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Exploding population: choice not destiny - capturing Pakistan’s demographic dividend

Inaam Ul Haq's picture


Blog in Urdu

Family planning in Pakistan
This blog is certainly not about exploding mangoes but about the exploding Pakistani populace. The recent reactions of surprise on results of the census seems bewildering. Pakistan’s population is now over 207 million with a growth rate of 2.4 percent per year since the last census in 1998. The results were predictable and expected, as Pakistan has not implemented any large-scale population related interventions for over a decade. We should not be expecting results because inaction does not usually deliver them.
Pakistan’s efforts to reduce fertility and population growth were transformed during the 1990s. The period between 1990-2006 saw effective policy making under the Social Action Program with multiple interventions e.g. expansion of public sector provision, large scale private sector participation including social marketing innovations, improving access to women through community based providers. All the right things that delivered huge results. Fertility declined from around seven to four children per woman, and contraceptives use increased from 10% to over 30% - a 300% increase. Appropriate actions delivered results and some still can be photocopied and expanded on scale for making progress.

Reforms Sri Lanka needs to boost its economy

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
 Joe Qian/World Bank
The Colombo Stock Exchange. Credit: Joe Qian/World Bank

Many Sri Lankans understand the potential benefits of lowering trade costs and making their country more competitive in the global economy. The majority, however, fear increased competition, the unfair advantage of the private sector from abroad and limited skills and innovation to compete.

Yet, Sri Lanka’s aspirations cannot be realized in the current status quo.  

While changes in trade policies and regulations will undeniably improve the lives of most citizens, I’m mindful that some are likely to lose. However, many potential gainers of the reforms who are currently opposed to them are unaware of their benefits.

Implementing smart reforms means that government funds will be used more effectively for the people, improve access to better healthcare, education, basic infrastructure and provide Sri Lankans with opportunities to get more and better jobs. Let me focus on a few reforms that I believe are critical for the country.  First, Sri Lanka needs to seek growth opportunities and foreign investment beyond its borders.    

First, Sri Lanka needs to seek growth opportunities and foreign investment beyond its borders.

Experience shows that no country in the world today has been able to create opportunities for its population entirely within its own geographic boundaries. To succeed in this open environment, Sri Lanka will need to improve its skills base, better understand supply and demand chains as well as produce higher quality goods and services

Experience shows that no country in the world today has been able to create opportunities for its population entirely within its own geographic boundaries. To succeed in this open environment, Sri Lanka will need to improve its skills base, better understand supply and demand chains as well as produce higher quality goods and services.

Fresh thinking on economic cooperation in South Asia

Nikita Singla's picture
 Aamir Khan/ Pakistan, Sreerupa Sengupta/ India, Sanjay Kathuria/ World Bank, Mahfuz Kabir & Surendar Singh/ Bangladesh) Photo By: Marcio De La Cruz/ World Bank
Young Economists sharing the stage with Sanjay Kathuria, Lead Economist and Coordinator, Regional Integration (Left to Right: Aamir Khan/ Pakistan, Sreerupa Sengupta/ India, Sanjay Kathuria/ World Bank, Mahfuz Kabir/Bangladesh & Surendar Singh/ India). Photo by: Marcio De La Cruz/ World Bank

That regional cooperation in South Asia is lower than optimal levels is well accepted. It is usually ascribed to – the asymmetry in size between India and the rest, conflicts and historical political tensions, a trust deficit, limited transport connectivity, and onerous logistics, among many other factors.

Deepening regional integration requires sufficient policy-relevant analytical work on the costs and benefits of both intra-regional trade and investment. An effective cross-border network of young professionals can contribute to fresh thinking on emerging economic cooperation issues in South Asia.

Against this background, the World Bank Group sponsored a competitive request for proposals.  Awardees from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, after being actively mentored by seasoned World Bank staff over a period of two years, convened in Washington DC to present their new and exciting research. Research areas included regional value chains, production sharing and the impact assessment of alternative preferential trade agreements in the region.

Young Economists offer fresh thoughts on economic cooperation in South Asia

Mahfuz Kabir, Acting Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies and Surendar Singh, Policy Analyst, Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS International) presented their research: Of Streams and Tides, India-Bangladesh Value Chains in Textiles and Clothing (T&C). They focus on how to tackle three main trade barriers for T&C: a) high tariffs for selected, but important goods for the industries of both countries; b) inefficient customs procedures and c) divergent criteria for rules of origin classification.

Sreerupa Sengupta, Ph.D. Scholar at Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi discussed Trade Cooperation and Production Sharing in South Asia – An Indian Perspective. Reviewing the pattern of Indian exports and imports in the last twenty years, her research focuses on comparing the Global Value Chain (GVC) participation rate of India with East Asian and ASEAN economies. Barriers to higher participation include a) lack of openness in the FDI sector; b) lack of adequate port infrastructure, and long port dwell times; and c) lack of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs).

Aamir Khan, Assistant Professor, Department of Management Sciences, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad presented his work on Economy Wide Impact of Regional Integration in South Asia - Options for Pakistan. His research analyzes the reasons for Pakistan not being able to take full advantage of its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, and finds that the granting of ASEAN-type concessions to Pakistan in its FTA with China would be more beneficial than the current FTA arrangement. The work also draws lessons for FTAs that are currently being negotiated by South Asian countries.

When in the eye of a storm….

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
Abandoned fishing boats lay on the banks of the dried Siyambalankkatuwa reservoir in Sri Lanka's Puttalam District, Aug. 10, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Amantha Perera
Abandoned fishing boats lay on the banks of the dried Siyambalankkatuwa reservoir in Sri Lanka's Puttalam District, Aug. 10, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Amantha Perera
This year, yet again, flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains came and receded. Meanwhile, this year alone, more than one million people have been hard hit by the worst drought in 40 years.
The media, with few exceptions, have moved on to other topics and a sense of calm pervades. 
We are in the eye of the storm -- that misleading lull before mother nature unleashes her fury once again. 
In Sri Lanka alone, costs from natural disasters, losses from damage to housing, infrastructure, agriculture, and from relief are estimated at LKR 50 billion (approx. USD 327 million).  The highest annual expected losses are from floods (LKR 32 billion), cyclones or high winds (LKR 11 billion), droughts (LKR 5.2 billion) and landslides (LKR 1.8 billion). This is equivalent to 0.4 percent of GDP or 2.1 percent of government expenditure. (#SLDU2017). Floods and landslides in May 2016 caused damages amounting to US$572 million.   
These numbers do not paint the full picture of impact for those most affected, who lost loved ones, irreplaceable belongings, or livestock and more so for those who are back to square one on the socio-economic ladder.
Even more alarming, these numbers are likely to rise as droughts and floods triggered by climate change will become more frequent and severe. And the brief respite in between will only get shorter, leaving less time to prepare for the hard days to come.
Therefore, better planning is even more necessary. Sri Lanka, like many other countries has started to invest in data that highlights areas at risk, and early warning systems to ensure that people move to safer locations with speed and effect.
Experience demonstrates that the eye of the storm is the time to look to the future, ready up citizens and institutions in case of extreme weather.
Now is the time to double down on preparing national plans to respond to disasters and build resilience. 

It’s the time to test our systems and get all citizens familiar with emergency drills. But, more importantly, we need to build back better and stronger.  In drought-affected areas, we can’t wait for the rains and revert to the same old farming practices. It’s time to innovate and stock up on critical supplies and be prepared when a disaster hits.
It’s the time to plan for better shelters that are safe and where people can store their hard-earned possessions.
Mobilizing and empowering communities is essential. But to do this, we must know who is vulnerable – and whether they should stay or move.  Saving lives is first priority, no doubt. Second, we should also have the necessary systems and equipment to respond with speed and effect in times of disasters. Third, a plan must be in place to help affected families without much delay.
Fortunately, many ongoing initiatives aim to do just that.

Sri Lankan Winners and exciting news: #StoriesfromLKA photo contest!

Tashaya Anuki Premachandra's picture

The three winning pictures of the online campaign #StoriesfromLKA

World Bank Sri Lanka launched an online campaign titled #StoriesfromLKA during the month of June celebrating World Environment day “Connecting People to Nature”. The campaign included online interactions to learn about World Bank operations related to the environment and a photo competition to appreciate the natural beauty of Sri Lanka that needs to be preserved while Sri Lanka pursues a development drive.
This competition began on the 21st of June and aimed at showcasing the many talented photographers from Sri Lanka as well as celebrating the rich flora and fauna of the country. After the contest ended on June 30th, 167 entries were shortlisted. We asked you which photos were your favorites and you voted on your selections through social media. Your votes helped us narrow down the top three winners, here they are:

How much should Bhutan worry about debt?

Yoichiro Ishihara's picture
Bhutan hydropower
Construction of the Dagachhu Hydropower Plant in Bhutan. Photo Credit: Asian Development Bank

In many respects, Bhutan has been a development success story. Its people have benefitted from decades of sharp reductions in poverty combined with impressive improvements in health and education. The country is a global model in environmental conservation. It is the first carbon negative country; Bhutan’s forests, which cover over 70% of the country, absorb more carbon dioxide than is produced by its emissions.

The Kingdom of Happiness also must grapple with the reality of managing budgets, creating infrastructure, and preparing its citizens to be able to create and take advantage of jobs of the future. To do that, we are working with closely with Bhutan to build the foundations for a more prosperous future through the cultivation of a vibrant private sector economy and supporting green development.

At the same time, Bhutan has invested generously in hydropower energy production to create a reliable and lasting source of green energy for its people. It also benefits from exporting excess electricity to neighboring India, whose energy needs continue to increase at a rapid pace with their growing economy.

In large part due to the hydropower investments, Bhutan’s public debt was 107 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of March 2017. Hydropower external debt was at 77 percent of GDP with non-hydropower external debt accounting for 22 percent of GDP. Questions have arisen on whether this level of debt is sustainable and what should be done to address it.

سکتور انرژی افغانستان راه را برای تساوی جنسیتی در این سکتور هموار ساخته است

World Bank Afghanistan's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
د افغانستان برشنا شرکت اخیرا یک سلسله اقدامات قابل توجهی را به منظور مشارکت زنان در فعالیت های تجارتی این اداره روی دست گرفته است. عکس: شرکت مشورتی رومی/بانک جهانی

تداوم چندین دهه خشونت، تبعیض آشکار و موانع فرهنگی بشمول محدودیت بر سهم گیری زنان در فعالیت های اجتماعی، فرهنگی، سیاسی و اقتصادی در افغانستان، باعث گردیده، تا فرصت های کاری برای زنان در این کشور اندک ومحدود شود و نقش آفرینی آنان در تمامی ساختار های سیاسی، اقتصادی، فرهنگی و اجتماعی به شدت تحت تاثیر قرار گیرد.
با وجود آنکه افغانستان در بیشتر از یک دهه گذشته به یک سلسله دست آورد های چشمگیری در ابعاد تسجیل تساوی حقوق شهروندی در قانون اساسی و همچنین حمایت و پشتیبانی از شمولیت زنان در مکاتب و پوهنتون ها دستیاب گردید، اما هنوز هم دسترسی فراگیر به تساوی جنسیتی در این کشور مستلزم  تغییرات بنیادی اجتماعی می باشد.
حالا زمان تغییراست و د افغانستان برشنا شرکت، که یگانه شرکت ملی در عرصه فراهم سازی و توزیع انرژی برق در کشور می باشد، زمینه تطبیق این امر را مهیا می سازد.
 از جمله ۷۰۰۰ کارمند فعال در این شرکت، حدود ۲۱۸ تن آنان را زنان تشکیل می دهد، که بسیاری از آنها در سطوح پائینی بخصوص دربخش های حمایتی مصروف اجرای مسولیت ها و وظایف خویش هستند. با اینحال، متعاقب تعیین رییس اجراییوی جدید، هیأت رهبری شرکت برشنا متعهد به تشویق تساوی جنسیتی در این اداره می باشد.
پروژۀ پلان گذاری و حمایت از ظرفیت سازی که از طریق صندوق بازسازی افغانستان تمویل میشود، شرکت برشنا را در راستای عملی شدن این تعهد همکاری مینماید.  شایان ذکر است که این صندوق توسط بانک جهانی مدیریت میشود. پروژه پلان گذاری و حمایت از ظرفیت سازی در کنار راه اندازی جلسات متعدد آگاهی دهی برای کارکنان شرکت متذکره پیرامون مسایل جنسیتی؛ برای کارکنان اناث این شرکت زمینه آموزش های تخصصی را نیز فراهم نموده است. د افغانستان برشنا شرکت متعهد به ارایۀ فرصت های کارآموزی برای فارغان طبقه اناث پوهنتون ها می باشد، تا به این ترتیب برای آنان فرصت های متوازن شغلی فراهم شود و میزان مشارکت زنان در سکتور انرژی افزایش کسب نماید.
با درک این موضوع که در جامعه کنونی افغانستان اکثریت کارکنان زن از اعتماد به نفس کمتری برای رقابت با مردان برخوردار می باشند، اما د افغانستان برشنا شرکت برای کارکنان زن در این اداره  زمینه دسترسی به فرصت های کاری جدید را آسانتر ساخته و یک سلسله اقدامات لازم و درخور توجه به منظورمشارکت بیشتر زنان در فعالیت های تجارتی این شرکت را نیز به منصهء اجرا قرار داده است.

د افغانستان د انرژۍ سکتور د جنسیتي تساوي د هڅونې په موخه د دغه سکتور د پرمختیا لاره هواره کړې ده

World Bank Afghanistan's picture
Also available in: English | دری
د افغانستان بریښنا شرکت په دې وروستیو کې د دغې ادارې په سوداګریزو فعالیتونو کې د ښځو د مشارکت لپاره یو شمېر د ستایلو وړ کړنې ترسره کړي دي. انځور: د رومي مشورتي شرکت/ نړیوال بانک

د زور زیاتي د څو لسیزو دوام، ښکاره تبعیض او د افغانستان په ټولنیزو، کلتوري، سیاسي او اقتصادي فعالیتونوکې د ښځو پر ښکېلتیا د محدودیتونو په ګډون کلتوريز خنډونه د دې لامل ګرځیدلی، تر څو په دې هېواد کې د ښځو لپاره کاري فرصتونه کم او محدود کړل شي او په ټولو سیاسي، اقتصادي، کلتوري او ټولنیزو جوړښتونو کې د هغوی رول تر اغیز لاندې راوستل شي.
سره له دې چې افغانستان، په تیره څه باندې یوه لسیزه کې په خپل اساسي قانون کې د اتباعو د حقونو د تساوي د تسجیل په اړه یو لړ د پام وړ لاسته راوړنې لرلي دي او همداشان په ښوونځیو او پوهنتونونو کې د ښځو او نجونو له ګډون څخه ملاتړ او مرسته تر لاسه شوې ده، خو بیا هم په دې هېواد کې جنسیتي تساوي ته پراخ لاسرسی، بنستیزو ټولنیزو بدلونونو ته اړتیا لري.
اوس د بدلون وخت دی او د افغانستان برېښنا شرکت، چې په هېواد کې د برېښنا د وړاندې کولو او وېشلو یوازینی ملي شرکت دی، د همدې امر د پلي کولو زمینه یې برابره کړې ده.
په دې شرکت کې له ټولټال ۷۰۰۰ فعال کارکوونکو څخه، نږدې ۲۱۸ یې ښځې دي، چې د هغوی هم زیاتره شمېر یې په ټيټو کچو کې په تیره بیا په ملاتړیزو برخو کې خپلې دندې پر مخ وړي. له نیکه مرغه، د نوي اجرائیوي مشر په ټاکل کېدو سره، د برېښنا د شرکت د رهبري هیأت په دغه اداره کې د جنسیتي تساوي هڅولو ته ژمن ده.
د پلان جوړونې او ظرفیت جوړونې د ملاتړ پروژه چې د افغانستان د بیارغونې د صندوق له خوا تمویلیږي، د برېښنا له شرکت سره د همدې ژمنې په پلي کولو کې مرسته کوي. د یادونې وړ ده، چې دغه صندوق د نړیوال بانک له خوا مدیریت کېږي. د پلان جوړونې او ظرفیت جوړونې د ملاتړ پروژه د همدې شرکت د کارکوونکو لپاره د جنسیتي مسایلو په اړه د خبراوي د بېلابېلو ناستو د جوړولو تر څنګ؛ د همدې شرکت د ښځینه کارکوونکو لپاره یې د تخصصي زده کړو زمینه هم برابره کړې ده. د افغانستان برېښنا شرکت له پوهنتونونو څخه د ښځینه فارغانو لپاره د کار د زده کړې د فرصتونو وړاندې کولو ته هم ژمن دی، تر څو په همدې ترتیب سره د هغوی لپاره متوازن شغلي فرصتونه برابر او د انرژی په سکټور کې د ښځو د ګډون کچه زیاتوالی ومومي.

Afghanistan’s energy sector leads the way for gender equality

World Bank Afghanistan's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
 Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank
Afghanistan's power utility (DABS) has recently taken steps necessary to ensure that women are involved in all business operations within the organization. Photo: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

In Afghanistan, decades of violence, common discriminatory practices, and cultural barriers, including restrictions on mobility, have denied women job opportunities and left them severely underrepresented in all sectors of society.
Despite considerable achievements in the last decade, such as the national Constitution guaranteeing equal rights as well as increased enrollment in public schools and universities, achieving gender equality will require widespread social changes.
Yet, change is happening and Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), Afghanistan’s national power utility, is showing the way.
With a workforce of about 7,000, the company employs only 218 women, most of whom at a junior support level. However, under the leadership of its new CEO, DABS management has committed to promoting gender equality.
The Planning and Capacity Support Project of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), managed by the World Bank, is helping DABS deliver on that commitment. The project organized awareness sessions for DABS staff on gender-related issues and provided specialized training to female employees. DABS has committed to providing internships to female university graduates to ensure women can find job opportunities and fully participate in the energy sector.
Realizing that the majority of its female staff lacked the confidence to compete with men, DABS is facilitating access to new job opportunities for women employees and has taken steps to ensure that women are involved in all business operations within the organization.

Our commitment to the people of Afghanistan stays strong

Annette Dixon's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Despite government efforts with support from the international community, Afghanistan's development needs remain massive. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

I am still shaken and saddened by the many lives lost to the attacks in Kabul two weeks ago and since then there has been more violence. As we grieve these tragedies, now is the time to stand strong with the people of Afghanistan and renew our commitment to build a peaceful and prosperous country.

To that end, we announced this week a new financing package of more than half-a-billion dollars to help Afghanistan through its struggle to end poverty, increase opportunity to help stabilize the country, and ensure all its citizens can access basic services during a time of economic uncertainty.

Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001 and achieved much progress under extremely challenging circumstances. Life expectancy has increased from 44 to 60 years, maternal mortality has decreased by more than three quarters and the country now boasts 18 million mobile phone subscribers, up from almost none in 2001.

Yet, the development needs in Afghanistan remain massive. Nearly 40 percent of Afghans live in poverty and almost 70 percent of the population are illiterate. The country needs to create new jobs for about 400,000 people entering the labor market each year. The situation is made more challenging by the return of around 5.8 million refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced people.

Our new support is in line with our belief that Afghanistan’s economic and social progress can also help it address security challenges.  Our financing package meets the pressing needs of returning refugees, expands private-sector opportunities for the poor, boosts the development of five cities, expands electrification, improves food security, and builds rural roads.