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ASEAN

Financial inclusion: Stepping-stone to prosperity

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

In Pakistan, Salma Riaz, right, shows Saba Bibi how to use her new cell phone to receive payments. © Muzammil Pasha/World BankTwo and a half billion people in the world do not have access to formal financial services. This includes 80% of the poor — those who live on less than $2 a day. Small businesses are similarly disadvantaged: As many as 200 million say they lack the financing they need to thrive.

This is why we at the World Bank want men and women around the world to have access to a bank account or a device, such as a cell phone, that will let them store money and send and receive payments. This is a basic building block for people to manage their financial lives.

Why is this so important? Financial inclusion helps lift people out of poverty and can help speed economic development. It can draw more women into the mainstream of economic activity, harnessing their contributions to society. And it will help governments provide more efficient delivery of services to their people by streamlining transfers and cutting administrative costs.

A step out of poverty

Studies show that access to the financial system can reduce income inequality, boost job creation, and make people less vulnerable to unexpected losses of income. People who are "unbanked" find it harder to save, plan for the future, start a business, or recover from a crisis.

Being able to save, make non-cash payments, send or receive remittances, get credit, or get insurance can be instrumental in raising living standards and helping businesses prosper. It helps people to invest more in education or health care.

An opportunity for East Asia in plunging oil prices

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Image "Pro Pit" by Aaron Webb is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Image "Pro Pit" by Aaron Webb is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Never let an opportunity pass by, but always think twice before acting,” says a Japanese proverb with particular pertinence for East Asia today.

Plunging oil prices present a significant opportunity for most of the region’s developing countries to strengthen the competitiveness of their economies and take advantage of the ongoing global recovery.

The drop in oil prices — over 50% since mid-2014 — reflects several years of increasing oil supply, particularly in North America, along with decreased geopolitical risks to global production, OPEC’s efforts to maintain production levels and market share, and weaker-than-expected global growth last year. These factors are likely to persist, with oil prices expected to remain low through at least 2016.

Most countries in East Asia, including Japan, benefit from the price decline because they are oil importers. They can expect more rapid economic growth, lower inflation and improved current account balances.

Malaysia: From Developing Nation to Development Partner

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
World Bank Vice President for East Asia & Pacific on opening a new office in Malaysia

In 1954, the World Bank’s first mission report on Malaya – as the soon-to-be-independent country was called then – expressed concern about its development prospects. The mission was “favorably impressed with Malaya’s economic potentialities and prospects for expansion.” But it questioned  whether the “rates of economic progress and additions to employment opportunities can move ahead of or even keep up with the pace at which the population and the labor force are growing.”

Sixty years and 25 million more Malaysians later, hindsight proved such worries overdone as income per capita climbed from USD 250 at the time of the report to over USD$10,000 today.

 

With its successful economic and social development, Malaysia is now actively moving into a new role as a global development partner—supporting other countries in ending poverty and sharing lessons from its journey to become a regional economic powerhouse. This new role is a natural fit for a nation in transition toward a high-income status, and a big gain for the rest of us.

 

Are We Rising to the Renewable Energy Challenge?

Anita Marangoly George's picture

Renewable Energy PanelWe are living in very exciting times when it comes to renewable energy. All over the world, countries are taking steps to generate more and more of their power from their wind, solar and hydropower resources, among other means of clean energy production. This expansion is not just vital for human and economic development, it’s key to the world’s efforts to tackle climate change. With less than six weeks to go until policy makers gather for the next UN Climate Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru and as part of a series of events at the World Bank’s annual meetings, we hosted a panel of energy experts to look at what it will take to rise to the renewable energy challenge and address energy poverty.

ASEAN Cooperation is Crucial to Global Food Security

Bruce Tolentino's picture


There is clear and present danger that another global food price crisis will emerge sooner than later. 

A key signal is the lackluster result of the December 2013 Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Bali, Indonesia - in the heart of the ASEAN community. 

The compromises arising from the WTO Bali meeting further demonstrates that many WTO member-nations have returned to a focus on internal domestic politics, sacrificing long-term gains shared across nations, in favor of short-term gains motivated largely by domestic political survival or sheer short-sightedness.

Meetings with Remarkable Women: Lan Mercado’s Journey from Megaphone to Microphone

Duncan Green's picture

Lan, the megaphone years, circa 1985A while back, I wrote about some amazing Oxfam women I met in East Africa. Here’s another, this time from the Philippines.

Lan (real name Lilian, but Filipinos never use real names) is one of those quiet but effective (and very determined, and maybe not so quiet….) women that abound in development work. She was formerly our country director in the Philippines, but has now moved to head up a project on ASEAN (more on that below). She is also yet another Oxfam woman with a remarkable story. In 1988, as a 28 year old Communist Party activist in the Philippines civil war, her own Party denounced and arrested her on trumped-up charges of being involved in an intra-Party assassination. They held her for 6 months in the mountains, blindfolded and handcuffed in a cage. She and the other prisoners were tortured physically, mentally and emotionally. At least she avoided the fate of prisoners in other camps, who were forced to play ‘eeny meeny miny mo’, with the loser taken out, killed, and their blood smeared over the remaining prisoners.

Experts give urgent call to save wild tigers

Tony Whitten's picture
There is a great deal of passion surrounding the subject of tiger conservation, and there was a great deal of energy at the recent Global Tiger Workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo courtesy of catlovers under a Creative Commons license.)

I’m writing this in Kathmandu, Nepal, at the end of the Global Tiger Workshop, the latest event leading up to the Tiger Summit expected to be held late next year in Vladivostok. This process all began with the major launch of the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) in Washington, DC, in June 2008, and direct engagement with the tiger range countries on the issue of illegal wildlife trade really took off in Pattaya, Thailand, in April this year with ASEAN-WEN and other partners.

This was no ordinary World Bank-facilitated meeting inasmuch as National Geographic filmed the event, and it included a kilometer-long, elephant-led parade of children calling for the conservation of tigers. The GTI team keyed into the Asian and global media through op-eds, press releases, and YouTube. It also had significant support from the highest levels of the Nepali government which excelled itself not just in organizational support and hospitality, but also in commitments for tiger conservation – i.e. plans to double the size of one of its top tiger habitats, Bardia National Park. As remarked by Eric Dinerstein, World Wildlife Fund-US Chief Scientist, there has not been such a positive period for the future of Nepal’s tigers in all the 35 years he has been living in and visiting Nepal.

Regional Finance Roundup – A look at Thailand after the ASEAN summit cancellation; updates on China, Singapore and Mongolia

James Seward's picture

In terms of big newsworthy events in Asia, one of the biggest has to be the anti-government protests in Thailand. A relatively small number of protesters dramatically caused the cancellation of an ASEAN+3 meeting held in Pattaya this past weekend where 10 regional heads of state were evacuated. The World Bank President, as well as the head of the IMF and UN, were turned around at the airport in Bangkok. Although the protests around the country have effectively ended after martial law was declared and two protesters died, the damage of this may be longer-lasting. Although a discussion of the politics would be interesting, let's concentrate on the finance-related issues.

Reducing risk from natural disasters takes partnerships, teamwork

Zoe Elena Trohanis's picture

Image credit: simonpocock at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
If you want to know what movies are being shown on flights across the Pacific, ask me or my World Bank colleagues in the East Asia and Pacific region's Disaster Risk Management team. We have been passing one another by plane for the past month and a half. Responsible for coordinating disaster risk management efforts and activities for the region, we are a busy group, no doubt about it.

I have been in China for the past few weeks supporting the country team to appraise a package of support to China for recovery efforts following the May 12, 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. One colleague participated in the recent Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery Consultative Group meetings in Copenhagen, Denmark and is now in Jakarta, Indonesia working with field staff, the country’s government, and partners on mainstreaming risk reduction into development programs. Another colleague of mine just returned from the Philippines and Vietnam, where she was stranded by flooding in Hanoi. In fact, she had to wade through knee-deep water when leaving a meeting at the Ministry of Finance. Of course, this represents just part of the team, since we work with a broader network of staff based in country offices who manage country-level programs and projects.


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