As stakeholders from around the world gather at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, to agree on a New Urban Agenda, one of the important questions that remains unanswered is why we continue to see housing projects that target the rich but ignore the inadequately sheltered poor.
This question has dogged me for years as I try to understand affordable housing crises gripping cities from Washington, D.C., to Nairobi. At one point, I believed the issue stemmed from a lack of financial liquidity lubricating developers’ and homebuyers’ actions. But alleviating that issue often contributes to increasing prices and building projects in the wrong places.
Public Sector and Governance
Earlier this year, I visited a meeting of a Village Savings and Loan Association in Doghabad village and was impressed with the confidence and leadership women showed. Addressing the association, Karimi, who is a member, said: “Do not wait for men to come and decide for you, be the makers of your own community.” She encouraged women to take an active role in the association’s weekly meetings, and come prepared with business proposals and requests for loans. Like Karimi, numerous individuals who have participated in the Afghanistan Enterprise Development Program (AREDP) programs act as inspirational leaders in mobilizing people and gaining trust in the program.
October 17 is the international day to end poverty. There has been much progress toward this important milestone: the World Bank Group’s latest numbers show that since 1990 nearly 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty. Between 2012 and 2013 alone, around 100 million people moved out of extreme poverty. That’s around a quarter of a million people every day. This is cause for optimism.
But extreme poverty and the wrenching circumstances that accompany it persist. Half the world's extreme poor now live in sub-Saharan Africa, and another third live in South Asia. Worldwide nearly 800 million people were still living on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, the latest year for which we have global numbers. Half of these are children. Most have nearly no education. Many of the world's poor are living in fragile and conflict afflicted countries. In a world in which so many have so much, it is unacceptable that so many have so little.
The narrative of "Africa Rising" has recently been tempered by uncertainties and risks in the global environment. Following two decades of growth averaging five percent, many of Africa’s economies, especially the commodity exporters, have cooled. Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund cut its 2016 growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa to only 1.4 percent.
Like Asia, Africa’s progress in reducing poverty rates has been driven by sustained growth, but population growth has prevented a decline in poverty. Extreme poverty is now increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, and in 2012, nearly 400 million people in the region were living on less than $1.90 a day.
Over 80 percent of Pakistanis consistently report that their economic wellbeing has either deteriorated or remained the same. Only 20 percent, disproportionately concentrated in the very top of the distribution, feel that they are better off and similarly small numbers believe that economic conditions have improved for their locality. If we took a poll today, it is possible that many of you would say that extreme poverty has risen rather than fallen.
But in fact, the national data tells a completely different story! According to the national poverty line set in 2001, Moreover, these gains were not concentrated among those close to the poverty line. Even the poorest 5 percent of the population saw an improvement in living standards.
Photo Credit: hans-johnson via Flickr Creative Commons
A recent report by PwC on the outlook for global infrastructure spending predicts that by 2020, annual global infrastructure spending will reach $5.3 trillion, up from an estimated $4.3 trillion in 2015. This represents a global spending growth of 5% per annum doubling the low rates of growth of just 2% expected this year.
One of our main areas of focus is the enabling environment – helping governments foster digital development by putting in place the right policies and regulations.
Now, what are some of the main issues?
First, across the world, but especially in developing countries, competitiveness continues to be dragged down by ‘red tape’, including numerous procedures, authorizations and delays to start a business or launch a service, costly and unreliable property registration, or stifling labor regulations. I am sure you are all familiar with the Doing Business report and the World Bank’s many programs to support business reforms worldwide.
While the digital industry also faces these regulatory hurdles, it is confronted with additional challenges.
Let me give you an example. With your phone in hand, you are about to send a text message to a friend. Your phone offers you a choice: to send the text message through your mobile operator, or to send it via the internet through an app. Depending on what platform you use, your text message will be taxed differently. All text messages are not created equal: different digital services are treated differently from a regulatory and fiscal point of view, with no real level playing field.
Available in Myanmar
Successful development is about making a reality of aspirations and ambitious ideas through effective implementation – Myanmar can achieve just that for its people by instilling the values of transparency, accountability and public participation in its public sector.
Ideas and policies matter. They have the power to be transformative. A strong and efficient, transparent and accountable public sector is crucial for translating inspiring ideas and policies into real development outcomes. If we liken Myanmar to a car, then the public sector – a collection of institutions, processes and people which together function as the machinery of government – has an important role to play. The people of Myanmar sit in the driver’s seat, the private sector is the engine which moves the economy forward – and the public sector acts as the car’s transmission and gearbox. If it’s running well, the car moves forward smoothly – but if it’s poorly maintained, people may be in for a bumpy ride.
If you’re like me, just watching TV or picking up the paper is a constant reminder of issues related to “governance,” and that’s not just because it’s also my job.
Distrust is running high; fiscal pressures are mounting; service delivery doesn’t reach the poorest people; corruption scandals abound and conflict seems on the rise.
The World Bank’s latest country surveys that polled around 9,000 opinion leaders in 40 of our client countries says that The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that more than half of the global population expresses distrust in government institutions.
Today I joined leaders and representatives from 70 countries and 20 international organizations and agencies at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan. Together with its development partners, the World Bank Group pledged its continued support to the Afghan people and outlined a course of action to help all Afghans realize their dream of living in peace and prosperity.
Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001 and has made much progress under extremely challenging circumstances: life expectancy has increased from 44 to 60 years, maternal mortality has decreased by more than three quarters and, from almost none in 2001, the country now counts 18 million mobile phone subscribers.
Yet, enormous challenges remain as nearly 40 percent of Afghans live in poverty and almost 70 percent of the population is illiterate. This is made worse by growing insecurity and the return of 5.8 million refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced people. Much also remains to create jobs for the nearly 400,000 people entering the labor market each year.
To that end, here are five priorities we need to address to ensure a more prosperous and more secure future for all Afghans: