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Europe and Central Asia

Of the Dutch and other Diseases

Ulrich Bartsch's picture

The recent collapse in oil prices is a good time to revisit the issues of resource revenue management. A good crisis should not go to waste, and it is in times like these that policy makers clearly realize their failures in the past and bemoan the lack of economic diversification away from oil.

What will it take for Romania to fully reap the dividends of digital transformation?

Marc Lixi's picture
Last week I was in Bucharest and attended the launch of the World Development Report (WDR) 2016: Digital Dividends. The event was co-hosted by the National School of Political and Administrative Studies (SNSPA) and the World Bank.

It was the first country-focused launch in an EU member state and brought together academics, business executives, regulators, journalists, former and current policy-makers to discuss the digital agenda and its implications for Romania’s EU2020 targets, growth and development.

But this launch is not the only reason why Romania stands out.

The country actually represents a paradoxical case study in terms of digital transformation.    

Romania boasts nine of the world’s top fifteen cities with the fastest broadband internet, yet over 40% of the population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion – the highest rate in the EU.

Mobilizing the buildings sector for climate action

Marcene D. Broadwater's picture

Also available in: Spanish

Kolkata West International City, India. Credits: IFC

With the passing of the historic climate change agreement in Paris, the buildings sector, which accounts for 32 percent of total energy use and 19 percent of GHG emissions, has been highlighted as a key industry to transform in order to achieve global climate mitigation goals. The private sector has responded with ambitious pledges for action, and must now turn to practical solutions to put the building sector on a low-carbon path.

The good news is that the level of aspiration is very high. I participated in the first-ever Buildings Day at COP21, witnessing ambitious commitments from both the public and the private sector. Over 90 countries have included attention to buildings in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), with greater than 1,300 commitments from companies and industry and professional organizations.

4 smartphone tools Syrian refugees use to arrive in Europe safely

Bassam Sebti's picture
Syrian refugee Yusuf holds his smartphone, which he describes as “the most important thing.” With this, he said, he is able to call his father in Syria. © B. Sokol/UNHCR

If you look inside the bag of any refugee on a life-threatening boat trip to Europe, you see a few possessions that vary from one refugee to another. However, there is one thing they all carry with them: a smartphone.

Those refugees have been criticized for owning smartphones, but what critics do not understand is that refugees consider these expensive devices as their main lifeline to the wider world, helping them flee wars and persecution. They are also the tools through which they tell the world their stories and narrate what is described as the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

The refugees’ escape to Europe is the first of its kind in a fully digital age. It has changed how the exodus is unfolding. Technology used by the refugees is not just making the voyage safer, but also challenging stereotypes held against them. Many Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, and other refugees fleeing to Europe have shown through their use of smartphones that not all refugees are poor. They flee because they fear for their lives.

Here are a few of many stories on how refugees are using smartphones to survive and tell their stories to the world:

10 candid career questions with PPP professionals – John Kjorstad

John Kjorstad's picture

Editor's Note: 
Welcome to the “10 Candid Career Questions” series, introducing you to the PPP professionals who do the deals, analyze the data, and strategize on the next big thing. Each of them followed a different path into PPP practice, and this series offers an inside look at their backgrounds, motivations, and choices. Each blogger receives the same 15 questions and answers 10 or more that tell their PPP career story candidly and without jargon. We believe you’ll be as surprised and inspired as we were. 

We have an agreement in Paris: So, what’s next for the private sector?

Christian Grossmann's picture
Wind turbine farm in Tunisia. Photo: Dana Smillie / World Bank

It's been two months now since the historic climate change conference, COP21, wrapped up in Paris, concluding with 195 countries pledging to take actions to keep global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius. This is an unprecedented achievement in the long history of international climate policy.
Compared to past negotiations, there was a different atmosphere in Paris. The negotiators were determined to find common ground rather than draw insurmountable lines in the sand. Investors lined up with billions of dollars in new financial commitments in addition to the suggested roadmap for developed nations to contribute to the needed $100 billion annually for mitigation and adaptation efforts.

And the private sector was more active and visible than ever before: CEOs from industries as far ranging as cement, transportation, energy, and consumer goods manufacturers announced their own climate commitments in Paris to decrease their carbon footprints, adopt renewable energy, and improve natural resource management.
This enthusiasm was especially apparent during the CEO panel that IFC, the organization I represent, convened during the Caring for Climate Business Forum by UN Global Compact. CEOs from client companies in India, Turkey, Thailand, and South Africa discussed their innovative climate change initiatives, investments, and technologies, and the challenges of scaling up their climate business.

Risk in Vienna City Hall

Joaquin Toro's picture
The Vienna City Hall (Rathaus) is one of the landmarks of the Austrian Capital. Visitors are amazed by its Gothic architecture and magnificent interiors - which are famous for hosting lavish events and balls. However, perhaps in direct contrast to these types of events, the Wappensaal of the Rathaus hosted the first ever Understanding Risk Austria event.

Where in the 18th century these halls hosted the Viennese bourgeoisie, in January these halls now received disaster risk management professionals, decision makers, policy makers, technical institutions, and representatives from the private sector, NGOs and academic institutions from around Austria to discuss disaster risk management issues in the country.

This demonstration of support for GFDRR and the Understanding Risk brand was an important step in further integrating the rich experience of DRM that Austria offers the global UR community.

Everyone needs tech skills, not just youth

Piotr Lewandowski's picture
We need to make sure that older workers and those already in the work force have the skills to take advantage of technological change. The ongoing debate on how advancing technology impact the demand for labor sets up a dichotomy. The future will be a utopia or a dystopia; as work reduces, society will face either unprecedented abundance or deepening inequality. But these transitions will not occur suddenly, nor will they be binary. And they will happen in very different ways depending on which firms adopt technology, and how workers might be able to respond. It is not just about youth in education; countries need to develop lifelong learning to ensure existing workers do not fall into a skills gap.

18 years later, in Romania

Victor Neagu's picture
Brasov University, Romania circa 1979

I first moved to Romania in 1998. It was a very different place back then. Stalls of CDs, clothing, pretzels (“covrigi”), and inexpensive electronic gadgets walled the sidewalks of a street that was the artery connecting my neighborhood with the more central parts of the north-eastern city of Iasi.

A sense of hardship was in the air. The city was grey. The collapse of the communist regime left many struggling for a better life in a new system that was striving for the rule of law, democracy and a free market economy.

As a 15-year old student back in those days, I was able to cross the border between Moldova and Romania with my school card. It had a glued color photo of me and my hand-written grades. One time, a border guard asked me if I was a good student. Modesty was not a choice if you wanted to cross the border, or so I felt at the time. He skipped through my grades, smiled and wished me a safe journey.

I moved back to Romania on February 1st of this year. This time as a 33-year old World Bank staff. It has been 18 years, but now I can call Romania home again.

Collaboration is key to food security in Central Asia

Polina Bogomolova's picture

Central Asia is a fascinating region with a diverse natural environment and a rich food culture. A visitor to the region might be surprised, therefore, to discover that access to “sufficient, safe and nutritious food” on a daily basis can be challenging for many people.

A highly agrarian region, with over 40% of the population living in rural areas, Central Asia faces a number of food security challenges – shaped by both traditional and modern food practices. While undernourishment, mostly driven by traditional diet, remains a challenge in countries such as Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, obesity and over-weight attributed to recent welfare improvements and newly-opened access to a wide variety of non-traditional foodstuffs, have already become a concern in many countries of the region.