At the time, the country was still opening up to the outside world, and the Bank had just set up a small office there. I recently returned to Vietnam after 15 years, this time as the Bank’s Global Lead for Land. I saw a completely different country: while the old city charm is still there, Hanoi has transformed to the point that it is really difficult to recognize… as if I had landed in Japan, China, or any other Southeast Asian country.
The airport used to be one gate; now, it is a modern airport not much different from any airport in Western Europe or the United States. I remember that, when I worked in Vietnam in the mid-90s, GDP per capita was averaging US$200, and around 50% of people lived in extreme poverty. Today, GDP per capita has soared to about US$2000, while extreme poverty has dropped to around 3% according to the US$1.9/day extreme poverty line... An impressive achievement in less than 20 years.
My trip to Vietnam had the goal of helping the government modernize and automate the land administration system. In the early 90s, the country launched an ambitious reform program to transform the land use model from communal farming to individual household ownership by breaking up the communal land structure and distributing land to individual households. This reform was then credited with changing Vietnam from a net importer of rice to one of the largest rice exporters in the world in only a few years.
In accordance with the Land Law of 1993, the first Land Use Certificates (LUCs) issued under the program were in the name of the “head of household”, i.e. in the name of men only. Later on, the Vietnamese government, with support from the World Bank, strove to change things around by issuing LUCs bearing both the wife’s and the husband’s names.
Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena’s Elemental firm designed the “half a good house”, which includes gaps between the houses for residents to fill according to their own needs.
The problem is that most cities are not prepared to absorb these numbers. The tragic result is chaos, inequality and environmental damage. One clear manifestation of the mismatch between people’s demand for opportunities to prosper and the inability of cities to maximize the benefits of agglomeration while minimizing the costs of congestion is the omnipresence of slums throughout the world. Today, one billion people live in slums; worse still, many of those settlements are in areas highly vulnerable to natural disasters. By 2030, this figure is expected to double.
To absorb this ever-increasing demand for affordable urban housing, would require creating, in effect, a new city capable of housing 1 million people – every week during the next 15 years. Governments are already overwhelmed. The private solution of reducing the size of dwellings and relocating them to the peripheries of cities has produced economic and social segregation, which has become a ticking bomb for unrest.
During the past 12 years, the Chilean architect, Alejandro Aravena, 48, has offered solutions to the global housing crisis that are so creative, speedy, budget-conscious and scalable that he has been awarded the 2016 Pritzker Prize, considered the Nobel for architecture. His work—and the prize—challenge architects to envision innovative buildings not just for businesses and other wealthy clients but for all the people.
In the build up to the Arab uprisings, data was doing its part to deceive those who follow the region closely. Tunisia and Egypt provide great examples. Both nations closed the first decade of the century implementing the kind of classic economic reforms often praised by western-based multilateral and international organizations. Extremely qualified, intelligent and well-meaning experts on both countries took an objective look at reforms, GDP trajectories and other traditional metrics, such as infant mortality rates, poverty reduction, etc., and concluded that these countries, while not perfect, were moving forward along a path of increasing correction. A few weeks later, both nations were in complete political upheaval.
Asian societies are aging, and Thailand is aging rapidly. Already over 10 percent of the Thai population, or more than 7 million people, are 65 years old or older. By 2040, a projected 17 million Thais above 65 years of age will account for more than a quarter of the population. Together with China, Thailand already has the highest share of elderly people of any developing country in East Asia and Pacific, and it is expected to have the highest elderly share by 2040. A recent World Bank report, Live Long and Prosper: Aging in East Asia and Pacific (pdf), discusses aging in Asia and how countries can address the resulting challenges, and take advantage of emerging opportunities.
In many ways, aging is a consequence of longer life expectancy due to development success in Thailand: people live longer, and fertility has come down rapidly from the unsustainably high levels of earlier decades. However, every success brings new challenges and aging is no exception. For example, the size of the working age population in Thailand is expected to shrink over 10 percent by 2040. Thailand has exhausted its “demographic dividend”, and future growth and improvement in living standards will largely come from increases in productivity. In addition, households headed by elderly Thais are twice as likely to be poor as those in their 30s and 40s, and in most cases are not covered by formal sector pension schemes.
In 2016, Colombia has the opportunity to make history. After more than three years of negotiations, the country is very close to achieving an “Agreement to terminate the conflict and build stable, lasting peace,” which will put an end to the internal armed and social conflict which has lasted for over 50 years, the longest in Latin America.
Earlier today the World Bank released the 2016 World Development Report.
This widely read World Bank flagship publication explores a topic of broad relevance in the fields of international development and development economics. This year's report, 'Digital Dividends,' examines the impact that the Internet and mobile networks are having (and not having) around the world.
“Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” – Albert Einstein
When I present lectures on sociological theories, I often see in my students’ bored facial expressions indicating a total lack of interest in the subject. But, when I move the lecture to issues related to education, social class, or global stratification, I can see a few faces turning into a full attention mode, but still not all the students are with me. However, there is one topic that will cause the entire class to lay down their e-devices and start to listen to every word: that is the topic of LOVE. Love strikes me as a neglected force that, once released, could bring about international stability and boost economic development.
Love emerges in my lectures for its role in interpersonal relations in socialization and development. I begin my lecture with a discussion about the role of family in social development and then move towards marriage and, more broadly, love. The topic family frequently triggers strong emotional reactions among students. As classroom discussions reveal many have experienced some family difficulty or problems. And then comes the topic of love: each time when I talk about love, I can see melting facial expressions in each of my students. The purpose of the lecture is not only focused on romantic teenage love based on hormones and erotic attraction. In the Bible, in the Gospel of John, Chapter 15:13 “The Greatest Social Worker Ever” says, “Greater love has no one than this – that someone lay down his life for his friends.” I always substantiate this quote with a compelling story about the Polish Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe who volunteered to die by starvation in place of a stranger in the Nazis’ death camp of Auschwitz. Pope John Paul II declared him "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century." All of sudden, gender, complexion or ethnicity no longer matter. Neither does religion, age or sexual orientation. When I see students’ reaction to my lecture on love in everyday life, I get chills down my spine and goose bumps all over my body.
Watching the reactions of my students, I have become deeply convinced that love is not only a universal force for good, but one that also brings to the human heart hope and peace for a better tomorrow. When humans are in love, they can selflessly endure more- since love, like ray of hope, stimulates them to persevere. Hopefulness too, encourages us to explore, build, innovate and thrive, but it all starts with love.
A neighborhood road a minute walk away from my house in the southern plains of Nepal used to be paved. When I was a kid, it was usable during all seasons. Not anymore.
A few years ago, I’m told, residents worked with the municipal officials to get drinking water to their houses. Officials broke the road so they can connect drinking water pipes from the nearby main highway to neighborhood homes.
That road has yet to be repaired. When I asked my parents and neighbors why it has taken so long for the road to be repaired, they responded by saying the municipality officials have ignored it.
The town’s municipal officials said locals haven’t contacted them yet about that road and there are other projects the municipality is working on. The broken road in my neighborhood isn’t one of those projects. To put it gently, public services in my hometown remain in dire condition.
Would things have been different if residents of my hometown engaged more with their local government? Maybe.
In this video, Lead Urban Specialist Maria Angelica Sotomayor presents some of the key findings from the diagnostic, and explains how the World Bank is collaborating with local stakeholders to make Addis Ababa a stronger, more resilient city.
This post is by Holly Porter, a visiting fellow at the Department of International Development of the London School for Economics and Political Science and lead researcher for northern Uganda for the Justice and Security Research Programme. It is a contribution to an online symposium on the changing nature of knowledge production in fragile states. Be sure to read other entries by Deval Desai and Rebecca Tapscott, Lisa Denney and Pilar Domingo, Michael Woolcock, Morten Jerven, and Alex de Waal.
The piece is a welcome provocation to discussion, even if ultimately I am left with the thought: there is a rather fundamental difference between tomatoes on a supply chain and the pursuit of understanding human experience. I show that here, intentionally choosing to write from a personal perspective, rather than in more academic prose.
Two main responses spring to mind in light of my own (anthropological) work:
1) Knowledge is not an “alienable” commodity.2) The complexity of human relationships in the research process are not best captured with reference to market forces.
The piece raises an underlying question about the production of “knowledge:” is knowledge a kind of raw material –- is it an “alienable commodity”? The idea that data is a commodity implies that it is something; that it is a thing which exists independently and apart from the intentionality of human relationships. Perhaps some information is similar to a raw material that can be extracted in crude form but the kind of “knowledge” which interests me is born of shared experiences and long-term relationships. Knowledge appears to me less of a raw material to be processed and packed, and more the stuff of human interaction.