“Sí, sabes que ya llevo un rato mirándote
Tengo que bailar contigo hoy”
The Despacito tune blared in the bus, and my fellow riders kept tempo to the rhythm.
I was recently on mission in the Punjab province, Pakistan, on my way to the Shalimar Gardens for some sightseeing on my day off.
The last thing I expected to hear was the top song of 2017 on a bus in Lahore but in hindsight, this shouldn’t have surprised me.
We live in a global community, and across the world, individuals are getting more connected every day. Music perfectly exemplifies this – a universal language which we can all understand. With this increased connection comes higher expectations.
In addition to roads and clean water, citizens now demand that their government provide reliable digital connectivity. And when taxes and other revenues are not sufficient to cover this and other public services, governments must borrow to pay for it.
Managing public debt was precisely my reason to be in Lahore where I introduced a cash flow tool the World Bank helped design.
Another year has passed, and we are only 11 years away from the goalpost of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Agenda 2030).
In the past few years, knowledge sharing has moved to the center of global development as a third pillar complementing financial and technical assistance. Agenda 2030 calls for enhancing “knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms,” while the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development encourages knowledge sharing in sectors contributing to the achievement of the SDGs.
For cities, this means that
If, like me, you’re a firm believer in New Year’s resolutions, early January ushers in the prospect of renewed energy and exciting opportunities. And as tradition has it, it’s also a time to enter the prediction game.
To sum up:
Notably, and despite increasing conflicts and growing fragility, Afghanistan is expected to increase its growth to 2.7 percent rate this year.
In this otherwise positive outlook, Pakistan’s growth is projected to slow to 3.7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19 as the country is tightening its financial conditions to help counter rising inflation and external vulnerabilities.
However, activity is projected to rebound and average 4.6 percent over the medium term.
The concept of engaging with citizen is a funny one - so simple and obvious, it’s hard not to roll your eyes and think of a wheel somewhere being reinvented. But the more you think about it, the more you realize: citizen engagement is what all governments currently grapple with.
With the creation of the World Bank’s Human Capital project and launch of the Human Capital Index in October 2018 it is fitting for social accountability practitioners to ask how countries would be able to close the ‘human capital gap’ and to be accountable for their efforts?
Globally, around 68.5 million people have fled their homes from conflict or persecution either as refugees, internally displaced persons, or asylum seekers. Contrary to what some may think, most of the displaced people don’t live in camps. In fact, it’s estimated that about 60%–80% of the world’s forcibly displaced population lives in urban areas.
The “urban story” of forced displacement is often compounded by its hidden nature. Compared to those displaced in camps, it is more difficult to track the living conditions of those displaced in urban areas, obtain precise numbers, and many are not recipients of humanitarian assistance.
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.
For example, .
While economies such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan may look strong, just as bellies look full,
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.
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 (CSCs).
And power outages across the country have gone down drastically over the past few years.
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.
Fittingly, my new report
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.
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.
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.
About 15 minutes after we turn off the highway at Fatehpur, a roadside trading center located 120 km from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, a mild haze blankets the sky.
As we drive deeper into the increasingly bare and desolate landscape, the wind blows stronger, and the haze thickens into dust plumes.
I lower the car window and find the source of the dust: patches of abandoned land, coated with very fine powder in various shades of white and grey.
We are in a village with salt-affected soils, part of the millions of hectares of India’s wastelands.
Characterized by dense, impermeable surface crusts and accumulation of certain elements at levels that are toxic to plants, these sodic wastelands no longer support crop growth – they have been abandoned by farmers.
Our journey continues for another 30 minutes, the wind still blows strong, but dust plumes have given way to clearer skies.
We have reached Mainpuri, where, with World Bank support, sodic wastelands have been reclaimed and brought back to life, rolling back the unsavory spectacle of ecological destruction that once was the hallmark of the village.
Now in its third phase, .