Imagine you are an ER doctor trying to treat a very ill patient who has no medical history and only a vague recollection of symptoms. What would you do if you were the doctor? Trust your gut? Trust that the patient has chronicled his symptoms accurately enough to warrant an accurate diagnosis? This is perhaps how policymakers and aid workers felt back in 2001 when they were deciding where to begin the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Last week, I discussed the optimistic and pessimistic views of South Asia's development potential. As I highlighted in my book, Reshaping Tomorrow, South Asia is among the fastest growing regions in the world, but it is also home to the largest concentration of people living in conditions of debilitating poverty, human misery, gender disparities, and conflict.
I also ask if South Asia is Ready for the Big Leap. The optimistic view is that India will achieve double-digit growth rates benefiting the rest of South Asia. The pessimistic view is that growth will be derailed by structural and transformational challenges. In this entry, I will make some suggestions on how South Asia could realize the optimistic view.
What can be done?
Five years ago, M. Revathy was a single mother abandoned by her husband, living in the small town of Tirunellikaval in Tamil Nadu. She is high school educated but was unable to find any employment except in a loom in her town. She was paid a pittance there and had the status of a bonded laborer. Today, she has her own loom at home and sells her saris at a good price to the wholesale market. She has a smile on her face as she says proudly that she sends her three sons to school and supports them and her father on her income.
Revathy was one of the women identified under the Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project, 75% funded ($274 million) by the World Bank a few years ago. This project called Pudhu Vaazhvu (meaning New Life) has given a livelihood, and hope for thousands of women, unemployed youth and the differently abled in the state and has also been recognized by the World Bank as one of the best such projects in the world.
What is the account penetration among women in South Asia? Has the spread of bank agents affected how adults do their banking in Bangladesh and Nepal? How are people all over South Asia saving, borrowing, making payments and managing risk?
In the past, the view of financial inclusion in SAR has been incomplete, and the details unsatisfying. A patchwork of data from diverse and often incompatible household and central bank surveys was the only information available with which to construct a regional picture.
With the release of the Global Financial Inclusion Indicators (Global Findex) we now have a comprehensive, individual-level, and publicly-available database that allows for comparisons across 148 economies of how adults around the world manage their daily finances and plan for the future. The Global Findex database also identifies barriers to financial inclusion, such as cost, travel time, distance, amount of paper work, and income inequality.
Leveraging Technology and Partnerships to Promote Equity in South Asia
Wednesday, April 18 at 9:00AM
The Next South Asia Regional Flagship on equity and development (March 2013) will feature an eBook which will combine interactive multimedia as a part of the World Bank Open Data and Open Knowledge initiatives. This signals a new era in development analysis is produced and shared.
Please RSVP to Alison at email@example.com by Tuesday, April 17th to attend.
Twitter hashtag: #wbequity
Breaking Down Barriers: A New Dawn on Trade and Regional Cooperation in South Asia
Thursday, April 19 at 3:00PM
For the first time ever, more than one million households ravaged by the devastating floods of 2010 are being uplifted through a unique cash transfer approach in Pakistan, employing innovative use of payment technology, control and accountability mechanisms, making it possible to give back to the flood-affected families their right to life!
Sima is a chairperson of Ghoryan Women Saffron Association. Her association was formed by the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) and received a small grant to help improve their post-harvest processing. The women purchased a saffron drier and learned post-harvest processing, including hygiene, grading, sorting, and packaging. They identified two women trainers to ensure quality control. In 2010, the association doubled saffron production, and the sales price increased by almost 110 percent. From the user fee, the women saved Af 108,700 (approximately US$ 2,100) and plan to buy another drier. “Men now make tea for their wives, when we are busy during the saffron season,” Sima says.
Trade relations between India and Pakistan appear set to improve significantly with Pakistan likely to grant India Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. The potential gains from easier trading relations are considerable for both countries. In 2009-10, official trade between the two stood at $2 billion. Studies suggest this volume could be much higher, absent formal and informal barriers. For instance, a recent SAARC report estimates trade potential to be $12 billion.
What exactly does MFN status mean?
All WTO members are bound to grant MFN treatment to member countries with respect to trade in goods. India granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996, but Pakistan held back, citing strategic considerations. Despite granting Pakistan MFN status, India continued to impose high tariffs on goods of interest to Pakistan—textiles and leather. Thus, merely according MFN status does not imply easier trade. So, does Pakistan’s offer matter? Yes, it does. It signals enthusiasm, goodwill, and a keenness to build peaceful and productive economic and political relations in the region.
Where will the gains come from?
Let’s be honest. As a youth growing up in Nepal, it is sometimes very hard to get people – and by people I mean seniors in decision-making positions - to take you seriously. It is even more difficult to get them to listen to your ideas or acknowledge you as an important demographic, capable of more than burning tires and picketing politicians.
In the one week I spent in Washington DC, at the World Bank and IMF annual meetings, rushing madly between meetings, presentations, discussion forums and Indian restaurants, I learnt that this deep-rooted attitude is changing. And fast.
Maybe it is the Arab Spring. Maybe it is the realization that without embracing youth into the South Asian market economy, we will have made zero progress in terms of development even ten years down the line. Or maybe, it just makes sense – maybe we are finally realizing the inherent interconnectedness in our world. Realizing that one project from a little village in Nepal is directly linked to the socio-economic structure of our communities, countries and regions.
It is India’s future that keeps Mr. Kapil Sibal, India’s Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister, awake. Last week, the World Bank hosted Mr. Kapil Sibal who spoke to a 120 strong crowd about “India and the World – Lessons Learnt and Contributions Towards the Global Knowledge Economy. “ During the lively discussion chaired by World Bank’s Tamar Manuelyan Atinc (Human Development Network Vice President) and moderated by Michal Rutkowski (South Asia Human Development Director. Mr. Sibal highlighted how India can contribute to the global knowledge economy.
Mr. Sibal, a well known Indian politician, is famous for his effort in enacting the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, which provides every child between 6-14 years free and compulsory education. With so many challenging issues to be solved for education in India, I was impressed with what Mr. Sibal has implemented so far as well as his grand vision for leading the country to achieve continued growth and prosperity.