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Myanmar - Participating in change: Promoting public sector accountability to all

Shabih Ali Mohib's picture

Successful development is about making a reality of aspirations and ambitious ideas through effective implementation – Myanmar can achieve just that for its people by instilling the values of transparency, accountability and public participation in its public sector.

Ideas and policies matter. They have the power to be transformative.  A strong and efficient, transparent and accountable public sector is crucial for translating inspiring ideas and policies into real development outcomes. If we liken Myanmar to a car, then the public sector – a collection of institutions, processes and people which together function as the machinery of government – has an important role to play. The people of Myanmar sit in the driver’s seat, the private sector is the engine which moves the economy forward – and the public sector acts as the car’s transmission and gearbox. If it’s running well, the car moves forward smoothly – but if it’s poorly maintained, people may be in for a bumpy ride. 

The logical next step toward gender equality: Generating evidence on what works

Sudhir Shetty's picture
© World Bank
College students in Vietnam. © World Bank

As in much of the rest of the developing world, developing countries in East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) have made progress in closing many gender disparities, particularly in areas such as education and health outcomes. Even on the gender gaps that still remain significant, more is now known about why these have remained “sticky” despite rapid economic progress. 

Ensuring that women and girls are on a level playing field with men and boys is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. It is right because gender equality is a core objective of development. And it is smart because gender equality can spur development. It has been estimated, for instance, that labor productivity in developing East Asia and Pacific could be 7-18% higher if women had equal access to productive resources and worked in the same sectors and types of jobs as men.

Building an inclusive financial sector in Myanmar: The road ahead

Alexandra Drees-Gross's picture

Myanmar’s financial sector is undergoing a historic transition. It has witnessed a number of reforms and liberalizations since 2012: private banks have expanded their operations rapidly; more than 1.4 million debit cards have been issued for the first time; thousands of ATMs have been set up; and credit to the private sector has grown steadily, albeit from a low base.

How many years do refugees stay in exile?

Xavier Devictor's picture
"The average length of time that refugees spend in camps is 17 years." This cruel statistic has been quoted many times, influencing our perception of refugee crises as never-ending events which are spinning out of control. It has significant implications when deciding the type of aid that is needed, the combination of humanitarian and development support, and the possible responses to the crisis.

But is it true? Not so.

In fact, the "17 year" statistic comes from a 2004 internal UNHCR report, and it was accompanied by many caveats which have been lost along the way. The statistic does not refer to camps, since the overwhelming majority of refugees live outside camps. It is limited to situations of five years or more, so it is an average duration of the longest situations, not of all situations. Most importantly, it refers to the duration of situations, not to the time people have stayed in exile.

Take the situation of Somali refugees in Kenya. Refugees started to arrive massively around 1993, about 23 years ago. Their number now stands at 418,000. But can we say that all 418,000 have been in exile for 23 years?

In fact, forced displacement situations are inherently dynamic. As we see in Figure 1, numbers vary every year: they reflect political and military developments in the country of origin. In fact, a large part of the current total could not have arrived before 2008, i.e. about 6 or 7 years ago.

Figure 1 Number of Somali refugees in Kenya (UNHCR data)

Along these lines, and using data published by UNHCR as of end-2015, we re-calculated the earliest date at which various cohorts of refugees could have arrived in each situation (see working paper). We then aggregated all situations into a single "global refugee population" and calculated global averages and median durations.

So what are the results?

When we look at the "global refugee population" (See Figure 2), we can now distinguish several distinct episodes of displacement.

Figure 2 Number of refugees by year of exile

There is a large cohort of about 8.9 million "recent refugees," who arrived over the last four years. This includes about 4.8 million Syrians, as well as people fleeing from South Sudan (0.7 million), Afghanistan (0.3 million), Ukraine (0.3 million), the Central African Republic (0.3 million), and Pakistan (0.2 million).

Another large cohort, of about 2.2 million, has spent between 5 and 9 years in exile. It includes refugees from Afghanistan (0.5 million), the bulk of the current Somali refugees (0.4 million), and people fleeing from Colombia (0.3 million) and Myanmar (0.2 million).

About 2 million people have been in exile between 10 and 34 years. This includes years during which numbers are relatively low, and two episodes where they are higher, around 14 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.2 million Sudanese refugees, and around 24 and 25 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.1 million Somalis and 0.1 million Eritreans.

Lastly, a large group of refugees has been in exile for 35 to 37 years: these 2.2 million refugees include mainly Afghans, but also about 0.3 million ethnic Chinese who fled into China during the 1979 war with Vietnam. Finally, there are few very protracted situations, up to 55 years, including mainly Western Sahara.

We can now turn to average durations. As of end-2015, the median duration of exile stands at 4 years, i.e. half of the refugees worldwide have spent 4 years or less in exile. The median has fluctuated widely since the end of the Cold War, in 1991, between 4 and 14 years, and it is now at a historical low. By contrast, the mean duration stands at 10.3 years, and has been relatively stable since the late 1990s, between 10 and 15 years.

But this leads to another important finding: trends can be counter-intuitive. In fact, a decline in the average duration of exile is typically not an improvement, but rather the consequence of a degradation of the global situation. The averages increase in years when there are relatively few new refugees, and they drop when large numbers of people flow in, for example in 1993-1994 (with conflicts in Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda), in 1997-1999 (with conflicts in DRC and other parts of Africa), after 2003 (with conflict in Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan), and since 2013 (with the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic).

We also looked at the number of people who have spent more than five years in exile. As of end-2015, this number stands at 6.6 million, and it has been remarkably stable since 1991, at 5 to 7 million throughout most of the period.  For this group, however, the average duration of exile increases over time – largely because of the unresolved situation of Afghan refugees which pushes averages up. It is now well over 20 years.

This short analysis of UNHCR data shows that available refugee data can be used to clarify some important parts of the policy debate. It is important to ensure that this debate is informed by evidence, which can help provide a more nuanced perspective of a complex issue.

Modernizing weather forecasts and disaster planning to save lives

Lisa Finneran's picture

© Angela Gentile/World Bank

Is it hot outside? Should I bring an umbrella?
Most of us don’t think much beyond these questions when we check the weather report on a typical day. But weather information plays a much more critical role than providing intel on whether to take an umbrella or use sunscreen. It can help manage the effects of climate change, prevent economic losses and save lives when extreme weather hits. 

Empowering Myanmar’s rural poor through community-driven development

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Poverty and isolation create a host of development challenges for Myanmar's rural communities, from poor road connections to lack of clean water and unreliable electricity.
Since 2013, the Myanmar National Community-Driven Development Project (NCDDP) has helped improve access to basic infrastructure and services with support from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's fund for the poorest. The community-driven development (CDD) approach responds well to local development challenges, in that it lets community groups decide how to use resources based on their specific needs and priorities.
Implemented by Myanmar's Department of Rural Development, NCDDP now operates in 5,000 villages across 27 rural townships梙ome to over 3 million people梐nd plans to reach about 7 million people in rural communities in the coming year.
In this video, Ede Ijjasz and Nikolas Myint reflect on what has been achieved so far, describe some of the challenges they met along the way, and talk about plans to take the NCDDP to the next level.

Hope for the world’s poorest springs in Myanmar

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture

Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor and minister of foreign affairs for Myanmar, addresses an IDA 18 replenishment meeting on June 21, 2016. © Aung San/World Bank

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor of Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize winner, told representatives from governments rich and poor at a meeting this week in Myanmar that reducing poverty and ensuring that everyone benefits from economic growth calls for a deep focus on addressing the challenges of fragility and conflict, climate change, gender equality, job creation, and good governance.
Suu Kyi was speaking at the opening session of a meeting of the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, where donors, borrower representatives and World Bank Group leadership are brainstorming ways to achieve these goals. She said that Myanmar’s real riches are its people, and they need to be nurtured in the right way.

Myanmar: How IDA can help countries reduce poverty and build shared prosperity

Victoria Kwakwa's picture
© Meriem Gray/World Bank

This week, more than fifty donor governments and representatives of borrowing member countries are gathering in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss how the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) can continue to help the world’s poorest countries.

IDA financing helps the world’s 77 poorest countries address big development issues. With IDA’s help, hundreds of millions of people have escaped poverty. This has been done through the creation of jobs, access to clean water, schools, roads, nutrition, electricity and more. During the past five years, IDA funding helped immunize 205 million children globally, provided access to better water sources for 50 million and access to health services for 413 million people.

Myanmar has set a path to a bright energy future by 2030

Alan David Lee's picture
  Hong Sar/ World Bank
Photo © :  Hong Sar/ World Bank.

Kyaw San has trouble studying at night. The student from Yangon Division’s Buu Tar Suu village finds it especially difficult during the rainy season when his old solar-powered lamps cannot be charged, forcing him to study by candlelight. 
Win Win Nwe, a grade 5 student, also often prepares for exams by candlelight. Her family can’t always afford to buy candles, adding another obstacle to an activity many take for granted. “If we can afford candles, we buy them. If we can’t, we don’t. We struggle and do our best,” said her father Kyi Htwe.

Today, two-thirds of Myanmar’s population is not connected to the national electricity grid and 84% of rural households lack access to electricity. No power means no light, no refrigerators, no recharging phones and batteries. Small businesses can’t stay open in the evenings, and clinics cannot refrigerate medicines. Access to reliable and affordable energy is essential for a country’s development, job creation, poverty reduction and shared prosperity goals.

Jobs: The fastest road out of poverty

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

A worker at the E-Power plant in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

For the first time in history, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series, I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030:
 good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, preventing and adapting to climate change, and, finally, creating jobs.

Good jobs are the surest pathway out of poverty. Research shows that rising wages account for 30 to 50% of the drop in poverty over the last decade. But today, more than 200 million people worldwide are unemployed and looking for work — and many of them are young and/or female. A staggering 2 billion adults, mostly women, remain outside the workforce altogether. In addition, too many people are working in low-paying, low-skilled jobs that contribute little to economic growth. Therefore, to end poverty and promote shared prosperity, we will need not just more jobs, but better jobs that employ workers from all walks of society.