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Georgia

Improving fairness, opportunity and empowerment: A view from the South Caucasus

Genevieve Boyreau's picture
I was quite intrigued by the findings of the latest Europe and Central Asia Economic Update, with its special focus on "Polarization and Populism". As Program Leader for the South Caucasus region, covering Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, I was particularly interested in the fact that these three countries report the highest levels of life and job dissatisfaction, despite declining disparities and overall income improvement in the region (in Georgia, for instance). Indeed, using the World Bank’s "twin goal” metrics, the South Caucasus region has been performing reasonably well.

People’s living standards – do numbers tell the whole story?

Giorgia DeMarchi's picture
Numbers don’t lie. That’s why, in our day-to-day lives, we rely heavily on numbers from household surveys, from national accounts, and from other traditional sources to describe the world around us: to calculate, to compare, to measure, to understand economic and social trends in the countries where we work.

But do we perhaps rely too much on numbers to gain an understanding of people’s lives and the societies in which they live? Do numbers really tell us the whole story, or give us the full picture?


 

Time to think differently: How to help the internally displaced in Georgia

Ewa Sobczynska's picture
In the early 1990s and 2008, secessionist conflicts led to the internal displacement of 6 percent of Georgia’s population, making it one of the countries with highest incidences of internal displacement.
 
We tend to think that the displaced will be able to go home soon, but in reality, they remain displaced for years. A total of 246,974 men, women and children from the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are still unable to return, now living in the capital city of Tbilisi and in smaller urban and rural areas close to their regions of origin.
 
Mother and baby
Mother and baby in Tbilisi. (Photo: World Bank)

After more than 25 years since the first wave of displacement, Georgia’s internally displaced are a diverse group. Some live in independent private housing, are employed and have managed to provide good education to their children. Others continue to live in collective centers, are spatially and socially isolated from the rest of the population, and have been chronically poor and unemployed since they became displaced.

While meeting the immediate needs of the displaced is important at the outset, such changes over time suggest that we need to think differently about how better to support them in the long term.
 
One example is the monthly benefit of 45 Lari (approximately 20 USD) provided to all internally displaced citizens by the Georgian government, regardless of their levels of poverty or employment. Some of the country’s poor, who have not been displaced, have begun to question this benefit.
 
After all, why should someone who is not poor, receive such support?
 
In 2014, the Government of Georgia asked the World Bank to study this question. Should the benefit for the internally displaced be adjusted, and what are the implications, including social and poverty impacts? Here are some of the main observations from the report, Transitioning from Status to Needs Based Assistance for IDPs: A Poverty and Social Impact Analysis, which our team prepared: 
  • Georgia’s displaced and non-displaced are equally likely to be poor. However, the displaced tend to rely on social transfers, remittances, and informal jobs, and are more likely to be unemployed for long periods of time. Those in rural area have significantly less information, opportunities for employment, or access to good quality education and services.
  • Those who still live in non-renovated, public collective centers experience inadequate living conditions. These households are often socially isolated, separated from friends and family and unable to form ties in uncertain housing conditions. Regardless of income, these households remain extremely vulnerable.
  • The displacement "status," – i.e., formal recognition of having been displaced from a conflict area – has a strong symbolic and political value among the entire Georgian population. To the displaced it signifies hope of returning to their homeland. To others it signals the state’s commitment to reintegrating the two occupied territories. For many – rich or poor – holding this status is a matter of dignity.
Research confirms the diverse economic and social situations of the displaced. It also recognizes the political difficulties of removing such a symbolically important benefit, or targeting it exclusively to the poor.
 
But given fiscal constraints in Georgia, providing benefits to those that do not necessarily need them is problematic in the long term. In this regard, the report supports the eventual phasing out of the benefit, already initiated by the Georgian government, while taking steps to help those in need, with the following recommendations: 
  • Livelihoods support is essential especially for households at risk of falling into poverty, with activities that are tailored to the diverse needs of this population, their skills and  location. Access to land for those in rural areas with agricultural skills, and access to finance and training for those who are entrepreneurial, are two activities that could work well with these groups.
  • Addressing housing conditions and supporting access to private housing is important. Currently, 80 percent of government assistance for the internally displaced goes for housing. These resources could gradually be reallocated towards livelihood assistance for the poorest. 
  • The poorest households, eligible for social assistance, should be encouraged to apply to the Targeted Social Assistance program – the regular social assistance program for vulnerable Georgians.

It is perhaps most important to ensure that the population, both displaced and not, understands why these reforms are necessary. The time has come for an adjusted approach, so that scarce resources can be used more effectively to benefit those in need, especially the poor and vulnerable.
 

Guess how many private infrastructure projects reached closure in 2015 in the poorest countries?

Laurence Carter's picture
 

Just fourteen projects in energy, transport and water/sanitation.  In only eight countries. Totaling $2.7 billion.
 
There are 56 IDA countries (excluding three “inactive” and a few rich enough to count as “IDA blend”) defined as having per capita income under $1,215.  This 2.7 billion in IDA countries compares to total private infrastructure investment commitments of $111.6 billion in all emerging markets in 2015 per the recently released Private Participation in Infrastructure database.
 
In recent years, the number of projects and investment amounts of private infrastructure in IDA countries hasn’t increased.  If people living in the poorest countries are to get better access to energy, transport and water services, and if we believe that the innovation, management capacity and financing of the private sector working together with governments is essential to help make that happen … well, then we need a step change.
 
We know to make a difference requires dedication and a long term vision.  One part of that ambitious change is the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF).  The GIF is a global open platform to help partners prepare and structure complex infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs) in emerging markets, and to bring in private sector and institutional investor capital.  The GIF platform integrates the efforts of multilateral development banks (who as Technical Partners choose which projects to submit for GIF funding), private sector investors and financiers, and governments to bring infrastructure projects and programs to market.  No single institution can achieve these goals alone.  The GIF’s Advisory Partners, which include insurers, fund managers, and commercial lenders, and which together have $13 trillion in assets under management, provide feedback to governments on the bankability of projects.

Renewables, solar, and large size projects trending in new data on private participation in infrastructure

Clive Harris's picture



Translations available in Chinese and Spanish.

Many of you are already familiar with the PPP (Public-Private Partnerships) Group’s Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) Database. As a reminder for those who aren’t, the PPI Database is a comprehensive resource of over 8,000 projects with private participation across 139 low- and middle-income economies from the period of 1990-2015, in the water, energy, transport and telecoms sectors.

We recently released the 2015 full year data showing that global private infrastructure investment remains steady when compared to the previous year (US$111.6 billion compared with US$111.7 the previous year), largely due to a couple of mega-deals in Turkey (including Istanbul’s $35.6 billion IGA Airport (which includes a $29.1 billion concession fee to the government). When compared to the previous five-year average, however, global private infrastructure investment in 2015 was 10 percent lower, mainly due to dwindling commitments in China, Brazil, and India. Brazil in particular saw only $4.5 billion in investments, sharply declining from $47.2 billion in 2014 and reversing a trend of growing investments over the last five years.

Improving access to agricultural land for the internally displaced

Ifeta Smajic's picture
Credit: International Crisis Group

An estimated 38 million people worldwide are forcefully displaced within the boundaries of their own country. In the majority of cases, internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in protracted displacement. For IDPs fleeing rural areas, loss of land, productive assets and sudden shift towards a non-agricultural lifestyle can be stagnating.

Georgia has some 270,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For them, sustainable livelihoods remain a challenge - 80% of the IDPs in Georgia are unemployed compared to a 15% unemployment rate nationwide (2013 figures).

Many Georgian IDPs would like to engage in agricultural production, but suffer from lack of access to sufficient land for pursuing agricultural livelihoods.

As Georgia innovates, hidden talents are revealed

Tako Kobakhidze's picture
Tech Park Georgia

​On top of Mount Mtatsminda, overlooking Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi, the country’s future innovation is being prepared as today meets tomorrow.

Let me tell you about Tech Park of Georgia!

I recently visited there with some World Bank colleagues. We were hosted by Mariam Lashkhi, a former colleague who now leads the Department of International Relations at Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) overseeing the Tech Park. Mariam, who was involved in the development of Georgia’s Competitiveness and Innovation Project while at the Bank, gave us a brief history of GITA, created in 2013.

It all began with an idea to support Georgia’s government and the private sector in advancing innovation-led growth of key sectors of economy. Ultimately, the goal was to drive competitiveness and ensure longer-term sustainable growth, with a focus on job creation.

On digital revolution, skills and the future of communications

Tako Kobakhidze's picture

WDR2016

We find ourselves in the midst of the greatest information and communications revolution in human history. I’m not the author of this phrase, but I fully agree with it. This particular sentence made me read the entire overview of the World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends.

I have always been wondering what does the Digital Revolution actually mean. Who, but the Co-Director of the report could have answered my question best?! Yes, I had the opportunity to interview Uwe Deichmann last week in Tbilisi. He visited Georgia as part of the ‘road-show’ to present this work of the World Bank Group team to the government, business, academia, students, and other interested audience attending the Business Forum: Innovation and Digital Economy.

Charging up the Fourth Estate: Communicating about audit

Tako Kobakhidze's picture
I’m back in Kazbegi and writing a blog again - what a nice coincidence! Georgian mountains possess a certain magic: they can help you forget about the office routine, bring out your social side, and enable you to more freely express yourself. Clearly, it was a very smart decision by the State Audit Office of Georgia (SAOG) to choose a location near Mkinvartsveri Mountain for its two-day workshop for media representatives.

With a view to helping journalists – the so-called Fourth Estate – broaden their knowledge in the field of audit, the head of the SAOG together with his colleagues hosted 20 media professionals from leading Georgian outlets, including TV, print and digital – all vital channels of external communication, and essential for ensuring transparency and accountability.

 
 

The introduction of large scale computer adaptive testing in Georgia

Michael Trucano's picture
we feel so lonely now that everyone has moved over to the computer room
we feel so lonely now that everyone has
moved over to the computer room

Testing: For better and/or for worse, many education systems are built around it (although some perhaps not as much as others). In numerous countries, a long-standing joke asks whether 'MOE' stands for 'Ministry of Education', or 'Ministry of Examination'? (This joke is not meant to be funny, of course.)

'Testing' is a source of and trigger for controversies of all different sorts, in different places around the world. The word 'standardized' is considered negative by many people when it is used to modify 'testing', but it is perhaps worth noting that a lack of 'standardized' tests can have important implications for equity. Within the U.S., the Obama administration recently declared that students should spend no more than 2% of classroom instruction time taking tests. However one feels about the wisdom of setting such hard targets (one could argue, for instance, that it's not 'testing' per se that's the problem, to the extent that it is indeed a problem, but rather 'bad testing') and the various types of time accounting shenanigans that might predictably emerge so that the letter but not the spirit of such declarations are met (a school could be creative about what it feels constitutes a 'test' or 'instruction time', for example), there is no denying the centrality of testing to approaches to education in schools around the world.

'Testing' means different things to different people. There are important distinctions between assessments that are formative (i.e. low stakes means to provide feedback to teachers and students on how much students are learning, as a way to identify strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly) and those that are summative (e.g. high stakes final exams).

It's also potentially worth noting that tests can be utilized not only as means of assessment, but explicitly as tools to help learning we well (an approach sometimes called 'studying by testing'; here's an interesting related paper: When Does Testing Enhance Retention? A Distribution-Based Interpretation of Retrieval as a Memory Modifier [pdf]).

The point here is not to get into a debate about testing, as illuminating and energetic (or frustrating and political) as such a debate might be. Rather, it is to shine a light on some related things happening at the frontier of activities and experiences in this area that are comparatively little known in most of the world but which may be increasingly relevant to many education systems in the coming years.

broken?
broken?

The nature of tests and testing is changing, enabled in large part by new technologies. (Side noteOne way to predict where there are going to be large upcoming public sector procurement activities to provide computing equipment and connectivity to schools is to identify places where big reforms around standardized testing are underway.) While there continues to be growing interest (and hype, and discussion, and confusion) surrounding the potential for technology to enable more 'personalized learning', less remarked on in many quarters is the potential rise in more personalized testing.

The science fiction author William Gibson has famously observed that, The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed. When it comes to educational technology use around the world, there are lots of interesting 'innovations at the edges' that are happening far away from the spots where one might reflexively look (like Seoul, Silicon Valley or Shanghai, to cite just a few examples that begin with the letter 'S') to learn practical lessons about what might be coming next, and how this may come to pass.

When it comes to testing, one such place is ... Georgia. This is not the Georgia in the southern United States (capital = Atlanta, where people play football while wearing helmets), but rather the small, mountainous country that borders the Black Sea which emerged as a result of the breakup of the Soviet Union (capital = Tbilisi, where people play football with their feet).

Georgia is the first country in the world to utilize computer adaptive testing for all of its school leaving examinations.

What does this mean,
what does it look like in practice,
what is there to learn from this experience,
and why should we care?

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