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Which South Asia do you live in?

Prabha Chandran's picture

This blog is part of the series #OneSouthAsia exploring how South Asia can become a more integrated, thus more economically dynamic region. The blog series is a  lead up to the South Asia Economic Conclave, an event dedicated to deepen existing economic links through policy and investments in regional businesses.

Which South Asia do you live in? The one which offers world-class metros and malls, super-specialty hospitals, gourmet eateries and designer homes where servants make your meals, drive your car or clean your mess? 

Or do you live in the South Asia where sanitation, water and electricity are a luxury, where filth, ignorance and violence means death comes early and more frequently from illness, poverty and natural disasters? Statistically, the latter is more likely.

Having lived in Southeast Asia, where the emergence of the Tigers has transformed the lives of millions of poor through investment in human development, infrastructure and exports producing high growth rates, the visible poverty and chaotic streets of South Asia are troubling. So, too, is the contrast provided by India's dollar billionaires -- the third-largest rich man's club in the world.

Crossing the Hindukush mountains in Afghanistan

Luquan Tian's picture
A panoramic view of the Salang Pass in Afghanistan
Panoramic view of the Salang Pass in Afghanistan. Credit: World Bank

The Afghan Government takes full ownership of a new project to rehabilitate the Salang Pass Highway

If you had travelled along the silk route to Afghanistan over a hundred years ago, your caravan would have encountered some formidable mountain terrain.  Crossing the treacherous icy passes was one of the greatest dangers, and could only be undertaken during the summer months.
Things did not change much until the 1960s.  That was when the Soviets built the sturdy two-lane Salang highway across the Hindukush mountains and bored a 2.8 km long tunnel at the Salang Pass at 3,400 meters above sea level. The Salang tunnel - the world’s highest road tunnel at that time - was a feat of engineering.

5 questions about road safety in India

Arnab Bandyopadhyay's picture
Panoramic view of car jam in India

In the run up to the first hackathon on road safety in India, we caught up with Arnab Bandopadhyay, Senior Transport Engineer at the World Bank and asked him a few questions: 
  • Why is the World Bank focusing on road safety in India?
India’s roads are among the most dangerous in the world. The number of deaths from road accidents has risen sharply over the past decade. More than one million people have lost their lives in the past 10 years alone and another 5.3 million have been disabled or disfigured for life.

While India has less than 3% of the world’s vehicles, it accounts for some 11% of the world’s road deaths. That too, when many such incidents are not documented at all.

Road accidents are not only traumatic for victims and their families but also take a huge economic toll on the country.    They cost an estimated 3% of GDP each year. The large majority of road accident victims are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists - mostly from the economically weaker sections of the society – making road safety a matter of social equity. Promoting road safety is therefore an important national priority.

In India, the great — yet unexplored — potential of inland water transportation

Shivika Singh's picture
Most of us attendees were novices in the area of inland water transportation in India and were curious to know what Arnab Bandyopadhay, Senior Transport Engineer at the World Bank’s India country office would say.

Indian waterways
Indian waterways. Photo credit: World Bank

In Bangladesh, a STEP closer to job opportunities

Yann Doignon's picture
In a globalized economy, possessing the right set of skills is critical and determines one’s life opportunities and successes. Since 2010, the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP) has helped underprivileged citizens in Bangladesh acquire new skills to improve their job prospects. Through STEP, the Government of Bangladesh has enhanced access and quality of technical education and training, especially for women, and introduced innovative programs such as “Recognition of Prior Learning.”

Here are 3 videos highlighting areas of the program and citizens who benefited from it:
Better Education for Better Jobs, One STEP at a Time
In this video, STEP participants talk about their life struggles and how STEP helped them build a better life for themselves.

Vocational training for better jobs-- TV commercial, Bangla version
Vocational training for better jobs-- TV commercial, Bangla ve...

This commercial ran on Bangladesh local TV channels in 2015 as part of the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP), which supports the Government of Bangladesh in promoting vocational training and helping poor students find better jobs. The video encourages students to change their mindset and join more economically-viable vocational training courses of their own interest.

Posted by World Bank Bangladesh on Monday, August 17, 2015
This commercial ran on Bangladesh local TV channels in 2015 as part of the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP), which supports the Government of Bangladesh in promoting vocational training and helping poor students find better jobs. The video encourages students to change their mindset and join more economically-viable vocational training courses of their own interest.

4,100 Pakistanis share their aspirations — and ambitions — for their country

Yann Doignon's picture
Pakistan: Window of opportunity

​Economic and social development should not be left to economists and specialists only.

This message is manifested in “Window of Opportunity,” a video highlighting the ambitions and goals of the World Bank’s 2015-19 Country Partnership Strategy in Pakistan.  
Truck drivers, entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers and thousands of other citizens from Pakistan shared their ideas and helped identify opportunities and challenges to guide future policies and action areas.
These individuals come from a myriad different backgrounds but are united by a common drive to open up windows of opportunities for Pakistan.

What will it take to realize Pakistan’s potential?

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Sri Mulyani Indrawati meeting beneficiaries
Meeting with beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme in Lahore, Pakistan.

As Pakistan readies to celebrate its independence day, we can all feel satisfied about progress in restoring macroeconomic stability, but should also realise that the country can and should do much better. Pakistan has many assets, of which it can make better use — from its vast water and river endowment, to its coastline and cities, to its natural resources. And there are upsides: a growing middle class, a lively informal economy and a strong influx of remittances. Pakistan can also be proud of the first peaceful transfer of power between two civilian governments. But to reach its full potential, Pakistan needs to focus on two critical areas, both obvious and urgent. It needs to ensure that its people have the means to fully participate in and contribute to the economy. And it needs to integrate itself more, globally and regionally.

The first challenge is demographic. As a result of rapid population growth, 1.5 million youngsters reach the working age each year. The question is, will the private sector be able to provide the jobs they need and want? And will the youth have the skills to get good jobs? Pakistan must do far better in education. Primary school net enrollment is about 57 per cent, well below other South Asian countries. Enrollment drops by half in middle school, with much lower levels for girls and children from poor families. This is not a good foundation to build on.

It is not surprising then that Pakistan also struggles to give all its citizens the opportunity to participate in building better lives for themselves. Only 25 per cent of women participate in the labour force, compared to 50 and 80 per cent in most developing countries. Women and girls deserve better. Research shows that girls with little or no education are far more likely to be married as children, suffer domestic violence, and live in poverty. This harms not only them, but also their children, their communities and the economy. Greater gender equality can enhance productivity and improve development outcomes for the next generation. It is smart economics.

Pakistan has taken steps to empower women. The Benazir Income Support Program, supported by the World Bank, has provided millions of women with national ID cards and makes direct payments to them, strengthening their ability to take decisions and move out of poverty.

Nepal post-earthquake response: It’s time to roll up our sleeves

Marc Forni's picture
Nepal Earthquake Reconstruction
Relief workers in the town of Sankhu in the Kathmandu Valley, June 2015. Credit: Yann Doignon / World Bank

It has been exactly three months since the Nepal earthquake first struck and one month since the donor conference. The humanitarian phase is nearing its end, the international presence is starting to move onto the next crisis, and high level international dignitaries have now returned to their capitals. The earthquake is no longer making headline news and the government is getting back to business as usual, albeit with the huge challenge of rebuilding.
Now is time to take stock of the events from the past three months. During a crisis, there is no time for those involved to look back at what has been accomplished. What matters is the next immediate action and challenge to overcome.  Last week, in the Bank headquarters, our management and some members of the earthquake response team presented the progress achieved thus far to an overcrowded room. This was my first opportunity to reflect on the disaster and I was almost overcome with emotion. Be they senior government officials, the Bank’s country office team, first- emergency responders, or Nepalis, it is difficult to articulate just what folks have overcome in Nepal.

Nepal: Hope and resilience prevail in shelter camps

Gitanjali Chaturvedi's picture

Nepal earthquake recovery

Nobody remembers an earthquake or a disaster this severe in their living memory. Aftershocks continue three months after the first earthquake, reminding survivors of their fragile, transitory existence. The scale of destruction is enormous, the remains visible even after efforts to clean, rebuild, and resettle. Gaping cracks in abandoned buildings waiting to collapse, tents in fields and pavements, parked vehicles that become shelters at night, rubble too enormous to be lifted to a landfill site, the occasional bulldozer – are all grim reminders of the tragedy. The skyline, once dominated by terracotta temples with tiered pagoda roofs, now is made up only of concrete masonry buildings. 

Public Spaces as Catalyst for Slum Upgrading

Isabel Cantada's picture
In recent years, there has been growing demand by cities to create viable public spaces within and for slums. Cities recognize the multitude of benefits that public spaces provide including:
  • Centers for social interaction and cultural expression;
  • Drivers of economic development and wealth creation;
  • Improved health, accessibility and safety;
  • Environmental sustainability;
  • Increased citizen involvement; and
  • Perceived sense of ownership or tenure.