As an intrinsically-optimistic Brazilian, my new assignment following India’s economy suits me well: India is one of the few bright spots in a somber global economy and is set to become the fastest growing large economy in the world. Our recently-released India Development Update projects India’s GDP will grow by 7.5 percent in the fiscal year ending March 2016, and by 7.8 and 7.9 percent in the following two years. Not quite the double-digit growth the Government would like to see, and to be sure there are significant uncertainties about the outlook, but an enviable state of affairs nonetheless.
What is driving the favorable momentum?
The drastic decline in global crude oil prices since June 2014 clearly played an important role. As a net oil importer, the halving of oil prices has been a bonanza for India. External vulnerabilities were greatly reduced as the lower oil import bill shrank the current account deficit despite anemic exports. Lower oil prices also helped contain prices of global commodities, and along with the RBI’s prudent monetary policy led to a significant decline in inflation. This in turn boosted real incomes in urban areas and allowed RBI to lower policy rates by a cumulative 125 basis points in the first nine months of 2015.
How youth in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are linking to the creative economy and curating culture
What does art have to do with technology? Just ask Mahoor Jamal, a fashion illustrator and portrait artist from Peshawar, who uses Instagram—an online photo site—to showcase her work and connect with an international audience and to sell more of her work. Or just ask Jawad Afridi, a photographer and the founder of Humans of Peshawar. He is also dependent on social media for his work, using Facebook to exhibit his photographs of the people of Peshawar. This has earned him customers and recognition beyond Pakistan and he has recently contributed to the publication of a book in the UK. These young artists, and many more, will soon be getting together in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to celebrate art and technology over two days at the ArtTech Festival.
Formerly known as the Northwest Frontier Province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has historically been an important trade route between Central and South Asia. This position resulted in an amalgamation of unique cultures, traditions, ethnicities, histories and monuments that have shaped today’s artists, artisans and musicians from KP. KP is now emerging from a period of instability, and is looking to the future to identify opportunities for its youth in the knowledge economy.
The ArtTech Festival will be the first step in raising awareness and building a community of youth interested specifically in the cutting edge intersection of art and technology. As a “sister” festival to the larger Digital Youth Summit, the Festival creates a space and platform to encourage cross disciplinary creativity and to nurture entrepreneurship in the creative and cultural industries.
Dechen, a shy, soft- spoken, 31 year-old divorcee, unexpectedly lights up when I enquire about her poultry farm. A single mother of three children (aged 11, 6 and 3), she has strong reasons to feel good about what she does. It’s her sole responsibility to take care of her family from the income generated by the farm.
Dechen’s farm is a 15-minute uphill trek from a motorable road in Langthel village in the Trongsa district nested in central Bhutan. It is approximately a 10-hour drive on winding roads from the capital city, Thimphu.
Despite the remoteness of the village, Dechen is doing well for herself. She has already earned a Ngultrum (Nu) 45,000 (US $684) net profit since she started her poultry farm a year and a half ago. Having her own – and successful -- business has made her more self-confident and determined.
Economic Growth in Pakistan is expected to accelerate from 4.0% in 2014 to 4.5% in 2016. What are some reasons for this moderate improvement and how could it unlock its potential to grow even faster in the future so that more of its people can benefit from and contribute to greater prosperity?
How is Pakistan doing? There has been an improvement in Pakistan’s economic environment due to lower domestic and external risks. Foreign exchange reserves have increased to an appropriate level given the size of Pakistan’s imports. Pakistanis working abroad sent home about $18.5 billion in FY2014/15 which contributed to financing the trade deficit. Government efforts to stabilize the economy have been greatly aided by the decline in international oil prices which has significantly reduced the import bill. Fiscal policy has also become more prudent, although further efforts will be needed to safeguard the hard-earned stability.
Pakistan needs to invest more to address the country’s challenges. The positive economic environment provides Pakistan with an opportunity to address structural bottle necks that are holding Pakistan back from realizing its immense potential, which is bolstered by a large, young and growing population. However, the country’s development outcomes have not kept up with its income growth and significant public and private investments are critical to realize the aspirations of its population and improve the country’s competitiveness.
The share of investment to GDP remains minimal at 15%, about half of the South Asian average at 30% and one of the lowest in the world. This means not that enough infrastructure is being built, people don’t have access to sufficient levels of energy and water, the quality of schools and hospitals are not optimal. More worryingly, private investment as a share of GDP has been declining and stood at less than 10% in FY2014/15. Several factors are contributing to this low investment level.
Sri Lanka is in many ways a development success story.
Growth of income per person in Sri Lanka has averaged a little more than 7 percent a year over the past five years. That follows average growth of just over 5 percent a year in the preceding nine years. Among the six largest South Asian countries, Sri Lanka has the highest level of economic output per person. With sustained high growth, Sri Lanka has largely eradicated extreme poverty.
All this success has helped propel the country towards middle-income status. Going forward, how successfully Sri Lanka manages its cities will determine how quickly and efficiently the country moves to higher middle-income status and beyond. Every high-income economy has achieved this status through urbanization.
Cities are created for human experiences and not for satellites in the sky. So why are there so many cities that while look impressive on a map, exclude so many of their residents from enjoying the full extent of their benefits? The key may be that details matter for inclusion of cities.
Inclusion means that all people and communities have access to rights, opportunities, and resources. Urbanization provides cities the potential to increase prosperity and livability. However, many suffer from poor environments, social instability, inequality, and concentrated pockets of poverty that create exclusion. In South Asia, as in other regions, segregation within cities cause poorer areas to suffer from the lack of access to facilities and services that exacerbate misery and crime.
Medellin, Colombia was once the most dangerous city on the planet with astounding gaps between the wealthy and the poor, vastly different access to services, and the highest homicide rate in the world. Its turnaround has been impressive. Much of the progress has been attributed to the thoughtfulness of its planning to ensure greater inclusion. What can South Asian cities learn from this South American city?
Planning policies and action have often been concentrated on the broad structures and functions of cities. However, drilling down the details can realize an inclusive urban environment that improves life for all in public spaces. In our definition, inclusive cities provide:
Mobility: A high level of movement between different neighborhoods that provide opportunities for jobs, education, and culture;
Services: All neighborhoods have a basic level of facilities and affordable necesities such as housing, water, and sanitation;
Accessibility: Urban spaces are designed so that everyone can easily and safety enjoy public spaces.
What happened in Medellin, Colombia? Medellin offers an inspiring example of how improved planning and sound implementation can increase social inclusion. Two decades ago, Medellin was the homicide capital of the world. Illicit drugs were a major export and hillside slums were particularly affected by violence. In response, the government created public facilities inclusive of libraries and schools, public transportation links, and recreational spaces in the poorest neighborhoods; and connecting them with the city’s commercial and industrial centers. As a result of a planning model that seeks to serve all residents, the city has become safer, healthier, more educated and equitable.
South Asia can now reap the benefits of greater regional integration it once enjoyed before its partition into various countries. But first, the region must break down the barriers that impede its intra-regional trade.
In Dolakha, a Thangmi woman rises early in the morning to mix together a paste of manure and clay. She kneels down on the floor of her broken home and smooths the mixture over the careworn earthen floor in preparation for another day of living in the earthquake’s aftermath. Over the mountains in Sindhupalchowk, a Tamang carpenter has fashioned a sturdy lodge from the stone rubble of his former home.
Serving his guests cups of strong sugary tea, he looks out the carved wooden windows he has built to the terraced fields he can no longer farm. Across the landscape devastated by the earthquake, Nepalis are creating shelters incorporating the architectural and design principles of familiar structures. The vernacular architecture of Nepal’s Central Hills is well adapted to the environment, and to the rhythms of agrarian routines.
An ideal Hill home is one with thick stonewalls, a ground floor kitchen, upper story bedrooms, an attic storage room, a spacious courtyard, veranda, and cozy and clean sheds for livestock.
You don’t have to be a number-cruncher to enjoy this challenge:
1, 5, 200, and 2,800,000. Close your eyes after reading these numbers. Can you recite them in the right order?
Intrigued? If you’re interested in the development of South Asia, these four numbers will resonate with you. They represent four areas of opportunity for the region to further integrate and thrive economically.
Last month, prior to the South Asia Economic Conclave #SAEC15, Sanjay met with 30 Indian graduate students holding or currently pursuing advanced degrees in history, economics, and South Asia studies. He shared the 4 numbers with them and observed their responses. Here’s an overview of the conversation:
The results were incredible. We received over 200 photographs from across Nepal. Photographs which were not only beautiful but which also carried strong messages of the importance of education, agriculture, heritage conservation, empowerment of women and many more.
Look Around You. What do you see? That is the question we asked when we invited people to share with us photographs of people, places and actions which inspired them and gave them hope for a better future for Nepal. Here are some of the ones that touched our hearts. Learn more: http://wrld.bg/TYkXt
These photographs showcase the beauty of Nepal and the resilience of the Nepali people; they show that despite the toughest of challenges, there is always hope, and always time for a smile.
The winning photograph was by 28-year-old software developer Rasik Maharjan whose beautiful photograph depicted a spontaneous moment between a brother and sister. Describing the photograph he said –
“While visiting Pokhara, I saw a little girl in a purple dress on the edge of Phewa Lake, She seemed to be fascinated by the wild water flowers. A boy, her brother, merely 7 years old, jumped into the lake. The little girl was pointing at the wild flower and without hesitation the boy picked it up and began swimming towards his sister. He gave the flower to his sister, while she gave him an innocent smile… The love between a sister and a brother... No love can compare.”