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Is South Asia Moving Up?

Dipak Dasgupta's picture

The food, fuel, and financial crises during the last three years sent shockwaves throughout the world and its effects rippled across South Asia. It impacted growth, causing a reduction of growth by nearly 3% from the peak of 8.9% in 2007 to 6.3% in 2009, led to job losses, declines in stock market value, decreases in tourism, and increasing pressures on already weak fiscal, balance of payments, reserves and exchange rates.

I was based in New Delhi during the crisis, and the effects were palpable. For a moment, it looked as if confidence was ebbing---the construction cranes in Gurgaon (the fastest-growing township around Delhi) became silent, a young scholar at Delhi University ran a survey of what graduates might do as job markets became difficult, airlines ran half-empty and racked-up massive losses, jobs were lost heavily in diamond-cutting in Gujarat and IT firms stopped hiring in Bangalore, and people paused to consider the implications of such a dramatic change from the accelerating and heady growth of the previous years. But despite the circumstances, and thanks to strong and prompt government actions, confidence has swiftly returned, the region has proven to be quite resilient and a noticeable resurgence has taken hold.

Accessing the connectivity revolution for education

Michael Foley's picture
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One could say that by being connected to the rest of the academic world through an NREN your isolation from research projects, high cost lab equipment, and world-class leading edge knowledge will disappear. If you are a physicist you can contemplate joining research teams using the Large Halidron Collider in CERN in Switzerland, an astronomer can manipulate in real time a telescope in Chile or access the data from radio telescopes, a medic can join in high definition seminars on advanced techniques in surgery or remote diagnostics, climate specialists can access and provide data to disaster management databases, an economist can access and contribute to economic modeling resources, and everyone can gain access to the thousands of on-line specialist journals.

A revolution in connectivity for education coming your way

Michael Foley's picture
Photo Courtesy of Dante

When Jim Wolfensohn, then President of the World Bank, sent me to Kabul in early 2002, just after the fall of the Taliban, in order to set up the first GDLN center in Afghanistan, the main challenge was to find decent Internet connectivity. In the end we had to set up our own satellite connection back to the World Bank in Washington DC. The same happened in Sri Lanka. How things have changed in South Asia.

For a long time, universities in the region had to rely on high cost, low speed, satellite based services to bring Internet access to its faculty and students, but that situation is changing rapidly. Led by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Pakistan and more recently by the National Knowledge Commission in India, and by a host of other programs in other countries, educational institutions across the region are building or rebuilding their networks, connecting to each other and to global networks with high speed fiber optic links that are set to revolutionize how we share knowledge and collaborate in research.

South Asian Youth Showcase Economic Ideas with the World

Joe Qian's picture

I had the opportunity to be a part of the launch of "Economic Challenges to Make South Asia Free from Poverty and Deprivation" in Washington and was truly inspired by the talent and knowledge of the students and the ideas and enthusiasm generated by the event across the region.

The event, coordinated across the region through video conference was moderated by Economic Adviser Shekhar Shah, who authored the foreward, and was exceptionally encouraging of the students and the issues discussed in the volume and organized by Hema Balasubramanian who heads the Public Information Center in New Delhi.

The unique student initiative that created the book, South Asia Economics Students’ Meet (SAESM), edited by Meeta Kumar and Mihir Pandey promotes budding economists to foster intellectual discourse with other students from the region. The annual conference, since 2004, has provided an opportunity for exceptional economic students to write, present, and share their academic papers on economic issues critical to the region.

Yes, how many deaths will it take till we know…

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture

…that too many children have died?

I adapt this from Dylan’s famous 1962 lyrics, but it is nowhere more true than for Adivasis or tribal peoples (called Scheduled Tribes) in India.

Come monsoon, the Indian media is rife with stories of child deaths in tribal areas, frequently reported as “malnutrition deaths”. Kalahandi district in Orissa for instance, had been a metaphor for starvation due to press reports dating back to the 1980s. Melghat area in Maharashtra has similarly surfaced in the press especially during the monsoon when migrant Adivasis return to their villages and to empty food stocks in the home. This is followed by public outrage, sometimes by public interest litigation and often a haggling over numbers.

We recently published a working paper that looks at child mortality among India’s adivasis – the starkest manifestation of their deprivation. We find that an average Indian child has a 25 percent lower likelihood of dying under the age of five compared to an adivasi child. In rural areas, where the majority of adivasi children live, they made up about 11 percent of all births but 23 percent of all deaths in the five years preceding the National Family Heath Survey 2005. While there has been progress in child survival over the years, and much greater vigilance, which often leads to these stories surfacing in the media at all, the fact remains that children in tribal areas are at much greater risk of dying than those in other areas.

Earth Day 2010: Events Around South Asia

Joe Qian's picture

With deep azure skies, bountiful sunshine, and a crisp but mild breeze today, spring is by far my favorite season in Washington. Today marks the 40th year since the advent of Earth Day, an occasion to create awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s environment that we all share in and enjoy. The event is now celebrated around the world as resources are increasingly stretched and environmental issues becoming more pertinent in our everyday lives.

I wanted to give an overview of some Earth Day related events happening in South Asia to mark the occasion.

Afghanistan:

National Saplings in Kabul: Green coverage has been reduced from 14 million hectares to 1 million hectare in Afghanistan.

India’s Vision for Technology and Financial Inclusion: Interview with Bindu Ananth of IFMR Trust

Jim Rosenberg's picture

Bindu Ananth is the President of IFMR Trust, which has a mission of ensuring that every individual and every enterprise in India has access to complete financial services. In pursuit of this, IFMR has made four key investments – IFMR Rural Finance (full service financial institutions for remote rural India), IFMR Capital (guarantee company for high-quality MFIs), IFMR Mezzanine (subordinated debt provider for emerging MFIs) and IFMR Ventures (debt access for rural enterprises).  Through these investments as well as other initiatives , IFMR Trust is advocating for an inclusive financial system in India. Recently I interviewed Bindu about how the financial system in India might be configured to deliver complete financial service access.

Why is the World Bank Doing This?

Melissa Williams's picture

This question was asked ---- out of surprise, confusion, and even a little bit of suspicion --- at the launch of JIYO! --- an artisan owned brand ---- at the New Delhi Office during April 1-3. The crowds of artists, art patrons, buyers, hotel chain owners, parliamentarians, diplomats, Bank staff, and other shoppers milled about the kiosks of artists from rural areas, and many contemplated this. The answer is quite simple: from a rural poverty reduction perspective. India is home to the largest population of rural poor in the world, larger even than all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Cultural industries are the second largest employer in rural India. Cultural industries are also a US$100 billion global market. It's clear what the Bank could and should do in this area. Linking rural artists to this massive global market creates opportunities for both growth and poverty reduction, and it comes with the bonus of preserving the India's rich cultural heritage.

When people think of rural development, they mostly think of agriculture, but there is so much more to "rural" than people assume. Many of the traditional, heritage art forms --- also known as cultural industries --- have been kept alive in rural areas. Too often relegated as "quaint", these artists have been relegated to the informal sector, a poverty trap that leads many to abandon their art. JIYO! --- a JSDF-funded project in India that is linked to several rural livelihoods investment projects --- has been turning the typical view of rural arts upside down.

India: Nothing Short of Incredible!

Mohamad Al-Arief's picture

You’ve seen those tourism ads: Incredible India. Since I first arrived in this country a month back, it’s been nothing short of incredible. India can fascinate and overwhelm you at the same time. It is incredible in many ways: its size, its development challenges, its diversity, and its rich cultural heritage.

Luckily for me, I have had the good fortune to experience the latter. India’s cultural heritage dates back thousands of years. And India has managed to preserve it while many others have failed. You don’t need to go deep into the hinterland to experience it. A drive through Delhi alone will take you through several phases of its history. And a four-hour drive out of the capital to Agra will take you back 400 years to the Mughal Empire. Everything is well preserved. And everyone seems to be passionate about preserving this heritage, as evident in the JIYO Exhibition that I’ve just attended.

Should South Asia Emulate the East Asian Tigers?

Joe Qian's picture

When thinking about development, I always look for opportunities for cross learning between regions. Having lived in and traveled extensively in East Asia and having worked in the South Asia Region for over a year, I often compare and think about prospects between the two regions. One question in particular is whether South Asia should aim to emulate East Asia’s manufacturing and export driven development model. Japan began using this model starting in the 1950’s and most East Asian countries particularly, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and most recently China have used manufacturing as a catalyst for growth.

According to the World Development Indicators, manufacturing accounted for over 30% of GDP in East Asia and Pacific while it is around 15% in South Asia. Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG’s) industry is one example of manufacturing success as it has proven to be exceptionally competitive in the global market. However, holistically, I found that South Asia has distinctive characteristics and quickly moving towards an East Asian export-led model may not be most effective.

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