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Europe and Central Asia

Islamic Finance Grabs Headlines in London and Istanbul

Abayomi Alawode's picture

Talk about timing! This week has seen back-to-back initiatives that underscore the growing importance of Islamic finance – and the significant role that the World Bank Group can play in unleashing its potential for financing international development.

This Tuesday, October 29, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom announced that the U.K. will become the first non-Muslim country to issue a Sukuk or Islamic bond, with a £200 million issue planned for early 2014. Cameron also announced plans for a new Islamic index on the London Stock Exchange. These initiatives are all part of a grand plan by the U.K. government to turn London into a global capital of Islamic finance.

The very next day, on Wednesday, October 30, World Bank Group President Jim Kim inaugurated the World Bank Global Islamic Finance Center in Istanbul. Envisioned as a knowledge hub for developing Islamic finance globally, the center will conduct research and training as well as provide technical assistance and advisory services to World Bank Group client countries interested in developing Islamic financial institutions and markets.

Notes From the Field: World Bank Projects Undeterred by Trade Developments in Armenia

Miles McKenna's picture

About "Notes From the Field": With this occasional feature, we let World Bank professionals who are conducting interesting trade-related projects around the globe explain some of the challenges and triumphs of their day-to-day work. The views expressed here are personal and should not be attributed to the World Bank. All interviews have been edited for clarity.
Gohar Gyulumyan. Source - World Bank.

The interview below was conducted with Gohar Gyulumyan, a Senior Economist in the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia regional division of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network. Her work has been strongly centered on economic development in Armenia, where she is now based in the country office. She spoke with us about her most recent work on trade facilitation and the removal of trade barriers, including what the recent government announcement to join the Eurasian Customs Union may mean for the Bank's work in the country in the future.

Trading for a Better Climate

Harun Onder's picture

Pineapple seedlings grow in the nursery at Bomart Farms in Nsawam near Accra, Ghana. Photo - Jonathan Ernst / World BankConcerns over climate change took center stage at this year’s World Bank annual meetings. The message was clear: there doesn’t have to be a tradeoff between economic growth and a cleaner, healthier environment.

“We can make the right choice and still see robust growth,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said during the opening panel discussion, October 8.

With the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference set to get underway in Warsaw in just a few weeks, Kim and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde have now clearly laid out the economic case for shifting development strategy into a greener gear.

Russia’s Great Deceleration

Birgit Hansl's picture

Russia’s fortune and growth prospects remain tied to its most important economic partners in the Euro area and its main export products: oil and gas. In the last decade Russia grew at around 6 percent (if we exclude the crisis year of 2009 - 4.7 percent on average otherwise).

This high growth was driven by high commodity prices, but it also translated into the non-tradables. Russians enjoyed a higher standard of living and consumed more. The economy still looked strong in 2012 when the country grew at 3.4 percent, especially when compared to Europe, the US and Japan, but also vis-à-vis emerging economies such as Brazil and Turkey. Unemployment dropped to record lows and real wages grew, with poverty decreasing dramatically in recent years.
 

In the past, given the buoyant oil revenues, Russia followed a pro-cyclical growth model of stimulating domestic demand, partly through public investment projects and partly through increasing public wages and other public income sources such as pensions.

If the prices of oil and gas were to drop in the near future, Russia’s growth model might be in need of urgent adjustment.

Annual Meetings: World Bank Group Strategy Approved; Gender Equality Agenda

Donna Barne's picture

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde confer. © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

The World Bank Group got the go-ahead on a new strategy aimed at repositioning itself to better tackle its two goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. The strategy aims to more efficiently and effectively leverage finances, technology, and talent to provide customized development solutions for client countries. In a communiqué at the close of the Annual Meetings, the Development Committee said it “strongly endorsed” the plan. The committee said the Bank Group has an important role to play “in delivering global development results, supporting countries with their specific development challenges, and helping them eradicate poverty and build resilience to future financial, economic, social, and environmental challenges.”  Read the communiqué and article.

A new paper updated the Development Committee on the gender equality agenda at the World Bank Group. In the past year, all of the Bank’s country assistance strategies were “gender-informed,” and the total share of gender-informed lending rose from 83% to 98% between FY12 and FY13. This translates into a dollar figure of almost $31 billion, notes the paper.

Unpaved Roads Lead to a Better Future for Moldova’s Children

Victor Neagu's picture

Nearly three years ago, a large delegation was pulling in front of a newly-renovated kindergarten building in the village of Cucuruzeni, Moldova to unveil a long-awaited addition for its 2,000 inhabitants. Newly planted flowers and the fresh smell of paint constantly reminded me that this was more than just a World Bank-financed project -- it marked the beginning of better education for children of the community.
Two weeks ago, as I was driving north of Moldova’s capital Chisinau, our driver veered off on an unpaved eight kilometer stretch of road. The dusty, bumpy ride would take me back to Cucuruzeni, after three years.
My anticipation did not go unrewarded. The building was spotless.  I stopped in front of a dozen smiling, and curious three- and four-year-olds, excited to see visitors. Three years ago, this would have been out of the ordinary for me. Now, as the father of a 2.5-year-old son, I am in a kindergarten five times a week. This visit, however, was special.  

How to Create Jobs for Young People

Ravi Kumar's picture

Ask one of the millions of youth in Nairobi or New Delhi about their concerns for the future, and more than likely the response will be that he or she is worried about finding a job.

There are more than 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world. Seventy-five million of them are unemployed, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Roma Inclusion: An Agenda for Action

Maria Davalos's picture
A Roma family in Macedonia prepares coffee during a black out

The Roma make up Europe’s largest and poorest ethnic group, with three-quarters of their estimated 10 to 12 million people living in poverty, and fewer than one in three having a job. The Roma are also much younger than the general population, with 30 percent under age 15-which can be a real boon, considering the latest demographic trends. But a Roma child’s chance at a good life starts to decrease very early.  

A recent regional study that focused on Roma and non-Roma in nearby communities from five Eastern European countries finds between 28 and 45 percent of Roma children attend preschool in four of the five study countries. However, the Roma preschool rate jumps to 76 percent in Hungary, where targeted policies have been in place; and this is about the average for non-Roma preschool rates across the five countries. Hungary’s experience offers promise because surveys show that preschool matters greatly to completing secondary school and staying off social assistance.

Scaling Up Affordable Health Insurance: Same Dish, Many Different Recipes

Jorge Coarasa's picture

             A baby in Ghana rests under a bed net to prevent malaria. (c) Arne Hoel/World Bank

The debate over how to ensure good health services for all while assuring affordability is nothing new.

However, it has recently acquired new impetus under the guise of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).  Discussions around UHC are contentious and as Tim Evans recently pointed out, “a lot of the discussion gets stuck on whether financing of the system will be through government revenue, through taxes, or through contributions to insurance.”

World Bank Fellowships for Young Africans and Diasporans

Maleele Choongo's picture

World Bank Group Fellowship Program for Ph.D. Students of African Descent
The World Bank is launching its Africa Fellowship Program and offering 6-month fellowships to young Africans and African Diasporans currently enrolled in post-graduate programs on the continent. The Bank is calling for applications from interested students who are passionate about development in Africa and meet the following criteria:

  • Be African or of African descent
  • Be within one or two years of completing their Ph.D.
  • Be enrolled in an academic institution and returning to university after the program
  • Be below 32 years of age
  • Have an excellent command of English (both written and verbal)
  • Possess strong quantitative and analytical skills

Participation in the program may start at any time during the year. Fellows receive round-trip air travel to Washington, D.C. from their university, and remuneration during their fellowship. Throughout their Fellowship, students will be able to use their access to World Bank facilities, information and staff to enhance their doctoral research. After completing six months of the fellowship, high performers will be offered an additional six months to continue their work with the Bank.


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