When I was asked to look back at Cambodia's economy in 2009 and ahead to 2010, I began to wish I had some magic tools such as this ox (although in that case, the ox was not that magical, since the 2009 harvest turned out to be quite good).
|Some recipients of a scholarship given to young girls in Cambodia at the end of primary school. The program has had a significant effect on girls’ secondary enrollment. (photo by Deon Filmer)
Those of us who have had the pleasure of raising an adolescent girl – and survived the experience – might blanch at the thought of a program to stimulate education that gave her, rather than the doting parent, a grant equivalent to 3% of the family’s average per capita monthly consumption. And yet, that’s exactly what a policy experiment, conducted by my friend Berk Ozler and other researchers, did in Malawi. What’s more, they found that raising these girl-targeted cash transfers increased school attendance much more than raising those given to parents.
Empowering women with resources has long been recognized as a powerful weapon to safeguard investments in human capital. Research has shown that transfers to women have a more powerful effect than to men in raising school attendance and ensuring that kids are immunized. But more recent research, like Berk et al.’s, is showing that policies aimed directly at adolescent girls and young women may have an even greater effect, not only in encouraging schooling but in ensuring reproductive health. Pascaline Dupas’ policy experiment in Kenya showed that simply giving young women information showing that older men were more likely to be HIV-positive led them to eschew partnering with ‘sugar daddies’.
Regionally speaking, developing countries in East Asia and Pacific have rebounded surprisingly quickly from the financial crisis and global recession. But according to a report just released by the World Bank, the regional economic picture isn’t as rosy when China is taken out of the equation. The latest East Asia and Pacific Update report, an assessment of the economic health of the region released every six months, is titled “Transforming the Rebound into Recovery.” The rebound, the report says, was driven in part by large and timely fiscal stimulus spending led by China and Korea. Still, despite the well-performing economies of Indonesia and Vietnam, developing East Asia excluding China is projected to grow at just around 1 percent in 2009. And for Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand, GDP is contracting.
The China Quarterly Update – a separate report released at the same time as the latest regional assessment and focusing specifically on the Chinese economy – gives a more complete picture of why the country has seen such robust economic growth and what the future may hold. The Bank now projects China to see GDP growth of 8.4 percent for 2009, says the report. The report’s lead author (and blogger) Louis Kuijs wrote an accompanying blog post, which can be read here.
I really recommend taking some time to explore the findings of both reports by visiting the East Asia Update and China Quarterly pages, where you can also download high resolution graphs and watch video interviews with the economists. Also, you'll be able to ask two World Bank economists questions about the regional report in an online chat taking place Thursday, November 12, at 10 a.m. DC time (15:00 GMT or 11:00 p.m. in Beijing). Send your questions now for a better chance of getting them answered.
This is the latest installment of the regional round-up and it has been a while. However, there has not been much groundbreaking news related to the financial crisis to report, with a few exceptions (more to come later).
|Students take a computer course at a private school in Cambodia.|
A number of fascinating web-related findings came out of a World Bank report, released this week, which ties Internet and mobile phone access in developing countries to economic growth, job creation and good governance. Connectivity in the developing world seems to be better than ever. In developing countries worldwide, there are currently three billion mobile phone users, and the number of Internet users in developing countries increased by 10 times between 2000 and 2007.
In East Asian and Pacific countries, the number of Internet users (15 percent) was slightly above the developing-country average in 2007 (13 percent), but was still below the world average that year (22 percent). The connectivity and access to new information and communications technologies changes the way companies and governments do business, while bringing vital health, financial and other market information to people like never before.
While India is the clear leader in creating information technology-related jobs, China and the Philippines both stand out as benefiting by generating new job opportunities. And within the industry, the Philippines is also notable, because its IT services workforce is made up of 65 percent women, who hold more high-paying jobs than in most other sectors of the economy.
You can take your own look at the statistics compiled on each country, or create your own custom reports, from the IC4D Data & Methodology page.
|It's been a very enriching experience to listen to the reactions of these 1200 or so college students.|
Carbon finance sounds boring and technical and not much fun. However, it actually does a lot of good and can help fund critical environmental preservation projects as well as introduce clean and renewable technologies in both developed and developing countries.
|Royal oxen, cousins to the more common variety in the photo, offered their take on Cambodia's agricultural prospects.|
|Declining revenue of tuk-tuk drivers in Cambodia shows even the informal sector isn't insulated.|
The World Bank today launches its projection of a 1 percent contraction of the Cambodian economy. This is based on an analysis of available statistics and feedback from a range of economic actors. Yet, to most of my Cambodian friends, it remains hard to conceive.
It is true that "seeing" such a contraction will be difficult. Basically, what it means is that economic activity in 2009 will be pretty much the same as in 2008. So the fact that we continue to have traffic jams in Phnom Penh, see tourists at the Royal Palace, and hear construction machines in many residential areas is consistent with such a projection. What will change, though, is that incomes will not increase this year as fast as past years and it will also become more difficult for the 250,000 young people leaving school each year to find their first job. What also will be different is that with no growth in aggregate, there will be a proportion of those with a livelihood at the end of the year worse than at the beginning.