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South Asia

The Value of Connected Savings

Daniel Radcliffe's picture

The business case for low-balance savings is tough, as the margin on float may not amount to much. In much of South Asia, the economics of savings for the poor has been buttressed by microcredit – the notion that the account anchors the customer relationship and the loan gives it profitability. But financial inclusion premised on credit is always going to leave some people behind: those who do not feel like credit is the right financial tool for them or who simply do not have the ability to commit to future payment streams.

A new vision is emerging around integrating the savings proposition into a broader payments network. Offering “connected savings” accounts rather than stand-alone accounts helps the economics of low-balance savings in three ways:

Capitalizing on the Demographic Transition

Michael Engelgau's picture

For decades, the leading causes of mortality have differed between low income countries and high income countries. Those who have worked their careers in health and development probably never thought they would see the day when maternal/child health and communicable diseases would not be the leading health burden in many low income countries.

The new actor is non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are characterized by chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease), along with injury and mental health which are now responsible for half the health burden in South Asia. Thus, the challenge now is how best to juggle this “double burden”.

Currently, many compelling reasons are pushing countries toward starting to tackle NCDs. From both a social and political standpoint, South Asians are 6 years younger than those in the rest of the world at their first heart attack. This type of trend threatens a country’s ability to fully capitalize on the demographic dividend from a larger mature working force because healthy aging is necessary, which in turn, requires tackling NCDs.

Racing to the Top at Economic Students Meet

Joe Qian's picture

An unmistakable sense of achievement and enthusiasm emanated through the halls of the 7th South Asia Economics Student Meet held in Colombo, Sri Lanka last month. The theme of Economic Freedom and Poverty Reduction in South Asia brought together 192 of the top economics undergraduates from universities throughout the region to showcase their economic knowledge and talent.

Demonstrating superior knowledge, creativity, and critical thinking skills; the participants exchanged ingenious ideas in exploring creative solutions to regional economic challenges while making new friendships to pave the way for greater mutual learning as emerging leaders and future policy makers.

Students from universities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka participated in the 3-day conference focusing on economic freedom. As Professor Bishwambher Pyakuryal from Tribhuvan University in Nepal noted, “countries with higher degrees of economic freedom also tend to have higher incomes and levels of development.”

Gender and Climate Change: Myth vs. Reality

Nilufar Ahmad's picture

This season in Bangladesh marks the 40th anniversary of the 1970 cyclone which ravaged the southern coast and killed over half a million people, decimated the homes of countless families, destroyed millions of livestock, key infrastructure, and damaged productive land. The recent cyclones Sidr in 2007 and Aila in 2008 also claimed the lives of over 3000 people each, leaving millions of poor more vulnerable to climate change than ever before. In the wake of all these cyclones, questions were raised about how to build resilience to climate change impacts without compromising national development goals. Is Bangladesh developing differently? What lessons can be learned from experience of Bangladesh to reframe development and climate action as mutually supportive objectives?

Bangladesh Local Governance in Practice: Journalists Strengthen Citizens’ Voice

Nilufar Ahmad's picture

The Bangladesh Non-lending Technical Assistance on Local Governance (NLTA) is a policy and technical assistance instrument of the World Bank complementing the Bangladesh Local Governance Support Project (LGSP) that has been supporting the Union Parishad (UP), the rural local government since 2006. The NLTA, supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), Norway and AusAID, is broadening the dialog on decentralization, strengthening intergovernmental frameworks, and enhancing downward accountability and citizen’s voice in local governance.

Under the NLTA program, one journalist from each of 64 district press clubs was trained in LGSP rules and social accountability process and established a Local Governance Journalist Network (LGJN) in early 2009. This network of journalist is carrying out investigative reports as “third party monitors” on the implementation of LGSP. They are also facilitating local level dialogues between UPs and communities; facilitating citizen’s to hold the UP accountable.

Budding Economists Showcase Regional Cooperation

Dulanii Liyanahetti's picture

It was a cold evening back in 2004 when a few students and professors of Ramjas College of the University of Delhi got together and initiated an idea that would form the basis for improving regional cooperation among South Asian countries. South Asia has many things in common, and is affected by diverse sets of issues that require cooperation to solve. Under this premise, the South Asian Economics Students’ Meet (popularly known as SAESM) came to life with valuable contributions made by five leading South Asian Universities offering Economics Degrees; the University of Delhi in India; Lahore School of Management Sciences in Pakistan; University of Dhaka in Bangladesh; University of Colombo in Sri Lanka and Tribhuvan University in Nepal.

Bangladesh Local Governance at Work: Learning from the Field

Nilufar Ahmad's picture

The Local Governance Support Project (LGSP) is the centrepiece of a broader program to strengthen accountable forms of local governance across Bangladesh. The LGSP provided matching grants and capacity building support to Union Parishads (UPs), which is the lowest tier of rural local government bodies. The project was initiated in July 2006 and in the final year (FY11), it has covered nearly 97% of the 4500 UPs. Each year the UPs are audited, and those that receive a clean audit received an expanded block grant. The LGSP is the first project of its kind in Bangladesh that supported systemic, country-wide reforms in the system of local governance.

Setting the Stage for Making Public Money Count

Rubaba Anwar's picture

Sitting out in the sun, in the middle of a public school premises, I intently looked at a woman clad in a patchy orange saree carrying a lean child on her lap. It was hard not to wonder whether her bare five years of primary school education really helped her understand public financial management! Indeed I was wrong. It was the sheer urge of entertainment and not curiosity about public financial management that drew her, and many more like her, to the premises of a government owned school in Hazaribaag, near the Beribaad, Mirpur area of Dhaka.

Little Drops of Water Make the Mighty Ocean…

Naomi Ahmad's picture

Saving Electricity–One Bulb at a Time!

Waiting in line to exchange lightbulbs

On a crisp October morning, all across Bangladesh in 39 districts, they flocked to their nearest schools and community centers, clutching their electricity bills and carrying small bags of used incandescent bulbs. There was much excitement and curiosity in the air – people stood in long snaking queues, gathered to chit-chat and watch what was going on. Men, women and even children waited patiently; expectantly.

They were waiting for the second round of free distribution of energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to begin.

CFLs consume one-fifth energy compared to regular bulbs. At a time when Bangladesh’s power generation capacity is much below the energy demand, using CFLs can significantly help in reducing peak electricity demand.

This is great news for the energy starved people of Bangladesh, many of whom have to endure hours of power cuts every day. During peak hours, the country faces electricity shortages of about 1,500-2,000 MW. In some areas, this means power cuts for at least 6 - 8 hours a day! Using CFLs will save electricity and help the people cut back on their electricity bills.

How Can Poverty Mapping Support Development in Bhutan?

Andy Kotikula's picture

As my plane glides over the lush, green forest on the side of the mountains and descends into the narrow valley where the airport is located, I start to feel ...happy? Yes, happiness is the motto of the country of Bhutan—which is actually a kingdom. Interestingly, Bhutan is known for its development philosophy of Gross National Happiness.

While working to finalize the poverty mapping work that our World Bank team has been collaborating on with Bhutan’s National Statistics Bureau (NSB) and the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), I realized that I am happy not just because I have had the opportunity to be in such a beautiful place, but also as I have had the chance to work with some highly dedicated, capable (and yes, happy!) civil servants.

The poverty-mapping exercise in Bhutan was carried out by a joint team of staff members from the NSB and the World Bank. The team uses a “Small Area Estimation” method developed by Elbers et al. (2003) . This method uses both the 2005 Population Census and the 2007 household living standard survey (BLSS) to produce reliable poverty estimates at lower levels of disaggregation than existing survey data permits. In the case of Bhutan, the team managed to come up with reliable poverty estimates at the sub-district (known as Gewog in Bhutan) level .This work was also supported in part by AusAID through the South Asia Policy Facility for Decentralization and Service Delivery. 

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