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South Asia

How does Bhutan’s Economy Look?

Tenzin Lhaden's picture
Bhutan Economic Update
Bhutan has maintained solid economic performance to date in 2017 but delays in hydropower construction may affect its economic outlook with growth expected to slow to just under 7 percent in 2018. 

Bhutan is one of the smallest, but fastest-growing economies in the world. Its annual economic growth of 7.5 percent on average between 2006 and 2015, placed the country 13th of 118 countries, compared to the average global growth rate of 4.4 percent.

This growth has been shared by a majority of Bhutanese, with extreme poverty dropping from 25 percent in 2003 to 2 percent in 2012, based on the international poverty line of $1.90 a day (at purchasing power parity). This is among the rate in South Asia and compares favourably to the regional poverty rate of 19 percent. Equally impressive improvements were made in access to basic services such as health, education and asset ownership.

The recent developments on strong lending growth, inflation, exchange rates and international reserves show that Bhutan maintains a solid and stable growth in the first half of 2017. Gross international reserves have been increasing since 2012, when the country experienced an Indian rupee shortage. Reserves exceed $1 billion, equivalent to 10 months of imports of goods and services in mid-2017 which makes the country more resilient to potential shocks. This is also very much in line with the requirement spelled in the 2008 Constitution which outlines minimum reserve requirements. The Bhutanese ngultrum, pegged to the Indian rupee, have been stable or slightly appreciating against the U.S. dollar.

Despite recent solid growth and macroeconomic stability, we need to carefully monitor its Development. According to the latest Bhutan Economic Update, the hydropower construction and the implementation of the 2016 Economic Development Policy are expected to support this solid growth during the next few years. However, with confirmed delays in the completion of two hydropower projects, the contribution of the hydropower sector to growth will be lower than the originally projected. Therefore, the World Bank revised down its growth forecasts in 2019/20 by a few percentage points to 7.6 percent, still among the fastest in the world.

Fresh thinking on economic cooperation in South Asia

Nikita Singla's picture
 Aamir Khan/ Pakistan, Sreerupa Sengupta/ India, Sanjay Kathuria/ World Bank, Mahfuz Kabir & Surendar Singh/ Bangladesh) Photo By: Marcio De La Cruz/ World Bank
Young Economists sharing the stage with Sanjay Kathuria, Lead Economist and Coordinator, Regional Integration (Left to Right: Aamir Khan/ Pakistan, Sreerupa Sengupta/ India, Sanjay Kathuria/ World Bank, Mahfuz Kabir/Bangladesh & Surendar Singh/ India). Photo by: Marcio De La Cruz/ World Bank


That regional cooperation in South Asia is lower than optimal levels is well accepted. It is usually ascribed to – the asymmetry in size between India and the rest, conflicts and historical political tensions, a trust deficit, limited transport connectivity, and onerous logistics, among many other factors.

Deepening regional integration requires sufficient policy-relevant analytical work on the costs and benefits of both intra-regional trade and investment. An effective cross-border network of young professionals can contribute to fresh thinking on emerging economic cooperation issues in South Asia.

Against this background, the World Bank Group sponsored a competitive request for proposals.  Awardees from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, after being actively mentored by seasoned World Bank staff over a period of two years, convened in Washington DC to present their new and exciting research. Research areas included regional value chains, production sharing and the impact assessment of alternative preferential trade agreements in the region.

Young Economists offer fresh thoughts on economic cooperation in South Asia

Mahfuz Kabir, Acting Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies and Surendar Singh, Policy Analyst, Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS International) presented their research: Of Streams and Tides, India-Bangladesh Value Chains in Textiles and Clothing (T&C). They focus on how to tackle three main trade barriers for T&C: a) high tariffs for selected, but important goods for the industries of both countries; b) inefficient customs procedures and c) divergent criteria for rules of origin classification.

Sreerupa Sengupta, Ph.D. Scholar at Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi discussed Trade Cooperation and Production Sharing in South Asia – An Indian Perspective. Reviewing the pattern of Indian exports and imports in the last twenty years, her research focuses on comparing the Global Value Chain (GVC) participation rate of India with East Asian and ASEAN economies. Barriers to higher participation include a) lack of openness in the FDI sector; b) lack of adequate port infrastructure, and long port dwell times; and c) lack of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs).

Aamir Khan, Assistant Professor, Department of Management Sciences, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad presented his work on Economy Wide Impact of Regional Integration in South Asia - Options for Pakistan. His research analyzes the reasons for Pakistan not being able to take full advantage of its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, and finds that the granting of ASEAN-type concessions to Pakistan in its FTA with China would be more beneficial than the current FTA arrangement. The work also draws lessons for FTAs that are currently being negotiated by South Asian countries.

پوهنه د افغانستان د پرمختګ یوازینۍ لاره

Mohammad Homayoon Rahmani's picture
Also available in: English | دری
د پوهنې د کیفیت د لوړولو برنامې لخوا د اړتیا وړ پراختیایي مرستو په برابرو سره د ښوونځیو د ودانیو جوړولو ترڅنګ، له یو زیات شمیر نورو آسانتیاوو لکه د ساینسي لابراتوارونو، کابتونونو او کمپیوتري لابراتوارونو تجهیز څخه ملاتړکوي. د زده کړې چاپیریال د دغو بدلونونو په راتګ سره خورا ښه والی موندلي، د بلخ ولایت په بېلابېلو ولسوالیو کې کورنۍ هڅول شوي، ترڅو خپل ماشومان ښوونځیو ته راولیږې. انځور: فردین واعظي/ نړیوال بانک

زده کړه د افغانستان د پرمختګ لاره پرانیزي: د مشرانو مشهوره خبره ده چې وایې، ښوونه او رزونه د هر هېواد د پرمختګ بنسټ جوړوي. لکه څرنګه، چې له څلورو لسیزو جګړو او ناامنیو وروسته، اوس د هر افغان لپاره تر بل هر وخت ښه معلومات شته، چې په خپلو پښو د دې هېواد دریدل، پرمختګ ته اړتیا لري.

ډېر لېواله وم، چې خپل ټولنیز چاپيریال هر څه ښه جوړ کړم، تر څو له همدې لارې د خپلو ځوریدلو خلکو لپاره د خدمت مصدر وګرځم، له همدې امله، د پوهنې د کیفیت د لوړولو له برنامې سره مې کار پیل کړ، چې موخه یې په افغانستان کې د ښوونې او روزنې د کیفیت او ورته د لاسرسي لوړول و. کله چې مې په دغه برنامه کې کار پیل کړ،  نو د پوهنې د کیفیت د لوړولو برنامه په خپل دویم پړاو کې و، چې لا پخوا د ۲۰۰۸ کال د جنوري په میاشت کې پیل شوی و. د همدې برنامې له لارې، زموږ هڅه دا وه، تر څو په بېلابېلو سیمو په تیره بیا په لرو پرتو سیمو کې له کلیوالي خلکو سره ووینو کومو، چې د پوهنې په اړه ناسم لیدلوري او تعبیرونه لرل، تر څو له هغوۍ سره له نږدې کار وکړو او د پوهنې په اړه د هغوۍ ذهنیت مثبت اړخ ته را واړوو. ښه مې په یاد دي، کله چې مې په ۲۰۱۰ کال کې د پوهنې د کیفیت د لوړولو د برنامې له ټيم سره کار پیل کړ، نو یو زیات شمېر خلک موږ ته راغلل او ویل یې، چې هغوۍ هېڅ وخت دې ته چمتو نه دي، تر څو خپلې نجوني ښوونځي ته ولیږي. خو له ډېرو هلوځلو وروسته، بالاخره دا برنامه بریالۍ شوه.

اوس په پوره ډاډ سره ویلی شم، چې موږ د بلخ ولایت په ټولو سیمو کې له پوره ملاتړ څخه برخمن یو. د بېلګې په توګه، کله چې موږ د بلخ ولایت په کومه ولسوالۍ کې ښوونځي جوړو، نو د ځمکې اخیستلو ته اړتیا نه لرو. بلکې د هغې سیمې خلکو په خپله ځمکه اخیستي او موږ ته یې په اختیار کې راکړې ده. هغوۍ له موږ غوښتل، تر څو د دوی په ملکیت کې ورته ښوونځی جوړ کړو – هان چې ډېرو بېوزلو خلکو هم موږ سره داسې چلند کړی دی. کله چې د بلخ ولسوالۍ چهارسنګ کلي ته ورغلو، چې هلته هېڅ ښوونځی نه و، خو سره له دې، چې د دې کلي ټولو خلکو د بېوزلۍ تر کرښې لاندې ژوند لاره، سره را ټول شول او موږ ته یې د ښوونځي د جوړولو په خاطر ځمکه واخیستله. د پوهنې د کیفیت د لوړولو برنامه د هغه کلي د ماشومانو لپاره ښوونځی جوړ کړ او نن ورځ د هغه کلي ټول ماشومان په هغه ښوونځي کې درس وايي.

Education is the way forward for Afghanistan

Mohammad Homayoon Rahmani's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
The Education Quality Improvement Program provides block grant support to the construction of school buildings and other facilities such as laboratories, libraries and computer labs. This improved studying environment has encouraged almost all families to send their children to schools in many districts of Balkh province. Photo Credit: Fardin Waezi/ World Bank


Someone wise once said that education is the foundation of a country’s progress. As every Afghan knows and feels, after four decades of conflict and violence, progress is exactly what this country needs to get back on its feet.
 
I have always had a deep interest in making my social context better and this is the reason why I joined the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP), which aims to improve access and quality of education for Afghans. I joined the EQUIP team in the program’s second phase, which started in January 2008.
 
Through EQUIP, we have been working with communities to change their views and perceptions on education, especially in villages. I remember when I joined the team in 2010, many people would come and tell us they did not want to send their girls to school. But slowly EQUIP won them over.
 
Now, we can proudly say that we have the full support of communities everywhere in Balkh Province. For example, we have never had to buy land to construct a school in any district in Balkh. Every single time, it has been the people who bought or donated land and invited us to construct the building, even in the poorest regions.

Sri Lanka: Building a more resilient economy

Smriti Daniel's picture



At the launch of the Sri Lanka Development Update (SLDU), our Twitter chat #SLDU2017: Environmental Benefits of Economic Management set out to explore how Sri Lanka could meet the twin challenges of increasing its physical and financial resilience.
 
The panel comprised experts from the World Bank - Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough; Senior Economist Ralph van Doorn and senior environmental specialist Darshani De Silva – and Kanchana Wickramasinghe, a research economist in the Institute of Policy Studies. Together, they unpacked the SLDU, discussed its key findings and fielded questions from across the region around its main themes.
 
The bi-annual report, notes key economic developments over the preceding months, placing them in a longer term and global perspective; in the Special Focus section, it explores topics of particular policy significance to Sri Lanka. 
 
Ralph started with the idea that Sri Lanka faces a window of opportunity during which key reforms could transform the country and its economy. He noted that Sri Lanka’s position in the global economy improved its global growth prospects, as well as that of its key export partners. Low commodity prices and the restoration of the GSP+ preferential trade arrangement with the EU had also combined to improve the outlook for the Sri Lankan economy.

For Idah, the country’s mood and the government’s commitment to change were critical to success:   
 
The panel delved into how natural disasters and extreme weather events posed a threat to Sri Lanka’s growing economy. In the short-term the damage was clear and serious, with losses amounting to several billions a year, as Idah noted in her blog. During the chat, she emphasised how Sri Lanka needed to be prepared for future disasters or it would cost the country enormously.
 
Kanchana pointed out that in the long-term, disasters could set back poverty alleviation efforts, especially in agricultural and rural areas, adding:
 

With the chat underway, questions poured in from an online audience who were interested in diverse issues – from managing Sri Lanka’s ongoing drought and its impact on the Northern Province to what insights the SLDU had to offer other countries in the region such as India.

معارف یگانه راه ترقی و پیشرفت افغانستان

Mohammad Homayoon Rahmani's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
برنامه ارتقای کیفیت معارف از طریق پرداخت وجوه انکشافی مورد نیاز زمینه اعمار ساختمان های مکاتب و فراهم آوری سایر تسهیلات همچو تجهیز لابراتوار های ساینسی، تاسیس کتابخانه ها و تجهیز لابراتوار های کمپیوتر را حمایت مینماید. این تغیرات مثبت باعث بهبود فضای درسی گردیده، خانواده ها را در ولسوالی های ولایت بلخ بیشتر تشویق نموده، تا فرزندان شان را به مکتب بفرستند. عکاس: فردین واعظی/ بانک جهانی


تعلیم راه گشای ترقی افغانستان است: سخن معروف بزرگان است که تعلیم تهداب ترقی هر کشور میباشد. چنانچه بعد از سپری شدن  چهار دهه جنگ و نا امنی ها، اکنون برای هر افغان، بیشتر از پیش، معلوم و ملموس گردیده که برای خودکفایی این کشور نیاز به ترقی دارد.  

بسیار علاقمند بودم، تا محیط اجتماعی خود را بهتر سر و سامان دهم، تا از این طریق بتوانم مصدر خدمت به مردم رنج دیده خود گردم، به همین دلیل با برنامهٔ ارتقای کیفیت معارف، که هدف آن بهبود دسترسی و کیفیت تعلیم در افغانستان است، به کار آغاز نمودم. زمانیکه شامل کار با این برنامه گردیدم، برنامهٔ ارتقای کیفیت معارف در مرحله دوم فعالیت های خود قرار داشت، که قبلاً در ماه جنوری سال ۲۰۰۸ آغاز گردیده بود. از طریق این برنامهٔ،  تلاش ما این بود، تا با مردم در محلات مختلف مخصوصاً ساکنان روستاها که دیدگاه و تعبیرات نادرست در مورد تعلیم داشتند، از نزدیک کارنموده ذهنیت منفی آنان را نسبت به اموزش تغیر دهیم. درست به یاد دارم زمانیکه با تیم برنامه ارتقای کیفیت معارف در سال ۲۰۱۰ به کار آغاز کردم، تعداد کثیری از مردم نزد ما آمده، میگفتند که آنها هیچگاه حاضر نیستند، تا دختران شان را به مکتب بفرستند. بعد از سعی و تلاش زیاد، بلاخره  این برنامه موفق گردید.

اکنون به اطمینان کامل گفته میتوانیم که ما از حمایت کامل مردم در محلات در سراسر ولایت بلخ برخوردار هستیم. به گونهٔ مثال، در هیچ ولسوالی ولایت بلخ، به خریدن زمین که روی آن مکتب اعمار کنیم، مجبور نشده ایم. بلکه این اهالی منطقه بودند که هر بار قطعهٔ زمین را خریداری و یا هم در اختیار ما میگذاشتند. انان از ما میخواستند، تا روی ملیکت شان مکتب برایشان اعمار کنیم - حتی فقرترین اهالی منطقه نیز همین کار را میکردند. زمانی در ولسوالی بلخ  به قریهٔ  چهارسنگ برخوردیم که هیچ مکتبی در آن وجود نداشت. باوجودیکه اهالی آن قریه زیر خط فقر میزیستند ولی همهٔ شان گرد هم آمدند، تا قطعهٔ زمینی را برای اعمار یک مکتب خریداری نمایند. برنامه ارتقای کیفیت معارف برای اطفال اهالی آن منطقه یک باب مکتب را اعمار نمود، امروز تمام اطفال قریه متذکره به مکتب میروند.

Engaging communities in the Golden 1,000 Days in Nepal

Kaori Oshima's picture
Field survey team in Nepal
A field survey team for the qualitative study holding a focus group discussion with women in one of the SHD project communities. Photo credit: World Bank

In Nepali, “Sunaula Hazar Din” means, “Golden 1000 Days” – which is a critical window of opportunity between conception and the age of two years that, with good health and nutrition, can mitigate the risks of malnutrition that hamper a child’s long-term physical and cognitive development.

Sunaula Hazar Din (SHD) is also the local nickname of the Government of Nepal’s recently completed “Community Action for Nutrition Project”, implemented by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development and  financially supported by the World Bank from 2012 to 2017. The project aimed to improve practices that contribute to reduced under-nutrition of women of reproductive age and children under the age of two and to provide emergency nutrition and sanitation response to vulnerable populations in earthquake affected areas.

The project used a “Rapid Results Approach (RRA)”, where target communities formed groups of nine members that would collectively select and work on an activity to address malnutrition for 100 days. RRA focused especially on the “1000 days” households– namely, households with children under 2 years and pregnant and/or lactating women and also had community -wide interventions targeted to address malnutrition.  

To better understand the local dynamics around the SHD design and activities, a qualitative study was conducted, with support from the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI).

The study team gathered the voices of various stakeholders, including the community members, facilitators, and the village and district-level authorities. Listening to the voices of these stakeholders makes development practitioners and project teams recognize how participatory designs may work as expected – or not – in a specific context.

When in the eye of a storm….

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
Abandoned fishing boats lay on the banks of the dried Siyambalankkatuwa reservoir in Sri Lanka's Puttalam District, Aug. 10, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Amantha Perera
Abandoned fishing boats lay on the banks of the dried Siyambalankkatuwa reservoir in Sri Lanka's Puttalam District, Aug. 10, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Amantha Perera
This year, yet again, flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains came and receded. Meanwhile, this year alone, more than one million people have been hard hit by the worst drought in 40 years.
 
The media, with few exceptions, have moved on to other topics and a sense of calm pervades. 
 
We are in the eye of the storm -- that misleading lull before mother nature unleashes her fury once again. 
 
In Sri Lanka alone, costs from natural disasters, losses from damage to housing, infrastructure, agriculture, and from relief are estimated at LKR 50 billion (approx. USD 327 million).  The highest annual expected losses are from floods (LKR 32 billion), cyclones or high winds (LKR 11 billion), droughts (LKR 5.2 billion) and landslides (LKR 1.8 billion). This is equivalent to 0.4 percent of GDP or 2.1 percent of government expenditure. (#SLDU2017). Floods and landslides in May 2016 caused damages amounting to US$572 million.   
 
These numbers do not paint the full picture of impact for those most affected, who lost loved ones, irreplaceable belongings, or livestock and more so for those who are back to square one on the socio-economic ladder.
 
Even more alarming, these numbers are likely to rise as droughts and floods triggered by climate change will become more frequent and severe. And the brief respite in between will only get shorter, leaving less time to prepare for the hard days to come.
 
Therefore, better planning is even more necessary. Sri Lanka, like many other countries has started to invest in data that highlights areas at risk, and early warning systems to ensure that people move to safer locations with speed and effect.
 
Experience demonstrates that the eye of the storm is the time to look to the future, ready up citizens and institutions in case of extreme weather.
 
Now is the time to double down on preparing national plans to respond to disasters and build resilience. 

It’s the time to test our systems and get all citizens familiar with emergency drills. But, more importantly, we need to build back better and stronger.  In drought-affected areas, we can’t wait for the rains and revert to the same old farming practices. It’s time to innovate and stock up on critical supplies and be prepared when a disaster hits.
 
It’s the time to plan for better shelters that are safe and where people can store their hard-earned possessions.
 
Mobilizing and empowering communities is essential. But to do this, we must know who is vulnerable – and whether they should stay or move.  Saving lives is first priority, no doubt. Second, we should also have the necessary systems and equipment to respond with speed and effect in times of disasters. Third, a plan must be in place to help affected families without much delay.
 
Fortunately, many ongoing initiatives aim to do just that.

And a river runs through it

Atul Agarwal's picture

Integrating the Brahmaputra’s innumerable ferries into Assam’s wider transport network

Anyone who has visited Assam cannot help but be struck by the mighty Brahmaputra. The river straddles the state like a colossus, coursing through its heart, and severing it two - the northern and southern banks. During the monsoon, so vast is the river’s expanse - almost 20 km in parts - that you cannot see the other side. So fearsome are its waters that the Brahmaputra is India’s only river with a masculine name; all the others have feminine appellations. Yet, just four bridges, including India’s longest bridge that was recently inaugurated on its tributary the Lohit - and one more under construction - span the state’s entire 900 km stretch of river.
 
Given this formidable natural barrier, most of Assam’s towns have developed on the river’s southern flank, where the plains are wider. With little connectivity, the northern side remains cut off from the mainstream, and is largely underdeveloped.


 
What’s more, the small communities living on the river’s hundred or so inhabited islands remain isolated. It can be quite frustrating to see a school or a medical center on the other side and not be able to access it! Only Majuli, the world’s largest riverine island and an administrative district by itself, supports schools and some form of medical facilities for its more than 100,000 residents.

Sri Lankan Winners and exciting news: #StoriesfromLKA photo contest!

Tashaya Anuki Premachandra's picture

The three winning pictures of the online campaign #StoriesfromLKA

World Bank Sri Lanka launched an online campaign titled #StoriesfromLKA during the month of June celebrating World Environment day “Connecting People to Nature”. The campaign included online interactions to learn about World Bank operations related to the environment and a photo competition to appreciate the natural beauty of Sri Lanka that needs to be preserved while Sri Lanka pursues a development drive.
This competition began on the 21st of June and aimed at showcasing the many talented photographers from Sri Lanka as well as celebrating the rich flora and fauna of the country. After the contest ended on June 30th, 167 entries were shortlisted. We asked you which photos were your favorites and you voted on your selections through social media. Your votes helped us narrow down the top three winners, here they are:

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