Syndicate content

Social Development

South Asia: A bright spot in darkening economic skies?

Hartwig Schafer's picture
South Asia is set to remain relatively insulated from some of the rising uncertainties that are looming large on the global economic horizon. The region will retain its top spot as the world’s fastest-growing region. The Siddhirganj Power Project in Bangladesh. Credit: Ismail Ferdous/World Bank

If, like me, you’re a firm believer in New Year’s resolutions, early January ushers in the prospect of renewed energy and exciting opportunities. And as tradition has it, it’s also a time to enter the prediction game.
 
Sadly, when it comes to the global economy, this year’s outlook is taking a somber turn.
 
In the aptly titled Darkening Skies, the World Bank’s new edition of its twice-a-year Global Economic Prospects report shows that risks are looming large on the economic horizon.
 
To sum up:  In emerging market and developing economies, the lingering effects of recent financial market stress on several large economies, a further deceleration in commodity exporters are likely to stall growth at a weaker-than-expected 4.2 percent this year.
 
On a positive note, South Asia is set to remain relatively insulated from some of these rising global uncertainties and will retain its top spot as the world’s fastest-growing region.
 
Bucking the global decelerating trend, growth in South Asia is expected to accelerate to 7.1 percent in 2019 from 6.9 percent in the year just ended, bolstered in part by stronger investments and robust consumption.  

Among the region’s largest economies, India is forecast to grow at 7.5 percent in fiscal year 2019-20 while Bangladesh is expected to moderate to 7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19. Sri Lanka is seen speeding up slightly to 4 percent in 2019.
 
Notably, and despite increasing conflicts and growing fragility, Afghanistan is expected to increase its growth to  2.7 percent rate this year.

In this otherwise positive outlook, Pakistan’s growth is projected to slow to 3.7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19 as the country is tightening its financial conditions to help counter rising inflation and external vulnerabilities.

However, activity is projected to rebound and average 4.6 percent over the medium term.

South Asia's new superfood or just fishy business?

Pawan Patil's picture
Across South Asia, four known species of indigenous, fully mature, small food-fish – now dubbed ‘NutriFish’ have nutritional and health benefits for pregnant and lactating women and young children when consumed over the first one thousand days. Here, children from Kothi, Odisha in India show their curiosity and share their excitement with a new kind of harvest happening in their village. Credit: Arun Padiyar
Kale, Kefir, and Quinoa have now joined the ranks of better-known foods like Blueberries, Orange Sweet Potato, and Salmon on family dinner tables across the world.

Considered superior for their health and nutrition benefits, these so-called ‘Superfoods’, often considered “new” by the public are now ever-popularized by celebrity chefs and have become all the rage of foodies from San Francisco to Singapore.   

We live in a world of paradox, where old world and almost forgotten food like Quinoa (which dates back as a staple food over three thousand years to Andean civilization but largely disappeared with the arrival of the Spanish) is now back on the menu.  

Salmon, a staple part of Nordic diets from paleolithic times and woven into the culture of native populations across northwestern Canada and many other superfoods share comparable stories.

And, there are many other old world foods, indigenously known, disappearing but not fully forgotten, yet to be re-discovered.

Food is also now advancing to the front-line of the war on poverty

A health and human capital crisis is now sweeping the world, and a lack of diverse, accessible, affordable, and available nourishing foods is increasingly blamed.  

For example, obesity, from poor diet and poor exercise has tripled since 1975 to almost two billion people today.  

Undernutrition contributes to 45 percent of all deaths of children under five years old (3.5 million each year), much of it avoidable, but difficult to detect as it remains “hidden.”  

Policy makers and stewards of national economies are starting to wake up to the fact that poor nutrition has massive economic implications too, reducing GDP by 3-11 percent, depending on the country. 

While economies such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan may look strong, just as bellies look full, critical micronutrients and vitamins, essential for healthy physical and cognitive development over the first 1,000 days of life are largely missing from diets of many developing countries and are a proven drag to educational attainment and economic prosperity.  

And parents, from both rich and poor nations alike, seem to know something is not quite right. 

If healthier food choices that are accessible, affordable, and readily available are better known, would parents purchase such food from the market for their families?     

With a small grant from the World Bank-administered South Asia Food and Nutrition Initiative (SAFANSI) supported by the EU and the United Kingdom, a partnership with WorldFish was established to test this premise.  

A 60 second TV spot, a collaboration between scientists, economists, a private sector digital media company, broadcasters and the Government of Bangladesh, was created and broadcast across the nation on two occasions and watched by over 25 million people.  

A parallel radio program was also developed and aired reaching millions more, particularly the rural poor and marginalized communities.
 
NutriFish1000 TV

 

What’s keeping Pakistan in the dark?

Fan Zhang's picture
 $18 billion in fiscal year 2015—that is 6.5 percent of the country’s economy.
Nearly  50 million Pakistanis still lack access to grid electricity. Power distortions cost Pakistan’s economy much more than previously estimated: $18 billion in fiscal year 2015—that is 6.5 percent of the country’s economy. Credit: Curt Carnemark/ World Bank

From 1990 to 2010, 91 million people In Pakistan received electricity for the first time.
 
And power outages across the country have gone down drastically over the past few years.
 
Clearly, Pakistan has achieved much progress in expanding its electricity access and production in recent decades.
 
However, nearly  50 million Pakistanis still lack access to grid electricity and the country ranks 115th among 137 economies for reliable power.
 
After peaking in 2006, per capita electricity consumption failed to grow for almost a decade, remaining only one-fifth the average for other middle-income countries in 2014.
 
To boost sustainable energy supply, Pakistan’s power sector needs urgent investments and reforms to target inefficiencies in the entire electricity supply chain.
 
Fittingly, my new report In the Dark analyzes what lies behind these inefficiencies and suggests relevant actions to improve the operation of power plants, cut down on waste and costs, and increase electricity supply in a cost-effective manner.
 
The study sheds new light on the overall societal costs — not merely the fiscal costs as in previous research — of subsidies, blackouts and other distortions in the power sector.
 
To that end, my team and I surveyed Pakistan's entire supply chain from upstream fuel supply to electricity generation, transmission and distribution, and eventually, down to consumers.
 
Put simply, the numbers we found are dire.
 
Power distortions cost Pakistan’s economy much more than previously estimated: $18 billion in fiscal year 2015—that is 6.5 percent of the country’s economy.
 
Problems begin upstream, where gas underpricing encourages waste and reduces incentives for gas production and exploration.
 
And with no recent significant gas discoveries, higher gas usage has widened the gap between growing demand and low domestic supply.
 
On top of that, the volume of gas lost before reaching consumers reached 14.3 percent in fiscal year 2015. By comparison, this number is about 1 to 2 percent in advanced economies.
 
Public power plants use 20 percent more gas per unit of electricity produced than private producers.
 
Poor transmission contributed to 29 percent of the electricity shortfall in fiscal year 2015, while weak infrastructure, faulty metering and theft cause the loss of almost a fifth of generated electricity.
 
Electricity underpricing and failure to collect electricity bills have triggered a vicious “circular debt” problem, leading to power outages.
 
A lack of grid electricity also leads to greater use of kerosene lamps that cause indoor air pollution and its associated respiratory infections and tuberculosis risks.
 
Lack of access to reliable electricity also adversely impact children’s study time at night, women’s labor force participation, and gender equality.
 
Connecting all of Pakistan’s population to the grid and increasing the supply of electricity to 24 hours a day would increase total household income by at least $4.5 billion a year and avoid $8.4 billion in business losses.

Reclaiming India's wastelands to fight climate change

Abel Lufafa's picture
 Abel Lufafa
Indian farmers showing off former wasteland that now produces crops. India's agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate threats. Reclaiming and bringing into production some of India’s wastelands could partially offset some of the projected crop production declines expected because of climate change. Credit: Abel Lufafa

About 15 minutes after we turn off the highway at Fatehpur, a roadside trading center located 120 km from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, a mild haze blankets the sky.

As we drive deeper into the increasingly bare and desolate landscape, the wind blows stronger, and the haze thickens into dust plumes.

I lower the car window and find the source of the dust:  patches of abandoned land, coated with very fine powder in various shades of white and grey.

We are in a village with salt-affected soils, part of the millions of hectares of India’s wastelands.

Characterized by dense, impermeable surface crusts and accumulation of certain elements at levels that are toxic to plants, these sodic wastelands no longer support crop growth – they have been abandoned by farmers.

Our journey continues for another 30 minutes, the wind still blows strong, but dust plumes have given way to clearer skies.

We have reached Mainpuri, where, with World Bank support, sodic wastelands have been reclaimed and brought back to life, rolling back the unsavory spectacle of ecological destruction that once was the hallmark of the village.

Now in its third phase, the Uttar Pradesh Sodic Lands Reclamation Project (UPSLRP) has supported the reclamation of over 400,000 ha of such sodic wastelands and 25,000 ha of ravinous wasteland.

Against all odds: 16 inspiring heroes from Nepal

Renu Chhetri's picture
As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is marked worldwide, we present to you stories of 16 inspiring heroes from Nepal. They are crusaders and pioneers, leaders and visionaries who share one common trait – a remarkable journey in their path towards equality and empowerment. They belong to diverse backgrounds, cultures, castes and groups. Yet all of them have stood against odds and managed to make a difference in many lives.

Each of the personalities is carefully chosen as a representative character with experiences that motivate and resonate with us. These Nepali heroes deserve to be read about, known and lauded for their efforts.
 



16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls.

The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

The World Bank Group believes that no country, community, or economy can achieve its potential or meet the challenges of the 21st century without equal participation of women and men, girls and boys.

So
here we bring to you stories of 16 heroes that have contributed more than their share in empowering themselves, their communities and nation.

Act now for a brighter future for the Afghan people

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Today, over 8.5 million students attend school–over 40% of them girls
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

In 2001, only one million Afghan children attended school–none of them girls. Today, over 8.5 million students attend school–over 40% of them girls.

Amina, a 9th grade student, is one of over 3 million girls that now attend school through the contributions of the Afghan people and support from the international community.

"I have seen many improvements at my school. We are learning more now through better teaching methods and materials,” she said. Amina is one of the millions of Afghans whose lives have improved and has great hopes for the future.

As the first country that I visited after becoming the World Bank’s Vice President for the South Asia Region in July 2018, Afghanistan impressed me with its resilient people and achievements in spite of challenges, notably in education, health, and infrastructure.

The country has immense potential. Located in the center of a fast-growing region blessed with a young population and abundant natural resources, Afghanistan can achieve rapid growth and huge improvements in living standards through sound planning and tight implementation.

رویدست گرفتن اقدامات عملی، یگانه راه جهت تأمین آینده روشن برای افغانها

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
Today, over 8.5 million students attend school–over 40% of them girls
امتیاز عکس: شرکت مشورتی رومی/ بانک جهانی

در سال ۲۰۰۱ میلادی صرف یک میلیون متعلم شامل مکاتب در افغانستان بودند، که تمام آنان را پسران تشکیل میداد. اما امروز تعداد متعلمین در مکاتب این کشور به بیشتر از ۸،۵ میلیون تن رسیده، که از این جمله ۴۰ درصد آنها را دختران تشکیل میدهد.
 
آمنه، متعلم صنف نهم، یکی از ۳ میلیون دختر امروز قادر است با پشتیبانی مردم افغانستان و به حمایت جامعه جهانی به مکتب برود. وی میگوید: "شاهد ترقی و پیشرفت های زیادی در محیط درسی مکتب ما هستم. با تغییر در روش های تدریس و فراهم سازی مواد درسی جدید، حالا ما میتوانیم بیشتر و بهتر بیاموزیم." آمنه، یکی از میلیون ها دختر افغان است که زندگی اش در مقایسه با گذشته بهبود یافته است و امیدواری زیادی برای تحکیم یک آینده مرفه در افغانستان دارد.  
 
پس از آنکه در ماه جولای سال ۲۰۱۸ میلادی به حیث معاون بانک جهانی برای کشور های جنوب آسیا شروع بکار نمودم، اولین سفر کاری ام  به افغانستان بود. با آنکه هنوز هم افغانستان با چالش های زیادی مواجه است، اما پیشرفت و دست آورد ها در سکتور های مختلف از جمله صحت، معارف، ایجاد و بازسازی زیر بنا و از همه مهمتر تلاش و استقامات بی شائبه افغانها در برابر مشکلات و موانع، چشمگیر است.
 
افغانستان دارای ظرفیت های بالقوه برای رشد اقتصادی می باشد که میتوان از آن جمله موقیعت ستراتیژیک جغرافیایی این کشور، موجودیت نیروی جوان کار و دسترسی به منابع  سرشار طبیعی را از عوامل کلیدی و تاثیر گذار برای تأمین رُشد و توسعه اقتصادی پایدار در این کشور عنوان کرد. با استفادۀ مطلوب از این ظرفیت ها و تطبیق درست برنامه ها، افغانستان میتواند به رُشد اقتصادی سریع و بهبود همه جانبۀ در شرایط زندگی افغان ها نایل گردد.

د عملي اقدامونو ترسره کول، د افغانان لپاره د یوې روښانه راتلونکې د تامین لپاره یوازنۍ لاره

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Also available in: English | دری
Today, over 8.5 million students attend school–over 40% of them girls
انځور: رومی شرکت/ نړیوال بانک

په ۲۰۰۱ زېږدیز کال کې د افغانستان په ښوونځیو کې د زده کوونکو د  شمیر یوازې یو میلیون تنو ته رسېډه، چې ټول یې هلکان و. خو نن ورځ د هېواد په ښوونځیو کې د زده کوونکو شمېر څه باندې ۸،۵ میلیون تنو ته لوړ شوی، چې له دې ډلې څخه ۴۰ سلنه یې نجونې دي.
 
آمنه چې د نهم ټولګي زده کوونکې ده، لکه ۳ میلیون نورې نجونې اوس دا وړتیا لري څو د افغانستان د خلکو په مرسته او د نړیوالې ټولنې په ملاتړ ښوونځي ته ولاړه شي.
 
نوموړې وایي: "د خپل ښوونځي په درسي چاپېریال کې د زیاتو پرمختګونو او بدلون شاهده یمه. په تدریسي چارو کې مثبت بدلون او د نوي درسي توکو په برابرولو سره، اوس موږ کولای شو، څو په غوره توګه خپلې زده کړې ترسره کړو." آمنه یوه له میلیونونو افغان نجونو څخه ده چې ژوند یې د پخوا په پرتله بدلون موندلی او په افغانستان کې د یوې سوکاله راتلونکې د رامینځته کېډو لپاره ډېره هیله منه ده.

وروسته له هغه چې په ۲۰۱۸ کال کې د سویلي آسیا د هېوادونو لپاره د نړیوال بانک د مرستیال په توګه مې په کار پېل وکړ، لومړنۍ کاري سفر مې افغانستان ته ترسره کړ. که څه هم چې افغانستان له زیاتو ستونزو سره مخامخ ده، خو پرمختګونه او لاسته راوړنې يې په بېلابېلو سکتورونو کې لکه، روغتیا، ښوونه او روزنه، د زیربناوو بیا رغول او له ټولو مهمه د ستونزو او خنډونو په وړاندې د افغانانو استقامت او ژمنتیا د ستایلو وړ دي.
 
افغانستان د اقتصادی ودې لپاره یو شمېر بالقوه ظرفیتونو، لکه د مخ په ودې هېوادنو په مینځ کې ستراتیژیک جغرافیايي موقیعت، د ځوان کاري ځواک شتون او پراخو طبیعي سرچینو ته لاسرسۍ څخه برخمن دي چې کیدای د دې هېواد د اوږد مهاله اقتصادي پراختیا او ودې لپاره کلیدي او اغېزمن عواملو ته بدل شي. له دغو ظرفیتونو څخه د غوره ګټه اخیستنې او د پراختیايي پروګرامونو په هراړخیز تطبیق سره به افغانستان دا ځواک ترلاسه کړي څو په چټکۍ سره اقتصادي وده  وکړي او د افغانانو په ژوند کې پراخ بدلون رامینځته  شي.

Game-changing technology empowers India’s women farmers

Paramveer Singh's picture
 World Bank
Since it started a decade ago, JEEVIKA, a World Bank program that supports Bihar’s rural communities, has mobilized more than nine million women into self-help and producers groups. Joining forces has helped lower costs and boost agricultural production. Credit: World Bank

It’s a dusty September morning, and Kiran Devi is finishing her chores at lightning speed.

 “Wouldn’t it be nice to keep 5,000 women waiting, especially when it’s a celebration,” she says with a touch of gushing pride and makes her way to the annual general meeting of the women-owned Aaranyak Agri producer company.

Located in Purnea district in Bihar—one of India’s poorest states—the company is made up of small local women small farmers and producers and lies in the most fertile corn regions in eastern India.

But until recently, small farmers did not fully reap the benefits of this productive land.

Local traders and intermediaries dominated the unregulated market. Archaic and unfair trading practices like manual weighing, unscientific quality testing, and irregular payments made it difficult for small farmers to get the best value for their produce.

 “The trader would come, put some grains under his teeth and pronounce the quality and pricing. For every quintal of maize [corn], 5-10 kilos additional grains were taken, sometimes through faulty scales and sometimes simply by brazenly asking for it,” says Lal Devi, one member of the company. “We had the choice between getting less or getting nothing.”
 

Kanchan Rani Devi bringing her corn to Sameli
Kanchan Rani Devi bringing her corn to Sameli. Credit: World Bank

Such practices stirred local women farmers into action, and they formed the Aaranyak Agri Producer Company Limited (AAPC) to access markets directly and improve their bargaining power.  

The company established a farmer-centric model and received funding and technical assistance through JEEViKA (livelihoods in Hindi), a World Bank program that supports the Government of Bihar and has achieved life-changing results for Bihar’s rural communities.

Since it started a decade ago, JEEVIKA has mobilized more than nine million women into self-help and producers groups. Joining forces helped lower costs and boost production. Together, the groups saved $120 million and leveraged more than $800 million in bank loans.

Further, digital technologies have been introduced as an innovative way to improve the production, marketing, and sale of small-farmers’ produce.

For example, women farmers receive regular periodic updates on their mobile phones to learn best practices to grow corn as well as weather information to inform farming decisions.

During harvest season, farmers receive daily pricing information from major nearby markets to help them stay abreast of the latest variations in prices.

Brazil’s small farmers offer lessons to India

Priti Kumar's picture
Angela, on the far left and dressed in red, is a small-holder farmer and entrepreneur in Brazil. She started a banana business that expanded to packed lunches for truckers, college students, and travelers. Credit Priti Kumar/World Bank

“Once, it was a rodeo day here and my son asked for money to go. But I didn’t have the money and told him to sell our farm’s bananas on the road instead. So, he took 50 bunches of bananas and sold them all in a few hours. Soon I started a banana business. The sales enabled me to expand my business to packed lunches for truckers. Over time, with the help of my family, the road administration, and my own investments, I started receiving invitations to make meals for college students and travelers.”

Angela, small-holder farmer and entrepreneur, São Paolo, Brazil.

 
Angela told us her story one afternoon as we ate the delicious lunch she had prepared for us at her rather humble roadside eatery in rural São Paulo, Brazil.

Her story was not only touching but also summed up the importance of entrepreneurial foresight and the power that collaboration holds in opening new doors for poor farming communities.
 
India and Brazil have much in common. Both have smallholder farmers - called family farmers in Brazil - (although these farmers make up a much smaller proportion of Brazil’s overall farming community and have a different landholding structure).

Yet Brazil, like many other Latin American countries, has been able to promote commercial agriculture and raise farmers’ incomes by creating collectives, comprised mainly of family farmers.
 
Even though family farmers represent a small slice of Brazil’s cooperatives, the impact of their collectives is considerable.

Often referred to as the “breadbasket of the world”, half of Brazil’s food comes from its 1,500 plus agricultural co-operatives, which employ more than 360,000 people.

The productivity of Brazil’s agriculture is evident.

With only 15% of Brazil’s population living in rural areas, more than 20% of its GDP comes from the agriculture sector.

 In India, on the other hand, 66% of the people live in rural areas while just 15% of GDP comes from agriculture.
 
Brazil’s success in making agriculture more market-oriented and raising farmer incomes holds many lessons for India.

For many years now, India has recorded a surplus in most critical agricultural commodities. 

Yet, farmers’ incomes continue to be subdued.

To help farmers earn more from the land and move onto a higher trajectory of growth, India has gradually shifted its policy focus to linking farmers to markets, as well as enabling them to diversify their production and add value to their produce.
 
So how do Brazil’s farmer collectives work?

Pages