Will cash and checks still exist 15 or 20 years from now given the increasing digitization of money? Is the smartphone our new bank? Will many people working in the financial sector industry lose their jobs due to growing use of technology, robots, algorithms, and online banking? Is financial technology (FinTech) the solution to providing financial services to the 2 billion people in the planet that still lack access to finance? Will digital currencies and other innovative FinTech products pose systemic risks in the future? What is the best approach to regulate FinTech companies?
In the past decade, the Islamic finance industry has grown at double digits despite the weak global economic environment. By 2020, the Islamic finance industry is projected to reach $3 trillion in total assets with 1 billion users. However, despite its rapid growth and enormous potential, 7 out of 10 adults still do not have access to a bank account in Muslim countries. This means that 682 million adult Muslims still do not have an account at a banking institution. While some Muslim countries have high levels of account ownership (above 90 percent), there are others with less than 5 percent of their adult population who reported having a bank account.
Reducing poverty and inequality are two important socioeconomic policy objectives for most countries. While some can kill two birds with one stone, others may achieve either or none of these. In China’s special case, poverty reduction goes together with an increase in income inequality for at least the past 20 years. Here, I address some of the underling factors in this mismatched trajectory.
For quite a long time, economic growth, increase in income inequality and reduction of poverty concurred in China. Since 1980, the country has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty. The head count ratio of poverty by the official poverty line, which is about 21% higher than the line that is set at USD 1.9 per day (2011 PPP), has been reduced by 94% from 1980 to 2015 in rural China (figure 1).
In contrast, the Gini coefficient of income distribution among rural residents in China rose from 0.241 in 1980 to 0.39 in 2011 or by 62% according to the official estimation, though it once declined between 1980 and 1985 and was said to decline slightly after 2012.
Figure 1: Change in Poverty head count ratio and Gini coefficient in rural China since 1980
October 17 is End Poverty Day. Every day is a day to end poverty, but it helps to designate one day per year to reflect on this goal and how we can work to achieve it.
In Mongolia, poverty declined from 2010 to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2014. Since poverty rates very closely track overall economic growth, this is not surprising. Growth in labor incomes over the period helped reduce poverty, and this growth, in turn, was generated by increases in real wages in the non-agricultural sector and non-wage income in the agricultural sector. Mongolia’s fondness for universal social transfers also contributed: poverty rates fell from 38.8 percent in 2010 to 21.6 percent in 2014, based on the national poverty lines.
That was then, this is now.
Although the 2016 poverty level is not yet available, we can be sure that the economic downturn has not helped. Overall growth of GDP is projected to be only 0.1 percent for 2016, with production in the non-mining sector declining. And Mongolia’s pro-cyclical policies that funded social programs in the boom years now face opposite pressures. Social welfare programs that are categorically targeted and pro-cyclically funded are more difficult to scale up when times become difficult.
With a large and unsustainable budget deficit (projected to reach 18 percent of GDP for 2016), and with growing levels of debt, Mongolia has little choice but to focus on fiscal consolidation. Can they do so without hurting the most vulnerable people in society?
As we commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of #Poverty and #Vietnam’s Day for the Poor today, think what’s the most important question you want to ask about reducing poverty in Vietnam. What do you want to know about ensuring equal opportunities? About social #inclusion? Shared prosperity?
Post your questions at www.facebook.com/worldbankvietnam and we will collect the top 5 questions asked within the next two days.
Since the beginnings of the rural economic reform process in 1978, China has played the lead role in the global effort to overcome absolute poverty. The World Bank has, since 1981, assisted China both in the country’s extraordinary overall economic growth and its tremendously successful poverty reduction program.
It has been a great pleasure and privilege to have worked with China’s Leading Group Office for Poverty Reduction (LGOP) since 1990 in their highly successful poverty reduction program. I have seen first-hand the complete elimination of the worst aspects of absolute poverty throughout all of China’s poorest areas. I have hiked into hundreds of poor villages throughout the uplands of western China, where in the 1990s it was common to find villages where many households had not achieved basic food security and most households and children experienced malnutrition, where most school age children would not complete elementary school and where there was no local access to basic health care. Homes lacked road access, drinking water, and other basic infrastructure.
Recently I met an inspiring student: 12-year-old Song Liza, who told me about her goal of becoming a doctor.
Her reasoning is simple: one, because the shortage of doctors in Cambodia means she would be able to get a good job; and two, because she wants to help people in her poor, remote community in this part of northeastern Cambodia.
Medical school is a long way off for Liza, but despite facing more challenges than many her age, she has laid out a series of goals that she knows she must achieve before she can put on that white coat.
Available in Myanmar
Successful development is about making a reality of aspirations and ambitious ideas through effective implementation – Myanmar can achieve just that for its people by instilling the values of transparency, accountability and public participation in its public sector.
Ideas and policies matter. They have the power to be transformative. A strong and efficient, transparent and accountable public sector is crucial for translating inspiring ideas and policies into real development outcomes. If we liken Myanmar to a car, then the public sector – a collection of institutions, processes and people which together function as the machinery of government – has an important role to play. The people of Myanmar sit in the driver’s seat, the private sector is the engine which moves the economy forward – and the public sector acts as the car’s transmission and gearbox. If it’s running well, the car moves forward smoothly – but if it’s poorly maintained, people may be in for a bumpy ride.
Despite Thailand’s success in expanding educational access, new empirical evidence suggests that much more needs to be done to maximize the potential of its students. The 2012 PISA reading assessment reveals that almost one-third of Thai 15 year-old students were “functionally illiterate,” lacking critical skills needed for employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level. Furthermore, the performance gap among schools has been widening in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the disadvantaged and poorer-performing students are concentrated in small rural village schools.