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South Asia

Nepal: Modest beginnings, big rewards

Taneem Ahad's picture
In recent years, Nepal has made the headlines for the wrong reasons. In April 2015, it was shaken by a huge earthquake that claimed thousands of lives and caused country-wide destruction.  In previous decades, it suffered political violence and chronic instability.

Yet despite these difficulties, the country rebounded strongly with growth at 7.5 percent in Fiscal Year 2017 and was able to achieve significant progress in business through a series of seemingly modest yet important steps.

Over the course of four years, Nepal’s Ministry of Industry, the country's Office of the Company Registrar (OCR) and IFC’s Investment Climate Team implemented a series of reforms to encourage business registration online. In 2013, a new mandatory online registration service was launched. Help desks in the Kathmandu OCR office, extensive training for business owners, a media campaign, and an enabling legal directive eased the speed and efficiency of the registration process for businesses.

Within a short period of time, almost 100 percent of companies – as opposed to 10 percent during the initial phase of launch – were registered online. Registration became simpler, saving money for both businesses and the government. Online registration also addressed the challenges of the government's limited capacity and poor technology readiness through extensive training and peer-to-peer learning. The processes became more transparent with online file tracking.

In the year following the launch of the online registration system, Nepal’s ranking for "Starting a Business" in the World Bank Group’s 2014 Doing Business Report rose by 6 places. The number of days it took to start a business dropped by 45 percent and led to a 24-percent increase in the number of new companies registered annually.



In Nepal, an employee of the Trade and Export Promotion Centre works on the Nepal Trade Information Portal. The portal, financed under the Nepal-India Regional Trade and Transport Project, provides information that traders need to import and export goods, including information on permits, laws and taxes. Photo Credit: Peter Kapuscinski / The World Bank

These successes produced broader lessons for Nepal and others facing similar challenges. These include:
  • Make change compulsory, easy and durable. People adapt to new circumstances only if they feel compelled to do so, and only if they fel that the change is not going to disrupt their businesses.
  • Ensure coordination between government offices in supporting initiatives. There must be "buy-in" from all government agencies involved at all levels. ICT changes must be fully coordinated with business staff. 
  • Nurture trust and cooperation between the WBG and government teams.  Study and learn about previous experiences, communicate how the current project will be carried out, and keep talking to partners in government. 

Transforming markets, one fan at a time: Punjab and the drive for more energy-efficient celling fans

Saima Zuberi's picture

Surrounded by hardened fan manufacturers in the city of Gujranwala, 70 kilometers north of Lahore, the task facing our World Bank Group team was to convince them that more efficient fans, to be promoted through an energy-efficiency labeling program by Pakistan’s government, would be beneficial to the sector as a whole. Questions abounded about how regulations can help competitiveness, and about whether small and lower-tier manufacturers might be left out of the equation. How would labeling be enforced, and how would forgeries be kept off the market?

Fast-forward 12 months to an IFC advisory project, which the government has set up for the procurement of 20,000 Pakistan Energy Label (PEL) energy-efficient fans in public buildings. Those fans will save the country an estimated  800,000 kilowatt hours – the  equivalent of the annual energy use of about 600 domestic refrigerators – translating to about 400 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction per year.

The project has created a new market segment for manufacturers of more efficient fans, nine of whom have received certification for the PEL from the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (NEECA). The fact that four fan manufacturers out of these nine are from the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector is a positive indication of wider acceptance of this standards and labeling initiative.



Photo by Etiennne Kechichian

In time for the region’s next hot season, the request for more information and knowledge about energy-efficient fans has increased. The government of Punjab, as well as NEECA, has launched a comprehensive marketing campaign to promote these PEL fans and to improve the public’s knowledge about their benefits. In a market where heavy, inefficient cast-iron fans are considered good quality, changing perceptions requires coordination with technicians, real estate developers, retailers in the streets of Lahore and the countryside, and a deep understanding of the market.

The concept of market transformation is at times abstract – but we’ve seen signs in this relatively small project, implemented by the Trade & Competitiveness (T&C) Global Practice of the World Bank Group, that targeted and client-based interventions can have a significant impact on the competitiveness of an industry.

India, Malaysia share experiences how to support start-up SMEs

Mihasonirina Andrianaivo's picture



Both Malaysia and India are countries steeped in innovation with a strong desire to foster new, innovative start-up enterprises. 
 
With a global focus on providing more support to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) – and recognizing that start-ups play a crucial role in creating jobs, growth, exports and innovation within most economies – Asian countries are keen to learn from each other’s experiences. These efforts have taken on a greater priority in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and his “Make in India” and “Start-Up India” campaigns.
 
The World Bank has been supporting India for several years in the area of MSME finance, which is one of the most widely recognized impediments to SMEs, particularly for start-up enterprises.  Through the $500 million MSME Growth Innovation and Inclusive Finance Project, the World Bank supports MSMEs in the service and manufacturing sectors as well as start-up financing for early stage entrepreneurs.  The start-up support under this project ($150 million) is for early stage debt funding (venture debt) which isn’t well evolved. (Unlike India’s market for early stage equity which is considered to already be reasonably well developed.)
 
As part of this project, the World Bank and the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), recently held a workshop in Mumbai to allow market participants to learn from one another, and particularly about Malaysia’s successful support for innovative start-up SMEs. The workshop’s participants included banks, venture capital companies, entrepreneurs, fintech companies, seed funders and representatives from the Malaysian Innovation Agency (Agensi Inovasi Malaysia – AIM).

The silent ‘change agents’ in government

Syed Akhtar Mahmood's picture

Sometimes, the drive comes from the senior echelons of government – a reform-minded government leader, an important minister or an agency head. At times, there is pressure from donors. Often, the two combine: The initial idea comes from a donor, which a powerful person in government then takes up as an agenda.

Many reforms happen in this top-down way. But, often, there are questions about their sustainability. Commitment to reforms may not be widespread. Once donor pressure wears off, or once the bold reformer at the top moves on (or loses interest or energy), reform initiatives dissipate. Sometimes, the reforms happen on paper, but implementation remains deficient. Top-down reform initiatives often fail to take on board the front-line officials. Implementation thus suffers, especially when the attention of the top-down driver shifts elsewhere.

The 2015 World Development Report, Mind, Society and Behavior, thus points to the need to understand the motivations and behavioral characteristics of different players, such as politicians and government bureaucrats, and how these affect their decisions and actions. The WDR argues that such an understanding helps design policy interventions and reforms that stand a chance of success even in seemingly intractable situations.

This brings us to a third way of reform, less common but potentially more powerful – one that is driven by the middle tiers of bureaucracy. Reforms initiated in the trenches enjoy, almost by definition, the commitment of those responsible for implementation. Reforms may also be better designed, since the officials know exactly what is feasible and where there are pitfalls. A single bottom-up reform may not be very bold.  But one reform may lead to another, and the cumulative impact may make a big difference.

Donor programs usually don’t regard mid-level officials as key drivers of reforms. It is often assumed that such officials will oppose reforms and they should thus be bypassed or, at best, co-opted in some fashion. Such assumptions lead to many lost opportunities. Mid-level officials can often be good initiators of reform if they are properly inspired and engaged. The attitudes and perceptions of this important tier of the bureaucracy have an important bearing on the formulation of policies and regulations, as well as on their implementation. These attitudes are shaped by an awareness of business-related issues, or a lack of it.

Telenor: Financial inclusion is a good sustainability initiative and business opportunity

Yahya Khan's picture

 

Easypaisa Pakistan Health Insurance Blog - Family Eating (from a Telenor Pakistan promotional video for Easypaisa)


Telenor believes in empowering societies. Motivated by the prospect of building something that can make a difference for customers with very limited access to traditional financial services, we ventured to leverage our mobile tele-density strength in developing countries to bring about financial inclusion. Telenor has committed to enabling 50% of its customers to use their mobile phones for financial services by 2020, which means 100 million customers will have access to mobile financial services. We joined the UFA2020 initiative eager to learn from other players on shared challenges, drive strength from a common goal, and scale solutions that have demonstrated success in other markets.

We are about to launch in Myanmar and have obtained a banking license in India. We are already working in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Hungary, Malaysia, Pakistan, Serbia and Thailand. In each country we have adopted different models of financial services catering to the needs of that market. For example, in Serbia fully owned Telenor Banka is the first fully mobile and online bank, consolidating banking needs in a unified digital interface, making it the fastest growing bank and the highest rated banking app in the region. In Pakistan, Telenor’s subsidiary Tameer Micro Finance Bank offers mobile financial services under the globally recognized brand of Easypaisa, serving over 20 million customers for domestic and international remittances, purchase airtime, pay utility bills, receive government social cash transfers, pay taxes, save and borrow money, buy insurance or make online retail purchases. We are picking up speed in delivering straightforward digital banking services in most of our Asian markets. Last year we established the groundwork for business in five out of six Asian countries, and this year we are focusing on expanding our footprint in these markets. When all businesses are up and running, we will be ready to build scale and to reach our 100 million customers target.

Pakistan Microfinance Network commits to reaching 50 million new depositors through UFA2020 initiative

Syed Mohsin Ahmed's picture

Two billion people worldwide still lack access to formal and regulated financial services. In 2015, the Bank Group with private and public sector partners committed to promoting financial inclusion and achieving Universal Financial Access by 2020.  We've invited our partners to reflect on why they've joined the UFA2020 initiative and how they're contributing toward this goal. This contribution comes from the Pakistan Microfinance Network. #FinAccess2020


Photo Credit: Muhammad Kaleem, Courtesy of the Farmers Friend Organization (FFO)

Kaneez Fatima is a 50 year-old entrepreneur living in Sheikhupura, a city situated 40 km northwest of Lahore, Pakistan. Years before when her husband passed away, she had no idea to find the means for raising a family of six and her future seemed bleak. In her childhood she had acquired the skill of stitching footballs, and she thought about setting up her own workshop. But as a woman in a male dominated market, in an already challenging entrepreneurial environment, she faced what seemed to be an uphill challenge.

Sadly, Kaneez is not alone. World Bank Group Findex data estimates that Pakistan is home to 100 million unbanked people, or 5.2% of the world’ unbanked population, and the ‘Access to Finance Survey 2015 commissioned by the State Bank of Pakistan states that only 23% of adults use formal financial services offered by formal financial intermediaries with only 16% of Pakistani adults have an account with a formal financial institution.

Why does efficiency-seeking FDI matter?

Cecile Fruman's picture
Today we face an interesting paradox. The number of people in the world living in extreme poverty has decreased dramatically in the past three decades. In 1981 half of the population in the developing world lived in extreme poverty. By 2010, despite a 60 percent increase in the developing world’s population, that figure dropped to 21 percent.

While extreme poverty has diminished, however, the gap between the richest and poorest countries has increased dramatically. In 1776, when Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, the richest country in the world was approximately four times wealthier than the poorest. Today, the world’s richest country is more than 400 times richer than the poorest.

What separates them?

One answer is knowledge, diversification and the composition of exports, all areas in which foreign direct investment (FDI) has an important role to play. 

FDI matters, but not all FDI is created equal
 
While FDI is important for economic growth, not all FDI is the same. One way to differentiate is by an investor’s motivations using a framework established by British economist John Dunning:
  • Natural resource-seeking investment: Motivated by investor interest in accessing and exploiting natural resources.
  • Market-seeking investment: Motivated by investor interest in serving domestic or regional markets.
  • Strategic asset-seeking investment: Motivated by investor interest in acquiring strategic assets (brands, human capital, distribution networks, etc.) that will enable a firm to compete in a given market. Takes place through mergers and acquisitions.
  • Efficiency-seeking investment: FDI that comes into a country seeking to benefit from factors that enable it to compete in international markets.

This last category – efficiency-seeking FDI – is particularly important for countries looking to integrate into the global economy and move up the value chain.
 

Financial inclusion in Asia – time for disruption?

Nataliya Mylenko's picture



More than half of the world’s population lives in Asia and its robust growth is supporting the world economy.  After weathering well the 2008 crisis Asia is now in the spotlight with currencies depreciating and capital markets in retreat.  One widely voiced concern is rapid expansion of credit in the past decade fueled by abundant liquidity.  Globally, and in Asia, regulatory response to the 2008 crisis has been to strengthen financial regulation and de-risk financial intermediation.  Yet the reality of credit markets in most Asian economies is quite different from that in high income economies.  While domestic credit by financial sector represented on average over 100% of GDP for high income OECD countries, emerging Asia’s average in 2014 stood at 60%. The differences across countries are substantial in this diverse region, but in two thirds of Asian economies domestic credit is less than 60% of GDP.  The reality for most economies in Asia is that of limited and often inefficient financial markets which do not serve fully their growth needs. Low level of financial inclusion is a major contributing factor and a major challenge.

Fostering Private Sector Development in Fragile States: A Piece of Cake?

Steve Utterwulghe's picture
Private sector development (PSD) plays a crucial role in post-conflict economic development and poverty alleviation. Fragile states, however, face major challenges, such as difficult access to finance, power and markets; poor infrastructure; high levels of corruption; and a lack of transparency in the regulatory environment. 

The private sector has demonstrated its resilience in the face of conflict and fragility, operating at the informal level and delivering services that are traditionally the mandate of public institutions. However, in post-conflict situations, PSD can have predatory aspects, thriving on the institutional and regulatory vacuum that prevails. The private sector will need to create 90 percent of jobs worldwide to meet the international community’s antipoverty goals, so pro-poor and pro-growth strategies need to focus on strengthening the positive aspects of PSD, even while tackling its negative aspects.

A Tale of Two Competitive Cities: What Patterns Are Emerging So Far?

Z. Joe Kulenovic's picture

As noted in a blog post earlier this year, the World Bank Group is pursuing a Competitive Cities Knowledge Base (CCKB) project, looking at how metropolitan economies can create jobs and ensure prosperity for their residents. By carrying out case studies of economically successful cities in each of the world’s six broad regions, the Bank Group hopes to identify the “teachable moments” from which other cities can learn and replicate some of those lessons, adapting them to fit their own circumstances.

The first two case studies – Bucaramanga, in Colombia’s Santander Department, and Coimbatore, in India’s State of Tamil Nadu – were carried out between April and June 2014. Although they’re on opposite sides of the globe, these two mid-sized, secondary cities have revealed some remarkable similarities. This may be a good moment to share a few initial observations.
 
Bucaramanga and Coimbatore were selected for study because they outpaced their respective countries and other cities in their regions, in terms of employment and GDP growth, in the period from 2007 to 2012. Faced with the same macroeconomic and regulatory framework as other Indian and Colombian cities, the obvious question is: What did these two cities do differently that enabled them to grow faster?

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