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South Asia

Moving towards a 'Digital Bangladesh'

Rubaba Anwar's picture

“My country finally owns me!" was the delighted reaction from a high level private sector official to the possibility of a national identity system in Bangladesh. A lot of brain-wracking thought went into the possible economic benefits of such a project.

The sleepless nights of complicated financial analyses and exasperatingly fruitless brainstorming sessions that reach a point when you are not willing to say anything until you find something that will make the rest of them jump on their chairs, make things very difficult sometimes! But, the answer was there, short and simple. Such a refreshing start to an interview for the purpose of identifying the probable benefits to service delivery agencies of having access to a near-immaculate database of citizens, was hardly anticipated.

Rolling out robust, digitized national ID (NID) cards to 100 million citizens over a period of five years is the daunting task ahead for Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) Project. One may argue about the novelty offered by this initiative when Bangladeshi citizens with voting eligibility actually have NIDs since late 2008. A solid counter argument would be the “digitized nature” of the sophisticated NIDs of ‘digital Bangladesh’, enabling machine readability of biometric citizen information embedded in the card, as a replacement of the paper based, easily faked cards with little printed information and near-alien photos that gave rise to popular groups like I hate my NID photo” on Facebook!

Social Contracts Promoting Bangladesh Local Governance: Learning From the Field

Nilufar Ahmad's picture

Under the Bangladesh Local Governance program, social audits are being conducted in Union Parishads (UPs) for strengthening social contract between the citizens and their local governments. A weekly TV program "Amader Union" or Our Union was launched by TV Journalist Shykh Seraj, who is documenting and broadcasting these social audits. This is generating lot of interest among both rural and urban citizens. The UP functionaries are also keen to participate in these social audits, so as to showcase their good work and responsiveness to citizens.

I observed a social audit in March 2011 on a LGSP scheme (a 350 feet rural road with brick-soiling in Sarabo Mouza, Kashimpur UP, Gazipur district) conducted by the citizen group (CG). The CG conducted a social audit at the local market by this road. The CG put a large poster detailing the Community Score card (CSC), that had questions and possible responses indicated by symbols. Symbols were used as a large number of rural poor are illiterate. The scores are given over a total number of 100, so that people can distinguish bad performance (below 40%), medium (60%) and good (80% or more).

Tuberculosis: A Pre-Historic Disease in Modern Times

Saurabh Mishra's picture

We will not make any serious inroads to reduce incidence unless we address poverty, crowding and stigma.

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a social disease and a syndrome of poverty. The epidemic has evolved and so has its treatment, yet TB mortality cases are reported to almost two million people around different pockets of the world. It was a standard epidemic since antiquity and continues to infect at least nine million new individuals in the first decade of the 21st century.

Historically, TB has been one of the major causes of mortality worldwide and as recently as 2009 claimed approximately 1.7 million lives globally. Approximately 11-13 percent of these individuals are also HIV positive and of these, almost 80 percent reside in the African continent. However, incidence rates are falling globally very slowly in five of WHO’s (World Health Organization) highlighted regions. The exception to this is the South and South East Asia belt where the incidence is stable. These facts demonstrate that the race is being won in some quarters but the finishing line is still a mere dot in the horizon.

Bravo Bangladesh! Instilling a Culture of Results

Naomi Ahmad's picture

My village is beautiful and I have lived here all my life. Even though life can be hard, I don’t want to go away.” Eight-year-old Zannati lives on the front lines of climate change in her cyclone-ravaged coastal village of Nishanbaria on the Bay of Bengal. When she speaks, you feel her determination and see the fire in her eyes.

The embankment holding back the sea, part of 480 kms of embankment repaired and reconstructed by the World Bank, is the only protection her village has from cyclones.

Shabash Bangladesh (Bravo Bangladesh) – a photo exhibition showcasing development results in Bangladesh – tells the story of Zannati and many other Bangladeshis, serving as a visual backdrop to the first Country Performance and Results Review (CPRR) in Dhaka on April 13, 2011.

The CPRR was the first high-level review to take stock of the results being achieved under the Bank’s FY11-14 Country Assistance Strategy (CAS). This event was part of wider efforts to instill a results culture across the Bangladesh program, from the project level during implementation support, to the portfolio and strategy levels. It was also an important step in enhancing the Bank’s accountability for results.

Pakistan: Resilience in the Face of Adversity

South Asia's picture

Zafar is among millions of Pakistanis who do not give up hope in the face of adversity, and the harder the challenge, the more resolute they become in overcoming it. Zafar belongs to Utror, a back-of-beyond place in Pakistan’s north-west. Situated in one of the more inaccessible valleys of Swat in the Kyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the inhabitants of Utror could only dream of having electricity till Zafar, one of their own, returned home with skills of an electrician honed in Punjab where he had gone in search of education.

Bangladesh: Mapping climate change and food security

South Asia's picture

Bangladesh food security projectBangladesh can be described as “ground zero” at the intersection of climate change and food security.

The country is widely recognized as one of the places most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate, which strains food systems alongside rapidly growing and urbanizing populations. Yet, despite these dual challenges, the World Bank expects Bangladesh will meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.

Given the impact of the global food crisis and numerous natural disasters, how is Bangladesh managing this feat? And can we map the country’s progress?

Will Possible Labor Policies by Gulf Countries Affect Remittances to South Asia?

Ceren Ozer's picture

My entry last week gave a quick profile of the South Asian overseas workers and discussed the crucial role of remittances received from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman) for South Asian economies. Today I’d like to discuss whether changes in the labor market policies of the GCC countries could jeopardize job prospects for South Asian migrant workers.

Creating jobs for GCC citizens is already on the top of the agenda in some of these countries and is bound to gain more momentum with the youth bulge. Efforts to create jobs for nationals through the “nationalization of the labor market” have been further intensified as a response to the recent events in the Middle East. Across the GCC, additional policy measures are being announced highlighting the need to replace expats with nationals in private and public sector. These messages have been the strongest in Saudi Arabia, but also in the U.A.E. and Kuwait.

Results-Based Projects: Insights from the Frontline (Part I)

Dhushyanth Raju's picture

Projects supported by results-based loans—of the breed of the current projects in education in Pakistan and counterparts in the Latin American and Caribbean region—are increasingly seen as a promising way for raising the effectiveness of Bank lending. In a seminar recently organized by the South Asia region, a proposal that such projects should be set as the default choice and quickly become the lion’s share in the region’s lending portfolio resonated widely with the participants.

While, in principle, linking loan disbursements to the achievement of results seems desirable, this step by itself may not be enough for project success. In this entry, and ones to follow, learning from the Pakistan results-based projects in education, I provide some insights on considerations that may increase the likelihood that such projects succeed. Some of these insights may also be relevant for other types of projects.

Will recent events in the Middle East Affect Remittance Flows to South Asia?

Ceren Ozer's picture

For countries with substantial numbers of workers in the Middle East, recent events have not only raised concerns for the repatriation and welfare of their citizens, but have also raised fears of a possible slowdown in remittances. Will remittance flows noticeably decrease due to recent events in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia?

For South Asian countries, remittances are among the largest and most stable sources of foreign exchange and their developmental impact have been remarkable. For example, in Nepal national poverty level has come down from 42% to 31% during 1996 to 2004, and to 21% today, largely on the account of remittances which finance household consumption as well as education and health expenditures. Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, were among the top 15 remittance recipients in 2009—with inflows being equivalent to 24% of the GDP in Nepal, 12% in Bangladesh, 8% in Sri Lanka, 5% in Pakistan and 4% in India.

Gulf States employ more than 11 million expatriate workers, an estimated 8 million or more from South and East Asian countries. Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, and Qatar are top destination for South Asian migrants and are main sources of remittance inflows. The table as well as the country profiles below demonstrates the sheer magnitude of migrant workers in the Arab Gulf countries and their contributions to the labor force; sometimes greater in overall numbers and proportion than the respective labor force in the countries.

Solar Home Systems: Lighting up Bangladesh's Countryside

Naomi Ahmad's picture

Lives no longer interrupted by the setting sun…

We were walking towards the small bridge over the canal. The sun had already set and dusk was gradually fading into darkness. The winter air was quiet and still. Approaching the highest point of the bridge, I could sense the excitement in our quickening footsteps - we were almost there.

The project officials had told us that we could see it all, if we stood and looked out from the highest point of the bridge. So we leaned over the railings and waited, straining to see. But there was nothing – just the fuzzy darkness, gradually thickening and settling quietly on the land. I was left wondering whether we were just on a wild goose chase.

Then down below, a faint light suddenly flickered to life. A bulb was turned on in the darkness. Then another glowed – and yet another! In a few minutes, the area lying below us was glimmering with the tiny dots of faint white light bulbs. And from our high vantage point we could clearly see that the sleepy little rural marketplace - Garjon Bunia Bazaar – had woken up; ready for another evening.

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