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Private Sector Development

Philippines offers insight into future of mobile banking and the poor

James I Davison's picture

It’s now evident that people in developing countries have access to the internet and mobile phones like never before, which (as I recently wrote about) may lead to increased economic growth, job creation and good governance. A huge piece of this broad puzzle is mobile banking, and utilizing mobile phones to bring financial services to people who wouldn't otherwise have access to banks ("unbanked").

A new study, released last month by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and GSMA, estimates that there are more than one billion people worldwide who are unbanked, yet have access to mobile phones. And by 2012, that number is expected to grow to 1.7 billion people.

Mongolia's growing shantytowns: the cold and toxic ger districts

David Lawrence's picture

 

Children breathe thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves in Ulaanbaatar's ger districts, which are home to 60 percent of the city's population.
There’s no capital city anywhere in the world with a housing problem like Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Imagine a city of one million people. Then imagine 60 percent of them living in settlements without water, sanitation or basic infrastructure, often in traditional Mongolian felt tents, known as gers. Then imagine these people relying on wood- or coal-burning stoves for cooking and heating, with fuel costs eating up 40 percent of their income. Then imagine the discomfort of having to get up in the middle of the night when it’s -35 degrees Celsius to go to the bathroom – outdoors.

Worst of all, imagine you and your children breathing the thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, this is not imagination, this is the real situation for over a half million people living in the ger districts of the capital. Not a pretty picture.

Mongolian government takes action to support small businesses (or Inspections Gone Wild)

David Lawrence's picture

 

Restaurants in Mongolia can face fines for not having the right number of forks.
Mongolia's done a good job in reforming its business environment since the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. In Doing Business 2009, the country ranked 58th out of 181 economies and outperformed its neighbors, Russia and China, by significant margins. Well done. But that doesn't mean that things are easy for small businesses here. The overall business environment is a serious drag on Mongolia's development prospects, and the situation keeps getting worse as the financial crisis sinks its claws into the economy.

One area fully in Government control is business inspections. This is an important function: inspections protect the health and safety of the general public. But when inspections run wild, they can become a major burden to businesses, especially small ones. Inspections can impose large costs on businesses in terms of time and money, encourage firms to bribe their way out of violations, and even encourage entrepreneurs to operate in the shadows. That means less tax revenue and potentially dangerous products and services being offered to the public.

Is this a problem in Mongolia? Absolutely.

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.

Landing in Gizo: Understanding the Solomon Islands

Edith Bowles's picture

The country is often dismissed as the Pacific's failed state, yet conversations with community members and officials reveal clear visions of what a state can provide in terms of services and a role in community life.
The Gizo airport in Solomon Islands has no parking lot, because there is no road – only a jetty out into the lagoon. It took me several minutes and a walk around the solitary airport building to work this out, by which point my plane had already headed back to Honiara, the country’s capital.

The Gizo airstrip, reportedly built for a visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the 1970s, occupies the entire length of the island of Nusatupe – as a quick look at Google Maps confirms. It is located picturesquely, if ultimately somewhat inconveniently, about two kilometers from the provincial capital island of Gizo. As I was beginning to wonder how I was going to make my way to Gizo, a team from the Government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock fortunately pulled up in an outboard motorboat.

In December, just three months after my arrival in the Solomon Islands to serve as the World Bank’s country manager, I chose Western Province for my second trip out of Honiara. One of the main goals in my first year on the job is to visit each of the nine provinces to begin gaining some understanding of this small but complex country.

Leaving an imprint: Rebuilding the shrimp sector in Aceh, Indonesia

David Lawrence's picture

 

In my 12 years at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), I've been involved with a lot of different projects. Many of them were successful, some were not. But none of them were as satisfying as the Aceh Shrimp Project, which closed last month. If you've ever hit a bull's eye when playing darts, imagine that feeling multiplied by 100. That's what this project felt like.

Aceh is an autonomous province on the northern tip of Sumatra, in Indonesia, with a population of 4.2 million. It has a colorful history of resistance: they gave the Dutch colonists major headaches, and fought against the Indonesian government for three decades. In December 2004 the Tsunami struck, leaving 165,000 people dead or missing in the space of 30 minutes. This led to the biggest reconstruction effort in history, including IFC's work to build up the private sector, funded by AusAID (pdf) through its Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development (AIPRD).

Shrimp is a key sector in Aceh, a livelihood for 100,000 people. In the 1990s, Aceh's shrimp sector was slammed by white spot disease, which devastated shrimp harvests.{C}

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