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South Asia

How can Bhutan better prepare for earthquakes?

Dechen Tshering's picture
Seismic station in Thimpu. Photo: Royal Government of Bhutan

Bhutan is highly vulnerable to earthquakes, thanks to its location in the seismically active Himalayas.
However, past seismic events across the country were not properly recorded. As recent research indicates the potential for earthquakes of magnitude 8 and over, how can Bhutan ready itself to weather future earthquake risks?

Following the September 21, 2009 earthquake, which claimed 12 lives and caused an estimated loss of BTN 2501 million (or about $54 million), a post-disaster needs assessment led by the government with support from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the United Nations, made clear that the Kingdom needed to understand its exposure to seismic risks better.

To that end, Bhutan embarked on the $1.29 million Improving Resilience to Seismic Risk project funded by the Japan Policy and Human Resources Development (PHRD) Technical Assistance Program to Support Disaster Reduction and Recovery. This project started on May 23, 2013 and ended on July 31, 2017.

Why it's never too early to think about getting old

Alena Sakhonchik's picture

This blog is a part of a series using data from the Women, Business and the Law project. The data explores legal and regulatory challenges faced by women through different stages of their working lives. Launched in February 2019, Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform analyses data for eight indicators over the past decade for 187 economies.


Regardless of our gender, sooner or later we will reach an age when we will retire from our jobs. When that time comes, pensions will play a critical role as a source of income, poverty prevention and insurance to safeguard long lives. Yet in some countries, financing and eligibility criteria can make pensions less favorable for women.

The Getting a Pension indicator in the Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform report assesses laws affecting women’s pensions by examining retirement ages and pension credits for periods of interrupted employment due to childcare.

Joint Learning Network: Mobilizing domestic resources for health

Ajay Tandon's picture


The Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM) collaborative cohosted its recent meeting with the Efficiency Collaborative on February 27-28 in New Delhi, India. This was the third in-person meeting of the DRM collaborative.
 

Overview

Taking digital banking services to remote villages in north eastern India

Priti Kumar's picture
Ang Dolma Sherpa, an expert carpet weaver in West Sikkim is one of the 200-300 women weavers in the region who are benefiting from the project’s interventions
Ang Dolma Sherpa, an expert carpet weaver in West Sikkim is one of the 200-300 women weavers in the region who are benefiting from the project’s interventions. Photo: World Bank

Until six months ago, people in the remote corners of India’s Himalayan state of Sikkim had to travel long distances over the hillsides to do simple banking transactions.

When they did reach a bank, it was usually overcrowded and understaffed. This made it difficult for rural folk, unfamiliar with formal financial systems to deposit or withdraw money, let alone borrow to meet their needs.
 
Now change is in the air. Ever since the North East Rural Livelihoods Project (NERLP) - supported by the World Bank - helped banks in Sikkim’s western and southern districts engage local women self-help group (SHG) members as their business correspondents, people in these distant parts have been able to bank at their doorsteps.
 
While the concept is not new in India, the two correspondents - one for each district - have proved to be nothing short of a miracle for this far-flung region. They have fanned out across mountain villages, equipped with palm-sized micro-ATMs, biometric readers, and internet-connected thermal printers. Villagers can now deposit their money easily, earn interest, and withdraw whenever needed.
 
In the six months since the correspondents were first introduced, business has soared. “In November 2018, when we first began, I did about 160 transactions worth Rs.1.2 million. As awareness has grown, this has risen steadily, and in March 2019 I did over 260 transactions worth Rs. 2.4 million,” explained Lila Shilal, business correspondent for the IDBI Bank in West Sikkim’s Jorethang block.
 
Shilal has also benefitted in the process. She has started earning more than Rs.10,000 a month from the bank in transaction fees and commission and has used the amount to set herself up as an entrepreneur.
 
The project has introduced another financial service as well, this time at the bank itself. Here, bank sakhis - or female banker friends – help village folk and SHG members fill out forms and apply for loans.
 
This new cadre of women business correspondents and bank sakhis has not only benefitted local communities and given SHG members a new livelihood opportunity, it has also made life simpler for the region’s bankers.

Improving Pakistan’s public and private investment

Muhammad Waheed's picture
Pakistan is not investing enough and its share of investment to GDP is one of the lowest in the world at 15 percent almost half of the South Asian average at 30 percent. This translates into inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to sufficient levels of energy and water, poor quality of schools and hospitals. Photo: World Bank

This blog is part of a series that discusses findings from the [email protected]: Shaping the Future report, which identifies the changes necessary for Pakistan to become a strong upper middle-income country by the time it turns 100 years old in 2047. 

Pakistan’s economy is unable to sustain high growth rates for extended periods. Every few years, the economy is faced with a balance of payments crisis as it tries to grow fast.

This is unlike many other successful peer countries that are growing at higher rates for a longer time.

This inability to sustain growth momentum has dented Pakistan’s ambitions to become a middle-income country. What is the reason for this boom and bust cycle that Pakistan experiences so often?
 
The fundamental cause for these short-lived growth cycles in Pakistan is that these are propelled by private and government consumption, not by higher investment.

Resultantly, the country’s demand increases at a much higher pace than its supply of goods and services, prompting a need for higher imports which becomes unsustainable.

Successive governments have tried to notch up growth in this way, but all of them have ended with a balance of payments crisis.
 
Pakistan is not investing enough and its share of investment to GDP is one of the lowest in the world at 15 percent , almost half of the South Asian average at 30 percent. This translates into inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to sufficient levels of energy and water, poor quality of schools and hospitals.
 
More worryingly, private investment as a share of GDP has been declining and stands at less than 10pc in FY18. This low investment trap and declining labor productivity have reduced Pakistan’s growth potential.
 
The decline in the economy’s growth potential is particularly concerning because it suggests that the country will not be able to grow at higher rates required for job creation. To correct this Pakistan needs to undertake several reforms in multiple areas to increase labor productivity and capital formation.
 
The foremost priority is that Pakistan must maintain macroeconomic stability. Persistent macroeconomic instability has discouraged savings and private investment in the country resulting in low-aggregate investment and fluctuating output levels.

Accelerating Pakistan’s structural transformation

Siddharth Sharma's picture
Pakistanat100 Shaping the Future report
Photo: World Bank

This blog is part of a series that discusses findings from the [email protected]: Shaping the Future report, which identifies the changes necessary for Pakistan to become a strong upper middle-income country by the time it turns 100 years old in 2047. 

Structural transformation is central to how countries grow rich.

The movement of jobs from agriculture to manufacturing and service industries is the first stage of that transformation.

Then, within industries, a process of creative destruction helps weed out unproductive firms and gives rise to more efficient and innovative ones.

Of course, no two countries have the same growth path. But those that succeed at sustaining growth do so by moving resources to more productive areas and building firm capabilities.

Pakistan’s economy is shifting toward more highly skilled, modern and productive industries but the path is uneven and slow relative to global norms.

The economy is less agricultural, more urban and services-oriented than before. Traditional industrial clusters have started exporting new products, while new industries such as information, communications and technology (ICT) are emerging.

Relative to the historical norm for countries at similar levels of per capita GDP, while Pakistan’s agricultural sector is of typical size, its manufacturing sector is small, and the services sector large.

How digital remittances can help drive sustainable development

Marco Nicoli's picture
 Sarah Farhat/The World Bank
The Plateau area, business and administrative center of Dakar.
Photo: Sarah Farhat/The World Bank

More people in the world have access to financial accounts and tools than ever before. With this access, new products and services are being developed to facilitate convenient usage of these accounts. Taking this a step further, healthy financial inclusion incorporates customers’ ability to balance income and expenses, build and maintain reserves, and to manage and recover from financial shocks using a range of financial tools. The most useful financial services are those that provide customers with convenience, and support resilience through enhanced ability to weather shocks and pursue financial goals; effectively supporting the financial health of the user.

Remittances are an essential source of income for millions of families, many of whom are low income. Global migration is increasing - over 258 million people currently live outside their country of birth, up from 173 million in the year 2000 – and is trailed by a steady stream of transactions. The remittances industry moves over $600 billion around the world, with $466 billion being sent to low-and-middle income countries. As the first financial product used by many lower income people, remittances often act as a stepping stone to accessing a menu of financial services; as such, they are a cornerstone of financial health.

Making Pakistan more equitable for all

Silvia Redaelli's picture
Between 2001 and 2015, approximately 32 million people were lifted out of poverty
Photo: World Bank

This blog is part of a series that discusses findings from the [email protected]: Shaping the Future report, which identifies the changes necessary for Pakistan to become a strong upper middle-income country by the time it turns 100 years old in 2047. 

In recent years, Pakistan has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty. Estimates based on the national poverty line, which was set at Rs3,030.3 per adult equivalent per month based on 2013-14 prices, show a consistent decline over the past two decades.
 
Between 2001 and 2015, approximately 32 million people were lifted out of poverty and the poverty rate was more than halved, going from 64 percent in 2001 to 24pc in 2015. However, a lot is yet to be done.

Not only because 2015 estimates show that approximately one in four Pakistani still does not have enough money to satisfy basic needs, but – even more alarming – progress has been far from equal when looking across the provinces, districts, cities, and rural areas.
 
While poverty declined at a fast pace in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and, to a lesser extent, in Punjab, progress was less positive in Sindh and Balochistan.
 
Within provinces, poverty has remained stubbornly high in Southern Punjab and Northern Sindh. Similarly, the pace of poverty reduction has been slower in rural areas compared to cities, where the risk of poverty is less than half compared to rural areas.

Inequalities in poverty levels and poverty reduction performance are compounded by substantial inequalities in access to and quality of basic services such as health, education, electricity, water, and sanitation.
 
Being born in one of the country’s lagging areas and/or in a poor family largely predetermines a child’s chances of escaping deprivation and realizing his or her full human capital potential in life.

The dos and don’ts of boosting Pakistan’s human capital

Tazeen Fasih's picture
Photo: World Bank

This blog is part of a series that discusses findings from the [email protected]: Shaping the Future report, which identifies the changes necessary for Pakistan to become a strong upper middle-income country by the time it turns 100 years old in 2047. 

My parents’ gardener has six children – all aged 8 or younger. While his wife is busy taking care of the youngest ones, barely 15 months and 2 months old, he brings the other kids along with him so they don’t wander in the streets.

As I look at the supposedly 8-year-old girl with a dupatta wrapped around her head, looking tiny, probably stunted, suddenly I realize how pervasive all the statistics Yoon and I have been working are – right there, staring at us in our face.

The 38 percent stunting rate for the population, the fertility rate of 3.6 births per woman, the 22.6 million children out of school, the dismal learning outcomes for students, these are all here manifested in this family and its future.

What kind of future is awaiting these children? Will they be able to reach their full productive potential? According to the World Bank’s Human Capital Project, Pakistan’s children born today can achieve only 39 percent of their full potential – productivity they could have achieved if they were able to enjoy complete education and full health.

With over 60 percent of Pakistan’s national wealth (measured as the sum of produced capital such as factories and infrastructure; 19 types of natural capital such as oil, minerals, land, and forests; human capital; and net foreign assets) estimated to be coming from Human Capital Wealth, a failure to nurture and utilize this wealth to its full potential can be fatal.

Nonetheless, successive governments have failed to address the human capital challenge. A careful review of policies in Pakistan on human development reveals a myriad of policies over the 70 years of the country – many strategies appearing sound and well-intentioned, some, of course, appearing to be prompted by geopolitical situations of specific eras of the country.

In this context, we highlight some principles in human capital policies.


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