The poorest country in the Middle East and North Africa even prior to the conflict, Yemen has through violence and subsequent economic freefall landed at the epicenter of a series of interrelated emergencies that the United Nations describes as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” This is the first of a three-part blog series on the Bank’s response in Yemen.
In July of this year, I assumed the role of Country Manager for Yemen. Much has happened in my first 100 days as CM.
Globally, poverty by employment status is highest among unpaid workers (22 percent), followed by self-employment, and those out of the labor force (both 12 percent). Not surprisingly, income-earning capacity (proxied by employment status) is strongly associated with poverty and gender. When disaggregated by sex, there are roughly equal numbers of men and women among the poor who are unemployed. There are more men than women among the self-employed poor. However, women make up most of the poor who are unpaid workers or out of the labor force. To learn more, read the recently released Poverty and Shared Prosperity report 2018, “Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle.”
Each evening the sun sets more than 90 minutes later in west India than in the east of the country. This is because time on clocks across India are set to Indian Standard Time, regardless of location. In China all clocks are set to Beijing Time, which means in western part of the country the sun sets 3 hours later than the east of the country. The sun sets at least an hour later in Madrid than in Munich because Franco’s Spain switched clocks ahead one hour to be in sync with Nazi Germany in 1940, even though Spain is geographically in line with Britain, not Germany. Similarly, for a range of historical reasons, clocks in large parts of the planet – e.g., France, Algeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Russia, and Argentina – are set to be ahead of their (solar) time. Therefore, these places see the sun set later in the day. In my job market paper, I show that these arbitrary clock conventions -- by generating large discrepancies in when the sun sets across locations -- help determine the geographic distribution of educational attainment levels.
Its annual average economic growth of 7.6 percent between 2007 and 2017 far exceeds the average global growth rate of 3.2 percent.
This high growth has contributed to reducing poverty: Extreme poverty was mostly eradicated and dwindled from 8 percent in 2007 to 1.5 percent in 2017, based on the international poverty line of $1.90 a day (at purchasing power parity).
Access to basic services such as health, education and asset ownership has also improved significantly.
The country has a total of 32 hospitals and 208 basic health units, with each district hospital including almost always three doctors.
The current national literacy rate is 71 percent and the youth literacy rate is 93 percent.
In Sindh, for example, things have worsened over time, with one in two children now stunted!
The policy response to this enormous health crisis has been almost entirely centered on interventions at the household level—reducing open defecation (OD), improving household behaviors like child feeding and care practices and food intake.
A recent World Bank report, which I co-authored, suggests that a major shift is this policy focus is required for significant progress on child stunting.
Progress is being made in closing energy access gaps in Africa and Asia. A big reason is falling renewable energy costs, which have made home solar systems, mini-grids and other distributed renewable energy (DRE) solutions a viable option for providing first-ever electricity in remote, rural areas far removed from electric grids.
For the first time ever, the number of people gaining access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa is outstripping population growth. More than 700,000 home solar systems have been installed in Kenya alone and another 240,000 poor, rural households are expected to be connected soon under a new $150 million off-grid project backed by the World Bank. In South Asia, progress has been ever faster.
Consider two households that have the same level of consumption (or income) per person but they differ in the following ways. All the children in the first household go to school, while the children in the second household work to support the family. The first household obtains drinking water from a tap connected to the public distribution network, whereas the second household fetches water from a nearby stream. At night, the first home is illuminated with electricity, whereas the second home is dark. A lay person would easily recognize which of these two families is better off. Yet, traditional measures of household well-being would put the two households on par because conventionally, household well-being has been measured using consumption (or income).
These gains resulted in Afghanistan’s ranking in Doing Business—a World Bank report that measures business regulations across 190 economies—jumping from 183 in 2018 to 167 in the 2019 report, earning the country a coveted spot in this year’s global top improvers.
Imagine a state-of-the-art processing plant that harnesses laser-sorting technology to produce a whopping 15,000 tons of raisins a year, linking up thousands of local farmers to international markets and providing job opportunities to women.
In Afghanistan’s volatile business environment, let alone its deteriorating security, Rikweda’s story is an inspiration for budding entrepreneurs and investors.
It also is an illustration of the government’s reform efforts to create more opportunities for Afghan businesses to open and grow, which were reflected in the country’s record advancement in the Doing Business 2019 index, launched today by the World Bank.