Afghanistan needs more well-trained Afghan soldiers and better Afghan police, but the question is who will pay for them? The country cannot afford to pay the additional costs out of its own limited budget resources—any further money coming from this source will be at the expense of much less funding for urgent development priorities like educating children, improving basic health, building public infrastructure, etc. Will the international community commit to provide predictable funding for a number of years for Afghanistan’s security sector? This is a critical backbone of the state, whose development is essential to over time progressively replace international military forces which are far more costly. Creating security forces without the ability to pay for them will lead to obvious problems. And while expanding the Afghan security forces, it is critical to ensure that sound oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.
The smaller economies of Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka continue to show optimism for their economies based on good remittance inflows and export indicators that demonstrate strong growth in 2008. Policymakers have used these statistics as evidence to believe that they have been relatively unaffected by the current global downturn.
The global financial crisis hit South Asia at a time when it was barely recovering from a severe terms of trade shock resulting from the global food and fuel price crisis.The food and fuel price shocks had badly affected South Asia, with cumulative income loss ranging from 34 percent of 2002 GDP for Maldives to 8 percent for Bangladesh. Current account and fiscal balances worsened sharply and inflation surged to unprecedented levels.
South Asia has the highest rates of malnutrition and the largest numbers of undernourished children in the world! Poverty is often the underlying cause of child malnutrition, and while South Asia has recently experienced impressive economic growth and reduced poverty, this has not translated into improved nutrition. The region fares worse than any other developing region including Sub-Saharan Africa (45% vs. 28%, respectively).
When the South Asia Development Marketplace for innovative ideas to tackle stigma and discrimination relating to HIV/AIDS was launched in November 2007 by the HIV/AIDS Group in the South Asia Region of the World Bank and its partners, civil society groups across South Asia sent in almost a thousand proposals.
People fear HIV/AIDS because of the association with sex, drugs, illness, and death. In South Asia, the epidemic is driven largely by high risk practices – buying and selling sex, injecting drugs, and unprotected sex among men having sex with men. This compounds the fear and stigma around HIV/AIDS, as sex workers, injecting drug users, and men having sex with men are already stigmatized.
Governance for All sounds a lot like Education for All. That's the global movement, led by UNESCO, that aims to meet the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015. But this time it's the World Bank, and our own Dani Kaufmann, launching a new blog on governance. A great idea.
Will investments in agricultural technology by themselves be sufficient to ensure long-term productivity growth in the farm sector and, more importantly, for rural poverty reduction? As rapidly rising food prices threaten food security and the poverty gains made by developing countries, many have blamed declining funding for agricultural technology development for this state of affairs (for example, the New York Times).
This question is highly relevant for South Asia. Shanta Devarajan has commented on the recent rice export ban by India and its implication for its neighbor, Bangladesh, which has become a net rice importer this year due to floods and cyclone impacts. But Bangladesh also provides evidence that agricultural technology by itself is unlikely to lead to adequate growth in agricultural output if factors such as physical and economic geography and infrastructure needs are not considered.
In a recent study, we examine these issues for Bangladesh. During the early 1990s, Bangladesh experienced widespread diffusion of green revolution technology in rice, its main crop. As a result, rice production has more than doubled since the early 1970s. The spread of green revolution technology is usually expected to boost wages for farm workers. But we found regional differences in rural wages that run counter to the traditional argument.
Only about one-quarter of households living in developing countries have any form of financial savings with formal banking institutions. Even in countries that have experienced substantial development over the last decade or two, this statistic remains stuck stubbornly at a level that would not be acceptable for any other measure of socio-economic development: 10% in Kenya, 20% in Macedonia, 25% in Mexico, 32% in Bangladesh.
Pakistan’s education indicators are abysmally low, especially when it comes to learning outcomes. Almost everyone you speak with has strong views on why the situation is what it is, and what should be done about it. Some advocate spending more money on public schools; others, improving accountability in the system; others, regulating private schools; and still others allowing private schools to flourish. Much of this debate occurs without much hard evidence on which proposal might improve education in Pakistan.
First the good news. The Indian government has agreed to sell the originally-agreed 400,000 tons of non-basmati rice to the Government of Bangladesh at a price of $430 per ton. On March 30th, the Government of Bangladesh’s Purchase Committee approved the Indian offer of procuring the 400,000 tons of rice at $430 per ton by ship.