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How Islamic finance can boost infrastructure development

Joaquim Levy's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français
Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan. © littlesam/Shutterstock
Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan. © littlesam/Shutterstock

In many developing countries, there are glaring gaps in the quantity of infrastructure per capita. For example, power generation capacity per person in these countries is only one-fifth that of advanced economies. We know that expanding infrastructure investment in economic and social services is an effective way both to promote inclusive growth and to foster local resilience to global shocks. In particular, investment in quality, sustainable infrastructure helps finance the transition towards a low-carbon, more environmentally friendly economic model. This happens notably in the renewable energy and low-emission transport sectors. Given the scale of resources needed to address the infrastructure investment gap, mobilizing the private sector for this goal has become imperative, especially in countries where financial transactions in banking and capital markets follow Islamic law (or shari’ah) principles.
 
The conventions of Islamic finance are particularly suitable for infrastructure development. They define an asset-oriented system of ethical financial intermediation built on the principles of risk-sharing in lawful activities (halal) rather than rent-seeking gains. This “entrepreneurial” approach by investors requires a high degree of transparency and creates incentives to monitor projects more carefully, which, in turn, strengthen the efficiency in building and operating infrastructure.

Refugee crisis: What the private sector can do

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
© World Bank Group
© World Bank Group

There are about 68.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world today, of which more than 25 million are considered refugees. Almost 85 percent of them are hosted by low or middle countries with limited resources such as Jordan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Turkey, and Bangladesh. These countries face enormous challenges in meeting the needs of refugees while continuing to grow and develop themselves. 

I visited Jordan in 2014 and 2016 and was struck by the generosity and hospitality of this small, middle-income country, which accepted the influx of more than 740,000 refugees of the Syrian war and other conflicts (and that only counts the number officially registered by the UN Refugee Agency!) In 2017, Jordan had 89 refugees per 1,000 people –the second-highest concentration in the world. Its services and economy were under tremendous strain. The refugees themselves were frustrated by lack of opportunity to support themselves.  

Technology works for getting poor people’s problems fixed – we just have to get it right

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية
© Sarah Farhat/World Bank

One of the encouraging signs that I pick up whenever I travel is the difference that technology is making to the lives of millions of marginalized people. In most cases it’s happening on a small, non-flashy scale in hundreds of different ways, quietly improving the opportunities that that have been denied to remote communities, women and young people for getting a foot on the ladder.

And because it is discreet and under the radar I dare as an optimist to suggest that we are at the beginning of something big – a slow tsunami of success. Let me give you some reasons why I believe this.

Syrian refugee children’s smiles shine again in Istanbul

Qiyang Xu's picture
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© World Bank


Nothing is more satisfying than putting a smile on a child’s face. It is especially true when the child has been a victim of war.
 
The viral image of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose dead body was quietly lying on the beach captivated us. Kurdi’s loss of the chance to flee to a safer life invigorated us to act. We decided to help refugee children adapt to their new lives when arriving in a new country.
 
And so, our team from the World Bank Youth Innovation Fund (YIF) partnered with Small Projects Istanbul (SPI), a Turkish non-profit organization, to help 20 Syrian children find some happiness and joy in Turkey after fleeing their war-torn country.
 
YIF provides an opportunity for young employees of the World Bank Group to design, implement and evaluate development projects in client countries focusing on innovation, efficiency and impact on development.
 
After submitting a proposal to the YIF Proposal Competition, and winning, our journey began. Our project, Turkish Language, Mentorship and Psychological Counseling Program, aimed to  support these children to effectively integrate with the local society, develop self-confidence, and have access to education while living in Turkey.

Can debt managers save the world?

M. Coskun Cangoz's picture
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© Thinkstock
© Thinkstock

It was ten years ago, right before the global crisis when Lehman Brothers had not collapsed, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had not been placed into conservatorship. For debt managers, the markets were less volatile and the future was less uncertain. In Turkey we were dealing with the implementation of the post-crisis reform agenda.
 
One day, I got an invitation from my son’s eighth-grade teacher to speak at the school’s “careers day” which aims educate children on different types of jobs.  I accepted the invitation but I was a little worried because, as a debt manager I have a “different type of job” that was not necessarily an “exciting” one.

From a rubber boat in the sea to swimming in Rio: A story of resilience

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français


On a chilly October day in 2015, 24-year-old Rami Anis boarded a rubber boat in the Aegean Sea in Turkey. His destination was Europe and his goal was a better life away from war and hardship.

Looking at the people around him on the boat, he was horrified. They were children, men, and women. The fact that they might not make it never escaped his mind, even though he is a professional swimmer.

“Because with the sea, you can’t joke,” said the Syrian refugee.

But on Aug. 11, Rami will not be worried about swimming in the sea. He, instead, will be swimming at the Olympics. He made it safely to Belgium after days of heart-wrenching journey, from Istanbul to Izmir to Greece before setting off a trek through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and eventually Belgium.

Rami will be competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team — the first of its kind — and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the opening ceremony. 

Researching violence against Syrian refugee women

Bassam Sebti's picture
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He often used a stick or an iron wire to beat her. Her body was covered in bruises, sometimes in all kinds of colors. Hamada's husband, frustrated with losing his son and his job in warring Syria, directed his anger and depression towards the mother of his children.

It is a fact: War is one of many forms of violence to which women are subjected, and for some Syrian refugee women it is a prolongation of what has been happening already in their war-torn country.

They have been beaten, forced into having sex and asked to never talk about it or else get killed — by their own husbands.

For the helpless women, most of whom are mothers, the abuse has been taking physical, emotional and sexual forms.

So how do you address and understand the reasons behind this major, often undermined, issue that adds to the misery of the already miserable women refugees?
 

 Shutterstock

A team of researchers working with the Women and Health Alliance International non-profit organization is working on formative research to prevent intimate partner violence among Syrian refugees in Izmir, Turkey.

"Often, from a worldwide perspective, when we think about conflict, we think about the forms of violence that are highlighted in the media," said team member Jennifer Scott, a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School.

"But what we are not talking about is what is happening in the household, and the types of violence that are related to stress, cultural norms, or social and gender norms," she added. 

To address this issue, Scott and her team talk with men, women, community leaders, policymakers and religious leaders. They ask questions about what is happening in the household, what sorts of violence women and girls experience, and how has this changed as a result of conflict and displacement.

The goal, she said, is to understand that this kind of violence does not have one dimension.

"It's really multiple layers that we need to understand," Scott said. "In our experience as researchers, when we offer women and men the opportunity to speak, they want to talk about it because it's a very important issue."  

The research project, set to start in June 2016, will take place at a community center in Izmir that offers services not only to Syrian refugees but also other refugees currently living in Izmir. The project will conduct focus group discussions and interviews among community and religious leaders to examine some of the factors that lead to intimate partner violence, and explore possible solutions.

The research data will inform the development of a future program to prevent intimate partner violence among displaced populations.

The World Bank Group and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative recently awarded this project and eight other teams from around the world a total of $1.2 million in recognition of their innovations to prevent gender-based violence.
 

Leveraging Islamic finance promotes growth and prosperity of small businesses

Bertrand Badré's picture
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Shop owners get ready for another day of work in Cairo, Egypt. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


From the smallest rural villages in Bangladesh to the large, bustling metropolitan centers of Cairo or Istanbul, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of Islamic communities around the world, keeping local economies humming.

I first became interested in the potential of leveraging Islamic finance to grow SMEs when I led a seminar on the topic in 1997. I’ve come full circle, almost 20 years later, when I had the opportunity to speak last month in Istanbul at a conference on “Leveraging Islamic Finance for SMEs” organized by the World Bank Group, the Turkish Treasury, the Islamic Development Bank and TUMSIAD, the largest association of SMEs in the country with 10,000 members.

I am a migrant

Jim Yong Kim's picture
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Courtesy Jim Yong Kim


​In 1964, I came to the United States from South Korea, then an extremely poor developing country that most experts, including those at the World Bank, had written off as having little hope for economic growth.

My family moved to Texas, and later to Iowa. I was just 5 years old when we arrived, and my brother, sister, and I spoke no English. Most of our neighbors and classmates had never seen an Asian before. I felt like a resident alien in every sense of the term.

Universal health coverage in a generation is achievable

Bertrand Badré's picture
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A nurse cleans a newborn in a Sierra Leone hospital. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


​As the father of four children, I know how important access to good, quality health care is. All parents aspire to be able to provide the same for their children. That’s why we at the World Bank Group are working with our partners around the globe to make universal health coverage a reality for all.

Uniting finance and development has been a lifelong passion of mine. Earlier in my career, I supported then French President Jacques Chirac with the development of an international airline ticket solidarity tax to provide global public goods for the poor. This kind of innovative thinking eventually led to the creation of UNITAID which works to prevent, treat, and diagnose HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria more quickly, cheaply and effectively. Other innovative financing mechanisms include the International Finance Facility for Immunization and the Global Vaccine Initiative.

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