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Public Sector and Governance

South Asia's new superfood or just fishy business?

Pawan Patil's picture
Across South Asia, four known species of indigenous, fully mature, small food-fish – now dubbed ‘NutriFish’ have nutritional and health benefits for pregnant and lactating women and young children when consumed over the first one thousand days. Here, children from Kothi, Odisha in India show their curiosity and share their excitement with a new kind of harvest happening in their village. Credit: Arun Padiyar
Kale, Kefir, and Quinoa have now joined the ranks of better-known foods like Blueberries, Orange Sweet Potato, and Salmon on family dinner tables across the world.

Considered superior for their health and nutrition benefits, these so-called ‘Superfoods’, often considered “new” by the public are now ever-popularized by celebrity chefs and have become all the rage of foodies from San Francisco to Singapore.   

We live in a world of paradox, where old world and almost forgotten food like Quinoa (which dates back as a staple food over three thousand years to Andean civilization but largely disappeared with the arrival of the Spanish) is now back on the menu.  

Salmon, a staple part of Nordic diets from paleolithic times and woven into the culture of native populations across northwestern Canada and many other superfoods share comparable stories.

And, there are many other old world foods, indigenously known, disappearing but not fully forgotten, yet to be re-discovered.

Food is also now advancing to the front-line of the war on poverty

A health and human capital crisis is now sweeping the world, and a lack of diverse, accessible, affordable, and available nourishing foods is increasingly blamed.  

For example, obesity, from poor diet and poor exercise has tripled since 1975 to almost two billion people today.  

Undernutrition contributes to 45 percent of all deaths of children under five years old (3.5 million each year), much of it avoidable, but difficult to detect as it remains “hidden.”  

Policy makers and stewards of national economies are starting to wake up to the fact that poor nutrition has massive economic implications too, reducing GDP by 3-11 percent, depending on the country. 

While economies such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan may look strong, just as bellies look full, critical micronutrients and vitamins, essential for healthy physical and cognitive development over the first 1,000 days of life are largely missing from diets of many developing countries and are a proven drag to educational attainment and economic prosperity.  

And parents, from both rich and poor nations alike, seem to know something is not quite right. 

If healthier food choices that are accessible, affordable, and readily available are better known, would parents purchase such food from the market for their families?     

With a small grant from the World Bank-administered South Asia Food and Nutrition Initiative (SAFANSI) supported by the EU and the United Kingdom, a partnership with WorldFish was established to test this premise.  

A 60 second TV spot, a collaboration between scientists, economists, a private sector digital media company, broadcasters and the Government of Bangladesh, was created and broadcast across the nation on two occasions and watched by over 25 million people.  

A parallel radio program was also developed and aired reaching millions more, particularly the rural poor and marginalized communities.
 
NutriFish1000 TV

 

Improving service delivery through citizen service centers

Hélène Pfeil's picture
Photo: Nugroho Nurdikiawan Sunjoyo / World Bank

The trope of a government office worker, discontent with their work, grumbling about paperwork and administrative tasks, is a cliché. An equally ubiquitous figure is the discontent citizen dissatisfied with long lines, complicated bureaucratic processes and inefficient service delivery, wondering why their governments can’t do better.
 
The World Bank supports governments across the world who strive to serve citizens better. One of the most powerful tools to do so are Citizen service centers[1] (CSCs).

Lessons from Malaysia: Linking government spending to performance

Bernard Myers's picture
Outside the Ministry of Finance of Malaysia where the National Budget Office operates. Malaysia’s experience in ensuring government spending contributes to better public services through reforms like performance-based budgeting is a learning point for other countries. (Photo: Phuong D. Nguyen/bigstock)
Across the world, political leaders have sought to show how public spending contributes to concrete results like better public services, which citizens can experience and benefit from. Coupled with a steadily growing number of channels through which citizens can communicate their “voices,” political leaders are facing increasing pressure to do more with less resources.

In this context, how can civil servants and leaders holding office, particularly the ones who prepare budgets, manage this challenge?

Building safer roads through better design and better contracts

Pratap Tvgssshrk's picture
Photo: Simply CVR/Flickr
As part of the World Bank’s continued commitment to road safety, all Bank-financed road projects must now include specific measures to enhance safety standards and protect all road users—motorists, two-wheelers, pedestrians.
 
In that context. our ongoing road sector project in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu shows how relatively simple and affordable design improvements can make roads significantly safer, and bring other important benefits such as enhanced drainage and water conservation.
 
To illustrate this, let’s take a look at 10 key design features that have been included in the project.

Our infrastructure projects can help build many things—including stronger institutions

Pratap Tvgssshrk's picture
Photo: Frederick Noronha/Flickr
Working to finance major infrastructure projects, World Bank teams have seen time and again that the sustainability of investments depends ultimately on the efficiency and capacity of the agencies that manage them. 
 
For that reason, our interventions often have a dual goal: supporting high quality infrastructure, and, at the same time, supporting institutions’ efforts to modernize and become more efficient. That institutional development sometimes comes in the form of stand-alone project components that focus on modernizing processes, governance, and skills. But in other cases, infrastructure investment projects can also provide opportunities to initiate important institutional changes.
 
This is often the case with civil works contracts, and the Tamil Nadu State Road Sector project in India is illustrative of how contracting strategies implemented with Bank support helped a highway agency enhance its implementation capacity, the efficiency of its expenditure, quality of infrastructure, and system sustainability through significantly improved asset management.

What’s keeping Pakistan in the dark?

Fan Zhang's picture
 $18 billion in fiscal year 2015—that is 6.5 percent of the country’s economy.
Nearly  50 million Pakistanis still lack access to grid electricity. Power distortions cost Pakistan’s economy much more than previously estimated: $18 billion in fiscal year 2015—that is 6.5 percent of the country’s economy. Credit: Curt Carnemark/ World Bank

From 1990 to 2010, 91 million people In Pakistan received electricity for the first time.
 
And power outages across the country have gone down drastically over the past few years.
 
Clearly, Pakistan has achieved much progress in expanding its electricity access and production in recent decades.
 
However, nearly  50 million Pakistanis still lack access to grid electricity and the country ranks 115th among 137 economies for reliable power.
 
After peaking in 2006, per capita electricity consumption failed to grow for almost a decade, remaining only one-fifth the average for other middle-income countries in 2014.
 
To boost sustainable energy supply, Pakistan’s power sector needs urgent investments and reforms to target inefficiencies in the entire electricity supply chain.
 
Fittingly, my new report In the Dark analyzes what lies behind these inefficiencies and suggests relevant actions to improve the operation of power plants, cut down on waste and costs, and increase electricity supply in a cost-effective manner.
 
The study sheds new light on the overall societal costs — not merely the fiscal costs as in previous research — of subsidies, blackouts and other distortions in the power sector.
 
To that end, my team and I surveyed Pakistan's entire supply chain from upstream fuel supply to electricity generation, transmission and distribution, and eventually, down to consumers.
 
Put simply, the numbers we found are dire.
 
Power distortions cost Pakistan’s economy much more than previously estimated: $18 billion in fiscal year 2015—that is 6.5 percent of the country’s economy.
 
Problems begin upstream, where gas underpricing encourages waste and reduces incentives for gas production and exploration.
 
And with no recent significant gas discoveries, higher gas usage has widened the gap between growing demand and low domestic supply.
 
On top of that, the volume of gas lost before reaching consumers reached 14.3 percent in fiscal year 2015. By comparison, this number is about 1 to 2 percent in advanced economies.
 
Public power plants use 20 percent more gas per unit of electricity produced than private producers.
 
Poor transmission contributed to 29 percent of the electricity shortfall in fiscal year 2015, while weak infrastructure, faulty metering and theft cause the loss of almost a fifth of generated electricity.
 
Electricity underpricing and failure to collect electricity bills have triggered a vicious “circular debt” problem, leading to power outages.
 
A lack of grid electricity also leads to greater use of kerosene lamps that cause indoor air pollution and its associated respiratory infections and tuberculosis risks.
 
Lack of access to reliable electricity also adversely impact children’s study time at night, women’s labor force participation, and gender equality.
 
Connecting all of Pakistan’s population to the grid and increasing the supply of electricity to 24 hours a day would increase total household income by at least $4.5 billion a year and avoid $8.4 billion in business losses.

Is GovTech the missing ingredient to curb corruption?

Renaud Seligmann's picture



Along with other leaders from the World Bank Group, I am traveling back from a trip to Silicon Valley where we explored the links between technology and government, or GovTech, and their impact on developing countries and curbing corruption.

Shining a light on asset-disclosure practices at the International Anti-Corruption Conference

Laura Pop's picture



In October, hundreds of representatives of civil society organizations, public and private sector representatives, journalists and international organizations gathered in Copenhagen for the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference. This annual conference is viewed by many as a leading forum in the field of anti-corruption.

Fighting tax evasion: notes from the International Anti-Corruption Conference

Anders Hjorth Agerskov's picture



The irony was hard to miss.

Last month, leaders from the public and private sectors, civil society, international organizations, academia, and the media met at the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Copenhagen.

Changing the lives of Egyptian people left behind for a long time: Taha’s Story

Amal Faltas's picture

"It was the first time we talked while the officials listened. Not as in the past, when they used to talk and we just listened."

With this simple statement, Taha Al-Leithi, a young Egyptian man from the village of Rawafei al-Qusayr in Sohag in Upper Egypt, described the fundamental change introduced by the local development forums to citizens’ participation in the development process in Sohag, and the relationship between government officials and citizens. 

Al-Leithi and his peers have never participated in any development decision concerning their village or its markaz (center). They had never been invited to develop or even discuss the annual investment plan for the markaz or governorate. Taha says he, like other young people in the village, had believed that planning and selecting projects were tasks done in closed rooms, and that the central government in Cairo alone decided the needs of villages and towns in Sohag governorate, 500 kilometers south of the capital. 

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