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South Asia’s transport corridors can lead to prosperity

Martin Melecky's picture
 World Bank
Transport corridors offer enormous potential to boost South Asia’s economies, reduce poverty, and spur more and better jobs for local people, provided the new trade routes generate growth for all and limit their environmental impact. Credit: World Bank

This blog is based on the report The Web of Transport Corridors in South Asia -- jointly produced with the Asian Development Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency

No doubt, South Asia’s prosperity was built along its trade routes.

One of the oldest, the Grand Trunk Road from the Mughal era still connects East and West and in the 17th century made Delhi, Kabul and Lahore wealthy cities with impressive civic buildings, monuments, and gardens.

Fast forward a few centuries and today, South Asia abounds with new proposals to build a vast network of transport corridors.
 
In India alone—and likely bolstered by the successful completion of the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) highway system—several transport proposals extending beyond India’s borders are now under consideration. 
 
They include the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), linking India, Iran and Russia, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, and the Bangladesh, China, India, and Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor.
 
The hope is that these transport corridors will turn into growth engines and create large economic surpluses that can spread throughout the economy and society.

Arguably, the transport corridor with the greatest economic potential is the surface link between Shanghai and Mumbai.
 
These two cities are the economic hubs of China and India respectively, two emerging global powers.
 
The distance between them, about 5,000 kilometers, is not much greater than the distance between New York and Los Angeles.
 
But instead of crossing a relatively empty continent, a corridor from Shanghai to Mumbai—via Kunming, Mandalay, Dhaka, and Kolkata—would go through some of the most densely populated and most dynamic areas in the world, stoking hopes of large economic spillovers along its alignment.
 
“Build and they will come” seems to be the logic underlying many massive transport investments around the world.
 
However, the reality is that not all these investments will generate the expected returns.
 
Worse, they can become wasteful white elephants—that is, transport infrastructure without much traffic—that would cost trillions of dollars at taxpayers’ expense.
 
So, how can South Asia develop transport corridors that have a positive impact on their economies and benefit all people along the corridor alignments and beyond?  
 
First, countries need to change the mindset that transport corridors are mere engineering feats designed to move along vehicles and commodities.
 
Second, sound economic analysis of how corridors can help spur urbanization and create local jobs while minimizing the disruptions to the natural environment, is key to developing successful investment programs.
 
Specifically, it is vital to ensure that local populations whose lives are disrupted by new infrastructure can reap equally the benefits from better transport connectivity.
 
The hard truth is that the development of corridor initiatives may involve difficult tradeoffs.
 
For instance, more educated and skilled people can migrate to obtain better jobs in growing urban areas that are benefiting from corridor connectivity, while unskilled workers may be left behind in depopulated rural areas with few economic prospects.
 
But while corridors can create both winners and losers, well-designed investment programs can alleviate potential adverse impacts and help local people share the benefits more widely.
 
In that vein, India’s Golden Quadrilateral, or GQ highway system, is a cautionary tale. 
 
No doubt, this corridor had a positive impact. 
 
Economic activity along the corridor increased and people, especially women, found better job opportunities beyond traditional farming.
 
But this success came at a cost as air pollution increased in the districts near the highway.
 
This is a major tradeoff and one that was documented before in Japan when levels of air pollution spiked during the development of its Pacific Ocean Belt several decades ago.
 
Another downside is that the economic benefits generated by the GQ highway were distributed unequally in neighboring communities.  

How can Bangladesh increase its resilience to disasters through data sharing?

Debashish Paul Shuvra's picture
 
How can Bangladesh increase its resilience to disasters?

Schools across Bangladesh are highly vulnerable to floods, cyclones, and earthquakes. How can the country mitigate and respond to the risks of these natural hazards?

By using the GeoDASH platform - a geospatial data sharing platform - the Directorate of Primary Education of Bangladesh has assessed 35,000 schools with respect to the type of infrastructure, water and sanitation facilities, access to roads, and overall capacity during natural disasters.

The GeoDASH platform is a reliable and extensive geographic and information (geospatial) data network.

These data are Geographic Information System (GIS) and other geolocation services-based information to represent objects or locations on a globally referenceable platform to enable mapping.

For example, locations of road network data can be merged with the flood risk map to get a single map for identifying vulnerable road communication in flood-prone areas.

This type of data will allow the Government of Bangladesh, communities, and the private sector to create, share and use disaster risk and climate change information to inform risk-sensitive decision making.

Better data sharing to improve the lives of Afghan refugees

Shubham Chaudhuri's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
A bus with returnees from Pakistan at the IOM Screening center on Turkham border in Nangarhar province
A bus with returnees from Pakistan at the IOM Screening center on Turkham border in Nangarhar province. Photo Credit: IOM Afghanistan / E. Schwoerer

Four decades of conflict, violence and uncertainty has made Afghans the world’s largest protracted refugee population and among the largest group of returnees in the past few decades. Each year as many as 100,000s Afghans are on the move.

Since 2002, some 5.8 million Afghan refugees and several million more undocumented Afghans have returned to Afghanistan. More than two million of these refugees and undocumented returnees have returned since 2015. Recent surges in returns such as the 2016 spike of over 600,000 returnees from Pakistan were recorded in just six months.
 
Most returnees relocate to urban and peri-urban areas where they find limited job opportunities and inadequate access to essential services, thus jeopardizing their reintegration prospects and fueling secondary displacement. Therefore, it is imperative that joint initiatives between international organizations and Afghan government ministries help support both returnees and the host communities in which they relocate.
 
To that end, the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today signed a data sharing agreement (DSA), which formalizes an existing partnership between the two organizations in Afghanistan.

تشریک بهتر معلومات میتواند وضعیت زندگی افغان های عودت کننده را بهبود بخشد

Shubham Chaudhuri's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
A bus with returnees from Pakistan at the IOM Screening center on Turkham border in Nangarhar province
یک موتر بس حامل عودت کنندگان افغان از پاکستان در یکی  از مراکز سازمان بین المللی مهاجرت حین ارزیابی وضیعت آنها در مرز تورخم، ولایت ننگرهار. عکس از  ایوا سوریر ، سازمان بین المللی مهاجرت

چهار دهه جنگ، خشونت، ناامنی، اوضاع شکننده یی سیاسی، اجتماعی و اقتصادی افغانستان را به بزرگترین نفوس بیجا شدگان مبدل ساخته است. تخمین میشود که هرسال بیشتر از۱۰۰۰۰۰ افغان در حرکت از یکجا به جای دیگر میباشد.

از سال ۲۰۰۲ به این سو، حدود ۵،۸ میلیون پناهجوی افغان و چندین میلیون افغان ‌دیگر که اسناد و مدارک پناهجوی بودند، به افغانستان عودت نموده اند. این در حالیست که از سال ۲۰۱۵ به این سو بیشتر از ۲ میلیون پناهنده و مهاجر بدون  اسناد دوباره به کشور عودت نموده اند.

موج تازۀ برگشت مهاجرین از پاکستان درسال ۲۰۱۶ بخش مهم این روند را تشکیل میداد؛ چنانچه که در این جریان بیشتر از ۶۰۰۰۰۰ هزار عودت کننده صرف در ظرف شش ماه نخست این سال ثبت شده بودند. ارقام و معلومات موجود نشان میدهد که اکثر عودت کنندگان در محلات شهری و اطراف شهرها مسکن گزین میگردند زیرا انها نمیخواهند با مشکلات و محدودیت های فرصت های کاری، دسترسی به خدمات اساسی، و زیرساخت های اندک مواجه شوند. باور اینست که اگر آنان در این محلات جابجا نشوند ممکن مشکلات اساکان شان در مناطق دیگر مانع موفقیت ادغام مجدد شان شده و امکان دارد سبب بیجا شدن دوباره آنها گردد.

حمایت از عودت کننده گان و محلات میزبان که برگشت کننده گان در آن مناطق استقرار مجدد میابند، نیازمند ایجاد ابتکار و همکاریهای مشترک بیشتر میان موسسات بین المللی و وزارت های ذیربط حکومتی میباشد.

در همین راستا،  امروز بانک جهانی و سازمان بین المللی مهاجرت یک توافقنامۀ تشریک معلومات (DSA) را امضاء نمودند که مطابق آن همکاری های موجود میان این دو نهاد تقویت میابد.

د غوره معلوماتو شریکول کولی شي د راستنېدونکو افغانانو ژوند ښه کړي

Shubham Chaudhuri's picture
Also available in: English | دری
A bus with returnees from Pakistan at the IOM Screening center on Turkham border in Nangarhar province
له پاکستان څخه یو بس چې افغان کډوال په کې لیږدول کیدل او په تورخم پوله کې  د کډوالو نړیوال سازمان په یوه مرکز کې د هغوی وضعیت څیړنې پرمهال. انځور له ایوا سوریر/ د کډوالۍ نړیوال سازمان

په افغانستان کې څلور لسیزې جګړې، تاوتریخوالي، ناامنۍ، د افغانستان بد سیاسي، اقتصادي او ټولنیز وضعیت له امله زیاتره کسان ګډوال شوي دي. داسې اټکل کېږي چې هر کال له ۱۰۰۰۰۰ ډېر افغانان له یو سیمې څخه بلې سیمې ته کډه کوي.

 له ۲۰۰۲ کال راهیسې شاوخوا ۵،۸ ميلیون افغان پناه غوښتونکي او څو ميلیونه هغه افغانان چې د پناه غوښتونکو اسناد او مدرکونه لري بېرته افغانستان ته راستانه شوي دي. دا په داسې حال کې ده چې له ۲۰۱۵ کال راهیسې له ۲ ميلیونه ډېر هغه افغان پناه غوښتونکي او کډوال چې اسناد یې نه لرل بېرته هېواد ته راستانه شوي دي.

له پاکستان څخه په ۲۰۱۶ کال کې د کډوالو بېرته راستنېدل د دغه بهیر مهمه برخه جوړوي؛ په دغه بهیر کې یوازې د روان کال په لومړیو شپږو میاشتو کې له ۶۰۰۰۰۰ ډېر راستنېدونکي ثبت شوي و. دغه شمېرې ښيي چې ډېری راستنېدونکي په ښاري او اطرافي سیمو کې ځای پر ځای کېږي، ځکه دوی نه غواړي چې د بېکارۍ له ستونزو، اساسي خدمتونو ته د لاس رسي له لږو ستونزو سره مخ شي. باورکېږي، چې که دوی په دې سیمو کې ځای پر ځای نه شي ممکن د استوګنې په نورو سیمو کې ستونزې د دوی د راټولېدو مخه ونیسي او د بیا بېځایه کېدو لامل یې شي.

له راستنېدونکو او هغه سیمو څخه ملاتړ، چې راستنېدونکي په کې مېشت کېږي، د اړونده حکومتي وزارتونو او نړیوالو موسسو تر منځ ډېرو نوښتونو او همکاریو ته اړتیا لري. په همدې خاطر نن نړیوال بانک او د کډوالو نړیوال سازمان ( DSA ) د شریکو معلوماتو یو هوکړه لیک لاسلیک کړ.

One South Asia photo contest 2018

World Bank South Asia's picture
What does One South Asia mean to you? What is your vision for One South Asia?
What does One South Asia mean to you? What is your vision for One South Asia? Snap a picture, caption your vision of One South Asia, and send it to us.
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: August 25, 2018  Extended to September 1, 2018

RESULTS: September 10, 2018

Home to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, South Asia is one of the world’s most dynamic regions, with a population of 1.67 billion people and an average 7.1 percent growth rate.

Yet, South Asia remains one of the least integrated regions: Intra-regional trade accounts for only 5 percent of South Asia’s total trade; Intra-regional investment is smaller than 1 percent of overall investment.

A more integrated South Asia offers the potential to better connect people, increase trade, and boost prosperity for all.
 
What does One South Asia mean to you? What is your vision for One South Asia?
 
Does it mean:
  • Easier visa requirement to travel the region?  
  • More direct flights between South Asian countries?
  • A vast South Asian free trade area?
  • A connected energy grid across South Asia?
  • A yearly South Asian cultural festival
  • More educational exchange programs?
  • A common currency?
  • A daily regional newspaper?

Or something else?

Snap a picture, caption your vision of One South Asia, and send it to us.

Toward Great Dhaka: Seize the golden opportunity

Qimiao Fan's picture
Toward Great Dhaka
Read the Full Report
Read Press Release
Originally Appeared on the Daily Star

Had you looked across Shanghai's Huangpu River from west to east in the 1980s, you would mostly have seen farmland dotted with a few scattered buildings. At the time, it was unimaginable that East Shanghai, or Pudong, would one day become a global financial centre; that its futuristic skyline, sleek expressways, and rapid trains would one day be showcased in blockbusters like James Bond and Mission Impossible movies! It was also unimaginable that the Shanghainese would consider living in Pudong.

How wrong that would have been! Pudong is now hosting some of the world's most productive companies, and boosting some of the city's most desirable neighbourhoods. And Shanghai has become China's most important global city, lifting the entire hinterland with it.

The same potential for urban transformation exists in Bangladesh, across the Pragati Sarani Airport Road that divides Dhaka into its west and east. West Dhaka is urban, hosting vibrant centres. East Dhaka remains largely rural, with a vast expanse of farmland. This sharp contrast presents a golden urban development opportunity for Dhaka, one that is not available to other major Asian cities.

Realizing the Promise of a Great Dhaka


Dhaka's population has grown from three million in 1980 to 18 million today and it continues to increase rapidly, which is a clear sign of success. However, Dhaka's development has been mostly spontaneous, with its urban infrastructure not keeping pace with its population growth.

Bangladesh Collaborates with China in Strengthening the Skills of its Youth

Mokhlesur Rahman's picture
Agreement Signing
The sigining of an agreement for educational exchange between the Ministries of Education of Bangladesh and China's Yunnan Province. 

With its youthful workforce and the aspiration to be a developed country by 2041, Bangladesh emphasizes skills development to provide its people the ability to transform the country into a high productivity economy. To accelerate progress in this area, the government has been actively tapping into greater South-South cooperation, especially with other Asian countries.

Bangladesh and the China’s Yunnan Province’s partnership on the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP) is one example. Following the International Skills Conference held in Dhaka held in March 2018, a  Bangladesh delegation, led by Mr. Md. Alamgir, Secretary of the Technical and Madrasah Education Division of the Ministry of Education, visited technical education institutions in Yunnan that are expected to receive students from Bangladesh.

Expert trainers in China will help their Bangladesh counterparts improve in the areas of student exchange, teachers’ professional development, and knowledge sharing among others. The agreement will mean that that the first cohort of 85 Bangladeshi students will be enrolled in the partnered Yunnan institutions with scholarships by September 2018.

Bringing Sri Lanka's traders one step closer to the global market

Marcus Bartley Johns's picture
Making trade more efficient in Sri Lanka
The recently launched Sri Lanka Trade Information Portal is a one stop shop for traders. Photo Credit: Joe Qian/World Bank

Sri Lanka’s traditional lacework famously known as Beeralu is slowly moving into the spotlight of the global fashion industry. Udeni, who is a traditional Beeralu lace maker from Galle, learned the technique from her mother and developed it into a part-time business. 

At the moment, she sells to buyers from Colombo who then sell her product internationally. She would like to export directly one day, but for the time-being, she must rely on “middlemen” because of the complexity of the export process. A major barrier is the lack of information on what government procedures apply in Sri Lanka before her product can even reach a foreign buyer. 

Being unable to access information related to export and import procedures isn’t just a problem for entrepreneurs like Udeni, but a significant barrier for the entire Sri Lankan trading community. In a recent set of interviews conducted by the World Bank, every business interviewed said that personal experience was the leading source of information on import and export procedures. Only half said that they turn to government agencies for information, with concern expressed that the little information available online is often out of date, and spread across many websites. 

Has Bhutan’s growth been jobless?

Tenzin Lhaden's picture
Bhutan's youth unemployment rate has increased from 10.7 percent in 2015 to 13.2 percent in 2016
Bhutan continues to maintain solid growth and macroeconomic stability but job creation is lagging; its  youth unemployment rate has increased from 10.7 percent in 2015 to 13.2 percent in 2016. This indicates that high growth has not been able to generate enough jobs for youth. 

“The main driver of growth in Bhutan continues to be the hydropower sector, but electricity generation does not create job,” said a senior government officials attending the presentation of The World Bank’s South Asia Focus on Jobless Growth on June 28th in Thimphu. The report was presented by Martin Rama, World Bank South Asia Region Chief Economist and was attended by senior government officials, parliamentarians and development partners. The presentation alongside the launch of Bhutan Development Update was a great opportunity for the policy makers to better understand and synthesize Bhutan and the South Asia region’s development opportunities.

In the case of Bhutan, it seems clear that growth alone will not allow it to attain higher employment rates as enjoyed by some other developing countries.

"More than 1.8 million young people will reach working age every month in South Asia through 2025 and the good news is that economic growth is creating jobs in the region,” said Martin Rama,. “But providing opportunities to these young entrants while attracting more women into the labor market will require generating even more jobs for every point of economic growth.”

The report informs that the fall in employment rates has been much faster in the region particularly in India, Bhutan and Sri Lanka and especially for women, risking foregoing the demographic dividend. While it is evident that the number of working age people is increasing, the proporation who are at work has declined owing to prioritization of the households to education, health and other commitments with increasing level of income.

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