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Lao People's Democratic Republic

Tracking Urbanization: How big data can drive policies to make cities work for the poor

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
 Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth

Every minute, dozens of people in East Asia move from the countryside to the city.
The massive population shift is creating some of the world’s biggest mega-cities including Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Seoul and Manila, as well as hundreds of medium and smaller urban areas.

What can Laos teach us about organizational learning?

Naazneen Barma's picture
A collection of photos in the Champassak provincial office of Électricité du Laos shows the blue-shirted employees in action. Photo: Naazneen Barma/The World Bank
The hallways of the Électricité du Laos (EDL) provincial offices in Champassak Province are filled with posters bearing bar charts and diagrams illustrating the public utility’s remarkable success in delivering electricity to the country’s still heavily rural population.

It is easy to see that data is crucial to the agency’s operations. Sitting down with EDL’s employees and managers—all wearing the agency’s signature blue-shirt uniform with pride—it also becomes apparent that the science of numbers and the art of managing people have gone hand in hand at this agency. This combination has enabled EDL to make organizational learning a central pillar of the agency’s success.

Institutions Taking Root, a recent report of which I’m a co-author,  looked at nine successful institutions in fragile and conflict-affected states that share a core set of internal operational strategies. 

East Asia and Pacific countries can do better in labor regulation and social protection

Truman Packard's picture

Those unfamiliar with the fast growing emerging economies of East Asia are likely to think that governments in these countries let market forces and capitalism roam free, red in tooth and claw. That was certainly my impression before coming to work in the region, and generally that held at the outset of our work by the group of us that wrote a new World Bank report “East Asia Pacific At Work: Employment, Enterprise and Wellbeing” .

The report shows just how wrong we were. We could be forgiven this impression—many of us had come from assignments in Latin America and the Caribbean or in Europe and Central Asia, where the distortions and rigidities from labor regulation and poorly designed social protection are rife, and where policy makers cast envious looks at the stellar and sustained employment outcomes in East Asia.

Well, it turns out that although they came relatively late to labor regulation and social protection, many governments in the region have entered this arena with gusto. We were surprised to find that, going just by what is written in their labor codes, the average level of employment protection in East Asia is actually higher than the OECD average.

Transforming villages with electricity in Laos

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Villagers at Ban Nongbuakham, Thakek District, Khammouane Province, Lao PDR. Check out more photos here  

​You can see it in the smiles on the faces of villagers in Ban Nam Jing, two hours outside of Vientiane the capital of Lao PDR. People's lives are improving. In this village of 158 households incomes have increased thanks in part to the 'Power to the People' (P2P) project supported by the World Bank. The program targets the poor, especially female heads of household, with subsidies to pay for electrical connections.

The villagers I met say initially only wealthier families could pay to be connected. Poorer families were left behind unable to afford the cost with their incomes from producing rice, cassava and rubber. Now with lights at night they are also producing handicrafts and textiles to boost their incomes. There are other benefits, with refrigeration people say they can keep food longer, before it used to rot and they would have to eat it quickly. In addition, their children can now study at night and they have TV for entertainment and to learn more about the rest of the world.

Gender equality in Laos: first impressions can be deceptive

Helene Carlsson Rex's picture
Watch the video highlighting the report's findings.

My mother always told me that first impressions are deceptive. Turns out, this is true also when it comes to gender equality.

I lived in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, for six years, working in the World Bank’s country office on social development and gender issues. I still recall arriving in Vientiane, the sleepy city by the mighty Mekong river, and being taken by surprise of how empowered women seemed to be. I noticed women driving their motorbikes in the city, female shop owners serving delicious mango and papaya, and women in the latest business suits hurrying back to the office.

In a country where poverty has decreased by 25% since the 1990s, it was easy to get the impression that women are truly enjoying the benefits of development on equal terms with men. The laws are supportive of women as well. These have clear targets in place that promote women’s human development, economic opportunity, and participation.

Laos: How the Nam Theun 2 dam is managed during flood events

William Rex's picture

William RexIt’s been an unusually severe rainy season in some parts of Lao PDR, with several typhoons passing over after making landfall in Vietnam.  Thailand is also severely hit, with Bangkok bracing itself for floods as I write this

Power to the Poor in Laos brings electricity to (almost) all

Alfredo Baño Leal's picture

Building on the story about rural electrification in Laos, let me talk to you about an innovative concept under the electrification program umbrella that focused on those more disadvantaged and with fewer opportunities. This new concept is the Power to the Poor program (P2P).

The P2P scheme was launched in September 2008, although it was identified a few years earlier, in 2005. At that time, a social impact survey was carried out and among all data analyzed, one indicator was outstanding: the pick-up rate in the villages recently electrified was on average only a 70%. What was happening with the remaining 30% of households that were not being connected? It was not a design problem as those households were just a few meters from the electric post. It was, as with many problems in life, a financial problem: the connection fee charged by the power utility, Electricité du Laos (EdL), was too expensive to be paid upfront by the poorest households.

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