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South Asia

Helping Bhutan’s parliamentarians better understand economics

Yoichiro Ishihara's picture
Bhutanese Council Members and World Bank Staff
Bhutan's newly elected council members with World Bank staff. 

Members of parliament are valuable partners for the World Bank. They enact laws, shape and review development policies, and hold governments accountable for World Bank-financed programs. This applies for the landlocked Himalayan kingdom of  Bhutan. The role of its parliament has been increasing since the country’s successful transition from monarchy to constitutional monarchy in 2008. Through its engagement with these elected representatives, the World Bank effectively integrates citizen voice in its programs to achieve lasting and inclusive development results.
 
A joint workshop between the World Bank and National Council of Bhutan, the upper house, was a great opportunity for the World Bank to engage with the 25 newly elected National Council members.

A Pakistani daughter and her destiny

Sameera Al Tuwaijri's picture



Koshi is 4 days old. She was born in a small village near Hyderabad (Sindh, Pakistan) and is one of four siblings – all girls, all under the age of 10. Her parents were hoping that this time it would be a boy, but perhaps better luck next time? Her mother is worried that if she doesn’t give birth to a boy, she will be stigmatized. Family planning is out of the question – not that she and her husband have even discussed this. She worries about her girls’ well-being too. They are underweight and get sick a lot. She wants them to grow up healthy and get an education. Koshi’s father is worried about them too. He is a tenant farmer with a meager income. He already struggles to provide the basic necessities – food, clothing, shelter. Even if they marry young, how will he arrange their dowries? Of course this is only if Koshi and her sisters live long enough.

Koshi’s chances of survival are slim. In Pakistan, 1 in 20 newborns die within the first month of their birth.[i] By age 5, 79 of every 1000 children born die. There is an 11 percent chance that they will not survive beyond age 14 years.[ii] The situation in Sindh is worse than the national average, and the risk of deaths is higher in its rural areas where access to healthcare and other social services is more limited. Investing in the health and well-being of the population, especially the youth is pivotal for Sindh’s economic growth and development.

Having a primary health center near the village and local lady health workers for example will improve the girls’ chances of access to healthcare and childhood immunization – necessary for protection against diseases such as measles, polio, and diphtheria that still take a heavy toll on children’s lives. It also improves the mother’s access to skilled birth attendance. Skilled attendance at birth reduces newborn deaths by 43 percent[iii] and maternal deaths by 66.67 percent.[iv]

De-risking and remittances: the myth of the “underlying transaction” debunked

Marco Nicoli's picture
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Societé Genérale Mauritanie bank branch in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
Societé Genérale Mauritanie bank branch in Nouakchott, Mauritania. ©️ Arne Hoel

This Saturday, June 16, we celebrate International Day of Family Remittances to recognize “the significant financial contribution migrant workers make to the wellbeing of their families back home and to the sustainable development of their countries of origin.”

Which is why it is the perfect time to talk about a trend facing remittance service providers who migrants rely on to transfer their money across borders and back home.
In recent years, the international remittance services industry has been subject to the so-called “de-risking” phenomenon. Banks believe that anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations and enforcement practices have made serving money transfer operators (MTOs) too risky from a legal and reputational perspective. For banks, the profit of serving MTOs is not considered sufficient to justify the level of effort required to manage these increased risks.
 

The Missing Piece: Disability-Inclusive Education

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo's picture

In 2015, the world committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” More than an inspirational target, SDG4 is integral to the well-being of our societies and economies – to the quality of life of all individuals.

Can good infrastructure decisions be made with little information?

Aditi Raina's picture



The simple answer is yes—with a little help from the Infrastructure Prioritization Framework developed by the World Bank.
 
Experts can make decisions based on remarkably few pieces of information. Research by James Shanteau at Kansas State University has shown that expertise is reflected in the type of information used, not the amount of it. The Infrastructure Prioritization Framework, or IPF, attempts to capitalize on precisely these aspects of expertise and decision-making. This enables objective evaluations of infrastructure projects using minimal but relevant data in information-constrained environments.
 
Why is this important? It’s easy to make decisions when complete information is available. But this is rarely the case in most developing economies, where policymakers must rely on limited data to make decisions. But this does not mean the resulting decisions have to be poor. Critical to such situations is the ability to identify and select accurate and relevant information to achieve the desired objectives, something that requires experience, expertise, and judgment. 

In South Asia, poor rural women have begun to set up lucrative new businesses

Adarsh Kumar's picture

Across South Asia, our agriculture and rural development projects are helping transform the lives of poor rural women. From daily wage laborers they are now becoming entrepreneurs who generate jobs for others. Over the last decade, these projects have supported an estimated 5 million micro and small entrepreneurs, most of whom are women.
 
Asha, from Udaipur District in Rajasthan, used to sell vegetables in a nearby town.   Over time, this traditional village woman observed that flowers were in demand near the town’s main temple for use as ritual offerings. With encouragement from Manjula, a micro enterprise consultant under the Bank’s Rajasthan Rural Livelihoods Project (RRLP), Asha began cultivating marigolds on part of her family farm where millets had always been grown.  Manjula helped Asha draw up a basic business plan for a floriculture enterprise, taught her how to estimate potential expenses and earnings, and the way to maintain accounts. Asha now sells flowers at more than three times the price of her traditional millet crop, and her annual income has increased by 35%. She has devoted a larger area of her farm to floriculture, and started a nursery to grow flower saplings to sell to other aspiring marigold farmers.  Asha is now looking to expand her sapling nursery by renting more land, for which she is seeking a bank loan.

Outside Kathmandu in Nepal, Ambika Ranamgar used to work for building contractors, cutting marble and laying tiles in houses under construction. Then she struck out on her own. With encouragement and support from a community mobilizer under the Nepal Poverty Alleviation Fund (NPAF), Ambika took a loan of Rs. 80,000 ($740) to buy her own equipment, including a marble-cutting machine and a generator to power the machines during the city’s frequent power cuts. She then scouted for work visiting local hardware stores, and gradually began to get more clients. Ambika’s income has now more than doubled from her daily wage of Rs. 600 to reach between Rs. 1,000 to 1,500 rupees per day. She is now focused on getting more business and managing her supplies and workers.  At the time we visited her, Ambika had employed five workers, including her husband, and was busy laying the flooring for two houses.

 nepal - Anamika Ramgar

Six ways Sri Lanka can attract more foreign investments

Tatiana Nenova's picture
In 2017, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Sri Lanka grew to over $1,710 billion. But Sri Lanka still has ways to go to attract more FDI.
In 2017, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Sri Lanka grew to over $1,710 billion. But Sri Lanka still has ways to go to attract more FDI. Credit: Shutterstock 


To facilitate Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Sri Lanka launched last week an innovative online one-stop shop to help investors obtain all official approvals. To mark the occasion, this blog series explores different aspects of FDI in Sri Lanka. Part 1 put forth 5 Reasons Why Sri Lanka Needs FDI. Part 3 will relate how the World Bank is helping to improve Sri Lanka’s enabling environment for FDI.

Sri Lanka and foreign investments read a bit like a hit and miss story.

But it was not always the case.

Before 1983, companies like Motorola and Harris Corporation had plans to establish plants in Sri Lanka’s export processing zones. Others including Marubeni, Sony, Sanyo, Bank of Tokyo and Chase Manhattan Bank, had investments in Sri Lanka in the pipeline in the early 1980s.

All this changed when the war convulsed the country and derailed its growth. Companies left and took their foreign direct investments (FDI) with them.

Nearly a decade after the civil conflict ended in 2009, Sri Lanka is now in a very different place.

In 2017, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Sri Lanka grew to over $1,710 billion including foreign loans received by companies registered with the BOI, more than doubling from the $801 million achieved the previous year.

But Sri Lanka still has ways to go to attract more FDI.
 
As a percentage of GDP, FDI currently stands at a mere 2 percent and lags behind Malaysia at 3 – 4 percent and Vietnam at 5 – 6 percent.

In Bangladesh, building the skills for the 4th Industrial Revolution

Mustahsin-ul-Aziz's picture
With the onset of the fourth industrial revolution, the landscape of jobs, and the skills required for jobs, are quickly changing around the world. Bangladesh is no exception. Already the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector—the leading export sector employing a significant portion of the workforce— is undergoing major automation, which threatens the loss of jobs by the thousands.

This places significant importance on continuous skills training to prepare the workforce ready for future jobs. For this, what are the policy options for Bangladesh? How can the country move forward to ride the wave of the changing tide while leveraging the burgeoning youth population?

To answer these questions, and contribute towards the skills dialogue, an International Skills Conference was organized recently in Dhaka under the theme “Building Brands for Skills of Bangladesh”. The conference brought together national and international policymakers, skills development practitioners, academics, and researchers, from China, Singapore and India for two days of knowledge sharing and networking.
 
A memo agreement between Bangladesh and China

Organized by the Technical and Madrasah Education Division of the Ministry of Education of Bangladesh and supported by the Directorate of Technical Education and the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP), the conference covered topics ranging from connecting skills and jobs to future proofing technical education institutions to raising the brand of skills of Bangladesh. After two days of knowledge sharing, two important themes emerged:

Five ways cities can curb plastic waste

Silpa Kaza's picture

As the world observes World Environment Day this week, we should be mindful that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050 if nothing is done, according to the Ellen & MacArthur Foundation.
 
The negative impacts that plastic is having on the environment and human health is profoundly evident:
  • Respiratory issues are increasing because of air pollution from burning plastic.
  • Animal lifespans are shortened because of consuming plastic.
  • Littered plastic is clogging drains and causing floods.
  • And unmanaged plastic is contaminating our precious oceans and waterways…

The miracle of mangroves for coastal protection in numbers

Michael W. Beck's picture
© Ursula Meissner/The Nature Conservancy
© Ursula Meissner/The Nature Conservancy

The North Atlantic hurricane season officially opens June 1, and there are predictions that storms this year could be worse than average again. That would be bad since last year was the costliest year on record for coastal storms. Communities and countries across the Caribbean and SE USA were particularly hard hit. The need for resilient solutions to reduce these risks is paramount.

There has been growing though largely anecdotal evidence that mangroves and other coastal habitats can play important roles in defending coastlines. Nonetheless it has been difficult to convince most governments and businesses (e.g., insurance, hotels) to invest in these natural defenses in the absence of rigorous valuations of these benefits.

So in 2016 The Nature Conservancy teamed with the World Bank and scientists from the public, private and academic sectors to identify how to rigorously value the flood protection benefits from coastal habitats. In short, we recommended that we value this ecosystem service by adopting tools and from the engineering, risk and insurance sectors and following an Expected Damage Function (EDF) approach. This approach assesses the difference in flooding and flood damages with and without coastal habitats such as mangroves across the entire storm frequency distribution (e.g., 1-in-10, -25 and -100 year storms).


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