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Europe and Central Asia

Older workers need lifetime skills development

Piotr Lewandowski's picture

The IBS research institute in Poland has analyzed how the nature of the labour market had changed since the country transformed in the 1990s. Those who were born in the 1970s and 1908s have been able to take advantage of new types of jobs that have emerged. But those born before have been left behind. Piotr Lewandowski, President of IBS, explains how a boom in tertiary education has created new types of jobs which have benefited these young workers - but not the older workers. This shows the importance for all workers to engage in lifetime skills development so that they can survive a transformative economic shock. 

Are we Armenians insecure about food safety?

Vigen Sargsyan's picture
I was quite surprised recently to find out that a poll of 1,066 people across Yerevan and all ten regions of Armenia revealed substantial gaps in public awareness of food safety and people's behavior. The Social Survey on Food Safety Public Awareness (June 2015) may have produced some provoking outcomes, but it could certainly become a roadmap for the State Service for Food Safety (SSFS) in its efforts to further enhance food safety in Armenia.

Old fuel for a new future: the potential of wood energy

Paula Caballero's picture
A woman buying a clean cookstove in Tanzania. Klas Sander / World Bank

The use of wood energy – including firewood and charcoal – is largely considered an option of last resort. It evokes time-consuming wood collection, health hazards and small-scale fuel used by poor families in rural areas where there are no other energy alternatives.

And to a certain extent this picture is accurate. A study by the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves found that women in India spend the equivalent of two weeks every year collecting firewood, which they use to cook and heat their homes. Indoor air pollution caused by the smoke from burning firewood is known to lead to severe health problems: the WHO estimates 4.3 million deaths a year worldwide attributed to diseases associated with cooking and heating with solid fuels. Incomplete combustion creates short-lived climate pollutants, which also act as powerful agents of climate change.

But wood is a valuable source of energy for many of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean cooking facilities, including in major cities. It fuels many industries, from brickmaking and metal processing in the Congo Basin to steel and iron production in Brazil.  

In fact, the value of charcoal production in Africa was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2007, creating livelihoods for about seven million women and men, and catering to a rapidly growing urban demand. From this standpoint, wood energy makes up an enterprise of industrial scale. 

So, instead of disregarding wood energy as outdated, we must think of the economic, social and environmental benefits that would derive from modernizing its use. After all, wood energy is still one of the most widespread renewable fuels at our disposal. We already have the technological know-how to enhance the sustainability of wood energy value chains. Across the European Union’s 28 member states, wood and solid biofuels produced through “modern” methods accounted for nearly half of total primary energy from renewables in 2012.

Financial inclusion in Asia – time for disruption?

Nataliya Mylenko's picture

More than half of the world’s population lives in Asia and its robust growth is supporting the world economy.  After weathering well the 2008 crisis Asia is now in the spotlight with currencies depreciating and capital markets in retreat.  One widely voiced concern is rapid expansion of credit in the past decade fueled by abundant liquidity.  Globally, and in Asia, regulatory response to the 2008 crisis has been to strengthen financial regulation and de-risk financial intermediation.  Yet the reality of credit markets in most Asian economies is quite different from that in high income economies.  While domestic credit by financial sector represented on average over 100% of GDP for high income OECD countries, emerging Asia’s average in 2014 stood at 60%. The differences across countries are substantial in this diverse region, but in two thirds of Asian economies domestic credit is less than 60% of GDP.  The reality for most economies in Asia is that of limited and often inefficient financial markets which do not serve fully their growth needs. Low level of financial inclusion is a major contributing factor and a major challenge.

Lessons from the taxi industry to improve Romania’s governance

Ismail Radwan's picture
taxi in Romania
Photo: Daniel Kozak, World Bank

The first time I came to Bucharest in 2013 the Bank office offered to arrange a pick up from the airport. Being a seasoned traveler, I declined the offer. I reasoned that I had lived and worked in so many countries I could manage the transfer to the hotel without assistance. I was wrong.
I picked up my luggage to find a local cab outside the airport. A taxi driver offered me a ride. I didn’t negotiate the price upfront seeing that he had a meter in the car.
Twenty minutes later we reached the hotel. The meter read Lei 200 - at the that time about $60. That was over twice the going rate but there was little else I could do. I felt cheated as so many tourists do.
I learned from the experience, accepted offers of help from colleagues and paid more attention to rates going forward.
About a year later I returned to Bucharest to find a new system in place.  An electronic kiosk had been installed at the airport.  Arriving visitors could now press a button to get an estimated wait time to hail a taxi. I took my ticket. It was a smooth ride.
What made the difference? 
The new taxi ordering system is now available on mobile phones mirroring, in many ways, the service provided by Uber. Passengers can rate drivers and increase accountability.  
Bucharest has gone from being a difficult place to find an honest cab driver to one of the most convenient. 
The change has been driven by incentives and improved technology. 

 What are the implications for governance reform? 

Young people run faster, but seniors know the shortcuts

Johannes Koettl's picture
In a world of increasingly fluid labor markets, many older workers fear being pushed aside and out of their jobs by younger, more dynamic employees. But is this worry really justified? Are we less productive as we age?

The answer to the question has important implications for how well we can keep older people at work. As I have argued together with Wolfgang Fengler before, we not only live longer and healthier lives, but we also have the potential to work longer.

Yet, this will only happen if we have the right skills and abilities for the job also at old age. It is quite obvious that our body becomes slower and weaker as we grow old - but what about our brain? And even if our body and brain get weaker - does it matter for employers?

Open Data for Business Tool: learning from initial pilots

Laura Manley's picture
Citizens in Nigeria participate in a
readiness assessment exercise to identify
high-priority datasets
Around the world, governments, entrepreneurs and established businesses are seeing the economic growth potential of using Open Data – data from government and other sources that can be downloaded, used and reused without charge.
As a public resource, Open Data can help launch new private-sector ventures and help existing businesses create new products and services and optimize their operations. Government data – a leading source of Open Data – can help support companies in healthcare, agriculture, energy, education, and many other industries.  

​In addition, government agencies can be most helpful to the private sector if they understand the unique needs of the businesses that currently or could potentially use their data.
The World Bank has used the Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) in more than 20 countries to provide an overall evaluation of a country’s Open Data ecosystem. With that information and insight, government agencies can identify strengths and opportunities for making their Open Data more useful and effective. The ODRA covers essential components of any national Open Data program, including:

​Are we harnessing the power of the sun?

Isabel Chatterton's picture

Also available in: العربية

Are we harnessing the power of the sun? With the success of rooftop solar and other initiatives, we’re beginning to head in the right direction.
Photo: Bernd Sieker/flickr

Solar success has come from unexpected quarters. For example, Germany is probably not the first country that comes to mind when you think of sunshine, but we can follow Germany’s lead. It’s the world’s biggest small-scale photo-voltaic user with an installed capacity of 32 gigawatts, and 60 percent of capacity is from solar panels that are installed on people's roofs.

Germany also launched a 100,000 rooftops program, which provided concessional, 10-year loans along with attractive feed-in tariffs to further incentivize households to participate. This was soon after the success of its pilot 1,000 rooftops program, which created the right incentives and targets were achieved a year ahead of schedule – in 2003. 
Germany, Japan and the U.S. state of California are fulfilling their strong solar power potential, and we could all learn from their examples – especially nations that haven’t yet explored the proven promise of solar.
Statistics like these convince me that there is so much more we can and must do. I’m heartened that progress in India has been steady, with successes that prove the country is ready for more.

Protecting Your PPP: Stabilizing partnerships in uncertain times

Waleed Youssef's picture
Uncertainty is inherent in developing and operating complex infrastructure and services projects, and it is for this very reason that government officials seek public-private partnership (PPP) partners to mitigate the most complex of risks. Yet legal and regulatory frameworks, in place for legitimate reasons (especially in emerging markets), often dampen the private sector’s ability to address in an optimal manner the challenges that can and often do arise during the term of a concession.

It is important to distinguish between projects that exceed expectations — and therefore generate greater than expected financial returns to both parties, yet require additional, unanticipated capital investments — and struggling projects where there is an urge by the developer to reduce ongoing investment and maintenance.
Istanbul Ataturk Airport. 
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Successful PPPs are all alike…”
To paraphrase Tolstoy, successful PPPs are all alike, but every unsuccessful PPP is unsuccessful in its own way.

Successful projects are easier to manage owing to positive cash flows, and could additionally incorporate an obligation by the developer to increase its investment according to certain capacity-related triggers on the basis of floor and ceiling for project returns. This could also be supplemented by sponsor commitments to co-investment or to extend the concession terms based on minimum returns, as well as a sponsor sinking fund to ensure independence from the uncertain and tedious public budgeting process. Very often, concession agreements focus on what to do when things go wrong, but not how to continue to meet demand when things go well, especially toward the end of the concession term.

Why do students and scholars need budget literacy?

John Ivor Beazley's picture
After one and a half days of intense discussions in Moscow with a group of experts from four continents, I have come away excited and energized by the possibilities of making students more aware of the business of government and becoming more active and responsible citizens. 
In most developed countries, anywhere from one-third to half of all national income is managed by the government - but how much does the average person really understand about the budget or the difficult choices and trade-offs being made by governments every day?
Should taxes be raised or lowered?
Should they spend on schools? Better hospitals? Pensions?
Is it better to run a deficit and let future taxpayers settle the bills or save today to pay down the debt? 
Why is this barely discussed in schools?  
To help address this basic question, the Russian Ministry of Finance, helped by the World Bank, is piloting an initiative designed to encourage responsible citizenship and greater engagement in the budget process. The idea is that high school seniors will debate and discuss these issues, using real life cases and information from government budgets.