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Global Economy

Finishing the job of ending poverty in South Asia

Hartwig Schafer's picture
This Bangladeshi woman was born in poverty. With the right kind of education, life in poverty quickly became a story from the past for her. Credit: World Bank

"I have a four-year-old son back in my village. I want to make a better life for him,” says Sharmin Akhtar, a 19-year-old employee in one of Dhaka’s many flourishing garment factories.

Like thousands of other poor women, Sharmin came down to Bangladesh’s capital from her village in the country’s north to seek a better job and create a more prosperous future for her family—leaving behind a life of crushing poverty.

Today, as we mark End Poverty Day 2018, it’s important to note that Sharmin’s heartening story is one of many in Bangladesh and the rest of South Asia, where economic growth has spurred a dramatic decline in extreme poverty in the last 25 years.

And the numbers are striking: In South Asia, the number of extreme poor living on less than $1.90 a day dropped to 216 million people in 2015 from 275 million in 2013 and 536 million in 1990.

Even more remarkable, South Asian countries experienced an increase in incomes among the poorest 40 percent of 2.6 percent a year between 2010-2015, faster than the global average of 1.9 percent.

On a global scale, the highest concentration of poor shifted from South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2012. And India is likely to be overtaken, if it has not already been, by Nigeria as the country with the most people living in extreme poverty.

It’s worth thinking about how far South Asia has come – but remaining clear-eyed about how far we must go to finish the fight against extreme poverty.

Indeed, it is increasingly clear that poverty is more entrenched and harder to root out in certain areas, particularly in rural areas and in countries burdened by violent conflict and weak institutions.

Estimates for 2015 indicate that India, with 176 million poor people, continued to have the highest number of people in poverty and accounted for nearly a quarter of the global poor.

True, the extreme poverty rate is significantly lower in India relative to the average rate in Sub-Saharan Africa. But because of its large population, India’s total number of poor is still large.

And while there has been a substantial decline in the numbers and rate of people living below $1.90 in South Asia, the number of people living on less than $3.20 has declined by only 8 percent over 1990-2015 because of the growing population.

In 2015, 49 percent of the population of South Asia were living on less than $3.20 a day, and 80 percent were living on less than $5.50 a day.

In Africa, technology and human capital go hand in hand

Sheila Jagannathan's picture
Photo: eLearning Africa
Rwanda’s progress from the devastating civil war two decades ago to one of the most rapidly developing African countries is a remarkable narrative on development.

Twenty-four years ago, the country was torn apart by civil war and one of the worst genocides human history has known; one in which more than a million people were killed in only three months.

Now, with years of sustained economic growth—predicted to be around 6.5% this year, the country is well on the way to achieving many of the ambitious development goals set out in the Rwandan Government’s ‘Vision 2020.’ This strategy seeks to move away from agriculture and rely instead on services and knowledge as the new engines of economic growth, with the objective of achieving middle-income status in the near term.

I had the privilege of getting a snapshot view of Rwanda’s success during the few days I spent in the country last month attending elearning Africa 2018, the continent’s largest conference on technology-assisted learning and training. The choice of Kigali as the location for this year’s conference is highly symbolic: Rwanda has put education and skills at the heart of its national strategy, and can send a powerful message to other African countries about the importance of investing in human capital to support overall development.

How to create a system for fair and transparent taxation in the digital age

Ravi Kumar's picture



Enhancing the taxation system in a fair, transparent, and efficient way in the new digital world is essential for countries looking to invest in their human capital, said Karishma Vaswani, Correspondent for BBC Asia Business and moderator of the dynamic event ‘Fair and Transparent Taxation in the Digital Age’ in Bali, Indonesia. Leaders from government, private sector, civil society, and academia gathered to explore the implications of technology on countries’ efforts to mobilize domestic resources to fund the Sustainable Development Goals.

2018 Dubai MENA PPP Forum: Key takeaways

David Baxter's picture



Against a milieu of changing PPP enabling environments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a public-private partnership (PPP) forum took place last month in Dubai focusing on anchoring partnerships and unlocking the potential of PPPs in delivering the national visions that will drive MENA’s future economic growth.

Suggestions from a pragmatist to boost the impact of PPPs

Patricia Sulser's picture



Recently, I published a book about infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the most challenging developing countries—a private sector perspective on what is required to bring investment and expertise to partner with governments in providing vital infrastructure services.

There is already a substantial body of work on the potential of PPPs and how to design, finance, and implement them—even in countries where there are limited legal and regulatory frameworks on which to build. What compelled me to write my book is the urge to share, as a practitioner over two decades in some of the most challenging markets, common pitfalls I’ve seen and what appear to be the critical elements of success in creating successful and replicable PPPs. 

The UN and the World Bank working together in crisis-affected situations

Franck Bousquet's picture
Girls School in Sanaa. © UNICEF Yemen
Girls School in Sanaa. © UNICEF Yemen


Creating sustainable peace and development solutions for countries affected by conflict, crisis and violence is a global responsibility for the international community.
 
At the United Nations General Assembly this week, the UN and the World Bank, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) launched the Famine Action Mechanism (FAM), the first global partnership dedicated to preventing famine. With support from the world’s leading tech companies, the FAM aims to use data and state-of-the-art technology to pair decision-makers with better, earlier famine warnings and pre-arranged financing. Our work on the FAM is the latest example of how our organizations are joining forces to reduce the risk of global crises.

Logistics: Building skills to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow

Yin Yin Lam's picture


As one of the key foundations for manufacturing, trade and growth, logistics is a strategic component of every economy. The sector can also contribute significantly to job creation. For example, in the UK, logistics is a $120billion industry that employs about 8% of the workforce. In India, it is a $160billion industry accounting for 22 million jobs, with employment growing 8% annually.

In 2016 and 2018, the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index found that many developing countries face a significant skills gap in the logistics sector, especially at the managerial level. Similarly, several studies conducted in emerging economies such as China, India, and South Africa report shortages of supply chain talent.

In that context, emerging economies must tackle two critical challenges in order to develop a competitive logistics sector:
  • How can governments plug the skills gap in logistics?

  • How can the sector cope with the rapid changes brought about by technology, such as warehouse automation “freight uberization” or online platforms matching demand and supply, and their impact on the labor market?
Let’s look at three countries that consistently rank high in various global logistics rankings—Germany, the Netherlands, and Singapore—to see how they manage these challenges.

Measuring India’s economy using PPPs shows it surpassed France 25 years ago

Edie Purdie's picture

The ICP blog series explores ideas and issues under the International Comparison Program umbrella – including innovations in price and data collection, discussions on purpose and methodology, as well the use of purchasing power parities in the growing world of development data. Authors from across the globe, whether ICP practitioners or researchers making use of ICP data, are encouraged to submit relevant blogs for consideration to [email protected].

Earlier this summer, new data published by the World Bank showed that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of India had recently surpassed that of France, and that it was on track to overtake the UK economy too. Many news outlets jumped upon this new ranking of India’s economy, now sixth from top. But most media articles did not mention that the World Bank’s other measure, which compares GDP across countries using purchasing power parities (PPPs), has placed India ahead of both France and the UK for the last 25 years.

India: A logistics powerhouse in the making?

Karla Gonzalez Carvajal's picture
Photo: Daniel Incandela/Flickr
The numbers are in: India now ranks 44th in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, a relatively high score compared to other countries at similar income levels. This number matters not just to the logistics sector, but to India’s economy as a whole. Indeed, logistics can directly impact the competitiveness of an entire market, as its ability to serve demand is inextricably linked to the efficiency, reliability and predictability of supply chains.

Broadly defined, logistics covers all aspects of trade, transport and commerce, starting from the completion of the manufacturing process all the way to delivery for consumption. To say that it is a complex business is an understatement.

First, there is always a delicate balance between the public arm, which provides the roads, railways and waterways, and lays down the rules and regulations, and the private sector, which has responsibility for carrying out logistics operations in a smooth and seamless manner. This fine interplay is further complicated by the globalization of manufacturing which—with many more ports of call in the logistic chain—is putting ever-increasing pressure on the sector. In addition, there are very practical challenges in integrating different modes of transport, in speeding up border crossings, and in dealing with trade protections–all of which impact external trade.

But as difficult as it might be, creating a well-functioning logistics sector is essential to any nation looking to compete in the global economy. India is a case in point. To fuel its global ambitions, the country has taken active steps to up its logistics game.

Announcing the winners of the 2018 #OneSouthAsia Photo Contest

World Bank South Asia's picture


Home to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, South Asia is one of the world’s most dynamic regions.

It's also one of the least integrated.

A few numbers say it all: Intra-regional trade accounts for only 5 percent of South Asia’s total trade; Intra-regional investment is smaller than 1 percent of overall investment.


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