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How do we achieve sustained growth? Through human capital, and East Asia and the Pacific proves it

Michael Crawford's picture
Students at Beijing Bayi High School in China. Photo: World Bank


In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had  almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the  average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in  the EAP  region put themselves on a path that focused on growth  driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in  schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While  improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in  labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades  EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no  slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.

High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation  are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore  the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central  determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means  to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the  demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not  enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and  average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity  and growth without stoking inequality.

Water Access in the Philippines: Fixing the Institutions that Fix the Pipes

Aileen Castro's picture
Photo: NorthEyes Production/World Bank

As we celebrate World Water Day, I find myself thinking about my work and one central question: how do you reach 8 million Filipinos with no access to clean water? I remember growing up in Pampanga, a province north of Manila, and visiting my aunt’s house every weekend where I had to pump water from a deep well and carry buckets so we could water plants, wash clothes, and clean the backyard pig pen. Fortunately, these days there’s always water from the faucet so we don’t work as hard to do chores.

But the story isn’t the same for everyone. While our local water utility largely improved its services over the years, I can’t say the same for the rest of the country, especially in rural areas. While there are already over 4,700 water utilities in the Philippines, about half are very small and unregulated.

China, economic reform and the role of foreign experts

Abhas Jha's picture
Also available in: 中文
Group photos of the participants of the 1985 Bashan river cruise conference
Photo: copyright © / World Bank

I am a policy wonk. I have spent my entire professional career (first in the Government of India and then in the World Bank) watching up close how policy choices are made, how political processes play out and on how institutions and people form coalitions for or against any change based on their incentives. I have also worked in China for close to 8 years, and like so many before me, have fallen in love with the beautiful country, its people and civilizational depth and continue to be amazed at the sheer pace, scale and energy of the massive changes the country has undergone, lifting more than 800 million of its citizens out of poverty.
 
I just finished reading a majestic book entitled “Unlikely Partners: Chinese Reformers, Western Economists and the Making of Global China” that, in a sense, brings the two parts of my professional work together.

Listening to women while planning for development: Real life experience from China

Aimin Hao's picture
Also available in: 中文
“Women hold up half of the sky,” Chairman Mao said. So when it comes to development, it is important to listen to women – who generally make up half of our beneficiaries – and understand their views, preferences and needs. As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, I’m sharing some of my experience helping to increase gender awareness in World Bank-supported projects in China.

When we designed activities for the Ningbo Sustainable Urbanization Project, we carried out consultations with groups of men and women to make sure the proposed public transport system benefitted both equally. It was interesting to find that most men wanted wider roads with higher speed, while women cared more about the location of bus stops and adequate lighting on the bus.. Thanks to these consultations, we adjusted the locations of bus stops to be closer to the entrance of residential communities and reduce walking distance for bus riders. In response to the light request, we made sure that new buses purchased for the project had sufficient lighting for night use.
Conducting consultation with local women in Qianhuang village, Ningo, China.

Lens on Lao Species: World Wildlife Day 2017

George Stirrett's picture
Lao PDR’s forests are home to incredible and diverse flora and fauna.  One of the areas with a high concentration of biodiversity and endangered native species is the Nam Et Phou Louey National Protected Area in Luang Prabang, which borders Houaphan and Xieng Khuang provinces.

Located in the northern area of the country, it is the second largest protected area in Lao PDR, and co-managed by the provincial offices of forest resources conservation and local communities.

Since 2013, the World Bank has supported this area with an $800,000 grant under the Nam Et Phou Louey Tiger Landscape Conservation project. Together with the Wildlife Conservation Society, our implementing partner, the project promotes the use of sustainable natural resources and the protection of species threatened by human interaction.

Providing quality education to one million students in Thailand’s small schools

Lars Sondergaard's picture
Also available in: ภาษาไทย

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results brought several pieces of alarming news for Thailand.
 
First, Thailand’s ranking slipped further (from 51st to 64th in reading; 50th to 55th in Mathematics; and 50th to 54th in Science).
 
Second, the education system produces a disturbingly small share of “high performers” – only 1.4 percent of Thai students demonstrated superior problem solving and analytical reasoning skills compared to 35 percent of students in Singapore, and 15 percent, on average, in the OECD.
 
Third, the share of functional illiterate students rose further: from 33 percent in 2012 to 50 percent in 2015.
 

Land at the heart of Myanmar’s transition: Part 2

Anna Wellenstein's picture

Also available in Myanmar (.pdf)

 

Mike-Petteri Torhonen / World Bank



In our previous post, we discussed some of the major land-related challenges facing Myanmar’s transition and development. In fact, resolving outstanding land issues will help the country achieve social cohesion and stability, poverty reduction, sustainable urbanization, as well as economic growth.
 
The government has already started taking measures to institute strong and effective land administration.

Making social accountability part of Mongolia’s DNA

Marcela Rozo's picture
Mongolia has made good progress in its economic and political transitions during the last two decades, but this growth has not been fully translated into improved quality of public services, particularly for the poor and vulnerable. Despite the government’s legal and regulatory reforms to improve transparency and citizen participation in the management of public funds, the pace of implementation is still lagging.  

As Mongolia suffers with economic instability due to external and internal circumstances, how can we improve performance of basic public services in a way that works well in the Mongolian context but also brings sustained outcomes?
Local champions for social accountability are building their vision for the project.
© SDC and World Bank Mongolia

Skilled workforce and strong R&D keys to Thailand 4.0 success

Dilaka Lathapipat's picture
Also available in: ภาษาไทย



Several of the government’s recent economic initiatives have the potential to kick-start Thailand’s economy. To achieve the economic transformation it has been aspiring for, having a skilled workforce and much more strategic investments in research and development (R&D) will be important.

Following nearly four decades of impressive economic growth at 7.7 percent, the Thai economy has slowed sharply to 3.3 percent over the last decade from 2005-2015. At this rate of growth, it would take Thailand well over two decades to achieve high-income status.

A new World Bank report “Getting Back on Track: Reviving Growth and Securing Prosperity for All” cites that a main reason for the slowdown is a loss of competitiveness.

Ten years ago, Thailand was ahead of its neighbors and peers on virtually all the competitiveness indicators tracked by World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness rankings.

Today, other middle-income countries have caught up, while more advanced economies in the region have surged further ahead, particularly in technological readiness, higher education and training, innovation, financial market development, institutions, and business sophistication.

Land at the heart of Myanmar’s transition: Part 1

Anna Wellenstein's picture

Also available in: Myanmar (.pdf)


 

Mike-Petteri Torhonen / World Bank




Struggles over land in Myanmar have been a defining characteristic of the country’s six decades of armed conflict.
 
In the past, government acquired lands for extracting natural resources, commercialized farming, and ambitious infrastructure projects, such as building of the new capital city of Nay Pyi Taw. Today, claims over land acquisition injustices dominate public discourse and the new government’s agenda. In parallel, infrastructure and institutions for land administration and property markets are grossly outdated and weak.

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