This blog is part of a series produced to commemorate End Poverty Day (October 17), focusing on China – which has contributed more than any other country to global poverty reduction – and its efforts to end extreme poverty by 2020. Read the blog series here.
Since the beginnings of the rural economic reform process in 1978, China has played the lead role in the global effort to overcome absolute poverty. The World Bank has, since 1981, assisted China both in the country’s extraordinary overall economic growth and its tremendously successful poverty reduction program.
It has been a great pleasure and privilege to have worked with China’s Leading Group Office for Poverty Reduction (LGOP) since 1990 in their highly successful poverty reduction program. I have seen first-hand the complete elimination of the worst aspects of absolute poverty throughout all of China’s poorest areas. I have hiked into hundreds of poor villages throughout the uplands of western China, where in the 1990s it was common to find villages where many households had not achieved basic food security and most households and children experienced malnutrition, where most school age children would not complete elementary school and where there was no local access to basic health care. Homes lacked road access, drinking water, and other basic infrastructure.
This blog is the first piece of a series produced to commemorate End Poverty Day (October 17), focusing on China – which has contributed more than any other country to global poverty reduction – and its efforts to end extreme poverty by 2020.
China’s success in poverty reduction has attracted worldwide attention. In 1982, China launched the “Sanxi Program” in the poorest regions in Gansu and Ningxia, marking the beginning of planned, organized and large-scale poverty alleviation efforts nationwide. In 1986, the government established the State Council Leading Group of Poverty Alleviation and Development, identified poor counties, set a national poverty line, and created special funds for poverty alleviation. In 1994, China launched the Seven-Year Priority Poverty Alleviation Program that was designed to lift 80 million people out of absolute poverty within seven years from 1994 to 2000. In 2001 and 2011, two ten-year poverty alleviation programs were launched to continue the war against poverty. During those three decades, the number of poor people fell sharply, and living conditions and access to public services improved markedly in the poorer regions.
Recently I met an inspiring student: 12-year-old Song Liza, who told me about her goal of becoming a doctor.
Her reasoning is simple: one, because the shortage of doctors in Cambodia means she would be able to get a good job; and two, because she wants to help people in her poor, remote community in this part of northeastern Cambodia.
Medical school is a long way off for Liza, but despite facing more challenges than many her age, she has laid out a series of goals that she knows she must achieve before she can put on that white coat.
Successful development is about making a reality of aspirations and ambitious ideas through effective implementation – Myanmar can achieve just that for its people by instilling the values of transparency, accountability and public participation in its public sector.
Ideas and policies matter. They have the power to be transformative. A strong and efficient, transparent and accountable public sector is crucial for translating inspiring ideas and policies into real development outcomes. If we liken Myanmar to a car, then the public sector – a collection of institutions, processes and people which together function as the machinery of government – has an important role to play. The people of Myanmar sit in the driver’s seat, the private sector is the engine which moves the economy forward – and the public sector acts as the car’s transmission and gearbox. If it’s running well, the car moves forward smoothly – but if it’s poorly maintained, people may be in for a bumpy ride.
Despite Thailand’s success in expanding educational access, new empirical evidence suggests that much more needs to be done to maximize the potential of its students. The 2012 PISA reading assessment reveals that almost one-third of Thai 15 year-old students were “functionally illiterate,” lacking critical skills needed for employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level. Furthermore, the performance gap among schools has been widening in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the disadvantaged and poorer-performing students are concentrated in small rural village schools.
As in much of the rest of the developing world, developing countries in East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) have made progress in closing many gender disparities, particularly in areas such as education and health outcomes. Even on the gender gaps that still remain significant, more is now known about why these have remained “sticky” despite rapid economic progress.
Ensuring that women and girls are on a level playing field with men and boys is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. It is right because gender equality is a core objective of development. And it is smart because gender equality can spur development. It has been estimated, for instance, that labor productivity in developing East Asia and Pacific could be 7-18% higher if women had equal access to productive resources and worked in the same sectors and types of jobs as men.