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October 2018

Afghanistan: Learning from a decade of progress and loss

Shubham Chaudhuri's picture
Afghanistan: Learning from a decade of progress and loss


In Afghanistan, the past decade saw remarkable progress, as well as reversals and lost opportunities.

The overall macroeconomic and security context in Afghanistan since 2007 can be broken into two distinct phases, pre- and post- the 2014 security transition, when international troops handed over security responsibilities to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
 
The pre-transition phase was marked by higher economic growth (GDP per capita grew 63 percent relative to its 2007 value) and a relatively stable security situation.

Since 2014, growth has stagnated, falling below rates of population growth, and the security situation continues to deteriorate. With the withdrawal of most international troops and the steady decline in aid (both security and civilian aid) since 2012, the economy witnessed an enormous shock to demand, from which it is still struggling to recover.

Similarly, welfare can be characterized into two distinct phases.

Finishing the job of ending poverty in South Asia

Hartwig Schafer's picture
This Bangladeshi woman was born in poverty. With the right kind of education, life in poverty quickly became a story from the past for her. Credit: World Bank

"I have a four-year-old son back in my village. I want to make a better life for him,” says Sharmin Akhtar, a 19-year-old employee in one of Dhaka’s many flourishing garment factories.

Like thousands of other poor women, Sharmin came down to Bangladesh’s capital from her village in the country’s north to seek a better job and create a more prosperous future for her family—leaving behind a life of crushing poverty.

Today, as we mark End Poverty Day 2018, it’s important to note that Sharmin’s heartening story is one of many in Bangladesh and the rest of South Asia, where economic growth has spurred a dramatic decline in extreme poverty in the last 25 years.

And the numbers are striking: In South Asia, the number of extreme poor living on less than $1.90 a day dropped to 216 million people in 2015 from 275 million in 2013 and 536 million in 1990.

Even more remarkable, South Asian countries experienced an increase in incomes among the poorest 40 percent of 2.6 percent a year between 2010-2015, faster than the global average of 1.9 percent.

On a global scale, the highest concentration of poor shifted from South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2012. And India is likely to be overtaken, if it has not already been, by Nigeria as the country with the most people living in extreme poverty.

It’s worth thinking about how far South Asia has come – but remaining clear-eyed about how far we must go to finish the fight against extreme poverty.

Indeed, it is increasingly clear that poverty is more entrenched and harder to root out in certain areas, particularly in rural areas and in countries burdened by violent conflict and weak institutions.

Estimates for 2015 indicate that India, with 176 million poor people, continued to have the highest number of people in poverty and accounted for nearly a quarter of the global poor.

True, the extreme poverty rate is significantly lower in India relative to the average rate in Sub-Saharan Africa. But because of its large population, India’s total number of poor is still large.

And while there has been a substantial decline in the numbers and rate of people living below $1.90 in South Asia, the number of people living on less than $3.20 has declined by only 8 percent over 1990-2015 because of the growing population.

In 2015, 49 percent of the population of South Asia were living on less than $3.20 a day, and 80 percent were living on less than $5.50 a day.

Some advice from survey implementers: Part 1

Markus Goldstein's picture
I have often wondered what the folks who do the surveys I use in my research think of how it is to work with me.   Since I wasn’t sure I had the courage to hear that straight to my face, I wrote to a number of survey folks I knew (and thought highly of) or that other people recommended.   I asked them what they would tell researchers in general.  
 

Why the World Bank is adding new ways to measure poverty

Maria Ana Lugo's picture

The 2018 Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report shows how poverty is changing and introduces improved ways to monitor our progress toward ending it.

The landscape of extreme poverty is now split in two. While most of the world has seen extreme poverty fall to below 3 percent of the population, Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing extreme poverty rates affecting more than 40 percent of people. The lamentable distinction of being home to the most people living in extreme poverty has shifted, or will soon shift, from India to Nigeria, symbolizing the increased concentration of poverty in Africa.

What’s behind the slowing pace of poverty reduction in Tajikistan?

Alisher Rajabov's picture


Tajikistan achieved high rates of economic growth during the 2000s (about 8% per year, on average), which doubled GDP per capita and helped reduce poverty by almost half between 1999 and 2009. But over the following decade, the rate of poverty reduction began to slow – between 2012 and 2017, poverty fell by about 7.5 percentage points.
 
While employment and growing income levels continued to slowly drive poverty reduction, a fall in the value of remittances in 2014 began weighing on the country’s performance. Since then, the poverty rate has fallen by about just 1 percentage point per year.
 
So, despite continued growth, why has the pace of poverty reduction slowed in Tajikistan?

Incomes of the poorest are growing in 3 of every 4 economies

Maria Ana Lugo's picture

In much of the world today, the incomes of the poor are growing. The World Bank calls this concept shared prosperity, defined as the average annual growth in income or consumption of the poorest 40 percent (the bottom 40) within each country. So, if shared prosperity in a country is positive, the poor are getting richer.

In addition, the shared prosperity premium is defined as the difference between the annual income or consumption growth rate of the bottom 40 and the annual growth rate of the mean in the economy. A positive premium indicates that the bottom 40 are getting a larger share of overall income in the economy.

In Africa, technology and human capital go hand in hand

Sheila Jagannathan's picture
Photo: eLearning Africa
Rwanda’s progress from the devastating civil war two decades ago to one of the most rapidly developing African countries is a remarkable narrative on development.

Twenty-four years ago, the country was torn apart by civil war and one of the worst genocides human history has known; one in which more than a million people were killed in only three months.

Now, with years of sustained economic growth—predicted to be around 6.5% this year, the country is well on the way to achieving many of the ambitious development goals set out in the Rwandan Government’s ‘Vision 2020.’ This strategy seeks to move away from agriculture and rely instead on services and knowledge as the new engines of economic growth, with the objective of achieving middle-income status in the near term.

I had the privilege of getting a snapshot view of Rwanda’s success during the few days I spent in the country last month attending elearning Africa 2018, the continent’s largest conference on technology-assisted learning and training. The choice of Kigali as the location for this year’s conference is highly symbolic: Rwanda has put education and skills at the heart of its national strategy, and can send a powerful message to other African countries about the importance of investing in human capital to support overall development.

How Much Will the Belt and Road Initiative Reduce Trade Costs?

Michele Ruta's picture
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a development strategy proposed by China to improve cooperation on a trans-continental scale. The range of projects and activities that will be part of the BRI is very wide, including policy coordination, infrastructure, trade and investment, financial and people-to-people exchanges. But a key goal of the Initiative is to boost connectivity and reduce trade costs through new and improved transport infrastructure projects.
 

Debunking three myths about Informality

Jamele Rigolini's picture
The perceived benefits of formalization include better access to credit, justice, large formal clients, and, for the government, higher tax revenues. But according to recent literature, most formalization efforts resulted in modest and short term increases in formality rates.
Photo credit: Peter Kapuscinski / World Bank

Since the concept of the “informal sector” was coined half a century ago, countries all over the world have promoted the formalization of small- and medium-size enterprises. The perceived benefits of formalization include better access to credit, justice, large formal clients, and, for the government, higher tax revenues. But according to recent literature, most formalization efforts resulted in modest and short term increases in formality rates.

Three things to know about women’s land rights today

Anna Wellenstein's picture
 

Gender equality is central to ongoing global efforts to reduce extreme poverty and improve livelihoods for all. An important part of gender equality is ensuring women’s equal access to – and secure rights to – land and properties. 

Strengthening women’s land tenure security improves their rights and their dignity. Importantly, improving women’s access to and control over economic resources also has a positive effect on a range of development goals, including poverty reduction and economic growth.

What do we know about women’s land rights globally?  

Although gains have been made to increase legal protections for women to use, manage, own and inherit land, in practice, women often aren’t able to realize their rights to the land on which they live, work and depend for survival.

In a video blog marking the International Day of Rural Women, World Bank Director Anna Wellenstein and Senior Land Administration Specialist Victoria Stanley discuss three “headlines” one may encounter on women and land:
  1. Globally, there is an understanding that reducing poverty requires secure land tenure, and that women’s share in that is important.
  2. Researchers and policymakers don’t have enough gender-disaggregated data at the country level to understand the true scope of the challenge of women’s land rights, but efforts are underway to collect more data and gain a better understanding.
  3. There are strong pilots and initiatives of women themselves to gain equal access to land and improve tenure security, but now these efforts need to go to scale.

To drive broader development impact and affect lasting change, the World Bank joins global and regional partners – Landesa, Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), UN-Habitat, Habitat for Humanity, and the Huairou Commission – and local women and communities in preparing an advocacy campaign that aims to close the gap between law and practice on women’s land rights.

Watch the video and read our blog series to learn more about women and land.


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