A striking feature of Vietnam’s remarkable progress over the last few decades is the rapid pace of urbanization. In 1986, there were fewer than 13 million urban residents. Today there are 30 million. Cities have become strong growth poles, with urban areas growing twice as fast as the national average rate, and contributing over half of the country’s gross domestic product.
The increasing importance of Vietnam’s urban areas in driving growth is not surprising. It is widely acknowledged globally that urbanization, if managed well, can lead to higher productivity and growth, through positive agglomeration effects such as larger, more efficient labor markets, lower transaction costs and easier knowledge spillovers. However, a closer look suggests that the current urbanization process in Vietnam needs a major rethink to ensure that it contributes fully to the goal of achieving a high-income country.
Vietnam needs to reshape its urbanization process to create more efficient cities – cities that have sufficient population densities, are well connected internally and regionally, and well managed. In addition, in line with Vietnam’s strong preference for social equity, cities will need to ensure inclusion of all residents, with no groups or area “left behind.”
Last week, I shared the experience from Myanmar’s CDD program and the role it is playing in making the country’s growth more inclusive for all.
Before I set foot in this beautiful country, I was told the story of Siv Mao and her newborn baby.
Last year, Siv Mao, a young woman from a village in northern Cambodia gave birth to a boy after an emergency Caesarean section at a new hospital in her province’s capital.
The boy was named Rith Samnang “Lucky” for a good reason: without the doctors and modern equipment in the new 16 Makara Hospital in Preah Vihear, he wouldn’t have been able to survive.
The traditional midwife had difficulty assisting the birth at her home, and other hospitals were far away.
Baby Lucky is a symbol of Cambodia’s development success in the last decade: the country has gone a long way in improving economic and social conditions for its people, especially the poorest.
So I just returned from a terrific mission to Myanmar and Laos, two countries experiencing strong annual growth rates, and both facing challenges of making rapid growth inclusive and just for all its citizens.
When I visited Vietnam for the first time three years ago, I imagined a Ho Chi Minh City out of Hollywood movies, with panoramic buildings of French architecture, tree-lined, long boulevards and the melting pot of Indochine cuisine.
After I began working in the city as an urban professional in 2012, I quickly learned to see it as much more: a vibrant, young, hip and energetic city with a vision and determination to become a leading metropolis in East Asia, not just in Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing emerging economies in the region.
And it has taken all the right steps just to do that, combining infrastructure development with social services to make sure the city is more livable and growth more sustainable. As the World Cities Day approaches, I thought it would be useful to share the city’s experience with the world.
Families and schools are the key institutions where young children learn social norms.
Schools, in particular, provide the playground for children to socialize and work out their social values and relationships, including gender.
The impact of schools in forming gender values is believed to be high, but in the past there has been little evidence-based research in Thailand to generate understanding on this issue.
Last year, the Promoting and Coordinating Women’s Affairs Committee (PCWA) conducted two studies, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank, to provide evidence-based research on the gender situation in the Thai education system. It aims to help strengthen or dispel assumptions about how gender biases and stereotypes are learned, taught, shared and transmitted in Thailand.
The survey results indicate that 55% of respondents in the Philippines report not having enough money to pay for food or basic necessities and 26% say that this is a regular occurrence. Estimates derived from the survey data indicate that about 23 million adults making financial decisions face this situation.
The majority identify lack of income as the main reason for running short of money for basic necessities. Among households earning less than 10,000 Pesos ($217), 62% report lack of income as the reason. Somewhat surprisingly, 64% among those with income of 50,000 Pesos ($1,086) or more also say that lack of income is the reason for not having enough money for basic necessities.
But in some cases, it does go (more or less) accordingly to plan despite bumps in the road along the way. One such example is the Sustainable Livelihoods Program series in Mongolia, which on September 17, 2015 launched its third and final phase.
Back in 2002, after a series of particularly harsh winters that killed one-third of the livestock in Mongolia and added even more strain to an already impoverished rural population, the World Bank decided to support a new approach to sustainable livelihoods. At that time, the country had little history of community participation in local development planning, and few rural finance options.
The vision was to place investment funds at the local level and to give the communities a strong voice in the allocation of these funds. Because of the risks associated with the severe winters in Mongolia, pastoral risk management and winter preparedness were to be strengthened. And with a history of inefficient central planning, supporting a policy shift towards greater fiscal decentralization was very important.
This vision and core principles were translated into the design of the three-part Sustainable Livelihoods Series, which included piloting, scaling-up and institutionalization phases.
In August 2015, I traveled with colleagues to An Giang Province in southern Vietnam to visit beneficiaries of an innovative project that is helping 200 Cham ethnic minority women learn embroidery. Selling their embroidery, they earn incomes for themselves. We were inspired by the positive change that the small amount of money invested in this project is bringing to the lives of these women and their families.
This project, with funding from the 2013 Vietnam Women’s Innovation Day, supported by the Vietnam Women’s Union, the World Bank, and other partners - private and public - has helped improved economic opportunities for Cham women. All through the old traditional art of embroidery.
“This training and job creation project has helped a group of women get a stable monthly income of more than two million Dong (about $100), without leaving their homes. This means they can still take care of their children and look after their homes,” Kim Chi, a local female entrepreneur and leader of the project, told us. “Women participating in the project not only learn embroidery skills, which preserve Cham traditions, but also provide opportunities to share experiences in raising children and living a healthy life style, and support each other when needed.”
While we were all excited about the successes under the project, a bit more reflection reminded me that unless cultural norms which require Cham women to mainly work from home, are addressed, it will be hard for projects like this, no matter how well designed, to have a lasting impact in helping Cham women realize their full economic and social potential.