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South Asia

Bracing for climate change is a matter of survival for the Maldives

Hartwig Schafer's picture
The Maldives is no stranger to the risks from climate change. It is already witnessing an increase in intense rainfall and resultant flooding, cyclonic winds and storm surges.
The Maldives is no stranger to the risks from climate change. It is already witnessing an increase in intense rainfall and resultant flooding, cyclonic winds and storm surges.


For low-lying island states, the impacts of global warming and climate change can be a matter of survival.

The irony is that while these states have not contributed much to greenhouse emissions, as they produce very little, they may face some of the worst consequences. 
 
Maldives is no stranger to the risks from climate change. It is already witnessing an increase in intense rainfall and resultant flooding, cyclonic winds and storm surges.

As one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, with all its people living a few meters above sea level and over two-thirds of its critical infrastructure lying within 100 meters of the shoreline, a sea level rise of just a few meters will put the nation further at risk, endangering its relative prosperity. 
 
Thankfully Maldives is beginning to turn the tide.

Yesterday I visited Fuvahmulah, in one of the southernmost atolls where the Mayor and the Ministry of Environment, have been working closely with local communities to manage the wetlands, critical for reducing climate change impacts.

I saw scores of young Maldivians enjoying the facilities and learning about conservation. A true win-win. Community participation has helped enhance the design and acceptability of this initiative.

Scaled up, such initiatives can have a transformational impact and it is imperative that the Government of Maldives take the lessons from this Bank supported initiative to 19 other atolls.
 
Creating a safer archipelago
 
The Indian Ocean tsunami that battered the islands in 2004 provided a glimpse of what can happen – a clear wake-up call.

The government responded by increasing its emphasis on building resilience in infrastructure and providing its people with early warnings in the event of an underwater earthquake.
 
Today, in the Greater Malé region, the reclaimed island of Hulhumalé is being developed with better sea defenses and elevated buildings from where people can be evacuated as needed. 

The government is also raising people’s understanding of the causes and effects of natural disasters, particularly those that come on suddenly, such as tsunamis and flooding.

In Pakistan, music meets public debt management

Andrew Lee's picture
Recently on mission in Pakistan to unveil a new tool to help the Punjab government better manage its public debt, the blog author, Andrew Lee, interacted and shared a few selfies with youth in the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.
Recently on mission in Pakistan to unveil a new tool to help the Punjab government better manage its public debt, the blog author, Andrew Lee, interacted and shared a few selfies with youth in the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.


“Sí, sabes que ya llevo un rato mirándote
Tengo que bailar contigo hoy” 
 
The Despacito tune blared in the bus, and my fellow riders kept tempo to the rhythm.
 
I was recently on mission in the Punjab province, Pakistan, on my way to the Shalimar Gardens for some sightseeing on my day off.

The last thing I expected to hear was the top song of 2017 on a bus in Lahore but in hindsight, this shouldn’t have surprised me.

We live in a global community, and across the world, individuals are getting more connected every day.  Music perfectly exemplifies this – a universal language which we can all understand.  With this increased connection comes higher expectations.

In addition to roads and clean water, citizens now demand that their government provide reliable digital connectivity. And when taxes and other revenues are not sufficient to cover this and other public services, governments must borrow to pay for it.
 
As with music, debt transcends borders, and the basics are almost the same. The key elements of music – rhythm, harmony, and melody – as with the critical components of debt – interest payments, maturity, cash flow, and risk – remain the same no matter where you are.

Managing public debt was precisely my reason to be in Lahore where I introduced a cash flow tool the World Bank helped design.

Celebrating 40 years of engagement with Maldives

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
The World Bank Group (WBG) and Maldives have had a trusted partnership for the past 40 years, which has seen tremendous growth and development in the country.

Over this period, Maldives has transformed from being among the poorest countries in the world to having a per capita GDP of over $10,000 and boasts impressive human development achievements, with a life expectancy of over 77 years and nearly 100% literacy.

However, vulnerability to environmental sustainability and climate change are among the challenges that the country faces. 

To help respond to them, the WBG continues to work closely with Maldives to help realize the aspirations of its people through enhancing employment and economic opportunities, strengthening natural resources management and climate resilience, while improving public financial management and policy-making through strengthening institutions.

Here are five milestones of our engagement:

1. Joining the World Bank
Maldives joins World Bank
Photo Credit: World Bank Group Archives
On January 13, 1978, Maldives became the 131st member of the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA), the fund that helps the poorest countries through interest-free credits.

The Articles of Agreements were signed by His Excellency Fathulla Jameel, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations. At that time, Maldives had a GDP per capita of just over $200 and had achieved independence only 13 years prior.

2. First project signing
Maldives 1st Project Signing
Photo Credit: World Bank Group Archives

 Maldives signed its first project to help increase fisheries production with the World Bank on June 4, 1979.

The project helped mechanize fishing craft, established repair centers, and installed navigational aids to increase the safety of fishing operations.

Those present for the signing from left to right, Said El-Naggar, Executive Director of the World Bank for Maldives, His Excellency Ahamed Zaki, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations, and Robert Picciottto, Projects Director for South Asia.

South Asia: A bright spot in darkening economic skies?

Hartwig Schafer's picture
South Asia is set to remain relatively insulated from some of the rising uncertainties that are looming large on the global economic horizon. The region will retain its top spot as the world’s fastest-growing region. The Siddhirganj Power Project in Bangladesh. Credit: Ismail Ferdous/World Bank

If, like me, you’re a firm believer in New Year’s resolutions, early January ushers in the prospect of renewed energy and exciting opportunities. And as tradition has it, it’s also a time to enter the prediction game.
 
Sadly, when it comes to the global economy, this year’s outlook is taking a somber turn.
 
In the aptly titled Darkening Skies, the World Bank’s new edition of its twice-a-year Global Economic Prospects report shows that risks are looming large on the economic horizon.
 
To sum up:  In emerging market and developing economies, the lingering effects of recent financial market stress on several large economies, a further deceleration in commodity exporters are likely to stall growth at a weaker-than-expected 4.2 percent this year.
 
On a positive note, South Asia is set to remain relatively insulated from some of these rising global uncertainties and will retain its top spot as the world’s fastest-growing region.
 
Bucking the global decelerating trend, growth in South Asia is expected to accelerate to 7.1 percent in 2019 from 6.9 percent in the year just ended, bolstered in part by stronger investments and robust consumption.  

Among the region’s largest economies, India is forecast to grow at 7.5 percent in fiscal year 2019-20 while Bangladesh is expected to moderate to 7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19. Sri Lanka is seen speeding up slightly to 4 percent in 2019.
 
Notably, and despite increasing conflicts and growing fragility, Afghanistan is expected to increase its growth to  2.7 percent rate this year.

In this otherwise positive outlook, Pakistan’s growth is projected to slow to 3.7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19 as the country is tightening its financial conditions to help counter rising inflation and external vulnerabilities.

However, activity is projected to rebound and average 4.6 percent over the medium term.

South Asia's new superfood or just fishy business?

Pawan Patil's picture
Across South Asia, four known species of indigenous, fully mature, small food-fish – now dubbed ‘NutriFish’ have nutritional and health benefits for pregnant and lactating women and young children when consumed over the first one thousand days. Here, children from Kothi, Odisha in India show their curiosity and share their excitement with a new kind of harvest happening in their village. Credit: Arun Padiyar
Kale, Kefir, and Quinoa have now joined the ranks of better-known foods like Blueberries, Orange Sweet Potato, and Salmon on family dinner tables across the world.

Considered superior for their health and nutrition benefits, these so-called ‘Superfoods’, often considered “new” by the public are now ever-popularized by celebrity chefs and have become all the rage of foodies from San Francisco to Singapore.   

We live in a world of paradox, where old world and almost forgotten food like Quinoa (which dates back as a staple food over three thousand years to Andean civilization but largely disappeared with the arrival of the Spanish) is now back on the menu.  

Salmon, a staple part of Nordic diets from paleolithic times and woven into the culture of native populations across northwestern Canada and many other superfoods share comparable stories.

And, there are many other old world foods, indigenously known, disappearing but not fully forgotten, yet to be re-discovered.

Food is also now advancing to the front-line of the war on poverty

A health and human capital crisis is now sweeping the world, and a lack of diverse, accessible, affordable, and available nourishing foods is increasingly blamed.  

For example, obesity, from poor diet and poor exercise has tripled since 1975 to almost two billion people today.  

Undernutrition contributes to 45 percent of all deaths of children under five years old (3.5 million each year), much of it avoidable, but difficult to detect as it remains “hidden.”  

Policy makers and stewards of national economies are starting to wake up to the fact that poor nutrition has massive economic implications too, reducing GDP by 3-11 percent, depending on the country. 

While economies such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan may look strong, just as bellies look full, critical micronutrients and vitamins, essential for healthy physical and cognitive development over the first 1,000 days of life are largely missing from diets of many developing countries and are a proven drag to educational attainment and economic prosperity.  

And parents, from both rich and poor nations alike, seem to know something is not quite right. 

If healthier food choices that are accessible, affordable, and readily available are better known, would parents purchase such food from the market for their families?     

With a small grant from the World Bank-administered South Asia Food and Nutrition Initiative (SAFANSI) supported by the EU and the United Kingdom, a partnership with WorldFish was established to test this premise.  

A 60 second TV spot, a collaboration between scientists, economists, a private sector digital media company, broadcasters and the Government of Bangladesh, was created and broadcast across the nation on two occasions and watched by over 25 million people.  

A parallel radio program was also developed and aired reaching millions more, particularly the rural poor and marginalized communities.
 
NutriFish1000 TV

 

What’s keeping Pakistan in the dark?

Fan Zhang's picture
 $18 billion in fiscal year 2015—that is 6.5 percent of the country’s economy.
Nearly  50 million Pakistanis still lack access to grid electricity. Power distortions cost Pakistan’s economy much more than previously estimated: $18 billion in fiscal year 2015—that is 6.5 percent of the country’s economy. Credit: Curt Carnemark/ World Bank

From 1990 to 2010, 91 million people In Pakistan received electricity for the first time.
 
And power outages across the country have gone down drastically over the past few years.
 
Clearly, Pakistan has achieved much progress in expanding its electricity access and production in recent decades.
 
However, nearly  50 million Pakistanis still lack access to grid electricity and the country ranks 115th among 137 economies for reliable power.
 
After peaking in 2006, per capita electricity consumption failed to grow for almost a decade, remaining only one-fifth the average for other middle-income countries in 2014.
 
To boost sustainable energy supply, Pakistan’s power sector needs urgent investments and reforms to target inefficiencies in the entire electricity supply chain.
 
Fittingly, my new report In the Dark analyzes what lies behind these inefficiencies and suggests relevant actions to improve the operation of power plants, cut down on waste and costs, and increase electricity supply in a cost-effective manner.
 
The study sheds new light on the overall societal costs — not merely the fiscal costs as in previous research — of subsidies, blackouts and other distortions in the power sector.
 
To that end, my team and I surveyed Pakistan's entire supply chain from upstream fuel supply to electricity generation, transmission and distribution, and eventually, down to consumers.
 
Put simply, the numbers we found are dire.
 
Power distortions cost Pakistan’s economy much more than previously estimated: $18 billion in fiscal year 2015—that is 6.5 percent of the country’s economy.
 
Problems begin upstream, where gas underpricing encourages waste and reduces incentives for gas production and exploration.
 
And with no recent significant gas discoveries, higher gas usage has widened the gap between growing demand and low domestic supply.
 
On top of that, the volume of gas lost before reaching consumers reached 14.3 percent in fiscal year 2015. By comparison, this number is about 1 to 2 percent in advanced economies.
 
Public power plants use 20 percent more gas per unit of electricity produced than private producers.
 
Poor transmission contributed to 29 percent of the electricity shortfall in fiscal year 2015, while weak infrastructure, faulty metering and theft cause the loss of almost a fifth of generated electricity.
 
Electricity underpricing and failure to collect electricity bills have triggered a vicious “circular debt” problem, leading to power outages.
 
A lack of grid electricity also leads to greater use of kerosene lamps that cause indoor air pollution and its associated respiratory infections and tuberculosis risks.
 
Lack of access to reliable electricity also adversely impact children’s study time at night, women’s labor force participation, and gender equality.
 
Connecting all of Pakistan’s population to the grid and increasing the supply of electricity to 24 hours a day would increase total household income by at least $4.5 billion a year and avoid $8.4 billion in business losses.

New year with a fresh start: Addressing urban poverty in Bangladesh

Wameq Azfar Raza's picture


Although Bangladesh has achieved much in the way of poverty reduction and human development, progress has been slower in some urban areas.

Issues such as slow-down of quality job growth, low levels of educational attainment (notably among the youth), and lack of social protection measures have taken the wind out of the proverbial urban reduction “sail.” As the country starts fresh in the new year, it is an opportune time to reflect on some of the key issues affecting urban poverty.

Despite the steady growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), successive Household Income and Expenditure Surveys (2005 to 2010 and 2010 to 2016) suggest that the rate of poverty reduction has been slowing down while the absolute number of extreme poor have been increasing in urban Bangladesh. Given the accelerating rate of urbanization, it suggests that more people live in extreme poverty in 2016 than they did in 2010. With nearly 44% of the country’s population projected to be living in an urban setting by 2050, this issue is only likely to intensify.  

Several factors may be driving this trend. Absence of education and skills dampen labor market participation and productivity. Among those who participate in the labor-force in urban areas, 19% of men and 28% of women are illiterate. For those who received at least some training, a recent study shows that only 51% of eighth-grade students met equivalent competency in the native language subject (Bangla). The figures were markedly lower for other subjects. Similar trends carry through to technical diploma and tertiary level institutes. As a result, many prospective employers report reluctance to hiring fresh graduates.

Moving Afghanistan’s Bamyan province forward

Mohammad Tahir Zuhair's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
View of Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
View of Bamyan city, Bamyan Province. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy​/ World Bank

When people think of Afghanistan, what comes to their minds are images of decades of war and insecurity.

True, Afghanistan has suffered a long history of upheaval

But there has been significant progress in rebuilding a strong, independent, and modern nation since 2001.

And in light of our nation’s turbulent history, it is sometimes easy to forget how far Afghanistan has come.

Just two month ago in October, over four million voters cast their ballots in parliamentary elections—with millions more looking forward to voting in the upcoming presidential election in 2019.

Unforgettably, 2018 also brought the unprecedented three-day ceasefire during Eid, a rare glimpse of complete peace that continues to give hope to many of us.

As Governor of Bamyan Province, one of my goals is to present a different image of my country to the world—one of progress and possibility in the face of adversity.

Many people have never heard of Bamyan. Neither do they know its longstanding and well-deserved reputation as one of Afghanistan’ safest provinces.

Our residents take pride in the fact that we haven’t experienced chaos, war, or insurgency against the government in 17 years.

And as Governor, I have witnessed the importance residents put on civil society, which has been vital to implementing successful development projects in the province.

بامیان در مسیر پیشرفت و تحول

Mohammad Tahir Zuhair's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
View of Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
نمای شهر بامیان. عکس: شرکت مشورتی رومی/بانک جهانی

وقتی مردم در مورد افغانستان فکر میکنند، آن چه در وحلۀ نخست به ذهن شان خطور میکند، متاسفانه همانا دهه های جنگ و ناامنی میباشد.
 
اینکه افغانستان توأم شاهد دگرگونی ها و ناهنجاری های متداوم بوده و هنوز هم با چالش ها و مشکلات زیادی مواجه است، یک واقعیت انکار ناپذیر محسوب میگردد.
 
اما باید این واقعیت را درک کرد، که از سال ۲۰۰۱ میلادی بدینسو، افغانستان اقدامات لازم را در راستای ایجاد  یک جامعۀ پیشرفته و مرفه رویدست گرفته است.
 
با توجه به رویداد های ناگوار تاریخی که ما همواره با آن مواجه بوده ایم، اکثراً فراموش میکنیم که افغانستان کدام مسیری مملو از موانع را پیموده است.
 
دُرست دو ماه قبل، یعنی بتاریخ ۲۸ میزان ۱۳۹۷، بیش از چهار میلیون افغان درانتخابات ولسی جرگه اشتراک نموده و به کاندیدان مورد نظر خود رای دادند. این در حالیست که قرار است میلیون ها افغان در انتخابات ریاست جمهوری سال ۱۳۹۸ نیز اشتراک ورزند.
 
شایان ذکر است که مردم افغانستان در سال ۲۰۱۸ شاهد برقراری نخستین آتش بس سه روزه برای اولین بار با طالبان در روز های عید سعید فطر بودند، که متعاقب آن یک چشم انداز امیدوار کنندۀ برای تأمین صلح درازمدت در اذهان عامه تداعی گردیده است.
 
منحیث والی بامیان یکی از اهداف من این است که یک تصویر متفاوتی از کشور خود به جهانیان ارایه نمایم – تصویریکه این واقعیت یعنی: علی االرغم شرایط دشوار، پیشرفت و کامیابی نیز ممکن است، باشد.

بامیان د پرمختګ او تحول په لوري

Mohammad Tahir Zuhair's picture
Also available in: English | دری
View of Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
د بامیان ښار منظره. انځور: د رومي مشورتي شرکت/ نړیوال بانک

کله چې خلک د افغانستان په اړه فکر کوي، څه یې چې په لومړۍ شیبه کې په ذهن کې ورګرځي، له بده مرغه هماغه د جنګ او ناامنۍ لسیزې  دي.
 
د داسې واقعیت څخه هم نه شو انکار کولی چې افغانستان د دوامدارو تاوتریخوالي او ګډوډیو شاهد پاتې شوی دی او لا هم له زیاتو ننګونو او ستونزو سره مخ دی.
 
خو باید دا واقعیت درک کړو چې له ۲۰۰۱ زېږدیز کال را په دې خوا، افغانستان د یوې هوسا او پرمختللې ټولنې د رامنځته کولو په لاره کې لازم کارونه تر لاس لاندې نیولي دي.
 
هغو بدو تاریخي پېښوته په کتو سره چې موږ تل ورسره مخ یو، اکثره وختونه دا هېروو چې افغانستان ده پرمختګ په لور یوه اوږدهلارې څخه را تېر شوی دی.
 
پوره دوه میاشتې مخکې، یعنې د ۱۳۹۷ د تلې په ۲۸ مه نېته، تر څلور میلیونه زیاتو افغانانو د ولسي جرګې په ټاکنو کې برخه واخیسته او د خپلې خوښې کاندیدانو ته یې رایې ورکړې اومیلیونونه افغانان په تمه دي چې د ۱۳۹۸ کال په ولسمشریزو  ټاکنو کې ګډون وکړي.
 
د یادولو ده چې د افغانستان  خلک په ۲۰۱۸ زېږدیز کال کې  ده لومړي ځل لپاره  طالبانو سره د کوچني اختر په ورځو کې درې ورځنی اوربند شاهدان وو چې ورپسې بیا د خلکو په ذهنونو کې د اوږد مهالې سولې د ټینګېدو هیلې زرغونې شوې.
 
د بامیان د والي په حیث زما په هدوفونو کې یو دا دی چې د خپل هېواد یو متفاوت انځور نړیوالو ته ښکاره کړم – داسې انځور چې دغه واقعیت ورته په ډاګه کړي چې: له سختو شرایطو سره سره بیا هم بریا او پرمختګ ممکن دي.

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