My visit to Lao PDR this week has convinced me that this nation is moving toward the right path to sustained economic growth, which could lead to less poverty and better lives for all of its people.
Over the past two decades, Lao PDR has made significant development progress. It is one of the fastest growing economies in East Asia, with GDP growth averaging 8 percent a year since 2000. Lao PDR also successfully met the Millennium Development Goal of reducing extreme poverty, based on its national poverty line, to below 24 percent by 2015 from 33.5 percent in 2002.
As I have witnessed during my trip, people are enjoying better living conditions, with improved access to water supply, sanitation, roads, and power. Indeed, Lao PDR’s electrification program is one of the most successful in the world, and more than 90 percent of households now have access to electricity. Lao PDR also has built 50 percent more road surfaces in the last decade, and two-thirds of all Lao villages are now connected by all-season roads.
I have been traveling in and out of Papua New Guinea for almost over two years to help tackle the country’s water and sanitation challenges.
I’m constantly surprised by the complexity and cultural diversity of this country. It’s like trying to solve a deep mystery, with a surprise always ahead of you. No wonder they call this ‘the land of the unexpected’.
Papua New Guinea missed its Millennium Development Goal target for water and sanitation. More than 60% of the country’s population (4.6 million people) have no access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation. In over two decades since 1990, the increase in access to safe drinking water has been miniscule (6%) while improved sanitation coverage even dropped by 1% in 2015. Sadly, PNG has the lowest water and sanitation access indicators among the 15 developing Pacific Island nations.
By the end of FY16, China National Audit Office (CNAO), the SAI in China, had successfully completed its third year of integrated financial and procurement audits for 27 Bank financed projects and accounting for 28% of the total active portfolio of China. This is a big leap from only 3 projects in the first year of FY14.
Rome was not built in a day. CNAO has been the external auditor of all Bank-financed projects in China since 1984. It conducts project audits in accordance with the Government Auditing Standards of the P.R. China and the International Standards on Auditing. The Foreign Funds Application Audit Department and the Audit Service Center of CNAO, and the Provincial Audit Institutions conduct audits on Bank financed projects and issue the audit reports in their names. There are about 120-130 financial audit reports submitted to the Bank every year. CNAO's audit reports not only include the auditor's opinion on project financial statements, they also include opinions on procurement compliance as this is an important aspect of the review of the eligibility of expenditures. This procedure is in full compliance with the Audit Law of P. R. China, which requires auditing of authenticity, legality and beneficial results of the budgetary revenues and expenditures or financial revenues and expenditures of public funds. It was under this context that in FY 14, we started piloting the use of CNAO for integrated financial and procurement audits in some Bank-financed projects.
Last weekend I visited Bogor, 60 km (37 miles) outside of Jakarta. It only took an hour and fifteen minutes to leave the city. Due to traffic caused by heavy rains, the drive back was almost three times as long.
Elsewhere in Indonesia’s capital, neighborhoods were flooding. Cars were trapped overnight in basement parking lots of the cafes and restaurants of Kemang, a chic neighborhood where a poorly designed drainage system and lack of green space causes recurrent flooding.
Such is life in fast-growing Jakarta, a bustling metropolitan area that looks set to displace Tokyo in 2028 as Asia’s largest city by population.
Forest and land fires making the news in Indonesia is nothing new. But a hostage drama in the middle of “fire season”? That’s a new twist, and indeed dominated headlines in early September. After collecting evidence of burned land within a palm oil concession in Rokan Hulu, Riau, seven inspectors from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) were taken captive and violently threatened to handover or delete the gathered evidence.
Following a 2009 earthquake in Qingchuan County, Sichuan Province, Alibaba introduced the “Internet + Poverty Reduction” model, with the core concept to boost economic development in the affected areas with a business model that empowers people to move out of poverty using the Internet.
Alibaba announced its rural e-commerce strategy in October 2014, with a plan to invest RMB100 million (about $14.8 million) over the next three to five years in the development of local e-commerce service systems for 1,000 counties with 100,000 villages.
The program provides valuable services in three areas:
- Easy and affordable access to goods and services in poor areas including: delivery of consumer goods to rural areas and farm produce to cities, mobile phone recharge, utility bills payment, booking airline and train tickets, making hotel reservations, as well as microfinance, online medical consultation, and online learning;
- Provision of ecosystem support for sustainable rural development, including raising awareness about the Internet among local officials, building the capacity of local firms to use the Internet for business, Internet skills training for young people and farmers; and
- Infrastructure development for the new economy, including logistics infrastructure, payment systems, financial services, cloud computing and data collection.
Alibaba’s “Internet + Poverty Reduction” features a number of innovations including e-commerce, job creation, access to finance, tourism development, education and healthcare.
China has 128,000 poor villages with 55.75 million registered poor people. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to lift them out of poverty. Typically, people fall into four categories of poverty, requiring different approaches. Unlike some development players, NGOs are more agile and are innovative in solutions, allowing them to provide support sooner.
The first category comprises those who are temporarily incapable of work due to illness or having school-aged children to support. For these people, rehabilitation or bringing back their capability to work to will help reduce their vulnerabilities.
The second category consists of those who have some resources but lack business skills or efficiency. Working with them to develop new business models and use resources more efficiently will help them get out of poverty.
The third category is made up of those who are capable of work but external conditions or resources like jobs are poor. Relocation or employment skills training may be effective solutions.
The fourth category comprises those who are permanently incapacitated, such as the severely disabled. They should be supported by the social protection system.
China has made remarkable progress in poverty reduction by lifting over 700 million people out of poverty in the past three decades. Under sustainable development goal 1, the international community has committed to end poverty in all its forms and everywhere by 2030. An objective that China expects to achieve 10 years earlier of the deadline by lifting the remaining 55 million of extreme poor out of poverty by 2020.
On September 19, China released its national plan for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. During his intervention at the event, Premier Li Keqiang confirmed his country’s willingness to participate in international cooperation to contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals, to increase investment in South-South cooperation and to share development experiences and opportunities.