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Thriving Cities Will Drive Eurasia's Growth

Souleymane Coulibaly's picture

Cities have always been the driving forces of world civilizations. What Niniveh was to the Assyrian civilization, Babylon was to the Babylonian civilization.  When Peter the Great, third in the Romanov Dynasty, became Russia’s ruler in 1696, Moscow’s influence began to expand. Peter strengthened the rule of the tsar and westernized Russia, at the same time, making it a European powerhouse and greatly expanding its borders. By 1918, the Russian empire spanned a vast territory from Western Europe to China.

As Peter the Great and his successors strove to consolidate their reign over this empire, major social, economic, cultural, and political changes were happening in the urban centers. Moscow led these changes, followed by St. Petersburg, which was built as a gateway to filter and channel western civilization through the empire. By fostering diversification through connectivity, specialization, and scale economies, these cities started the structural transformation of the Russian empire away from depending on commodities and limited markets in a way that more effectively served local demand.

The Soviet era altered this dynamic.

Will the Real Small Business Please Stand Up?

Munawer Sultan Khwaja's picture

Browsing through a large departmental store in Yerevan, I selected a tie, pair of trousers and a shirt to make up for having arrived in the city before my suitcases did. The store manager pointed me to three different cash counters for the three items I had purchased.  “But isn’t this all one store,” I asked in my inadequate Russian, that never fails to amuse native speakers. “Perhaps,” she smiled. “But never mind; these are different otdels (units).”

While governments around the world try to use simplified regimes to decrease the compliance burden of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it also opens the door wide open for larger businesses to abuse these regimes either by hiding as a small business, or splitting a larger business into smaller units. This is particularly true when there are few checks on firms entering the simplified regime. Think aforementioned department store!

What Do Iceland and Kenya Have in Common? Lots of Clean and Renewable Geothermal Energy

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

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Walking out of Keflavik airport as the arctic breeze hit my face at 50 km per hour, I thought to myself, “I love my job.”  A job that makes a tropical citizen like me enjoy the hospitality of the very warm Icelanders and allows me to learn from their experience is hard to top. With 320,000 citizens and just the size of the U.S. state of Kentucky, subpolar Iceland has a lot to teach us development practitioners.

We are only beginning to put together a vision for how to deal with the dilemma of a warming-- and therefore more unpredictable and punishing--climate and ever increasing energy needs. But Iceland has long ago put its mind to the challenge and now lives productively and peacefully in an environment that throws at it tremendous challenges and great gifts.

My appreciation of Iceland's strategy to make use of its environment and harness its renewable energy rose as I visited Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant. Feeling the rumbles of the earth and looking at the steam that puffed from its heart against the backdrop of a volcanic landscape, I was in awe both of nature and the people who have embraced its imposing power.

Women’s Day in Turkey – a Working Day

Martin Raiser's picture

Having lived in many countries throughout the former Soviet Union over the last nine years, I am familiar with International Women’s Day as a holiday. In Turkey, however, Women’s Day remains a work day.

And quite appropriately so, it seems to me.

International Women's Day: A Serbian Perspective

By Mirjana Popovic and Vesna Kostic

Mar. 8: Working Women’s Day or Jobless Women’s Day in Serbia?

By Mirjana Popovic, Online Communications Producer

In the former Yugoslavia, where I was born, International Women’s Day used to celebrate respect and appreciation for women in society: mothers, wives, female colleagues – in this order.

What is it like in today’s Serbia? The glory of the holiday has faded and new challenges have arisen.

Women in the Workforce – a Growing Need in Emerging Europe and Central Asia

Sarosh Sattar's picture

Emerging Europe and Central Asia (ECA) is an interesting region because what you expect is not always what exists. Since this is written in honor of International Women's Day, discussing women’s labor market participation seems appropriate. The standard indicator used for this is the “female labor force participation” (LFP) rate, which is the proportion of all women between 15-64 years who either work or are looking for work. 

Since much of the region has a common socialist legacy, you would expect to see similar labor market behavior among women. However, the proportion of women who work ranges from a low of 42 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 74 percent of adult women in Kazakhstan. And it wasn’t 20 years of social and economic transition that led to this divergence. Even in 1990, the range was about the same. The exception was Moldova which saw a 26 percentage point decline.

Is There a Blueprint for Diversification?

Francisco G. Carneiro's picture

Many resource-rich countries are looking to diversify their economies, in anticipation of the day their natural wealth runs out.  Resource extraction is extremely costly and employs only a fraction of the workforce. After the recent turmoil in the Middle East, policy makers have begun focusing more on the need to create jobs, provide for inclusion, and increase public participation in government decision-making. There are several examples of countries that have used their resource wealth to share prosperity, including the United States, Norway, and Australia.

But is there a blueprint for diversification and economic prosperity?

Watch: Empowering Women in Senegal

Mehreen Arshad Sheikh's picture

Ramat CissokhoInternational Women's Day celebrates women's economic, political, and social achievements. On March 8, 2013, women all around the world will be recognized for the work they do as businesswomen, mothers, caretakers, and community organizers.

These women in Senegal have a reason to celebrate—they've become more active in their communities, they're starting new businesses, and they're generating income for their families. New energy projects in Senegal are now being designed to include women in decision-making processes and leadership roles.

Enhancing Women’s Voice & Empowerment

Jeni Klugman's picture

A vendor stands next to her wares in East Timor. Alex Baluyut/World Bank

On March 5, just before International Women’s Day, we mark the launch of On Norms and Agency: Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries. This book is the result of an important partnership between the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation, and of vital qualitative work that accompanied the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development.

Those whose voices we hear through this report—both men and women—emphasize a central point again and again: that the ability to make effective choices and exercise control over one’s life is a critical dimension of well-being.

At the World Bank, we see this book launch as an important foundation for new directions.

The Prize & Price of a Hot Breakfast

Patti Petesch's picture

Breakfast in Peru. Samuel Bravo Silva/Flickr Creative Commons

Without a doubt my most vivid memories from my work on the new gender report On Norms and Agency: Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries were my journeys to Peru and Liberia to pilot questions for focus groups. We conducted pilots in rural and urban areas, but as terribly different as these settings were, the level of similarities that emerged surprised me.

Namely, I imagined that traditional gender norms would be much less apparent in modern and rapidly urbanizing Lima when in fact, it was not the case. Young women in Lima described their day as getting up before sunrise in order to get a hot breakfast on the table, and then juggling a flurry of activities - including part-time work as supermarket cashiers and bank tellers. The descriptions were very similar to those we heard from women in other countries.

It was startling that gender norms in a modern city were not much different from norms in a rural community of a low-income country. Just like women from poorer and more traditional places, women in Lima helped their husbands make ends meet on top of long hours of household work. Just like in less developed communities, teenage pregnancies for girls as young as 12 and 13 were cited as a problem of deep concern. All of this in a place where girls went to high school and college, and had access to a modern family planning clinic right in their neighborhood.