This winter, I was at an employment center in Karaganda, Kazakhstan talking to people who were interested in starting their own businesses. I could still remember the excitement in their voices as they talked about their ideas.
I like entertaining my western friends with stories of growing up in the post-communist Kazakhstan limbo, when everything ended, but nothing had yet started. Stories of how my friends and I would collect old newspapers to trade for books and Moscow magazine subscriptions. And later on, selling empty milk bottles back for some cash to buy candy and chewing gum in the newly opened Chinese shops. The audience goes “oohh” and “ahh”, and oh do I feel like I’ve seen a lot and know what life is like!
I have to admit – attending the Fragility Conflict and Violence (FCV) Forum 2015 that took place at the World Bank HQ last week was an experience that changed my perspective on hardships of life in developing countries. There are developing countries and then there are fragile and conflict-affected countries.
The SAFE Trust Fund application (Word document) is now open until 27 February 2015.
What is SAFE?
SAFE means Strengthening Accountability and the Fiduciary Environment. It is a Trust Fund group administered by the World Bank and established by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the European Commission with the aim of improving public financial management in the Europe and Central Asia region. This Trust Fund group provides support for activities to assess public financial management (PFM) performance, identify and implement actions to achieve improvements and share knowledge and good practices across countries in the region.
- public finance management
- public finance
- world bank
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Financial Sector
- Europe and Central Asia
- Macedonia, former Yugoslav Republic of
- Kyrgyz Republic
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
All eyes turned to Russia recently, when on 16 December the ruble plunged by more than 11 percent, despite the Central Bank of Russia’s last-minute interest rate hike of 6.5 percentage points to 17 percent. When it looked like Russia’s turmoil might spread to global markets, western economies sat up and paid close attention.
What may have gone unnoticed, however, is the ongoing impact on our client countries in the Europe and Central Asia region.
Notes from Russia and Kazakhstan
Oil prices tumbled dramatically since July when they reached US$115 per barrel to below US$65 per barrel in recent days. Despite the sharp price decline, OPEC signaled no intention to cut production. The oil market remains well-supplied and there is demand-driven pressure on oil prices, following weak economic data from the Euro zone and a number of emerging economies, including Turkey, Brazil, Russia, and China which means that the oil price could fall even further and remain low for longer.
The economic prospects of many resource abundant economies are tied to oil prices. Russia and Kazakhstan are two extreme cases. Such dependency translates into volatility of export receipts and government revenues and, depending on the exchange regime, to a decline in the national currency. For Russia, oil and gas provide about 70 percent of its exports and 50 percent of its federal budget. In Kazakhstan, oil revenues constitute about half of government’s total revenues and 45 percent of foreign exchange earnings.
Seven years ago, Kazakhstan’s government set the development of e-government as a priority. As a result, today there are more than 2.6 million users registered on the country’s “electronic government” portal (www.e-gov.kz), accounting for almost 30 percent of Kazakhstan’s economically active population.
On average, Kazakhstani people receive about 40 million different services a year electronically. In the next three years, e-government can completely switch to the mobile format.
The most recent data show significant strides in reducing maternal mortality at the national level over the past 20 years. Improvements in access to maternal health care, especially in skilled birth assistance, have contributed to the reduction of maternal mortality.
While these improvements are impressive, the national level data often mask inequalities in skilled birth assistance within countries. There may be gaps within a country, for example, where wealthy women might have better access than women from poor households. According to the World Health Organization, "The high number of maternal deaths in some areas of the world reflects inequities in access to health services, and highlights the gap between rich and poor."
This time, things were different. We became real players in the public discussion about mitigating climate change in Central Asia.
The forum in question -- the second Central Asia Climate Knowledge Forum: Moving towards Regional Climate Resilience – was organized by the World Bank Group in Almaty in May, and brought together about 200 participants from nearly all institutions interested or involved in this problem -- including top officials of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and donors. Around 30 civil society representatives from the Central Asian countries also attended the event. NGOs were represented more solidly at the second forum compared to the first.
”Focus on the journey, not the destination,” was our guiding principle.