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Central Asia

Investing today in human capital for a brighter future tomorrow

Lilia Burunciuc's picture
Kids in pre-school, Kyrgyz Republic

A young man sitting next to me on a recent flight from Almaty to Dushanbe told me, “I regret that I did not get a better education. I could have had a better job.” He is one of many Central Asian labor migrants doing low-skilled work in neighboring countries. He continued, “I’m telling my brothers and sisters to study hard if they want to have a better life.”

It was an important reminder about the responsibility we have as a society to ensure that young people like him get the education they deserve.

In light of the technological revolution we are witnessing today, the promise of education is becoming even more important. Emergence of robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning will transform the way we live, the way we work, and the skills we will need for work. Some jobs will disappear and some that don’t even exist today will become commonplace. What is certain is that education will be critical to succeed in the new reality.

While Central Asian countries inherited high-levels of adult literacy and education attainment from the Soviet period, the region has since experienced a visible decline in the quality of learning. Students here often lag behind in such basic skills as critical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving.

For Central Asia, investing in children’s health is the best investment for the future

Lilia Burunciuc's picture


Millions of children around the world are prevented from reaching their full developmental potential because of poor environment and nutrition. In the more extreme cases, these children face stunting — a condition that arises when children grow much less than is expected for their age.

In 2016, an estimated 155 million kids – about one quarter of all young children worldwide – were affected by stunting. Sadly, undernutrition claims about 3 million young lives every year – representing almost half of all deaths of children under the age of five.

Young children who lack access to pre-primary education also lack access to essential services that support a healthy childhood. Kids who are poorly nourished, who are stunted, and who do not receive adequate stimulation before their fifth birthday are likely to learn less at school and earn less as adults. They are also less ready to compete as adults in an increasingly digital economy.

In Central Asia, I am glad to say that we are starting to see progress on the path toward eliminating childhood stunting. In every country in the region, the share of children who are stunted is on the decrease. This is a remarkable achievement, due in large part to the commitment of governments and communities to address malnutrition. We must remain determined to ensure this progress continues.

What can an Uzbek mountain town learn from an Austrian eco-friendly tourism destination?

Rosanna Nitti's picture
Hiking recently around Chartak in Uzbekistan’s Namangan Region, I was struck by the area’s natural beauty and literally (and figurately) got my second breadth. At 650 meters above sea level, this modest town in the Ferghana Valley enjoys evergreen alpine pastures and rocky panoramas, and is permeated by a constant supply of high-altitude fresh air and crystal-clear, mineral-rich waters.

Sustainable tourism can be an economic lifeline for many mountain communities and help create job opportunities for their young people – which is all the more important since three-quarters of people living in extreme poverty in Uzbekistan live in rural areas.
 


 

The high toll of traffic injuries in Central Asia: unacceptable and preventable

Aliya Karakulova's picture

Did you know that in Kazakhstan we live in the country with the deadliest roads? Every year, 3,000 people die on roads in Kazakhstan, and over 30,000 are injured. Imagine if an airplane crashed every month! Would you fly?

We are 11 times more likely to die in a traffic accident in Kazakhstan than in Norway. Indeed, the numbers for road deaths are high in all Central Asian countries.

The High Toll of Traffic Injuries in Central Asia
Source: WHO, 2013


Globally, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29 years. Not cancer, not heart diseases, and not wars.

Life changing injuries and deaths affect countries in terms of health care and economic costs – the annual economic loss of road deaths in Central Asian countries is estimated at around 3-4% of GDP.

But beyond this monetary value, lies a person’s life. 

Doing Business and Central Asia – After 15 years, how much reform?

Stefka Slavova's picture


This year, the annual Doing Business Report – by far the most anticipated and cited World Bank publication – celebrates its 15th year. Starting in 2003, the fledgling report, which covers about 130 countries, has grown into its teens garnering admiration and criticism in equal measure. Some absolutely love it, while others argue that its flaws outweigh its strong points.

Regardless, nobody can deny that the Doing Business report has been a major catalyst for reforms across the world – 3,200 reforms of business regulation have been counted to date, spurred by the Report and carried out in line with the methodology of its indicators.

One question, eight experts, part eight: Thomas Maier

Thomas Maier's picture
Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

To gain a better understanding of how innovation in public-private partnerships (PPPs) builds on genuine learning, we reached out to PPP infrastructure experts around the world, posing the same question to each. Their honest answers redefine what works — and provide new insights into the PPP process. This is the question we posed: How can mistakes be absorbed into the learning process, and when can failure function as a step toward a PPP’s long-term success?

Our eighth and final response in this eight-part series comes from Thomas Maier, Managing Director, Infrastructure with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

For countries new to PPPs, there is no doubt a steep learning curve. Fortunately, there is also a growing body of experience that such countries can learn from — the key is to understand the essence of the lessons and then incorporate these changes into the design of government support for PPPs.

Ultimately there is, of course, no substitute for good project preparation, local capacity and the development of solid legal frameworks and local capital markets — we all know these are the building blocks for the long-term success of any country’s PPP program.

Focusing on lessons learned from EBRD’s region, two current examples from Kazakhstan and Turkey come to mind.

Two Forums, One Common Goal

Ilya Domashov's picture
Citizen participation in any issue is most often thought of in the context of formal procedures. Sometimes, civil society representatives, like me, are invited to events, commissions or programs that ensure formal connections with civil society. So while we are not ignored, our participation feels more like a cursory part of the process, without any significant opportunity to influence the processes or explain our position.

This time, things were different. We became real players in the public discussion about mitigating climate change in Central Asia.
 


The forum in question --  the second Central Asia Climate Knowledge Forum: Moving towards Regional Climate Resilience – was organized by the World Bank Group in Almaty in May, and brought together  about 200 participants from nearly all institutions interested or involved in this problem -- including top officials of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and donors. Around 30 civil society representatives from the Central Asian countries also attended the event. NGOs were represented more solidly at the second forum compared to the first.

”Focus on the journey, not the destination,” was our guiding principle.