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March 2009

Remittances to East Asia & Pacific expected to fall by 4 to 7.4 percent in 2009

James I Davison's picture

As jobs become fewer and income harder to come by for immigrants in developed countries, the amount of money they send back home, known as remittances, is expected to fall this year more than previously expected. The Bank's Migration and Remittances team announced the latest outlook last week on its People Move blog: "We now expect a sharper decline of 5-8 percent in 2009 ... compared to our earlier projections," wrote economist Dilip Ratha, who leads the team.

While the steepest drops in remittances are expected for Europe and Central Asia – down 10-12 percent – countries in the East Asia and Pacific region are also forecasted to fall by 4-7.5 percent in 2009. Two of the world's biggest recipients of remittances are China, which received $34 billion in 2008, and the Philippines, which saw $18 billion last year. Other big receipients in East Asia include Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, according to the Bank's Migration & Remittances Factbook 2008.

Short video clip on the impact of a nickel mine in Tanjung Buli, Indonesia

Tony Whitten's picture

On the trip back to the base of PT Weda Bay Nickel after our two days in the Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park, we flew over the operating nickel mine at Tanjung Buli owned by publicly listed PT Aneka Tambang, but which has been operated since the opening in 2001 by a subcontractor.

Bicycle-sharing programs starting to appear in Asian cities

James I Davison's picture

When I think about the biggest frustrations that typically come with living in, or simply visiting, a big city, bad traffic probably tops my list. For me, few things are more maddening than being stuck in a slowly moving (or worse, stand-still) line of cars. This is why it's not too surprising that bicycle-sharing programs have become quite popular here in Washington, D.C., and in several North American and European cities.

Now in Asia, these programs, which provide people with free or affordable access to bikes, are apparently starting to take off in popularity. The Springwise entrepreneurial blog points us to ambitious new bike-sharing organizations in the Taiwanese cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung City, as well as similar programs in Changwon, Korea and Hangzhou, China.

Cities and communities love and often support bike-sharing programs because they help reduce traffic congestion, noise and pollution. And the rentals are usually cheap, giving another option for transportation to more people. I suppose bicycle congestion still has a potential of being an annoyance, but at least they don't smell of exhaust and can't honk at you.

Image credit: mywayaround at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

China and stimulus packages: the best way to respond to more bad news?

Louis Kuijs's picture

A few days ago, our country director David Dollar blogged about the two-sided picture we see when we look at China's economic growth. The economy saw very weak export demand, which partly carried over into weak investment in manufacturing and other "market-based" sectors. Continued growth in other parts of the domestic economy was supported by policy stimulus.

China has weathered the crisis better than many other countries because it does not rely on external financing, its banks have been largely unscathed by the international financial turmoil, and it has the fiscal and macroeconomic space to implement forceful stimulus measures. China’s government has made use of this policy space by pursuing pretty forceful fiscal and monetary stimulus. From early November last year onwards, the government's 10-point plan ("RMB 4 trillion package") is being implemented. This plan emphasizes infrastructure and other investment, financed in part by government budget spending, and in part by bank lending. And the government has taken some additional, more consumption-oriented measures.

Chat live with China experts David Dollar and Louis Kuijs on March 26

James I Davison's picture

With the release last week of its latest quarterly assessment of the Chinese economy, the World Bank lowered its projection for China's GDP growth to 6.5 percent in 2009, yet remained optimistic that the country's economy has started to show signs of stabilizing amid global financial turmoil.

Indonesia: The giant cuckoos, enormous gingers, and pretty leeches of Halmahera

Tony Whitten's picture

Judith Schleicher and I have just left the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera, which was the subject of my first blog post a year ago. We were there on the second supervision mission – something which must sound pretty dull. In fact it was a real pleasure to meet with friends in the project team again, to see how well they are doing, and pretty exciting to have two days and two nights in the forests of the northern block of the Aketajawe-Lolobata National Park to see – despite the rain – some of the biodiversity and human impacts in the area. P.T. Weda Bay Nickel kindly allowed us to use their helicopter to get into the forest, landing at the junction of three abandoned logging roads within the northern (Lolobata) section of the national park.

Burung Indonesia is doing a fine job of executing this project and has already developed solid relationships with government, civil society and private entities to form a strong and informed constituency of concern for the protection of this new national park.

(After the jump: More about Halmahera Island’s wildlife – including birds, trees and leeches – and photos.)

Reading tea leaves for signs of China's recovery

David Dollar's picture

Click chart to see larger version.
What to make of it when, within a few hours last week, the statistical bureau depressed us with a 26% decline in exports for February and then elated us with a 27% increase in urban fixed asset investment? These two figures capture nicely the struggle that is going on within the Chinese economy.

We launched our China Quarterly report today with our take on how to reconcile the conflicting data. Clearly, the global economy is in very poor shape. Global GDP declined at an annualized rate of 5% in the fourth quarter of 2008, and global industrial production declined at a 20% rate. These are shocking numbers that those of us born after the 1930s have never seen. Naturally this has had a large effect on China, which is an open, export-oriented economy. China's seasonally adjusted monthly exports peaked at around $120 billion last fall, and then fell off a cliff – dropping by about one-third (see chart).

How to flip-flop a trash nuisance into useful art

James I Davison's picture

A visit to the vast Pacific Ocean can make anyone feel insignificant. Yet despite its immense size, we've learned over the years that the old saying, "the solution to pollution is dilution," doesn't quite hold water (sorry for the pun) when it comes to trash, such as plastic bags. Garbage dumped in the ocean doesn’t just go away, it washes up on beaches or amalgamates in so-called "trash vortexes" in the Pacific.

An organization in Nairobi, Kenya, called UniquEco has been working to make good use out of a surprising type of debris that is apparently quite a nuisance there – flip flop-style sandals. Thousands of flip-flops that wash up on the East African shoreline every month apparently originate in Asia (link translated to English by Google – see the original page in Spanish here).

The organization, which also calls itself the "Flip-Flop Recycling Company", is taking the discarded footwear and having local artists turn handmade pieces of art and other products. They then resell some of the products to tourists and residents in Nairobi, while exporting the majority of the goods to distributors around the world, according to their website. Their online store has some pretty neat-looking items, including bags, wallets and even a chess set.

It's a pretty inventive and neat way to turn floating garbage into a useful form of revenue.

Defying gravity? Chinese banks respond to stimulus, increase lending

James Seward's picture

InstabilityThere has been a noticeable lack of entries to the East Asia & Pacific finance blog recently, but unfortunately I've been otherwise occupied on a trip in Beijing. It has certainly been a busy time here in China's capital with the National People's Congress (NPC) going on. However, I haven't seen much of it other than the long traffic jams caused by the road closures. The NPC meetings covered some of the domestic economic stimulus plans, but it has not dealt directly with financial sector issues. Maybe it did not need to since the banks here have already responded to the stimulus.

A recent China Daily report had a great graphic that showed the recent boom in lending by the banking sector, which corresponds very nicely to the announcement of the original economic stimulus plan. As I highlighted in a prior blog post, the $586 billion economic stimulus plan announced in November was only 30 percent funded from the central government, and the expectation was that much of the rest was to come from state-owned banks. Well, it seems they have delivered with gusto!

Collaborative climate change website targets both experts, average folks

James I Davison's picture

Wikipedia, the collaborative encyclopedia website, has interestingly turned the concept of wiki sites into something that seems to be a relatively accepted and trustworthy source of information.

An interesting new wiki tool called Climate Lab takes this concept one step further. The people behind the site, which was beta-launched last week, hope that it will serve as both a clearinghouse source of information for the general public, as well as a collaborative and knowledge-sharing tool for experts of issues related to climate change.

Wen Jiabao reaches out to China's online community in first live chat

James I Davison's picture

Despite concerns of the Chinese government about its recently recognized Internet Addiction Disorder, there is little doubt that the web is now part of life for the country's 298 million netizens, as well as an evident piece of the government's communications strategy.

Grazing in a nature reserve the only choice for herders in Xinjiang Uighur region of China

Tony Whitten's picture

Just before Christmas my colleagues Judith Schleicher and Zeng Jun joined me on a visit to Lake Aibi in order to visit Kokobasto, a Kazakh nationality village situated north of the lake and within the Lake Aibi Nature Reserve in China's far north-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. When I last visited the village (as mentioned briefly in my rant about goats and an accompanying YouTube film), I was told that herders from the high summer pastures to the north came down to Kokobasto during the winter along with their livestock.

I had wanted to meet them and discuss herding practices, even though it was a particularly cold and bleak time of year.  In fact those shifting herders no longer come to Kokobasto, and my following YouTube film documents some of the meetings we had with a selection of the 250 inhabitants who live permanently in the village.

The villagers feel part of Tuoli County, Tacheng Prefecture, to the north, and they have their livestock grazing permit from there. But they actually live and herd their livestock in the nature reserve, which lies wholly within Jinghe County, Bortala Prefecture.

Indonesia: Women in Nias have entrepreneurial spirit

Nia Sarinastiti's picture

Women entrepreneurs in Nias, Indonesia, describe how they manage community loans and expand business ventures.
In the many trips I've taken with the World Bank’s Indonesia Country Director, Joachim von Amsberg, I've always admired how indigenous locals interact with expatriates. I think from the curiosity of whether an expatriate really would like to engage with them and understand their needs, you can actually see the sparkle in their eyes to pose many questions.

In our visit to Hiliweto village of Gido district of Nias, the mission team visited the home of one of the women's group leaders to chat with informal women entrepreneurs on how they manage their community loans and expand their business ventures. At first, the group was reluctant to even answer a question, but Joachim broke the ice by agreeing to have the women ask about him – for example, where he comes from, married or not, children, etc. As the discussion went into a more relaxed mode, we asked what specific program benefits them the most. They all hailed microfinancing. Getting small loans is a common problem in Indonesia because credit is difficult to obtain from banks without having any collateral as a guarantee.

Comparing the fuel efficiency of planes, trains, automobiles – and cheeseburgers?

James I Davison's picture

After East Asia & Pacific on the rise blogger and World Bank conservationist Tony Whitten recently questioned the morality of jetting off to Asia so often for work, this chart from GOOD Magazine – comparing (sort of) the efficiency of different modes of transportation – caught my eye.

Since the people who made the chart are considering gallons of fuel used per passenger to travel a long distance, Tony’s frequently used airplanes are far from being the worst offenders on the list, which is led by gas-guzzling SUVs and cruise ships. When it comes to realistically traveling 350 miles, your most efficient choices – in the following order, according to this chart – are to travel by bus, train, or (you guessed it) airplane.

If that doesn't cut it for you, however, and you are feeling particularly energetic, they made a conversion to human energy. In such a case, GOOD estimates, a person would have to consume approximately 16 Whoppers to complete the trip by bike and 48 of the mouth-watering cheeseburgers to trek the distance on foot (To be safe, I'll take a similar stance as GOOD in "neither endorsing or denouncing the consumption of Whoppers").

As an aside, I would have liked to figure out how many of the burgers it would take to fuel the number of air miles logged by World Bank Group's Washington, DC, staff (as Tony discovered, it equals at least 400 million miles each year) – were they to travel by foot. But seeing as my math skills were never too great, maybe one of you, dear readers, can help me figure out their equation?

(hat tip to FlowingData)