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Social Development

Competitive Cities: Bucaramanga, Colombia – An Andean Achiever

Z. Joe Kulenovic's picture


Modern business facilities, tourist attractions, and an expanding skyline: Bucaramanga, Colombia. 

When the World Bank’s Competitive Cities team set out to analyze what some of the world’s most successful cities have done to spur economic growth and job creation, the first one we visited was Bucaramanga, capital of Colombia’s Santander Department. Nestled in the country’s rugged Eastern Cordillera, landlocked and without railroad links, this metropolitan area of just over 1 million people has consistently had one of Latin America’s best-performing economies. Bucaramanga, with Colombia’s lowest unemployment rate and with per capita income at 170 percent of the national average, is on the threshold of attaining high-income status as defined by the World Bank.  

Bucaramanga and its surrounding region are rife with contrasts. On the one hand, it has a relatively less export-intensive economy and higher rates of informal business establishments and workers than Colombia as a whole. Indeed, informality has often been cited as a key constraint to firms’ ability to access support programs and to scale up. On the other, Santander’s rates of poverty and income inequality, and its gender gap in labor-force participation, are all better than the national average, and it has consistently led the country on a number of measures of economic growth, including aggregate output, job creation and consumption.   
 
But the numbers tell only part of the story. A qualitative transformation of Bucaramanga’s economy is under way. Once dominated by lower-value-added industries like clothing, footwear and poultry production, the city is now home to knowledge-intensive activities such as precision manufacturing, logistics, biomedical, R&D labs and business process outsourcing, as well as an ascendant tourism sector. Meanwhile, Santander’s oil industry, long a major employer in the region, has been a catalyst for developing and commercializing innovative technologies, rather than just drilling for, refining and shipping petroleum.

All these achievements are neither random nor accidental: They are the result of local stakeholders successfully working together to respond to the challenges of globalization and external competitive pressures.

South Asia should prepare now for the next disaster

Annette Dixon's picture

Nepali man constructs bamboo house

About 9,000 lives have been lost to the devastating earthquake in Nepal on April 25 and the powerful aftershock on May 12. A conference in Kathmandu on June 25 will bring Nepal together with its international partners to build the country back better and safer.

Unfortunately, this is not just a Nepal challenge. From Afghanistan to Bangladesh, much of South Asia is located in one of the highest seismically active regions in the world. More than 600 million people live along the fault-line across the Himalayan belt that runs through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan.

How does accessibility re-frame our projects?

Tatiana Peralta Quiros's picture
The increasing availability of standardized transport data and computing power is allowing us to understand the spatial and network impacts of different transportation projects or policies. In January, we officially introduced the OpenTripPlannerAnalyst (OTPA) Accessibility Tool. This open-source web-based tool allows us to combine the spatial distribution of the city (for example, jobs or schools), the transportation network and an individual’s travel behavior to calculate the ease with which an individual can access opportunities.

Using the OTPA Accessibility tool, we are unlocking the potential of these data sets and analysis techniques for modeling block-level accessibility. This tool allows anyone to model the interplay of transportation and land use in a city, and the ability to design transportation services that more accurately address citizens’ needs – for instance, tailored services connecting the poor or the bottom 40 percent to strategic places of interest.

In just a couple of months, we have begun to explore the different uses of the tool, and how it can be utilized in an operational context to inform our projects.
 
Employment Accessibility Changes in Lima,
Metro Line 2. TTL: Georges Darido

Comparing transportation scenarios
The most obvious use of the tool is to compare the accessibility impacts of different transportation networks. The tool allows users to upload different transportation scenarios, and compare how the access to jobs changes in the different parts of the city. In Lima, Peru, we were able to compare the employment accessibility changes that were produced by adding a new metro line. It also helped us understand the network and connectivity impacts of the projects, rather than relying on only travel times.

Understanding spatial form
However, the tool’s uses are not limited to comparing transport scenarios. Combining the tool with earth observation data to identify the location of slums and social housing, we are to explore the spatial form of a city and the accessibility opportunities that are provided to a city’s most vulnerable population.  We did so in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were we combined LandScan data and outputs from the tool to understand the employment accessibility options available to the city’s poorest population groups.

Will more debt hinder the development of the Dominican Republic?

Co-Authors: Aleksandra Iwulska, Javier Eduardo Báez and Alan Fuchs

In April this year the Dominican Republic borrowed 1.25 billion US dollars on international markets in 30-year bonds. The DR is the only country in the B investment rating group that  successfully issued 30-year bonds in the last 6 years. The country has a total of 2.75 billion US dollars for three issuances in the past 15 months.

At the same time, debt levels have been growing in the country: non-financial sector public (NFPS) debt doubled from 18.3 percent of GDP in 2007 to 36.6 in the first quarter of 2014.When considering the DR Central Bank debt stock, levels would be already close to 47 percent of GDP. It is worth noticing that Jiménez and Ovalle (2011) estimated in 56.7% the debt to GDP the maximum debt to GDP threshold that investors would consider sustainable for the DR in 2013.  Meanwhile, interest payments reached a peak of 2.4 percent of GDP in 2012-13 and external debt stood at 25 percent of GDP in 2013, levels not seen since the economic crisis of 2003. But the economic realities in the DR now are much different than they were in 2003. GDP grew by 4.1 percent last year and 5.5 percent in the first quarter of 2014. The Central Bank forecasts the annual economic growth at 4.5 percent this year. Meanwhile, central government fiscal deficit dwindled from 6.6 percent of GDP in 2012 to 2.9 percent in 2013.

Breaking Down the Silos: Reflection on the “Invisible Wounds” Meeting

Mike Wessells's picture

Speaking as a psychosocial practitioner-researcher, the World Bank's recent “Invisible Wounds” conference, which enabled a rich dialogue between psychologists and the Bank's economically-oriented staff, was a breath of fresh air. In most war zones, humanitarian efforts to provide mental health and psychosocial support and economic aid to vulnerable people have frequently been conducted in separate silos. Unfortunately, this division does not fit with the interacting psychosocial and economic needs seen in war zones, and it misses important opportunities for strengthening supports for vulnerable people.
 
A case in point comes from my work (together with Susan McKay, Angela Veale, and Miranda Worthen) on the reintegration of formerly recruited girl mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and northern Uganda. These girls had been powerfully impacted by their war experiences, which included displacement, capture, sexual violence, exposure to killing and deaths, and mothering, among others. After the ceasefire, they were badly stigmatized as “rebel girls” and were distressed over their inability to meet basic needs and to be good mothers. The provision of economic aid alone would likely have had limited effects since the girls believed that they were not fit for economic activity (many saw themselves as spiritually contaminated and as having “unsteady minds”), and they were so stigmatized that people would not do business with them. Similarly, the provision of psychosocial assistance alone likely would have had limited effects because the girls desperately needed livelihoods in order to reduce their economic distress and be good mothers.

Trauma and Psychosocial Well-being: Is it our Business?

Alys Willman's picture

Here is a situation that’s happened to me; maybe it’s happened to you, too. You’re on mission, finishing up a meeting.  You’re closing your notebook, your head’s in the next meeting already, and one of the people you’ve just met with asks if you have a second.

Before you can react, she’s telling you her story. It’s a very difficult story, full of experiences you can’t imagine living through yourself. She seems to have gone back into the story in her mind – her eyes are focused beyond you, her hands tremble, and her eyes water.

Assuming you are not a trained social worker, it’s likely you have few skills you can immediately draw on to help her. And you wonder how many others like her are facing similar circumstances. 

What does any of this have to do with our business? Our work brings us into contact with people and groups that have experienced extremely stressful events and situations – from grinding poverty, to forced displacement, war and natural disasters. We come into contact with some of the most wounded and most resilient people in the world. While that strength helps them survive in the face of huge challenges, these “invisible wounds” – if not addressed – take a huge toll on them and their loved ones.

How do we Develop a “Science of Delivery” for CDD in Fragile Contexts?

Janmejay Singh's picture

Imagine you are a development practitioner in a country just coming out of conflict and you have just been put in charge of designing a community driven development (CDD) operation there.

After decades of war, you are faced with a country that has crumbling infrastructure, extremely high unemployment rates, weak local governance systems, perhaps even a vast population internally displaced or worse still, exposed to violence. Where do you begin fixing the problem? What would you prioritize? Do you begin by rebuilding and providing public goods, and hope that it would eventually re-establish the broken trust between the state and its people? Or do you directly tackle trust building first? Or perhaps you could do them simultaneously, but how would you go about doing that?

Women Should Not Be Free from Violence? Think Again!

Alys Willman's picture

Women: Just when you thought it was safe to leave the kitchen, drive, vote, or wear pants, think again. Try Googling “Women should not,” and watch what the autocomplete function brings up. Top responses include “be allowed to vote,” “be in combat,” and “be in church.” This glimpse of the deep and pervasive sexism in our collective conscious inspired a UN ad campaign featuring women’s faces with their mouths covered in these slurs.

© Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai/UN Women

These disturbing messages did not emerge out of nowhere. They reflect social norms, and their rigid persistence reminds us that norms change slowly, when they change at all. According to the World Health Organization, at least 35% of the world’s women have been assaulted at some point, and many men and boys have also been victimized, particularly when their behavior goes against dominant norms.

Road Safety: How Youth Can Help Create Awareness

Maria Cristina Gallegos's picture

YouThink! Road Safety

Sheila Atieno, from Kenya, always tells her students to look both ways before crossing the street.

She understands the importance of carefully navigating roads. When she was 11, she lost a close friend.  He was on his way to school when his life was taken by a speeding truck.  So Atieno, now 26, decided that it was time to take action. She became  a Coordinator of the African Region for YOURS, a global youth-led organization dedicated to road safety issues. She is also a leader of a group in Kenya called YOURS-K. Its mission is to “use all means possible to ensure that all road users arrive safely to their destinations.”

Road incidents are the number one cause of death for youth worldwide according to the UN Campaign for Global Road Safety. The economic cost of road accidents in developing countries is estimated to be at least $100 billion a year.

Growing the middle class

Francisco Ferreira's picture

También disponible en español

Shoppers in Chile

Since the Great Recession of 2008, there has been a widespread sense of malaise among the American middle class. Their incomes are close to stagnant, employment has not recovered, and the gap between them and the famously rich top 1% continues to grow. Look south of the Rio Grande, though, and it is quite a different picture. In the last decade, moderate poverty (under U$ 4 a day) in Latin America and the Caribbean fell from over 40% to 28%.


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