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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.

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.

بامیان در مسیر پیشرفت و تحول

Mohammad Tahir Zuhair's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
View of Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
نمای شهر بامیان. عکس: شرکت مشورتی رومی/بانک جهانی

وقتی مردم در مورد افغانستان فکر میکنند، آن چه در وحلۀ نخست به ذهن شان خطور میکند، متاسفانه همانا دهه های جنگ و ناامنی میباشد.
 
اینکه افغانستان توأم شاهد دگرگونی ها و ناهنجاری های متداوم بوده و هنوز هم با چالش ها و مشکلات زیادی مواجه است، یک واقعیت انکار ناپذیر محسوب میگردد.
 
اما باید این واقعیت را درک کرد، که از سال ۲۰۰۱ میلادی بدینسو، افغانستان اقدامات لازم را در راستای ایجاد  یک جامعۀ پیشرفته و مرفه رویدست گرفته است.
 
با توجه به رویداد های ناگوار تاریخی که ما همواره با آن مواجه بوده ایم، اکثراً فراموش میکنیم که افغانستان کدام مسیری مملو از موانع را پیموده است.
 
دُرست دو ماه قبل، یعنی بتاریخ ۲۸ میزان ۱۳۹۷، بیش از چهار میلیون افغان درانتخابات ولسی جرگه اشتراک نموده و به کاندیدان مورد نظر خود رای دادند. این در حالیست که قرار است میلیون ها افغان در انتخابات ریاست جمهوری سال ۱۳۹۸ نیز اشتراک ورزند.
 
شایان ذکر است که مردم افغانستان در سال ۲۰۱۸ شاهد برقراری نخستین آتش بس سه روزه برای اولین بار با طالبان در روز های عید سعید فطر بودند، که متعاقب آن یک چشم انداز امیدوار کنندۀ برای تأمین صلح درازمدت در اذهان عامه تداعی گردیده است.
 
منحیث والی بامیان یکی از اهداف من این است که یک تصویر متفاوتی از کشور خود به جهانیان ارایه نمایم – تصویریکه این واقعیت یعنی: علی االرغم شرایط دشوار، پیشرفت و کامیابی نیز ممکن است، باشد.

Moving Afghanistan’s Bamyan province forward

Mohammad Tahir Zuhair's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
View of Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
View of Bamyan city, Bamyan Province. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy​/ World Bank

When people think of Afghanistan, what comes to their minds are images of decades of war and insecurity.

True, Afghanistan has suffered a long history of upheaval

But there has been significant progress in rebuilding a strong, independent, and modern nation since 2001.

And in light of our nation’s turbulent history, it is sometimes easy to forget how far Afghanistan has come.

Just two month ago in October, over four million voters cast their ballots in parliamentary elections—with millions more looking forward to voting in the upcoming presidential election in 2019.

Unforgettably, 2018 also brought the unprecedented three-day ceasefire during Eid, a rare glimpse of complete peace that continues to give hope to many of us.

As Governor of Bamyan Province, one of my goals is to present a different image of my country to the world—one of progress and possibility in the face of adversity.

Many people have never heard of Bamyan. Neither do they know its longstanding and well-deserved reputation as one of Afghanistan’ safest provinces.

Our residents take pride in the fact that we haven’t experienced chaos, war, or insurgency against the government in 17 years.

And as Governor, I have witnessed the importance residents put on civil society, which has been vital to implementing successful development projects in the province.

بامیان د پرمختګ او تحول په لوري

Mohammad Tahir Zuhair's picture
Also available in: English | دری
View of Bamyan Province, Afghanistan
د بامیان ښار منظره. انځور: د رومي مشورتي شرکت/ نړیوال بانک

کله چې خلک د افغانستان په اړه فکر کوي، څه یې چې په لومړۍ شیبه کې په ذهن کې ورګرځي، له بده مرغه هماغه د جنګ او ناامنۍ لسیزې  دي.
 
د داسې واقعیت څخه هم نه شو انکار کولی چې افغانستان د دوامدارو تاوتریخوالي او ګډوډیو شاهد پاتې شوی دی او لا هم له زیاتو ننګونو او ستونزو سره مخ دی.
 
خو باید دا واقعیت درک کړو چې له ۲۰۰۱ زېږدیز کال را په دې خوا، افغانستان د یوې هوسا او پرمختللې ټولنې د رامنځته کولو په لاره کې لازم کارونه تر لاس لاندې نیولي دي.
 
هغو بدو تاریخي پېښوته په کتو سره چې موږ تل ورسره مخ یو، اکثره وختونه دا هېروو چې افغانستان ده پرمختګ په لور یوه اوږدهلارې څخه را تېر شوی دی.
 
پوره دوه میاشتې مخکې، یعنې د ۱۳۹۷ د تلې په ۲۸ مه نېته، تر څلور میلیونه زیاتو افغانانو د ولسي جرګې په ټاکنو کې برخه واخیسته او د خپلې خوښې کاندیدانو ته یې رایې ورکړې اومیلیونونه افغانان په تمه دي چې د ۱۳۹۸ کال په ولسمشریزو  ټاکنو کې ګډون وکړي.
 
د یادولو ده چې د افغانستان  خلک په ۲۰۱۸ زېږدیز کال کې  ده لومړي ځل لپاره  طالبانو سره د کوچني اختر په ورځو کې درې ورځنی اوربند شاهدان وو چې ورپسې بیا د خلکو په ذهنونو کې د اوږد مهالې سولې د ټینګېدو هیلې زرغونې شوې.
 
د بامیان د والي په حیث زما په هدوفونو کې یو دا دی چې د خپل هېواد یو متفاوت انځور نړیوالو ته ښکاره کړم – داسې انځور چې دغه واقعیت ورته په ډاګه کړي چې: له سختو شرایطو سره سره بیا هم بریا او پرمختګ ممکن دي.

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.

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.

An update on Bhutan’s economy

Tenzin Lhaden's picture
Accelerating the reform momentum after the 2018 elections is key to consolidating and furthering Bhutan’s development
Accelerating the reform momentum after the 2018 elections is key to consolidating and furthering Bhutan’s development. Credit: World Bank

Bhutan is one of the smallest, but fastest-growing economies in the world.
 
Its annual average economic growth of 7.6 percent between 2007 and 2017 far exceeds the average global growth rate of 3.2 percent.
 
This high growth has contributed to reducing poverty: Extreme poverty was mostly eradicated and dwindled from 8 percent in 2007 to 1.5 percent in 2017, based on the international poverty line of $1.90 a day (at purchasing power parity).
 
Access to basic services such as health, education and asset ownership has also improved significantly.
 
The country has a total of 32 hospitals and 208 basic health units, with each district hospital including almost always three doctors.
 
The current national literacy rate is 71 percent and the youth literacy rate is 93 percent.
 
The recent statistics on lending, inflation, exchange rates and international reserves (Sources: RMA, NSB) confirm that Bhutan maintained robust growth and macroeconomic stability in the first half of 2018.  

Gross foreign reserves have been increasing since 2012 when the country experienced an Indian rupee shortage.
 
Reserves exceeded $1.1 billion, equivalent to 11 months of imports of goods and services, which makes the country more resilient to potential shocks.
 
The nominal exchange rate has been depreciating since early 2018 (with ngultrum reaching Nu. 73 against the US dollar in early November).

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