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Financial inclusion: Stepping-stone to prosperity

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية | Français | Español

In Pakistan, Salma Riaz, right, shows Saba Bibi how to use her new cell phone to receive payments. © Muzammil Pasha/World BankTwo and a half billion people in the world do not have access to formal financial services. This includes 80% of the poor — those who live on less than $2 a day. Small businesses are similarly disadvantaged: As many as 200 million say they lack the financing they need to thrive.

This is why we at the World Bank want men and women around the world to have access to a bank account or a device, such as a cell phone, that will let them store money and send and receive payments. This is a basic building block for people to manage their financial lives.

Why is this so important? Financial inclusion helps lift people out of poverty and can help speed economic development. It can draw more women into the mainstream of economic activity, harnessing their contributions to society. And it will help governments provide more efficient delivery of services to their people by streamlining transfers and cutting administrative costs.

A step out of poverty

Studies show that access to the financial system can reduce income inequality, boost job creation, and make people less vulnerable to unexpected losses of income. People who are "unbanked" find it harder to save, plan for the future, start a business, or recover from a crisis.

Being able to save, make non-cash payments, send or receive remittances, get credit, or get insurance can be instrumental in raising living standards and helping businesses prosper. It helps people to invest more in education or health care.

#BestOf2014: Six Popular Environmental Stories You Shouldn’t Miss

Andy Shuai Liu's picture
As we get ready to kick off the new year, let’s recount the voices and stories about how we can enhance the way we interact with our planet. From Ethiopia to Indonesia, we’ve seen our efforts improve lives and help incomes grow as countries and communities strive for greener landscapes, healthier oceans and cleaner air.
 
Take a look back at some of the most popular stories you may have missed in 2014:
 
1. Raising More Fish to Meet Rising DemandPhoto by Nathan Jones via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Aquaculture is on the rise to help feed a growing population. New #Fish2030 report: http://t.co/0fbH4fLDJO http://t.co/Lm5eHsGZaR

— World Bank (@WorldBank) February 6, 2014

10 Years After the Tsunami: What We Lost and What We Learned

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

What I remember most of the first hours after learning about the tsunami was radio silence. Aceh, it seemed, had ceased to exist. The limited infrastructure in Indonesia’s northernmost province was decimated and none of the survivors was able to update the outside world.
 
To understand the scope of what had happened I flew to Aceh the following day. Since then I have carried with me indelible images of survivors who had nothing left but the clothes on their bodies. There were remnants of lives swept away, of loved ones who disappeared, and a desert of mud and debris beyond repair.
 
The death toll kept on rising for weeks. In the end, of the over 230,000 people who died in 14 countries, 220,000 were from Aceh. We estimated the disaster had caused damage worth $4.45 billion.
 
Ten years after the tsunami, I remember the loss of lives not only as the tragedy it was, but as a moment that changed the way the world manages disasters. I take some consolation from the fact that people survive disasters more often today because of the lessons we learned from the tsunami that affected so many of my fellow Indonesians. 
 
There are three conclusions that are critical to our experience.                  

Empowering new generations to act

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français | 中文
Photo by CIAT via CIFOR FlickrWhen I look at the rate of resource depletion, at soil erosion and declining fish stocks, at climate change’s impacts on nearly every ecosystem, I see a physical world that is slowly but inexorably degrading. I call it the "receding reality"—the new normal—slow onset phenomena that lull us into passivity and acceptance of a less rich and diverse world.

In my lifetime, I have seen waters that were teeming with multi-colored fish, turn dead like an empty aquarium. I have seen the streets of Bogota, my home town, lose thousands of trees in a matter of years.

It’s tempting to feel demoralized. But as the world’s protected area specialists, conservationists and decision makers gather in Sydney, Australia, this week for the World Parks Congress, there is also much to hope for.

 

5 Ways Marine Parks Benefit People

Amanda Feuerstein's picture
Photo via Shutterstock​Marine Protected Areas will be a topic for discussion at the IUCN World Parks Congress, which is opening today in Sydney.  And it should be: MPAs—which are marine spaces that restrict human activity and manage resources to achieve long-term conservation of nature—are one of the many tools for better ocean management.  This is one of the reasons the World Bank Group supports efforts to establish MPAs in countries including Indonesia and Brazil.

Every MPA is not created the same; some allow fishing and some do not, some are small and some are large, some are connected and some stand alone. When they are well planned and well executed, MPAs can help feed communities, protect jobs and boost biodiversity in the ocean. Here are the top five reasons why MPAs can be GREAT!

1. Spill Over Effects

The benefits of an MPA extend far beyond the boundaries of protection. When well planned, MPAs act as the home base for migratory species. These species use the protected area to reproduce, feed or congregate. But they do not stick around for long. This is called the “spill over effect” and it is hugely beneficial to local fishing communities. Even if fishing is restricted inside the MPA, just outside the border the fish are more numerous and far larger. For example, in Indonesia, community income increased 21 percent in 258 villages near a network of six protected areas.

Moving Toward Gender Equity: It Takes Strategy and Opportunity

Sammar Essmat's picture



“Maybe in the Middle East … but in our part of the world, there is no gender inequity.” As an Egyptian, I wasn’t surprised to hear such assertions from colleagues when I arrived in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region to deliver a program aimed at creating opportunities for women in the private sector. With its socialist legacy, the region prided itself on gender equality. Women were historically well-represented in the state-run economic systems. I looked at legal frameworks and the Women, Business and the Law indicators and found little evidence of discrimination. Laws on the books were overwhelmingly gender-neutral. I was puzzled.
 
Then I studied data from the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys: Women’s rates of participation in the private sector told a different story. Women’s status seemed to be collapsing with the state systems and falling as markets started opening. For instance, now, only 36% of firms in the region are owned by women; that is a lower percentage than in East Asia (60%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (40%). Only 19% of companies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have female top managers, compared to 30% in East Asia and 21% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
 
So I faced the daunting task of delivering a gender program in a region where few believe that there are gender issues to address.

Why I’m More Optimistic than Ever about Biodiversity Conservation

Valerie Hickey's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية
Conservation biology was baptized as an interdisciplinary problem science in 1978 at a University of California San Diego conference. But the conservation movement precedes this conference by at least a century, when the first national park was established in Yellowstone in 1872 and signed into law by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. Both the academic discipline and the practice of conservation have had two things in common for a long time: they remained steadfast to their original mission to protect nature and their proponents were largely American and European and mostly middle class. 
 
But nothing stays the same forever.
 

Are Super Farms the Solution to the World’s Food Insecurity Challenge? Ten Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

José Cuesta's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية

Join me in a Twitter Chat on why global food prices remain high on Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. ET/15:00 GMT. I'll be tweeting from @worldbanklive with hashtag #foodpriceschat. Ask questions beforehand with hashtag #foodpriceschat. Looking forward to seeing you on Twitter.


Agriculture workers on a strawberry farm in Argentina. © Nahuel Berger/World Bank

Today there are 842 million who are hungry. As the global population approaches 9 billion by 2050, demand for food will keep increasing, requiring sustained improvement in agricultural productivity. Where will these productivity increases come from? For decades, small-scale family farming was widely thought to be more productive and more efficient in reducing poverty than large-scale farming. But now advocates of large-scale agriculture point to its advantages in leveraging huge investments and innovative technologies as well as its enormous export potential. Critics, however, highlight serious environmental, animal welfare, social and economic concerns, especially in the context of fragile institutions. The often outrageous conditions and devastating social impacts that “land grabs” bring about are well known, particularly in severely food-insecure countries.

So, is large-scale farming—particularly the popularly known “super farms”—the solution to food demand challenges? Or is it an obstacle? Here are the 10 key questions you need to ask yourself to better understand this issue. I have tried to address them in the latest issue of Food Price Watch.

Stunting: The Face of Poverty

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Globally, 165 million children under age 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition – also known as stunting, or low height for age. Much of this damage happens in pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. It means a child has failed to develop in full and it is essentially irreversible – which means that the child will have little hope of ever achieving her full potential. 
 
The evidence tells us that malnutrition costs lives, perpetuates poverty, and slows economic growth. We now know that nearly half of all child deaths globally are attributed to malnutrition. I have seen in my own country, Indonesia, how stunting caused by malnutrition has diminished too many children’s futures before they even begin. Malnourished children are more likely to perform poorly in school and drop out earlier than their better-nourished peers, limiting their future earnings. Data from Guatemala show that boys who had good nutrition before age 3 are earning nearly 50% more as adults, and girls had a greater likelihood of having an independent source of income and were less likely to live in poor households.
 
Malnutrition diminishes not only the futures of individuals, but also of nations. Recent estimates suggest that as much as 11% of gross national product in Africa and Asia is lost annually to the impact of malnutrition. To end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity, the world must commit to end child stunting due to malnutrition. I will be joining leaders from around the world in London this week to focus on this critical challenge.
 

The Fight to End Wildlife Crime Is a Fight for Humanity

Valerie Hickey's picture

Available in ไทย

Elephants in Kenya. Curt Carnemark/World Bank

Elephant ivory is on the march. Not elephants, but their ivory. The elephants are left bloodied and dead on the range. So are many rangers who work to protect a country’s natural capital. In the past 10 years, over 1,000 rangers have been murdered in 35 countries alone; the International Ranger Federation tell us that as many as 5,000 may have been murdered worldwide in that time.
 

At the CITES COP – the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – the halls in Bangkok ring loud with concern for the elephants and other charismatic species, particularly rhinos, that are being exterminated across Africa in pursuit of private profit, at the expense of communities that rely on nature for their food, shelter, start-up capital, and safety net in a warming world.


So why should the World Bank care? Our concern is to build strong economies and healthy communities by revving the engine of inclusive green growth as we prepare countries and communities for the impacts of climate change.

What does this have to do with elephant ivory you ask? Simply put, we cannot achieve our dream of a world without poverty without taking account of the rise in wildlife crime.

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