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South Asia

How has Citizens’ Charter brought positive change in Jalalabad, Afghanistan?

Akram Sajid's picture
 Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank
Residents discussing their community development projects in a Community Development Council meeting in Jalalabad city. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank
The Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project (Citizens’ Charter) is a national program to provide every village and city in Afghanistan with basic services, such as water, roads, and electricity—based on decisions made by the community.
 
When we first started activities in Jalalabad city, the capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar, people were not familiar with community driven programs in urban areas; and there was no tradition of cooperation among different members of the community to jointly solve issues. Their relations with local government, especially the municipality, were weak since it could not address many of their basic needs, like access to clean drinking water.
 
As the Citizens’ Charter Communication and Outreach Officer in Jalalabad, I initially felt that community members were not feeling empowered and, therefore, didn’t see the value of working together to increase the prosperity of their community.
 
Before the project started in 2017, there were no organized councils that people could turn to, to address their shared problems. Shir Mohammad, a resident from Jalalabad’s District 5, told me: “It was so hard to gather people to discuss an issue in the area.
 

How South Asia can become a free trade area

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
Women knit handicrafts for export at Everest Fashion Fair Craft in Lalitpur, Nepal
Women knit handicrafts for export at Everest Fashion Fair Craft in Lalitpur, Nepal. Photo: Peter Kapuscinski / World Bank

The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement has been in effect since 2006—with little success.

This is in sharp contrast to the ASEAN free trade area (AFTA), which started in 1992 with six six countries and later added more members, completing the ASEAN ten by 1999.

Between 1992 and 2017, intraregional imports as a share of global imports in ASEAN increased from 17 to 24 percent, and exports from 21 to 27 percent.

In South Asia, these shares were largely stagnant since SAFTA came into effect, at 3 percent for intraregional imports and 6-7 percent for intraregional exports.

In fact, intraregional trade in South Asia has been the lowest among world regions for quite some time, hovering around 5 percent of its overall trade with the world.

Revolutionizing mobility through blockchain

Photo: Plamenj/Flickr

As digital technology continues to transform and reshape the transportation industry over the last few years, blockchain as a decentralized distributed technology has been embraced by other fields through various applications. It has found varied applications across banking, financial services, healthcare, e-governance, and voting.

Blockchain has immense potential to solve the most pressing problems of mobility where it can be used by private & public sector to securely share and integrate data across modes of transport. It paves  the path for transforming Mobility as a Service (or MaaS), where a user may access different modes of transport (three-wheelers, bus, metro, train etc.) on a single platform with seamless connectivity. It makes a paradigm shift in redefining the customer needs in terms of service, rather than the mode of transport.

The applications of blockchain in reducing the cost of financial transactions have been implemented across sectors. In India, 80% of our travel is for distances less than 5 km and most of this is through non-motorized modes of transport which may largely be served by walking, bicycle, and cycle rickshaws. In these modes the, transaction size for every ride is small (or nil). Also, people in urban and semi-urban areas tend to use multiple modes of transport to reach their destinations. In this case, it makes sense for using digital payments that are integrated across all modes of transport. But the payment systems of today charge a transaction fee of between 0.5% to 5%. This hampers the faster uptake of digital payments, especially for smaller transactions. Blockchain greatly reduces the cost per transaction as there are no intermediaries involved in the payment system, thus making small transactions of even 1 or 2 Indian rupees ($0.014 to $0.028) digitally feasible.

What’s keeping India in the dark?

Fan Zhang's picture
To boost and sustain its energy supply, India needs urgent investments and reforms to fix the inefficiencies that plague its entire electricity supply chain.
To boost and sustain its energy supply, India needs urgent investments and reforms to fix the inefficiencies that plague its entire electricity supply chain. Credit: World Bank

Statistics show that what is commonly perceived as an energy gap in India is actually an efficiency gap.

To boost and sustain its energy supply, India needs urgent investments and reforms to fix the inefficiencies that plague its entire electricity supply chain. 

But first, the good news. In 2018, every village in India got connected to the grid.  That same year, power shortages declined dramatically to 0.9 percent from 8.5 percent in 2012.  

As for clean power, India has become one of the world’s leading countries in renewable energy and aims to add 227 gigawatts of green electricity by 2022.

True, India today generates more power than ever. Yet, 178 million Indians still lived without access to grid-connected electricity in 2017.

On top of that, air pollution from coal-powered plants contributed to 82,900 deaths across India in 2015.

Given its rapidly growing economy, demand for power in India is expected to triple by 2040.

The country faces a monumental task to meet this demand while protecting its natural environment and the health of its people.

As I write in my new report, ‘In the Dark’, power distortions cost India much more than previously estimated: $86 billion in 2016—that is 4 percent of the country’s economy.

Confronting tobacco illicit trade: a global review of country experiences

Sheila Dutta's picture



Illicit trade in tobacco products undermines global tobacco prevention and control interventions, particularly with respect to tobacco tax policy. From a public health perspective, illicit trade weakens the effect of tobacco excise taxes on tobacco consumption - and consequently on preventable morbidity and mortality - by increasing the affordability, attractiveness, and/or availability of tobacco products. Furthermore, tobacco illicit trade often depends on and can contribute to weakened governance.

The rising cost of nutritious food in South Asia

Felipe F. Dizon's picture
 World Bank
A malnourished child will face poorer outcomes as an adult. In South Asia, where malnutrition persists in multiple forms, improving nutrition in the early stages of life is critical to a child's future development and health. Credit: World Bank

A malnourished child will face poorer outcomes as an adult.
 
That’s why improving nutrition, especially in the early stages of life, is critical.
 
The path toward better nutrition includes adequate maternal and child care, access to better sanitation facilities, health services, and naturally, nutritious foods.
 
But whether an individual consumes—or not—nutritious food is contingent upon a myriad of factors, ranging from the availability of certain foods, how convenient they can be turned into meals, or simply, if they meet consumers’ tastes.
 
But above all, the high cost of food remains the most critical barrier to proper nutrition and affects the poor more than the rich.
 
And in South Asia, where malnutrition persists in multiple forms, the cost of nutritious food is prohibitive.

7 data innovation projects win funding to tackle local challenges

World Bank Data Team's picture

How can data be used to improve disease outbreak warning, urban planning, air quality, or agricultural production? Seven winning projects, which will receive support from the third round of funding for collaborative data innovation projects, do just that and more.

Following the success of the first round of funding in 2017 and the second round of funding in 2018 the World Bank’s Development Data Group and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data launched the Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development Fund’s third round in June 2018.

This round called for ideas that had an established proof of concept that benefited local decision-making. We were looking for projects that fostered synergies, and collaborations that took advantage of the relative strengths and responsibilities of official and non-official actors in the data ecosystem.

How to diversify Bhutan’s economy?

Yoichiro Ishihara's picture
Bhutan has made tremdendous progress in reducing poverty. But it needs to do a better job at diversifying its economy by improving its physical and human capital by using resource rents from hydropower.
Bhutan has made tremendous progress in reducing poverty. But it needs to do a better job at diversifying its economy by improving its physical and human capital by using resource rents from hydropower.

Will diversifying its economy help Bhutan address its youth unemployment, let alone its macroeconomic volatility and vulnerability?

With the right approach, yes.

And to that end, the latest World Bank Bhutan Development Report: A Path to Inclusive and Sustainable Development proposes solutions relevant to Bhutan’s context.

For more than ten years, developing the private sector through greater economic diversification has been Bhutan’s top policy as described in the 10th and 11th five-year plans.

Yet, youth unemployment, especially for educated Bhutanese, has remained high: 67 percent of bachelor’s degrees holders were jobless in 2016.

Diversifying the economy is touted as a standard prescription to cure such development ailments as joblessness, low productivity, and macroeconomic volatility.

However, international experience shows that this prescription does not always work.

Case in point: A World Bank’s analysis Diversified Development concludes that in resource-rich countries, investing in physical capital, human capital and economic institution are the best ways to sustain growth in the private sector.

Further to that, the development of specific sectors, which is often a common ingredient of diversification strategies in certain countries, is neither necessary nor sufficient for private-sector-led growth.

The main driver of Bhutan’s high growth and poverty reduction, hydropower has led the country’s development and will remain the backbone of its economy.

However, Bhutan needs to do a better job at diversifying its economy by improving its physical and human capital by using resource rents from hydropower.

Bhutan ranks 149 out of 160 countries on the 2018 Logistics Performance Index and 121 out of 176 countries on the 2017 ICT index.

Bhutan falls in the bottom half of the Human Capital Project rankings on critical indicators such as expected years of schooling.

The journey to a peaceful Afghanistan starts in the classroom

Mohammad Ibrahim Shinwari's picture
Education is the bedrock for peace and a more resilient and self-sufficient Afghanistan
Students attending school in a remote village in Afghanistan's central Panjshir Province. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

Today, January 24, we’re celebrating the International Day of Education after a unanimous UN resolution recognized last December the pivotal role of education for peace and development.
 
The International Day of Education not only calls attention to education as a key goal in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but also highlights the role education plays in eradicating poverty, improving public health, promoting gender equality, and building peace worldwide.
 
There's no doubt that effective learning builds the human capital necessary for sustained long-term growth.
 
And by dedicating a global day to education, the international community has shown its determination to support inclusive, equitable, and quality education for all.
 
As Deputy Minister of Education in Afghanistan, I am pleased to see education on top of the international agenda and that its contribution to peace and development is now being recognized.
 
For Afghanistan, this recognition is crucial as the country faces the challenge of overcoming the devastating effects of decades of conflict and instability.

India: Building trust in local governance institutions in Bihar’s villages

Farah Zahir's picture
Sushumlata, the head of the gram panchayat of Dawan village, Bhojpur District, Bihar, conducts a meeting at the newly furbished panchayat office.
Sushumlata, the head of the gram panchayat of Dawan village, Bhojpur District, Bihar, conducts a meeting at the newly furbished panchayat office.


In a remote village in Bihar’s Bhojpur district, Sushumlata sits behind a spanking new desk in a newly-refurbished government building.

From the time she came to the village as a new bride, this young woman has chosen to get involved in community affairs by joining the Self Help Group (SHG) movement.

Later, armed with a master’s degree in social work, she joined active politics and, in 2016, was elected the Mukhiya, or head of the Dawan village Gram Panchayat – the local governance institution – under the seat reserved for women.

Sushumlata is the face of the government in this remote corner of Bihar. When we visit her in the newly upgraded Gram Panchayat building – refurbished under the World Bank (IDA) funded Bihar Panchayat Strengthening Project – she tells us how the newly painted and equipped building has made a difference.

A young man is busy on a computer beside her, helping an elderly gentleman apply for a government pension.


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