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Hope for the world’s poorest springs in Myanmar

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
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Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor and minister of foreign affairs for Myanmar, addresses an IDA 18 replenishment meeting on June 21, 2016. © Aung San/World Bank

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor of Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize winner, told representatives from governments rich and poor at a meeting this week in Myanmar that reducing poverty and ensuring that everyone benefits from economic growth calls for a deep focus on addressing the challenges of fragility and conflict, climate change, gender equality, job creation, and good governance.
Suu Kyi was speaking at the opening session of a meeting of the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, where donors, borrower representatives and World Bank Group leadership are brainstorming ways to achieve these goals. She said that Myanmar’s real riches are its people, and they need to be nurtured in the right way.

The way out of poverty and corruption is paved with good governance

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
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Woman speaks to World Bank MD and COO Sri Mulyani Indrawati in the Nyabithu District of Rwanda. © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, creating jobs, and, finally, preventing and adapting to climate change.

Twenty years ago, the World Bank took up the fight against corruption as an integral part of reducing poverty, hunger, and disease. The decision was groundbreaking then and remains valid today. Corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich, leads to a culture of bribes, and distorts public expenditures, deterring foreign investors and hampering economic growth.

Oil price impact is felt beyond borders

Donna Barne's picture
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Oil pumps in southern Russia © Gennadiy Kolodkin/World Bank

Two recently released World Bank reports — one on commodities and the other on remittances — lend insight into an unfolding dynamic in the world today. As oil prices dropped from more than $100 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $27 in the last few months, the money sent home from people working abroad in oil-producing countries also fell. This drop is a major reason remittances to developing countries declined in 2015 to their lowest growth rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Panama Papers underscore need for fair tax systems

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

High-rises and hotel buildings in Panama City, Panama. © Gerardo Pesantez/World Bank

The so-called “Panama Papers” scandal reminds us that concealing wealth and avoiding tax payments is neither uncommon nor — in many cases — illegal. But the embarrassing leak exposes something else: The public trust is breached when companies, the rich and the powerful can hide their money without breaking the law. If this breach is left unaddressed, those who aren’t rich enough to hide money will be less willing to pay and contribute to the social contract in which taxes are exchanged for quality services.

As finance minister in my home country of Indonesia, I saw firsthand how a weak tax system eroded public trust and enabled crony capitalism. Shadow markets arose for highly subsidized fuel, family connections secured jobs, and bribes helped public servants beef up their salaries. Tax avoidance among the elites was common and the country couldn’t mobilize the resources we needed to build infrastructure, create jobs, and fight poverty.

Four months after Paris, renewed urgency on climate action and financing

Donna Barne's picture
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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim speaks with Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, and Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England and chairman of the G20’s Financial Stability Board. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

The world must move quickly to fulfill the promise of the climate change agreement reached in Paris four months ago and accelerate low-carbon growth, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said on the opening day of the Spring Meetings.

More than 190 countries came together last December to pledge to do their part to halt global warming. The result was an unprecedented agreement to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times, with the goal of limiting warming to 1.5° C.  

Fragility, conflict, and natural disasters – a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to resilience?

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
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A partner from the EU assesses damage to an apartment building in Ukraine. Photo credit: EU

It’s a simple yet essential idea: war and disaster are linked, and these links must be examined to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Alarmingly, the total number of disaster events – and the economic losses associated with those events – keep increasing. This trend has been driven by population growth, urbanization, and climate change, leading to increasing economic losses of $150-$200 billion each year, up from $50 billion in the 1980s. But here is another piece of information: more than half of people impacted by natural hazards lived in fragile or conflict-affected states.

Lead pollution robs children of their futures

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture
Vicki Francis/Department for International Development

When the water is poor, people get sick: they have diarrhea; their growth is stunted; they die. When the air is poor, people get sick: they cough; they cannot leave their beds; they die. However, they do not look sick when there is lead in their blood. You cannot look at a child who has an unhealthy blood lead level (BLL) and say, "This is not right. Something must be done," because in most cases, there is nothing to see.

Lead (Pb) exposure—which is making headlines in the U.S. because of recent events in Flint, Michigan-- is a major source of critical environmental health risks. But the problem is subtle: Affected children do not perform as well in school. They are late to read. They are slow to learn how to do tasks. Perhaps a few more children are born with cognitive deficits. Perhaps these children have less impulse control. Perhaps they exhibit more violence.

These symptoms are not always understood as an environmental or a public health problem – or indeed a development problem. Instead, people will say it is an issue of morals or of education. They will discipline the children, and then they will take themselves to task and ask how and why they are failing to raise these children correctly. Furthermore, they will have no idea that the problem is in the children’s blood.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. Studies have documented that exposure leads to neuropsychological impacts in children--including impaired intelligence, measured as intelligence IQ losses--at blood lead levels even lower than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL).  So, clearly, the effect occurs at even very low BLLs. 

Social protection challenges in an urbanizing world - Part 1

Mohamad Al-Arief's picture
With 54 percent of the world’s population now living in urban areas, central and local governments around the globe are faced with both opportunities and challenges. This week, senior policymakers from 75 countries are gathering in Beijing for the 2015 South-South Learning Forum to discuss social protection challenges in an urbanizing world. Three ministers share their view on how this Forum provides an opportunity to extract lessons, learn from the emerging knowledge and capture practical innovations on meeting these challenges. 

Identification for Development: Its Potential for Empowering Women and Girls

Lucia Hanmer's picture
Widespread lack of official identification (ID) in developing countries disproportionately affects women and girls, who face more and higher barriers to obtaining IDs. As economists at the World Bank Group, even we hadn’t immediately appreciated the enormous deprivations facing girls and women who lack official identification. These barriers include: restrictions on women’s freedom to travel outside the home or community; distance; financial cost; time constraints; illiteracy; lack of information and lack of awareness; and, lack of support or opposition from other family members.  

Clean air as a poverty reduction priority

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture
​Many parts of the development community have long embraced the following narrative: When nations are young and poor, they are willing to sacrifice natural resources—dirtying their water and their air—to promote economic growth and meet their population’s basic needs. Then, once these nations achieve a certain level of wealth, they become less concerned with accumulating material goods and more concerned with quality-of-life issues, and only at that point are they willing to spend money—or sacrifice growth—for benefits like clean air.

However, a recent resolution by the World Health Organization's (WHO) governing body shows that this narrative is beginning to change.