The pace of economic development throughout developing East Asia has been unprecedented. Despite the effect of the 1997-98 financial crisis, poverty rates in the region have been consistently declining.
Agriculture played a key role by driving growth in the early stages of industrialization. It also contributed to reducing rural poverty by including smallholders into modern food markets and creating jobs in agriculture. Nonetheless, poverty in developing East Asia is still overwhelmingly rural, reflecting a mismatch between agriculture’s shares of GDP and employment.
As incomes rise and countries urbanize, the composition of domestic food expenditure is shifting from staples to meat, horticulture and processed foods. Thus, while today’s East Asian developing economies transform, the nature of their agricultural sectors is also changing.
Indonesia continues to make strides in expanding access to early childhood education (ECE) across its vast archipelago, now reaching some 70.1% of 3-6 year olds. Yet despite this increased availability, quality of services continue to be poor, especially in rural and low-income areas. In particular, there continues to be reliance on under-qualified teachers, with many having received inadequate formal training, or none at all.
As an upper-middle income country with a majority of its population living in cities, Malaysia is situated among the countries that prove urbanization is key to achieving high-income status. Asking “How can we benefit further from urbanization?” Malaysian policymakers have identified competitive cities as a game changer in the 11th Malaysia Plan. To this end, the World Bank has worked with the government to better understand issues of urbanization and formulate strategies for strengthening the role of cities through the report, “Achieving a System of Competitive Cities in Malaysia.”
While Malaysia’s cities feature strong growth, low poverty rates, and wide coverage of basic services and amenities, challenges still remain.
Its larger cities are characterized by urban sprawl, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, where population density is low for an Asian metropolis. This inefficient urban form results in high transport costs and negative environmental impacts. This is matched by low economic density, indicating Malaysia’s cities can do better in maximizing the economic benefits from urban agglomeration.
A second challenge hampering Malaysia’s cities is the highly centralized approach to urban management and service delivery, a system that impedes the local level, and obstructs service delivery and effective implementation of urban and spatial plans.
Third is a growing recognition of the importance of promoting social inclusion to ensure that the benefits of urbanization are widely shared.
Vietnam has a vision. By 2035, it aspires to become a prosperous, creative, equitable and democratic nation. Achieving this ambitious goal has set Vietnam on a path of transformation on multiple fronts – economic, social, and political.
At the core of this transformation is the re-orientation of the state’s role in economic management. This requires adapting Vietnam’s economic governance so that the state becomes a skilled facilitator of three types of relationships: among government agencies, between the state and market, and between the state and citizens.
Not too long ago, Malaysia walked in Vietnam’s shoes, implementing its own wide-ranging transformation. In 2009, Malaysia embarked on the National Transformation Program (NTP) that included focus on both government and economic transformations. Malaysia had also adopted good practices that simplified regulations, which made it easier for firms to interact with the state.
“Peatlands are sexy!” They aren’t words you would normally associate with peatlands, but judging from the large audience that participated in the lively discussion on financing peatland restoration in Indonesia at the “Global Landscapes Forum: Peatlands Matter” conference, held May 18 in Jakarta, it seems to be true. The observation was made by Erwin Widodo, one of the speakers in the World Bank-hosted panel discussion at the event.
For me, it was a great honor to moderate a panel comprised of several of the leading voices in the space: Kindy Syahrir (Deputy Director for Climate Finance and International Policy, Finance Ministry), Agus Purnomo (Managing Director for Sustainability and Strategic Stakeholder Engagement, Golden Agri-Resources), Erwin Widodo (Regional Coordinator, Tropical Forest Alliance 2020), Christoffer Gronstad (Climate Change Counsellor, Royal Norwegian Embassy), and Ernest Bethe (Principal Operations Officer, IFC).
It was the right mix of expertise to address the formidable challenges in securing resources to finance sustainable peatland restoration in Indonesia. These include finding solutions to plug the financing gap, and identifying instruments and the regulatory framework necessary to strengthen the business case for peatland restoration. A significant amount of finance has been pledged. But one of the key issues the panel needed to address was how to redirect available finance towards more efficient and effective outcomes to reach sustainable restoration targets.