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White on White

Céline Ferré's picture

I love travelling to Afghanistan: friends and colleagues stare at me with puzzled, frightened looks. For Afghanistan is invariably associated with the Taliban, poppy fields, Sharia and women covered in blue chadri (burqa). The azure blue chadri has been displayed as the epitome of women's subordination to men and their lack of rights. In Andrei Konchalovsky's film, the First Teacher (1965), the schoolmaster strips off a black niqab from a young Kirghiz girl, his gesture liberates women from backward traditions and brings them a promising future. Twentieth century Kirghiz girls, twenty-first century Afghan women... same struggle?

The first time I set a foot in Afghanistan, women were not compelled to wear the fully covering chadri. But I saw no bare-headed woman. Wandering around Shahr-e Nau park, striding along the winding streets of Shor Bazaar, feeding doves at the crack of dawn in Mazar-e Sharif, picnicking on Friday afternoon in Babur gardens, I saw Afghan women in all shapes and shades of head covers.

The Resilience of Bangladesh's Economy May Again be Tested This Year

Zahid Hussain's picture

The Bangladesh economy entered FY10 in a position of strength, notwithstanding some pretty tough global circumstances. Good recovery in agriculture, a sustained growth in exports and remittances, and a steady growth in services helped achieve an estimated overall growth of 5.9 percent in FY09, compared with 6.2 percent in FY08. A decline in international commodity prices driven by the global recession and an improvement in domestic food supplies brought inflation down from 10 percent in FY08 to an estimated 7 percent in FY09. Rice prices have remained stable too at nearly 40 percent below the peak reached in April, 2008. The economy has shown reasonable stability in terms of most other macroeconomic indicators. The external current account has been in a large surplus; the exchange rate has been stable; foreign exchange reserves have reached record high levels of nearly $7.5 billion; fiscal balances have been contained; and private credit growth has remained decent.

This is all good news but it doesn’t mean Bangladesh goes totally unscathed by those tough global circumstances.

Bouncing Babies and Safe Motherhood in Sri Lanka

Chulie De Silva's picture
Photo Credit: (c) Chulie De Silva

Reading the story today of Sri Lanka’s emergence as a success story in safer childbirth with a remarkable decline in maternal deaths, I mused about how I took for granted that childbirth would be safe when I had my children way back in the early 70’s. It was joy unlimited as I breezed through pregnancies always under the stern but very caring eye of my GP, Dr. Navaratnam. The news today that Sri Lanka should be held as an example for other South Asian countries makes me very grateful for the high quality of medical care that was available to us.

Presenting a paper at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, UK, South Asia Day, Dr Hemantha Senanayake, from the University of Colombo, said the “mortality ratio of Sri Lanka has declined dramatically as a direct result of the availability of midwives and trained assistance. “In 1960, the child mortality was 340 per 100,000; however, it was lowered to 43 per 100,000 live births in 2005.”

Will the Nano Fulfill the Promise of Mobility in Developing Countries?

Joe Qian's picture

Much in the same way the Ford Model T revolutionized transportation in the United States and the Volkswagen Beetle did in Germany, the Tata Nano (small in Gujarati) seeks to do the same for India and the rest of the developing world, with millions still seeking to realize dreams of four wheel mobility. Will the Nano become a resounding success and revolutionize the concept and accessibility of the car, or will it cause increased problems and growing pains in its mission to provide transportation to the broader public?

With a price starting at $2,200 dollars including taxes and fees, the Nano significantly undercuts the current cheapest car in India by almost half and may open the door to aspiring drivers around the world as the most affordable automobile in history (when accounting for inflation). The market potential is seemingly unlimited as only 0.7% of Indians owned automobiles in 2007.

However, economic development has already caused an explosion in the number of motor vehicles perpetuating increased fatalities due to accidents, standstill traffic, and smog filled cityscapes.

Its founder, Ratan Tata says that his inspiration is derived from poignantly watching the way entire families are transported on motorcycles complete with a rider, passenger, along with two children hanging onto the back. He noted the terrible toll in road deaths involving two-wheelers and called for a safer four-wheeled vehicle that will transport families in a dignified manner.

Remittances in Bangladesh: Determinants and 2010 Outlook

Zahid Hussain's picture

Co-authored with FARRIA NAEEM

Remittances have emerged as a key driver of economic growth and poverty reduction in Bangladesh, increasing at an average annual rate of 19 percent in the last 30 years (1979-2008).

Revenues from remittances now exceed various types of foreign exchange inflows, particularly official development assistance and net earnings from exports. The bulk of the remittances are sent by Bangladeshi migrant workers rather than members of the Bangladeshi Diaspora. Currently, 64 percent of annual remittance inflows originate from Middle Eastern nations.

Robust remittance inflows in recent years (annual average growth of 27 percent in FY06-FY08) have been instrumental in maintaining the current account surplus despite widening a trade deficit. This in turn has enabled Bangladesh to maintain a growing level of foreign exchange reserves.

Pakistan Education Reform Programs: Ambitions and Innovations

Ben Safran's picture

These days, that title alone is probably enough to have most of you continue reading.

Pakistan's leap into international news headlines has mostly been a result of a series of unfortunate events. The global spotlight has also extended to Pakistan's education system, and the tone of that coverage has mirrored that of Pakistan’s other problems. A recent New York Times article described the growth of madrassas in southern Punjab, claiming that lack of access compelled citizens to turn to these schools as a last resort to educate their children.

Rather than contributing to this debate, I wanted to discuss education in Pakistan from a different angle by talking about the problem solvers. It seems like an appropriate time to write on these issues considering the recent World Bank approval of the Sindh and Punjab Education Sector Projects, two credits totaling over $650M to support the wide-scale education reform programs in these two major provinces.

The Important Role of Ready Made Garments to Bangladesh’s Export Earnings

Abul Basher's picture

Bangladesh’s export earnings are mostly determined by the export of readymade garments (RMG) to North American and European countries with 75% of total export earning coming from this sector. Quite understandably, the economic crisis in those countries unnerves us.

Fortunately, the clothing sector has remained more or less unscathed by the global crisis even as the trepidation among the entrepreneurs, policy makers and economists is still very high. During the last fiscal year (2007-08), the overall growth of the export of RMG was 16.16% which increased to 23.48% between July 08 and January 09 of the current fiscal year.

Readymade garments are the largest export industry and determine the dynamics of total export earnings for Bangladesh RMG is still growing at a satisfactory rate. There is no strong indication of any negative impacts of the global economic crisis on RMG as of today, but the future continues to be unpredictable.

Does Collusion Exist in Bangladesh’s Commodity Markets?

Zahid Hussain's picture

Co-authored with FARRIA NAEEM

There is widespread belief among Bangladeshi media, civil society and think tanks that collusion exists in the supply chain of many essential commodities, and many blamed this for the price hike in the first half of 2008. Keeping prices low is a high priority for the government. It is therefore important to measure the presence of market collusion through empirical evidence and design appropriate policy responses to mitigate its impact on prices in order for the government to continue to meet its election promise.

Bangladesh is a net importer of major food items. In the absence of market influences and duties, domestic and international prices are expected to be similar. The convergence may not be exact due to transportation and taxation costs but price should follow similar trends as movements of international commodity prices do not of domestic and international markets do not often vary.

We examine and compare the co-mol prices of four essential food items (coarse rice, flour (atta), salt and soybean oil) over time to look for signs of market influences.

Is trade an automatic stabilizer for Bangladesh’s economy?

Abul Basher's picture

The global economic downturn and the consequent pessimistic outlook for exports in developing countries like Bangladesh have reinvigorated voices for protectionism. Even pro-trade minds have vented their skepticism about trade liberalization, as if the punch of the ongoing crisis could be shielded with the help of an embargo on trade with the rest of the world!

Such thoughts, derived from the gloomy prospects of exports, ignore the potential benefits drawn through the imports and disregard the lessons learned from history- that economic isolation leads to further impoverishment.

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