For most of us, when a disaster happens in a far away place, we only get brief glimpses of the immediate aftermath and subsequent recovery efforts – often only through news media or occasionally close-by bloggers. During four years of reconstruction after the devastating tsunami that hit the Indonesian province of Aceh in 2004, few have seen the rebuilding process like those who are part of the recovery efforts.
The Multi-Donor Fund (MDF), which is managed by the World Bank with contributions and guidance from 15 other international donor partners, continues to work on the ground in Aceh and Nias. The reconstruction has been extremely successful, with more than 100,000 new houses constructed, more than 90,000 hectares of agricultural land restored and 2,500 kilometers of road built. In late 2008, the MDF held a photo competition for people involved with projects or agencies related to reconstruction. The resulting pictures are not professionally created, but they give a beautifully close and comprehensive view of the rebuilding of Aceh.
(Hover your mouse over "Notes" to see information about each photo)
I'm in the north of Guangxi in southern China feeling privileged to be working in such a dramatic karst limestone landscape and part of another great project team. The conical and vertical towers of limestone jut out of the flat agricultural land, sometimes in single sentinels and sometimes in great families of jagged, pointed peaks, no two alike. At Mulun National Nature Reserve which abuts the Maolan World Heritage Site in Guizhou, there is nothing but these towers, and this is one of the sites getting detailed attention within our Integrated Forestry and Conservation Development Project. One sub-component of the project is directed at cave biodiversity. In that regard, we recently made some remarkable discoveries at Mulun.
As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post, cave biodiversity gets appallingly little attention relative to its significance. It is surely the most unknown of the terrestrial ecosystems, and it makes me drool to be close to places for which so little biological information is available.
A few days before the 2008 Olympic Games began last August, China blogger David Dollar noticed that Beijing's efforts to clean up its air seemed to be paying off.
If you are a visual learner like me, or you just happen to like nifty animated maps, a site called SHOW World may be worth spending an afternoon coffee/tea break or two to check out. Similar to the popular WorldMapper collection, this site displays a lot of data from a number of sources (including, apparently, the World Bank) in map form. On an Excel spreadsheet, the information would just look like numbers or a boring old graph.
|Local meets global in Ulaanbataar: ice sculptures of Chinggis Khaan in front of the popular Grand Khaan Irish Pub.|
|The global slowdown is hurting Cambodia's tourism industry, with fewer visitors in late 2008 than in the same period of 2007. Image credit: flydime at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.|
It's been a couple of months since the World Bank prepared the "perfect storm" report on the recent economic developments in East Asia. Our view at the time was that the crisis would reveal some of Cambodia's economic vulnerabilities – i.e. its lack of export diversification and its extreme reliance on foreign investment for growth. I think that this is an important lesson from our recent analysis on growth in Cambodia (more on this later).
Our projections for 2009 at the time were just below 5 percent GDP growth. This is consistent with the projections of the Government, the IMF, the Asian Development Bank, and an International Labor Organization (ILO) report on the impact of the crisis released yesterday. The Economist Intelligence Unit has a more pessimistic projection of 1 percent.
So who is right?
Well, the bad news continues across the East Asia and Pacific region. The Financial Times just ran a long article on the "speed and ferocity of the region's economic downturn." The piece highlighted that the fast downturn was a result of Asia's over-reliance on export-led growth over the past decade. This follows the IMF's slashed growth forecasts for the large East Asian economies. It projected only 5.5 percent growth across developing Asia for 2009, which sounds great for most economies these days, but it is way off of the 7.8 percent posted last year.
The IMF is expecting only 6.7 percent growth in China, which is 1.8 percent less than what they forecast only in October. This contrasts sharply with the view of the World Bank's Chief Economist, Justin Lin, who just two weeks ago said he thought China could achieve the target rate of growth – 8 percent – this year because of fiscal stimulus spending.
Lately, I’ve noticed several bloggers and news sites have picked up on an interesting trend migration trend that many have dubbed "reverse brain drain" – the return of skilled immigrants to their home countries. With rising unemployment and an often-difficult U.S. immigration process, the notion of looking back at home for work has reportedly appealed to foreign nationals working in the United States for technology, finance and other industries.
World Bank economist Sonia Plaza writes on the People Move blog about the shift in terminology over the years caused by new trends.
|The country is often dismissed as the Pacific's failed state, yet conversations with community members and officials reveal clear visions of what a state can provide in terms of services and a role in community life.|
The Gizo airstrip, reportedly built for a visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the 1970s, occupies the entire length of the island of Nusatupe – as a quick look at Google Maps confirms. It is located picturesquely, if ultimately somewhat inconveniently, about two kilometers from the provincial capital island of Gizo. As I was beginning to wonder how I was going to make my way to Gizo, a team from the Government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock fortunately pulled up in an outboard motorboat.
In December, just three months after my arrival in the Solomon Islands to serve as the World Bank’s country manager, I chose Western Province for my second trip out of Honiara. One of the main goals in my first year on the job is to visit each of the nine provinces to begin gaining some understanding of this small but complex country.
Here’s a website that might pique your interest, even if you don’t plan on becoming the next T. Boone Pickens – a wealthy American businessman who is investing millions of his own dollars in wind energy. A site called FirstLook has a Google Maps mashup overlaying years of meteorological wind data onto an interactive map.
They’ve recently expanded their wind data to cover the entire planet, making it a really easy tool to see potential spots for future wind farms in Mongolia (pretty good) versus Indonesia (not so good). The website sells detailed site location information, which is intended for entrepreneurs looking to get in on the ground floor of alternative energy investments. Still, I think the free wind speed data is interesting by itself.
The FirstLook site also has a section to look at an area’s solar satellite data, but it unfortunately only covers the places in the United States.