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South Asia

Swept up in work: My years in the Kabul office

Paul Sisk's picture
Family on Motorbike in Afghanistan
Afghanistan. Photo by Graham Crouch/World Bank


I spent the past 11 years working and living in Afghanistan.  I didn’t intend to stay that long in one country office, but I got swept up in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which under the World Bank, was financing 50% of government expenditures earlier on.  Its budget operations grew from $600 million in 2004 to more than $5 billion in 2014.
For anyone working on public financial management, there were a lot of challenges to tackle and no good time to leave. Our work in Afghanistan is the World Bank at its best. Moreover, Afghans are excellent hosts and have been very receptive to World Bank collaboration.

Deltas Drained: Dealing with population migration in Bangladesh

Sylvia Szabo's picture
 

 Dealing with population migration in Bangladesh

Delta regions constitute only 5% of the land area but are home to more than 500 million people. The proportion of deltas susceptible to flooding is projected to further increase, thus affecting negatively the livelihoods of local populations, in particular farmer communities.

Recently, the International Council for Science (ICSU) endorsed the Global Sustainable Deltas Initiative (SD2015). The objective of this initiative is to bring attention to the importance and vulnerabilities of delta regions worldwide. To this aim, the University of Minnesota-led Belmont Forum DELTAS project is working to create a global vision for deltas through scientific integration, collection and sharing of data and stakeholder engagement.

Goals (SDGs), now is the time to consider these delta specific challenges in a broader context.

Picture Trade: How we can visualize intra-regional trade in South Asia and beyond

Siddhesh Kaushik's picture
Intra-regional trade constitutes less than 5 percent of total trade in South Asia, according to World Bank analysis. Economic cooperation remains low, despite the Agreement on a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). The region’s low level of intra-regional trade is a puzzling phenomenon, and it’s left many interested folks asking questions.

Which regions trade more amongst themselves? What are the top products being exported or imported? Who are the top exporting and importing countries in a particular region?

Here is a visual representation of regional trade in South Asia in WITS that can help quickly unpack some of these questions as they relate to the region. 
 
South Asia, Export by Region
(Click on + sign on left to view country breakdown)


After the jump, we break down these numbers and show how you can explore the viz. 

Afghanistan debt - when words get lost in translation

Paul Sisk's picture
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/World Bank

 

One of the many successful fiscal initiatives implemented in Afghanistan was the HIPC, the Highly Indebted Poor Country program, a joint IMF–World Bank effort to reduce the public debt of poor countries. We called this the forgiveness of debt.
At an early stage in this work I had to meet with a senior Afghan government official to explain the program. The official, the Deputy Auditor General, was a dedicated, serious man who had trained in the former Soviet Union as an engineer and did not speak English, so we relied on an interpreter.

In those days any Afghan who spoke some English could find work as an interpreter, and ours was a medical doctor. He told me he was anxious to find work in his own field but in the meantime was willing to work anywhere, even interpreting in this arcane field of auditing, although he was unfamiliar with the jargon. The conversation was not to be long; just outline that the external public debt, which was mostly Russian debt from the communist era, would be absorbed by a trust fund and hence “forgiven” if Afghanistan met the program requirements – basically good fiscal transparency and discipline.

Nepal: from relief to reconstruction

Johannes Zutt's picture
Keshav’s house (left) and his mother’s house (right), before the earthquake


In Nepal’s hamlets and villages, in the first days following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25, families sheltered under crude lean-tos, made of whatever relatively waterproof materials they had to hand.

Keshav and his family

Keshav Thapa Magar, who lives with his wife, son and two daughters on the southeastern edge of the Kathmandu valley in Kot Gaon, had a typical earthquake experience for families of his 100-household village. The village consists in Newars, Magars, Chhetris and Tamangs, who mostly lived in traditional mud-brick or mud-stone houses before the earthquake destroyed them. Keshav’s own house, his cousin’s (like his, a traditional house) and his mother’s concrete post-and-beam house were all destroyed on April 25.

Nepal one month after the earthquake

Johannes Zutt's picture
Kathmandu after the first earthquake


It has been a month since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit central Nepal on April 25. What happened next? 
 
Having experienced a real threat of death, many survivors manifested avoidance (“I don’t want to talk about it!”), hyper-vigilance (“What’s that noise? Is the ground moving?”), intrusive thoughts (“What if the next big one may come while I’m asleep …?”) -- classic stress reactions.
 
Many Bank staff have had many sleepless nights as the aftershocks continued, more than 250 to date above a magnitude of 4, thirty above 5, four above 6, and—just when we first thought that life was becoming normal again—a 7.3 on May 12.
 
That one came like the first one, in the middle of the day, but it felt like an unwelcome nighttime guest, full of foreboding.  People ran into the streets screaming, or silly giddy on realizing that they had survived another one—but even more terrified at what would come next.  More people died; more buildings collapsed.  People who had moved back into their houses moved out again. 

Closing thoughts on the "Harnessing Digital Trade for Competitiveness and Development" conference

Rosanna Chan's picture

Fiber optic light bokeh. Source - x_tineDigital entrepreneurs have the potential to connect to global markets like never before. Whether selling physical goods on internet platforms, or providing digital goods and services that can be downloaded and streamed, an entirely new ecosystem of innovative micro and small businesses has emerged in the developing world.
 
The World Bank Group hosted some of the pioneers in this space for a full-day conference on Harnessing Digital Trade for Competitiveness and Development on May 19. Here, we heard entrepreneurial success stories—an online platform for jewelry in Kenya, a provider of software solutions in Nepal, an online platform for livestock trade in Serbia—and dove into the constraints and challenges of running a digital business in an emerging economy.
 
The scope of these challenges made these success stories, and the broader potential they represent, even more inspiring. From internet connectivity to logistics, from financial payments to trade regulations, from bankruptcy laws to entrepreneurial and consumer digital literacy-- clearly, more needs to be done to fully harness the potential of digital trade for competitiveness and development and to foster an enabling environment to digital trade.

Education and Employment: The big push needed for India’s youth

Raghbendra Jha's picture

When looking at recent data, it is hard to escape the conclusion that although India has enjoyed high economic growth this has largely been jobless economic growth. It is imperative for there to be a big push in the areas of education and employment in India. This is the most significant policy challenge facing the Indian economy.

Bangladesh: The challenges of living in a delta country

Lia Sieghart's picture



Deltas are often described as cradles of civilization. They are the testing grounds for early agriculture and the birthplace of hydraulic engineering as we attempted to shape the landscape to suit our needs.

Deltas are the unique result of the interaction of rivers and tidal processes resulting in the largest sedimentary deposits in the world. Although comprising only 5% of the land area, deltas have up to 10 times higher than average population—a number, which is increasing rapidly, especially for deltas in Asia.

Low lying, deltas are widely recognized as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly sea-level rise and changes in runoff, as well as being subject to stresses imposed by human modification of catchment and delta plain land use.

Help Nepal: Waive the remittance fees, and open the door wider

Dilip Ratha's picture
I was struck by an interview featured in a recent show of CBC Radio One's The Current. Nani Gautam, a live-in caregiver in Canada, was asked how important was the money she sent home to her family in Nepal, especially after the earthquake. “As important as breathing for life,” said Nani, who sends home at least one-third of her earnings every month, month-after-month, for the last five years. Her remittances are even more important now, after the earthquake.

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