In a recent visit to El Salvador, the smallest, yet beautiful most densely populated country in Central America, I attended an international event organized by the Secretariat of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) for the FCTC 2030 project. During this event, I had the opportunity to learn from government officials and the Solidarity Fund for Health (FOSALUD) team about the significant tobacco control steps taken by the country.
According to data presented at the event, 1 in 10 adults in El Salvador smoke; the prevalence of current cigarette consumption is 17 percent among men, 2 percent among women, and 10 percent among young people. Data from the IHME Global Burden of Disease study indicate that, in 2016, of the more than 1,600 tobacco-attributable deaths in El Salvador, almost half of them were premature deaths (before the age of 70 years). This contributed to an estimated 34,000 years of life lost due to tobacco-related premature mortality and disability. Besides these impacts, an assessment done by FOSALUD with the support of the FCTC Secretariat, UNDP and PAHO/WHO, estimates that tobacco use causes significant economic losses, including both health care costs (US$115.6 million) and loss of productivity (US$148 million), amounting to US$264 million or 1 percent of El Salvador’s GDP.
Latin America & Caribbean
More people in the world have access to financial accounts and tools than ever before. With this access, new products and services are being developed to facilitate convenient usage of these accounts. Taking this a step further, healthy financial inclusion incorporates customers’ ability to balance income and expenses, build and maintain reserves, and to manage and recover from financial shocks using a range of financial tools. The most useful financial services are those that provide customers with convenience, and support resilience through enhanced ability to weather shocks and pursue financial goals; effectively supporting the financial health of the user.
Remittances are an essential source of income for millions of families, many of whom are low income. Global migration is increasing - over 258 million people currently live outside their country of birth, up from 173 million in the year 2000 – and is trailed by a steady stream of transactions. The remittances industry moves over $600 billion around the world, with $466 billion being sent to low-and-middle income countries. As the first financial product used by many lower income people, remittances often act as a stepping stone to accessing a menu of financial services; as such, they are a cornerstone of financial health.
Regionally, growth in remittance inflows ranged from almost 7 percent in East Asia and the Pacific to 12 percent in South Asia. The overall increase was driven by a stronger economy and employment situation in the United States and a rebound in outward flows from some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the Russian Federation.
With foreign direct investment (FDI) on a downward trend in recent years, remittances reached close to the level of FDI flows in 2018. Excluding China, remittances to LMICs ($462 billion) were significantly larger than FDI flows in 2018 ($344 billion). This makes remittances the largest source of foreign exchange earnings in the LMICs, excluding China.
Bearing in mind that the Brief uses officially recorded remittances data, if we were to include remittances through informal channels, its true size and social impact is much larger.
In 2019, remittance flows to LMICs are likely to reach $550 billion, to become their largest source of external financing—larger than FDI, including flows to China. Remittances are already more than three times the size of official development assistance.
Addressing the global learning crisis requires improving the experience of young students, to help them learn more and progress further in their education. Principals are at the heart of shaping that experience – from the cleanliness of the building, to the way that students and teachers interact with each other, to the motivation and effort teachers make inside their classrooms. So it is no surprise that, after teachers, principals are generally considered to be the most important school input to student learning (see here and here). Yet principals – how they are selected, trained, supported, and incentivized – have only recently come to the forefront of education policy discussions in many middle and lower income countries.
Remittances are critical economic resources in emerging economies, helping vulnerable populations withstand adverse economic conditions. Personal remittances represent as much as 10.5% of GDP in the Philippines, 13.7% in Senegal, 28.3% in Nepal and 29.3% in Haiti. Global remittances reached $613 billion in 2017 and are projected to have grown 4.6% in 2018 to a record high of $642 billion. To put this in perspective, global remittances represent four times more than total official development assistance globally, which in 2016 reached $158 billion.
Recognizing the vital importance of remittances in and for emerging economies, the international community, including the G20, G7 and the World Bank have led initiatives to bring greater safety and efficiency to the remittances market and better serve the needs of the world’s most vulnerable groups. Clear progress has been made, with a significant decline in the price of remittances as measured by the World Bank Remittance Prices Worldwide database over the last decade. However, more work is needed; the average global remittance cost stood at 7% as of Q4 2018 – 4% higher than the 3% target set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.
We recently participated in an event held in Lima by Peru’s Ministry of Health and the Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University for the launching of a new report that assesses the initial results at the municipal level of the mental health services reform in the country.
Compelling evidence showing that the community-based initiatives to improve mental health care in Peru are helping close a major access gap that exists in most countries was shared.
So, what are the main pillars of the Peruvian mental health reform process and its initial impact?
Crime and violence are still in the top 5 main worries of the world. Globally, one in five people become a victim of violence and crime in their lifetime. But it is not only the cost of human life lost: Crime and violence hamper economic growth and development, erode social cohesion, affect governance and, in some cases, shake countries' political stability.
For two and a half years, more than 4,000 people have worked to build Line 1 of the Quito Metro, a mass transit system that extends 22 kilometers across the city.
With its 15 modern stations, ranging from Quitumbe in the south to El Labrador in the north, this infrastructure project is changing the urban landscape of the Ecuadorian capital and will become the backbone of the city’s integrated transport system. How is it coming along?
Carl Fuerstenberg, one of the most prominent German bankers of his generation, famously said more than a century ago that shareholders are irrational and impertinent. They are irrational, he said, because they entrust their money to people they don’t control, and impertinent because they expect to receive dividends as a reward for their foolishness.
This dynamic lies at the very heart of the corporate governance challenges faced by many companies and is especially acute in Latin America.
With the Incheon Declaration recommending governments to allocate between 15 – 20% of total public expenditure to education, how can governments improve the efficiency of their education systems?