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.
Also available in Myanmar
My journey to Chin state in Myanmar began with a simple question from my colleague – “Where do you want to go?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, “Anywhere is fine.”
This was it. I had volunteered to join the World Bank Group’s Myanmar Performance Learning Review consultations, which are being held across the country this month to obtain feedback from the government, private sector and civil society on our Country Partnership Framework. Approved in 2015, the partnership is the first World Bank Group strategy for Myanmar in 30 years and consultations are being held to discuss lessons-learned, review achievements and consider adjustments.
The Philippines is at a fork in the road. Despite good results on the growth front, trends observed in trade competitiveness, Global Value Chain (GVC) integration and product space evolution, send worrisome signals. The country has solid fundamentals and remarkable human assets to leapfrog into the 4th Industrial Revolution – where the distinction between goods and services have become obsolete. Yet it does not get the most out of this growth, especially with regards to long-term development prospects. In order to do so, the government will have to make the right policy choices.
Global experience shows that growing first and cleaning up later rarely works. Rather, it is in countries’ interest to prioritize green and clean growth. This also holds true for Thailand, a country with rich natural resources contributing significantly to its wealth.
According to World Bank data, annual natural resource depletion in Thailand accounted for 4.4 percent of Gross National Income in 2012, and it has been rising rapidly since 2002. The rate of depletion is comparable to other countries in the East Asia and Pacific region, but it is almost three times faster than the rate in the 1980s.
Rapid natural resource depletion in Thailand is increasingly visible in reduced forest areas. Illegal logging and smuggling have led to a decline from 171 million rai of forested area in 1961 to 107.6 million rai in 2009. Coastal communities face erosion, ocean waste, and illegal, destructive fishing. The coasts are also increasingly vulnerable to storm surges and sea level rise, due to continued destruction of mangroves and coral reefs.
Last August, I visited Quang Ngai, a central coastal province in Vietnam, to collect data for a survey on women’s participation in resettlement activities. I expected our first meeting with the local community to be short and uncontroversial. It wasn’t.
“We, women? Our participation? It doesn’t matter. We all stay at home. We don’t care about you coming here and asking about our participation,” said one female participant. “What we do care is to know the extent to which the recommendations we make today will be addressed. We need a resettlement site with community house, trees and kindergarten as promised during the project preparation.”
That comment brought to light an important perspective, highlighting the tension between what we might expect women to want, and their actual needs.
The impacts of development-induced resettlement disproportionately affect women, as they are faced with more difficulties than men to cope with disruption to their families. And this is particularly the case if there is no mechanism to enable meaningful participation and consultation with women throughout the project cycle in general and in the resettlement process in particular.
Migrants represent 15% of Malaysia’s workforce, making the country home to the fourth largest number of migrants in the East Asia Pacific region. The migrant population is diverse, made up of workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, China and India, among many other countries.
In Indonesia, chronic malnutrition is widespread with more than one-third of young children being stunted. Despite the reduction of the poverty rate from 16.6% to 11.4% from 2007 to 2013, the rate of stunting amongst children under the age of five has remained alarmingly high, exceeding 37% in 2013, although that figure has declined in the last two years. Stunting has important lifelong consequences for health, as well as for cognitive development, education, human capital accumulation, and ultimately for economic productivity.
However, to reduce stunting it’s not only important to focus on the health sector. It also requires improvements in other sectors such as agriculture, education, social protection, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). As originally emphasized by the UNICEF conceptual framework, to ensure that a child receives adequate nutrition depends on four critical factors: care, health, environment, and food security, areas that straddle multiple sectors.