largely due to a couple of mega-deals in Turkey (including Istanbul’s $35.6 billion IGA Airport (which includes a $29.1 billion concession fee to the government). When compared to the previous five-year average, however, global private infrastructure investment in 2015 was 10 percent lower, mainly due to dwindling commitments in China, Brazil, and India. Brazil in particular saw only $4.5 billion in investments, sharply declining from $47.2 billion in 2014 and reversing a trend of growing investments over the last five years.

From the “Laguna” to the Delta: Can lessons from Venice help us manage flood risk in Vietnam?

Linh X. Le's picture
A satellite view of Venice and the surrounding lagoon. Upon completion of the MOSE project in 2018, a series of flood gates between the lagoon and the Adriatic Sea will protect the city from high tide and storm surges.
Upon completion of the MOSE project in 2018, a series of flood gates between Venice's Lagoon and the Adriatic Sea will protect the city from high tide and storm surges. Credit: NASA
Venice may seem like an unlikely location for an international development conference. But even though the Italian city is best known for its touristic appeal, it also turned out to be the perfect setting for the Understanding Risk Forum 2016, where representatives from 125 countries exchanged knowledge on disaster risk management and explored ways of adapting global lessons to their own local context.
 
At merely 1 meter above sea level, Venice has had its fair share of natural disasters, especially floods. In 1966, the record-high 194-cm flood had severe consequences on the Old Venice, causing an estimated $6 million worth of damage (1966 US dollars). Given the city’s touristic and historical significance to Italy and the world, protection from flood is a top priority.
 
That's why the Government of Italy has invested over €5.5 billion on the MOSE Project, which involves constructing 4 mobile barriers at the mouth of the water basin to the sea in order to better control high tide and prevent it from flooding the Old Venice. Each barrier consists of several energy-efficient flap gates that can be deployed quickly when high tide occurs, maintaining the ideal water level in the basin while safeguarding the natural ecosystem in the laguna area. Once the project is completed in 2018, it should fully protect the city, and allow future generations to admire the beauty of its glory days.

An ageing population needs older workers

Wojciech Hardy's picture
Populations are ageing, globally. Prolonging the working life is one of the most pressing challenges for policymakers around the world. As jobless older people face more difficulties in finding work than prime-aged workers, it is important to support workplace retention before retirement. But job retention among older people varies substantially even across neighboring countries or subpopulations. Moreover, retention rates also vary between genders and the largest room for improvement in retention rates pertains to women.
 

Can Moldova have a viable pension system … if retirement age is increased?

Yuliya Smolyar's picture
Pensioner in Moldova

In my first blog on Moldova’s pension system, I discussed challenges and reform options. My second one focused on the incentives to contribute into that pension system. Now, in this third blog, I am going to discuss Moldova’s retirement age: why it is important to raise it ... and why it is equally challenging to do so.
 
To better understand the issues faced by public pension systems today, it is important to remember that they are generally pay-as-you-go schemes. This means that those who work today pay the pensions of those who are retired.
 
This particular system was first introduced in Germany back in the 19th century, when the workforce was growing – a very different situation from what we have today. Rapidly ageing societies, longer life expectancy at retirement, lower fertility and migration are all adding pressures on pension systems in many European countries, including Moldova.

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