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How can Sri Lanka better protect its people against disasters?

Thomas Walker's picture
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050

Sri Lanka has a long history of coping with weather impacts.  

About two thousand years ago, the country built one of the world’s first irrigation system to control its water supply.

This feat of engineering, which boasted hundreds of kilometers of channels, tanks, and innovative valve pits, helped the great kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa flourish into sophisticated societies and protect their people against hunger.

Not unlike these early civilizations, modern social protection programs have sheltered those affected by disaster through financial assistance and other forms of support.

Today, building resilience to natural disasters and other shocks is more critical than ever.

Since 1980, the frequency of natural disasters worldwide has increased by 250 percent, and the number of affected people has more than doubled.

Sri Lanka is no exception. The country ranked fourth most vulnerable to climate change in 2016.

Further to that, a recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050.

The losses caused by significant shocks like natural disasters have long-lasting consequences.

Children, especially, can suffer permanent damages if they are not educated or fed correctly in their critical early years.  

And the loss of assets, livestock, and crops can severely hurt small business owners and farmers and further discourage them from investing.

Sadly, natural disasters hit the poor the hardest as they tend to live in disaster-prone areas, work in agriculture, and usually don’t have savings or access to credit.

When a shock hits, wellbeing declines as people cut back on food and other essentials due to their loss of income or the high cost of rebuilding their homes.

And while some people gradually restore their standards of living, some never fully recover and get stuck in poverty.

But the poor aren’t the only ones who need to worry about shocks.

Today, a third of Sri Lankans are just a shock away from falling into poverty.

Our analysis of the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey reveals that a 20 percent sudden decrease in household welfare—or consumption shock—would more than double the poverty rate: almost 1 in 10 Sri Lankans would be poor.

If the shock triggered a 50 percent decrease in consumption, one in three Sri Lankan families would fall into poverty.

The origins of social boundaries

Varun Gauri's picture

This is the first in an occasional series of blogs on social boundaries and identity. I’m interested in the topic for obvious reasons. Social boundaries and identities, at least in some forms (and that is the rub!) have been argued to affect generalized trust and/or prejudice, governance and cooperation, and development outcomes. They may also be relevant to certain recent political developments. Here at the World Bank, the Mind, Behavior, and Development Unit (eMBeD) is involved in projects that aim to support social cohesion.

What it’s like being a female student in Afghanistan today

Nathalie Lahire's picture
Nathalie Lahire attends a class along with students in Abul-Qasim Ferdowsi Girls High School in Kabul
Nathalie Lahire attends a class along with students in Abul-Qasim Ferdowsi Girls High School in Kabul. Photo Credit: World Bank

Afghanistan offers diverse opportunities and challenges for girls depending on where they live and the attitudes toward girls’ education in their community.
 
Further to that, rural or urban infrastructure, the commitment levels of teachers, and the nature or extent of corruption in the community can affect how a female student will perform in school.
 
In general, the past many years of conflict and political unrest in Afghanistan have damaged the country’s education system; eroding the quality of staffing and curriculum.
 
The education sector has been at the forefront of political conflicts and caught in between competing interest groups.
 
As a result, the unfavorable political economy has blocked policy reforms and their implementation, taking a toll on the quality of education services.
 
This has led to weakened governance.
 
Still, enrollment in school districts in Afghanistan is at surprising levels.

When will transport start making headlines?

Shokraneh Minovi's picture
Photo: Phil Wong/Flickr
In case you haven’t heard, plastic straws are bad news for the planet. This much was made clear over the summer as a surge of anti-straw sentiment spread across many countries. News channels all over the world highlighted how this small and light piece of hollow plastic has been contaminating the oceans and posing a risk to the environment. Outcry was swift and decisive. Practically overnight, countless individuals vowed never to use them again. Even beverage industry giant Starbucks decided to eliminate plastic straws by 2020!  
 
Interestingly, straws make up a fairly small share of the overall plastic pollution in our oceans, especially compared to other sources of plastic waste such as fishing nets and gear. Still, every small piece of plastic that does not end up contaminating the environment is a win. But what’s truly remarkable here is how the global community rallied behind a simple and impactful change, and then followed through with it.
 
The whole campaign about plastic straws and the quick reaction that ensued got me thinking about what a “plastic straw moment” could look like for the transport sector. What small change can we all take to get the world to rally behind transport?

Global poverty in 2015: PovcalNet’s new estimates and improved documentation

Christoph Lakner's picture

PovcalNet released new poverty estimates last week, indicating that in 2015, 10 percent of the global population were living on less than the international poverty line (IPL), currently set at US$1.90 per person per day in 2011 purchasing power parity (PPP). This estimate is based on a series of new data and revisions, including more than 1,600 household surveys from 164 countries, national accounts, population estimates, inflation data, and purchasing power parity data. The new poverty numbers were released on September 19 and will be part of “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018: Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle,” a report to be published on October 17, End Poverty Day.

We’re also launching a Global Poverty Monitoring Technical Note Series which describes the data, methods and assumptions underpinning the World Bank’s global poverty estimates published in PovcalNet. With this update, we’re releasing four new notes in this series, including the “What’s New” note that will accompany each of the semi-annual updates to PovcalNet. The other notes cover different aspects of the price adjustments embedded in the global poverty estimates, such as adjustments for inflation and price differences across countries

Begun as a research project by Martin Ravallion, Shaohua Chen and others, PovcalNet has become the official source for monitoring the World Bank’s Twin Goals, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and now Sustainable Development Goal 1.1. PovcalNet is managed jointly by the Data and Research Groups within the World Bank’s Development Economics Division. It draws heavily upon a strong collaboration with the Poverty and Equity Global Practice, which is responsible for gathering and harmonizing the underlying survey data.

PovcalNet does much more than simply providing the most recent global poverty estimates. It’s a computational tool that allows users to estimate poverty rates for regions, sets of countries or individual countries, over time and at any poverty line. It also provides several distributional measures, such as the Gini index and income shares for the various decile groups.

The most recent PovcalNet data show us that over the last few decades, remarkable progress has been made in reducing extreme poverty. The world attained the first MDG target—cutting the 1990 poverty rate in half by 2015—six years ahead of schedule. With continued reductions, the global poverty rate, defined as the share of world’s population living below the IPL, has dropped from 35.9 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2015 – more than a 70 percent reduction.

In the last quarter century, global poverty dropped by more than 70 percent

 

Demystifying the role of financing SDG6

Joel Kolker's picture

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments coming out of the SIWI World Water Week in Stockholm at the end of August was the large number of sessions and debates around the financing issue.  In essence, the discussion on how we will collectively raise enough funds to close the financing gap was prominent in many discussions. 

It is worth noting that some progress has been made. The issue is now prominent in all the major policy discussions with stakeholders. There is an acknowledgement that domestic finance, rather than international resources, are key to addressing the issue. 

Bank credit allocation in Latin America and the Caribbean

Eva M. Gutiérrez's picture

The recent economic growth performance of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has been hampered by poor productivity growth. While many factors explain the poor productivity and growth performance in the region, lack of financial development, particularly long-term credit to fund productivity-enhancing investments, is often cited as a problem.

Banking systems are the main providers of long-term financing to the private sector around the world.  Regardless of their size or the income level in their country of origin, to fund

fixed assets, firms obtain most of their financing from banks. Households’ main long-term investment, housing, is also overwhelmingly financed by banks.

Is your education program benefiting the most vulnerable students?

David Evans's picture

Just about every article or report on education that we read these days – and some that we’ve written – bemoan the quality of education in low- and middle-income countries. The World Bank’s World Development Report 2018 devoted an entire, well-documented chapter to “the many faces of the learning crisis.” Recent reports on education in Latin America and in Africa make the same point.

But within low- and middle-income countries, not all education is created equal, and not all students face the same challenges. As Aaron Benavot highlights, “policies found to be effective in addressing the challenges facing ‘average’ or typical learners” will not necessarily be effective in addressing those “faced by learners from marginalized groups.”

Indeed, we know that within a given classroom, there can be massive variation in learning across students. As you can see in the figure below, from a group of students in New Delhi, India, in a 9th grade class you have students reading at the 8th grade level and at the 6th grade level. For math, they’re performing at the 3rd grade level and the 5th grade level. So if an intervention increases average performance, are we helping those students who were already ahead or those who are furthest behind? (In this case, no one’s really ahead, since even the top performers are way behind grade level. But the students in the bottom 25th percentile are doubly disadvantaged – behind in learning in a low-performing school system.)

Source: World Development Report 2018, using data from Muralidharan, Singh, and Ganimian (2017).

Women rise to unlock opportunities for SDG implementation

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture
Lucy Odiwa, an entrepreneur in Tanzania whose firm, promotes safer and more sustainable methods for handling menstrual health hygiene management (MHM) won the first place in the SDGs&Her competition. © Womenchoice Industries

Visit any community and you will see women breathing life into every part of the economy and society, be it in agriculture, healthcare, marketing, sales, manufacturing, or invention. Through their presence in every walk of life, women make significant contributions to the 2030 Agenda, including its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the most ambitious set of goals that the international community has ever set for itself
 
However, despite representing 50% of the population, women remain over-represented among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable groups and under-represented as leaders and drivers of change. The lack of recognition of women’s contributions, particularly through their businesses and economic activities, has severely limited their access to finance, new markets and knowledge – necessary for economic growth and poverty reduction.

Clean and Green Bangladesh: A goal that can be achieved

Karin Erika Kemper's picture
 

"Think before you do, not after you're done,” says a Bengali proverb that applies to an urgent threat today for Bangladesh—major environmental problems spawned by rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. A decade of strong economic growth helped Bangladesh reach lower middle-income status while sharply decreasing its poverty rate, a remarkable achievement. But like many countries in the world, such progress has come at considerable environmental cost.

According to our just released report, "Country Environmental Analysis", Bangladesh is among the countries most affected by pollution and other environmental health risks. The monetary cost to the Bangladeshi society of environmental degradation in urban areas, measured in terms of foregone labour output was equivalent to about one percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually.  If one takes into account the broader welfare impacts of mortality attributed to environmental risks, the economic cost is equivalent to 3.4 percent of the national GDP. Noncompliant industries and inadequate waste management of hazardous and nonhazardous materials are polluting the cities' air as well as surface and ground water. The study also indicated that many rivers around Dhaka are polluted.


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