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Education

Reforms Sri Lanka needs to boost its economy

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
 Joe Qian/World Bank
The Colombo Stock Exchange. Credit: Joe Qian/World Bank

Many Sri Lankans understand the potential benefits of lowering trade costs and making their country more competitive in the global economy. The majority, however, fear increased competition, the unfair advantage of the private sector from abroad and limited skills and innovation to compete.

Yet, Sri Lanka’s aspirations cannot be realized in the current status quo.  

While changes in trade policies and regulations will undeniably improve the lives of most citizens, I’m mindful that some are likely to lose. However, many potential gainers of the reforms who are currently opposed to them are unaware of their benefits.

Implementing smart reforms means that government funds will be used more effectively for the people, improve access to better healthcare, education, basic infrastructure and provide Sri Lankans with opportunities to get more and better jobs. Let me focus on a few reforms that I believe are critical for the country.  First, Sri Lanka needs to seek growth opportunities and foreign investment beyond its borders.    

First, Sri Lanka needs to seek growth opportunities and foreign investment beyond its borders.

Experience shows that no country in the world today has been able to create opportunities for its population entirely within its own geographic boundaries. To succeed in this open environment, Sri Lanka will need to improve its skills base, better understand supply and demand chains as well as produce higher quality goods and services

Experience shows that no country in the world today has been able to create opportunities for its population entirely within its own geographic boundaries. To succeed in this open environment, Sri Lanka will need to improve its skills base, better understand supply and demand chains as well as produce higher quality goods and services.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

How can digital technology transform lives and improve opportunities in Bhutan?

Yoichiro Ishihara's picture
Tech Park
The recently opened Thimphu tech park – Bhutan’s first IT park -

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country located high in the eastern Himalayan mountain range with its population 760,000. Up until about 20 years ago, the country was isolated from the world; Bhutan’s first ever television broadcast occurred in 1999. Since then, information communications technology (ICT) has made rapid advancement. Mobile subscriptions increased from 0.4 per 100 people in 2003 to 87 in 2015. The proportion of people using the internet have increased from 0.1% in 1999 to 40% in 2015. Today, all 20 districts and 201 (out of 205) sub-districts are connected through fiber optic cables.

The World Bank’s 2016 World Development Report on “
Digital Dividends” argues that digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery. Use of ICT for development is especially applicable to small states with populations of less than 1.5 million. Another report, “World Bank Group Engagement with Small States” finds that ICT investments can help reduce economic isolation, lessen barriers to trade, promote tourism, and improve mobility. These messages are highly relevant to Bhutan today.

The Government has enthusiastically adopted the use ICT to improve its services to its citizens as described in Bhutan ICT Roadmap and Bhutan E-Government Masterplan. The Government to Citizen (G2C) program, launched in 2005, provides a one-stop-shop for more than 100 services such as procuring a passport. The national ePayment Gateway Infrastructure, established by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), the central bank, has enabled citizens to pay for some public services online. Recently, the National Land Commission (NLC) launched eCitizen Portal - an online one-stop shop for transferring property titles online. This has reduced the number of days to transfer ownership of a property from 90 days to 62 days in the capital, Thimphu. More importantly, the NLC is reaching out to the private sector to seek feedback on how to improve its usability by piloting a feedback survey using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) tool for the first time in Bhutan. The government has also introduced an electronic government procurement system (e-GP) to make optimal use of resources. Given the size of the budget (exceeding 30 percent of GDP), the adoption of e-GP will contribute to effective use of public resources. The World Bank Group has been supporting these efforts through various instruments such as the second Development Policy Credit: Fiscal Sustainability and Investment Climate, which helped get the eCitizen Portal off the ground.

A path toward better health for India’s women

Parvati Singh's picture
 World Bank
In India, Members of a self-help group (SHG) like this one discuss women’s  health issues with female health workers. Credit: World Bank

A little over six years ago, Neelam Kushwaha’s first daughter was born weighing 900 gm at birth, severely underweight. Neelam went into labor while working at the local construction site in Jori village, Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, India. Many people work at such local construction sites in rural areas for daily wages ranging from INR 150-280 (about $2- 4$) per day. Her daughter Manvi, was preterm, and Neelam spent months recovering from child birth complications.

Three years later, when Neelam was pregnant with her younger daughter, Sakshi, she quit wage labor and sought employment at an incense manufacturing unit established by World Bank’s Madhya Pradesh District Poverty Intervention Project (MPDPIP) in 2011. At her new role, she earned more and did not engage in labor intensive work during the final months of her pregnancy. Sakshi was born a healthy 3 kilos.

In the course of my field work supported by South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI) in 2015, I came across several similar stories.

MPDPIP’s livelihood based approach offered several opportunities towards income supplementation for women self-help groups (SHGs) and rural households through agriculture, dairy/poultry farming and local enterprises, among others.

As evident by Neelam’s experience, MPDPIP’s benefits went beyond income and spilled over into health improvement as well.

I learnt that prior to MPDPIP, childbirth in hospitals was difficult due to prohibitively high costs of travel and hospital stay. Pre-existing government schemes such as the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) offer about INR 1,400 ($20) to rural women who opt for hospital deliveries. However, this payment occurs post-partum, and pre-delivery costs have to be borne upfront by pregnant women.

Post MPDPIP, women were able to opt for hospital deliveries with greater ease due to access to credit from their SHGs. This is particularly relevant for Madhya Pradesh as it has consistently fared poorly with respect to institutional deliveries.

Afghanistan’s energy sector leads the way for gender equality

World Bank Afghanistan's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
 Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank
Afghanistan's power utility (DABS) has recently taken steps necessary to ensure that women are involved in all business operations within the organization. Photo: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank


In Afghanistan, decades of violence, common discriminatory practices, and cultural barriers, including restrictions on mobility, have denied women job opportunities and left them severely underrepresented in all sectors of society.
 
Despite considerable achievements in the last decade, such as the national Constitution guaranteeing equal rights as well as increased enrollment in public schools and universities, achieving gender equality will require widespread social changes.
 
Yet, change is happening and Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), Afghanistan’s national power utility, is showing the way.
 
With a workforce of about 7,000, the company employs only 218 women, most of whom at a junior support level. However, under the leadership of its new CEO, DABS management has committed to promoting gender equality.
 
The Planning and Capacity Support Project of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), managed by the World Bank, is helping DABS deliver on that commitment. The project organized awareness sessions for DABS staff on gender-related issues and provided specialized training to female employees. DABS has committed to providing internships to female university graduates to ensure women can find job opportunities and fully participate in the energy sector.
 
Realizing that the majority of its female staff lacked the confidence to compete with men, DABS is facilitating access to new job opportunities for women employees and has taken steps to ensure that women are involved in all business operations within the organization.

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