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Our commitment to the people of Afghanistan stays strong

Annette Dixon's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Despite government efforts with support from the international community, Afghanistan's development needs remain massive. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

I am still shaken and saddened by the many lives lost to the attacks in Kabul two weeks ago and since then there has been more violence. As we grieve these tragedies, now is the time to stand strong with the people of Afghanistan and renew our commitment to build a peaceful and prosperous country.

To that end, we announced this week a new financing package of more than half-a-billion dollars to help Afghanistan through its struggle to end poverty, increase opportunity to help stabilize the country, and ensure all its citizens can access basic services during a time of economic uncertainty.

Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001 and achieved much progress under extremely challenging circumstances. Life expectancy has increased from 44 to 60 years, maternal mortality has decreased by more than three quarters and the country now boasts 18 million mobile phone subscribers, up from almost none in 2001.

Yet, the development needs in Afghanistan remain massive. Nearly 40 percent of Afghans live in poverty and almost 70 percent of the population are illiterate. The country needs to create new jobs for about 400,000 people entering the labor market each year. The situation is made more challenging by the return of around 5.8 million refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced people.

Our new support is in line with our belief that Afghanistan’s economic and social progress can also help it address security challenges.  Our financing package meets the pressing needs of returning refugees, expands private-sector opportunities for the poor, boosts the development of five cities, expands electrification, improves food security, and builds rural roads.

Good luck and good policies

Frederico Gil Sander's picture

In Brazil, where I come from, we are crazy about football, so I grew up listening to football matches. At the end of a match, the reporters would interview the main scorer of the day, who would often say that he was just lucky to receive the ball at the right place.
 
The commentator would then say that “good luck is a combination of ability and opportunity”. This story comes to mind when thinking of India’s economy over the past two years.
 
India has been lucky indeed. In the fiscal year ending March 2016 (FY16), the sharp decline in oil prices generated what economists call a positive “terms-of-trade” shock, which lifted growth.
 
A terms-of-trade shock means that the things you buy suddenly become cheaper relative to the things you sell, allowing you to buy more things.


 
In the fiscal year that just ended, CSO data that was released recently shows that the good monsoons helped agriculture propel growth. Notwithstanding disruption from demonetization, agricultural wages have continued to grow, along with their purchasing power as rural inflation declined.

But India has also implemented good policies, which allowed it to take advantage of the external shocks. The government took advantage of declining oil prices to eliminate fuel subsidies and hike taxes on carbon-emitting petroleum products, a win for the environment and a win for the exchequer.

Agriculture: An opportunity for better jobs for Afghanistan’s youth

Izabela Leao's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو

 

Pashtuna, a poultry farmer and beneficiary of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project. Credit: Izabela Leao / World Bank

“I was a completely broken person before, a person who was not able to confront the hardship of life,” says Pashtuna, a 32-year-old poultry farmer who lives in the Herat province with her husband and five children.

A beneficiary of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project  she decided to attend the Farmers Field School. Upon completion of her training, she received 100 laying hens and access to equipment, feed, and animal vaccines. Pashtuna was able to maintain 80 laying hens and generated a AFN 560 income, half of which she kept to buy poultry food. “Thanks to the poultry farm and the grace of God, I can afford my life and I have a bright vision for my family future,” she says. 

Revitalizing agriculture and creating agriculture jobs is a priority for the Government of Afghanistan and the World Bank Group as the sector can play an important role in reducing poverty and sustaining inclusive growth.

Until the late 1970s, Afghanistan was one of the world’s top producer of horticultural products and supplied 20 percent of the raisins on the global market. The country held a dominant position in pistachio and dried fruit production, and exported livestock and wool products to regional markets.

Unfortunately, decades of conflict destroyed much of Afghanistan’s agricultural infrastructure. The last fifteen years, however, have witnessed positive and inspiring changes in the lives of Afghan farmers, such as Pashtuna.

While focusing on rebuilding infrastructure, reorganizing farming communities and identifying vulnerabilities and opportunities, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) has brought new ideas and innovations to the agriculture sector in Afghanistan.

“Over the past five years, important changes in the practice and direction of agriculture have demanded greater expectation on performance and responsiveness of our Ministry, as well as other institutions of the government,” explains Assadullah Zamir, Afghanistan’s Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. “And the demand by women and men farmers, who have discovered the potential of improved methods of growing fruits and vegetables and producing livestock, has been recasting the relationships between MAIL and our clients, the farmers.”

Celebrating 15 Years of reengagement in Afghanistan

Raouf Zia's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو




Shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979, the World Bank suspended its operations in Afghanistan. Work resumed in May 2002 to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest people and assist the government in building strong and accountable institutions to deliver services to its citizens.

As we mark the reopening of the World Bank office in Kabul 15 years ago, here are 15 highlights of our engagement in the country:

Three key policies to boost performance of South Asia’s ports

Matias Herrera Dappe's picture



In a previous blog
we related how South Asia as a whole had improved the performance of its container ports since 2000 but had still struggled to catch up with other developed and developing regions. But within that picture, some ports did better than others. 

For example, Colombo in Sri Lanka, the fast-expanding Mundra and Jawaharlal Nehru Port in India and Port Qasim in Pakistan all improved the use of their facilities in the first decade of this century.  India’s Mumbai and Tuticorin were among those that fell behind. Colombo also improved its operational performance by almost halving the share of idle time at berth, while Chittagong (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (India) had the longest vessel turnaround times in the region.

Knowing how specific ports perform and the characteristics of ports that perform well and those of ports that perform poorly helps policymakers design interventions to support underperforming ports.

In the report “Competitiveness of South Asia’s Container Ports” we identified three interrelated policies to improve the performance of the container ports, a key element in one of the world’s fast-growing regions: increasing private participation in ports, strengthening governance of port authorities and fostering competition between and within ports: 

South Asia’s ports: Expensive and slow

Matias Herrera Dappe's picture
 
Are South Asia’s Container Ports Competitive?


Many countries, developed and developing, that want to become more competitive in global markets tend to jump to a quick conclusion that they need to invest more in infrastructure, particularly in transport sectors like ports. But while many regions, including South Asia, do face important infrastructure gaps, massive new investment is not the only way to improve regional competitiveness. Countries should realize that they also have significant potential to make more efficient use of the infrastructure they already have.
 
Building megaports all along the coast might reduce a country’s trade costs, but it also requires hundreds of millions of dollars in investment. Improving the performance of existing ports, enabling them to handle higher levels of cargo with the same facilities and in a shorter time, can be a far more cost-effective approach to reducing transport and trade costs. Closing the infrastructure gap does not just require more infrastructure, but also better infrastructure, and better use of existing infrastructure.
 
The report Competitiveness of South Asia’s Container Ports, which we launched today, provides the first comprehensive look at the 14 largest container ports in South Asia, which handle 98 percent of the region’s container traffic. It focuses on port performance, drivers, and costs. 

What do we know about South Asian ports?

Karla Gonzalez Carvajal's picture
 
 A Comprehensive Assessment of Performance, Drivers, and Costs
Cover of the upcoming report: Competitiveness of South Asia’s Container Ports : A Comprehensive Assessment of Performance, Drivers, and Costs


The World Bank is releasing its first-ever comprehensive study of container ports in South Asia, examining the competitiveness of major ports across the region and suggesting ways they can work more efficiently to boost trade.

The report, to be formally launched on April 27, examines the performance of the ports, which handle about 75 percent of the region’s trade by value, and assesses the role that the private sector, governance, and competition have played in their development.

Trade has been key to South Asia’s remarkable economic average annual growth rate of about 6.7 percent since the beginning of the century, the second-highest in the world after East Asia.

By improving the transport infrastructure, including ports, and easing bottlenecks that hinder the flow of goods, the World Bank is helping South Asia lower its high logistics costs, capture a bigger share of the global market and create more jobs, supporting its progress toward becoming a middle-income region.   
 

How will Bangladesh reach higher levels of prosperity?

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
Bangladesh has now joined the ranks of a lower middle-income country. But the next phase of growth and poverty reduction is harder. Credit: World Bank

There is no doubt that Bangladesh is a modern day success story—a far cry from Henry Kissinger’s label of a “basket case.” Its growth has been steady, even impressive in the context of feeble global growth, and it has now joined the ranks of a lower middle-income country. Its poverty reduction record is even more impressive, with over 20.5 million people escaping poverty between 1991 and 2010.  

But the next phase of growth and poverty reduction becomes harder, since the more obvious sources of growth have largely been exploited.

In Bangladesh, an experienced – yet struggling – worker becomes an entrepreneur

Tashmina Rahman's picture
Nikhil Chandra Roy, who received certification through the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP),
Nikhil Chandra Roy, who received certification through the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP),
Skills recognition is changing the lives of informal workers in Bangladesh

In 2014, Nikhil Chandra Roy was struggling to find and keep regular employment. He had extensive experience dating back to 1977, doing the work of an electrician. But because he had no formal training or certification, Nikhil couldn’t win the confidence of employers in Bangladesh to give him anything more than episodic, relatively low-paying work.

At age 55, just as he was giving up hope for career progress, Nikhil saw an advertisement that ended up turning his outlook and life around. The ad introduced him to the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) program, aimed especially at people like Nikhil, who have real skills and experience in a particular occupation but no formal, independently recognized qualifications.

Not long later, Nikhil participated in a three-day program, which entails one day of assessment and two days of training. That led to the recognition he had long awaited and needed to boost his career: a Government-endorsed skills certification from the Bangladesh Technical Education Board (BTEB) in electrical installation and maintenance.
 
A blog series to celebrate Bangladesh’s progress
toward #ProsperBangladesh 


“From that point on,” Nikhil said, “there was no looking back. With my years of experience, knowledge and now skills certification, I was ready to progress my career from just an electrician to an entrepreneur.

Nikhil was one of the many vulnerable informal sector workers in Bangladesh who have no regular jobs and who work on ad hoc opportunities, making it difficult to sustain livelihoods. These workers, with enough experience to perform the technical work well but not the credential many jobs require, improve their employability and bargaining power in job markets when they get the proper certification. And with that certification, workers gain social status in their communities.

The RPL program, which evaluates the skills level of workers and issues government certification to workers who pass an assessment, has operated since 2014 as a pilot activity under the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP). STEP aims to give more Bangladeshis the technical skills they need to compete successfully in domestic and international labor markets.

The demand for RPL certification has been enormous. Since its inception, RPL has assessed more than 9,000 applicants from all over Bangladesh. Every month, RPL offers 600 applicants certification trainings in electrical installation and maintenance; IT support; block, boutique and screen printing; sewing machine operation; tailoring and dress making; motorcycle servicing; plumbing; and welding.

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