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How to scale up financial inclusion in ASEAN countries

José de Luna-Martínez's picture
MYR busy market

Globally, around 2 billion people do not use formal financial services. In Southeast Asia, there are 264 million adults who are still “unbanked”; many of them save their money under the mattress and borrow from so-called “loan sharks”, paying exorbitant interest rates on a daily or weekly basis. Recognizing the importance of financial inclusion for economic development, the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have made this one of their top priorities for the next five years.
 
Last week, the World Bank Group presented the latest data on financial inclusion in ASEAN to senior representatives of the ministries of finance and central banks of all 10 ASEAN member countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). The session, held in Kuala Lumpur, is one of the joint activities the new World Bank Research and Knowledge Hub and Malaysia is undertaking to support financial inclusion around the world.
 

How can rapidly aging East Asia sustain its economic dynamism?

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Panos Agency


In the last three decades, East Asia has reaped the demographic dividend. An abundant and growing labor force powered almost one-third of the region’s per capita income growth from the 1960s to the 1990s, making it the world’s growth engine.
 
Now, East Asia is facing the challenges posed by another demographic trend: rapid aging. A new World Bank report finds that East Asia and Pacific is aging faster – and on a larger scale – than any other region in history.
 
More than 211 million people ages 65 and over live in East Asia and Pacific, accounting for 36 percent of the global population in that age group. By 2040, East Asia’s older population will more than double, to 479 million, and the working-age population will shrink by 10 percent to 15 percent in countries such as Korea, China, and Thailand.
 
Across the region, as the working-age population declines and the pace of aging accelerates, policy makers are concerned with the potential impact of aging on economic growth and rising demand for public spending on health, pension and long-term care systems.
 
As the region ages rapidly, how do governments, employers and households ensure that hard-working people live healthy and productive lives in old age? How do societies in East Asia and Pacific promote productive aging and become more inclusive?
 

We must prepare now for another major El Niño

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
El Niño is back and may be stronger than ever.
 
A wooden boat is seen stranded on the dry cracked riverbed of the Dawuhan Dam during drought season in Madiun, Indonesia's East Java province.  October 28, 2015 © ANTARA FOTO/Reuters/Corbis



The latest cyclical warming of Pacific Ocean waters, first observed centuries ago and formally tracked since 1950, began earlier this year and already has been felt across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Weather experts predict this El Niño will continue into the spring of 2016 and could wreak havoc, because climate change is likely to exacerbate the intensity of storms and flooding in some places and of severe drought and water shortages in others.

El Niño’s impacts are global, with heavy rain and severe flooding expected in South America and scorching weather and drought conditions likely in the Horn of Africa region.

The reforms behind the Doing Business rankings

Cecile Fruman's picture



In Mozambique in 2003, it took an entrepreneur 168 days to start a business. Today, it takes only 19 days. That kind of transformation has major implications for ambitious men and women who are seeking to make a mark in business, or, as is often the case in Africa, seeking to move beyond a life in agriculture. In economies with sensible, streamlined regulations, all it takes is a good idea, and a couple of weeks, and an entrepreneur is in business.

This week, the World Bank Group launched its annual Doing Business 2016 report, which benchmarks countries based on their progress undertaking business reforms that make it easier for local businesses to start up and operate.

For the second straight year, Singapore topped the list, with New Zealand, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, and Hong Kong SAR, China, coming in closely behind.

In the developing world, standouts included Kenya and Costa Rica, both of which rose 21 positions; Mauritius, Sub-Saharan Africa’s top-ranked economy; Kazakhstan, which moved up 12 places to rank 41st among all countries; and Bhutan, which topped South Asia’s list of reformers. In the Middle East and North Africa, 11 of the region’s 20 economies achieved 21 reforms despite the challenges caused by a number of civil and interstate conflicts.
 
The reforms tracked by Doing Business are implemented by governments, but the results show up most in the private sector, which is critical to driving a country’s competitiveness and to creating jobs. Ensuring an enabling environment in which the private sector can operate effectively is an important marker of how well an economy is positioned to compete globally. 
 
For those of us working with governments to help improve their investment climates – and to create a policy environment in which business regulatory costs are reasonable, access to finance is open, technology is shared, and trade flows within and across borders – the real work begins long before the Doing Business rankings are published.

In the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice (T&C), our mandate is to work with developing countries to unleash the power of their private sector for growth. Much of this work involves reforms in the very areas measured in the Doing Business report: starting a business, dealing with construction formalities, or trading across borders, among other factors.

Our experience working with clients confirms one of this year’s key findings: Regulatory efficiency and quality go hand-in-hand. A good investment climate requires well-designed regulations that protect property rights and facilitate business operations while safeguarding other people’s rights as well as their health, their safety and the environment.

Long-term finance for infrastructure essential to ending poverty

Bertrand Badré's picture
A worker at a power substation in Kabul, Afghanistan. © Graham Crouch/World Bank


​Fifteen years from now, will you remember where you were when the UN General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Friday, September 25, 2015 may not be one of those days that the general public will remark on, but it is a milestone in development history. The SDGs set a new and ambitious agenda that we at the World Bank Group, together with our partners, will work to achieve along with our own goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity by 2030.

The World Bank's shared history with Singapore

Jordan Z. Schwartz's picture
The 50th birthday of the nation this year has given Singaporeans a chance to look back with pride at the achievements over the course of one generation—as a country, as an economy and as a people.
 
But it is not only Singaporeans who have a vested interest in understanding the causes of their economic growth and vast improvements in quality of life over this past half-century.
 
For those of us in the field of economic development, who advise and invest in emerging markets and developing economies so they might alleviate poverty and grow equitably and sustainably, we view these ingredients of success as critical to our mission.
 
If only we could reverse-engineer the magic elixir, the recipe for success could then be applied to other countries still struggling to improve health outcomes and reduce illiteracy, to offer their populations reliable and affordable basic services, good jobs and better lives.
 

East Asia’s challenge: ensuring that growth helps poor

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture

Unprecedented economic growth in the last three decades propelled East Asia into an economic powerhouse responsible for a quarter of the world’s economy.

Hundreds of millions of people across the region, including in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, lifted themselves out of extreme poverty and enjoyed greater prosperity, largely because of more labor-intensive and inclusive growth.

The success didn’t come without challenges. As of last year, 100 million people in East Asia still live on $1.25 a day. About 260 million still live on $2 a day or less, and they could fall back into poverty if the global economy takes a turn for the worse or if they face health, food and other shocks at home. Their uncertain future shows the increasing inequality of East Asia’s galloping growth.

Part of the #Youthbiz movement? Share your story!

Valerie Lorena's picture

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A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth. 
 
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties. 
 
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.

Now is the time to strengthen disaster risk reduction in East Asia and the Pacific

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
In PDF: Korean | Khmer

Every time I learn of another natural disaster – the people killed and injured, homes destroyed, livelihoods lost – I know we must act to reduce the tragic impact instead of waiting for the next disaster strikes.

We have that chance with this year’s World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, which seeks to finalize the successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA2) that guides policymakers and international stakeholders in managing disaster risk. The conference is an opportunity to set new milestones in disaster risk reduction and fighting poverty.

The cost of natural disasters already is high – 2.5 million people and $4 trillion lost over the past 30 years with a corresponding blow to development efforts.

In Asia, rapid urbanization combined with poor planning dramatically increases the exposure of cities, particularly those along densely populated coasts and river basins. Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 7,350 people in the Philippines in 2013, directly contributed to a 1.2 percent rise in poverty.
 

Despite expectations, cities in East Asia are becoming denser

Chandan Deuskar's picture

 
When we think of urban expansion in the 21st century, we often think of ‘sprawl’, a term that calls to mind low-density, car-oriented suburban growth, perhaps made up of single-family homes. Past studies have suggested that historically, cities around the world are becoming less dense as they grow, which has prompted worries about the environmental impacts of excess land consumption and automobile dependency. A widely cited rule of thumb is that as the population of a city doubles, its built area triples. But our new study on urban expansion in East Asia has yielded some surprising findings that are making us rethink this assumption of declining urban densities everywhere.

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