Syndicate content

South Asia’s transport corridors can lead to prosperity

Martin Melecky's picture
 World Bank
Transport corridors offer enormous potential to boost South Asia’s economies, reduce poverty, and spur more and better jobs for local people, provided the new trade routes generate growth for all and limit their environmental impact. Credit: World Bank

This blog is based on the report The Web of Transport Corridors in South Asia -- jointly produced with the Asian Development Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency

No doubt, South Asia’s prosperity was built along its trade routes.

One of the oldest, the Grand Trunk Road from the Mughal era still connects East and West and in the 17th century made Delhi, Kabul and Lahore wealthy cities with impressive civic buildings, monuments, and gardens.

Fast forward a few centuries and today, South Asia abounds with new proposals to build a vast network of transport corridors.
 
In India alone—and likely bolstered by the successful completion of the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) highway system—several transport proposals extending beyond India’s borders are now under consideration. 
 
They include the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), linking India, Iran and Russia, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, and the Bangladesh, China, India, and Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor.
 
The hope is that these transport corridors will turn into growth engines and create large economic surpluses that can spread throughout the economy and society.

Arguably, the transport corridor with the greatest economic potential is the surface link between Shanghai and Mumbai.
 
These two cities are the economic hubs of China and India respectively, two emerging global powers.
 
The distance between them, about 5,000 kilometers, is not much greater than the distance between New York and Los Angeles.
 
But instead of crossing a relatively empty continent, a corridor from Shanghai to Mumbai—via Kunming, Mandalay, Dhaka, and Kolkata—would go through some of the most densely populated and most dynamic areas in the world, stoking hopes of large economic spillovers along its alignment.
 
“Build and they will come” seems to be the logic underlying many massive transport investments around the world.
 
However, the reality is that not all these investments will generate the expected returns.
 
Worse, they can become wasteful white elephants—that is, transport infrastructure without much traffic—that would cost trillions of dollars at taxpayers’ expense.
 
So, how can South Asia develop transport corridors that have a positive impact on their economies and benefit all people along the corridor alignments and beyond?  
 
First, countries need to change the mindset that transport corridors are mere engineering feats designed to move along vehicles and commodities.
 
Second, sound economic analysis of how corridors can help spur urbanization and create local jobs while minimizing the disruptions to the natural environment, is key to developing successful investment programs.
 
Specifically, it is vital to ensure that local populations whose lives are disrupted by new infrastructure can reap equally the benefits from better transport connectivity.
 
The hard truth is that the development of corridor initiatives may involve difficult tradeoffs.
 
For instance, more educated and skilled people can migrate to obtain better jobs in growing urban areas that are benefiting from corridor connectivity, while unskilled workers may be left behind in depopulated rural areas with few economic prospects.
 
But while corridors can create both winners and losers, well-designed investment programs can alleviate potential adverse impacts and help local people share the benefits more widely.
 
In that vein, India’s Golden Quadrilateral, or GQ highway system, is a cautionary tale. 
 
No doubt, this corridor had a positive impact. 
 
Economic activity along the corridor increased and people, especially women, found better job opportunities beyond traditional farming.
 
But this success came at a cost as air pollution increased in the districts near the highway.
 
This is a major tradeoff and one that was documented before in Japan when levels of air pollution spiked during the development of its Pacific Ocean Belt several decades ago.
 
Another downside is that the economic benefits generated by the GQ highway were distributed unequally in neighboring communities.  

Decoding development: Insights from Singapore’s Economic Development Board

Kelvin Wong's picture

Singapore’s transformation into a trade and finance hub that leads global rankings of competitiveness often prompts observers to ask: What is its secret sauce?  We at the Singapore Hub for Infrastructure and Urban Development asked Kelvin Wong, Assistant Managing Director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board, or EDB, to share with us the country’s journey in developing its logistics sector, considered among the world’s most competitive and innovative.

Safeguarding Indonesia’s development from increasing disaster risks

Jian Vun's picture
 
New settlements in Sleman district post-eruption of Mt. Merapi.


Imagine that you live near one of 127 active volcanoes in Indonesia, threatened by the next eruption that could endanger your family. Imagine that your house stands in one of the most seismically-active zones in the world, or that your family lives in one of the 317 districts with high risks of flooding. This is a reality that at least 110 million Indonesians already face, and more could be affected due to the impacts of urbanization, climate change and land subsidence.

The country is known as having a ‘supermarket’ of disaster hazards. Over the past twenty years alone, the Indonesian government recorded over 24,000 disaster events that caused 190,500 fatalities, displaced almost 37 million people, and damaged over 4.3 million houses. The combined losses of these disasters totaled almost $28 billion, or around 0.3% of national GDP annually.

Improved internet access connects Somali students to each other and global knowledge

Roku Fukui's picture
In this day and age, writing an academic thesis without access to scholarly research or the internet sounds virtually impossible. Yet this is the reality experienced by many university students in Somalia, which has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world. The lack of digital connectivity drastically inhibits learning across the country, and can prevent the education sector from fulfilling its role as a driver of economic and social development.
 
In an effort to change this circumstance, the Somali Research and Education Network (SomaliREN) has brought several higher education institutions together under a single umbrella to improve connectivity in education facilities, foster digital learning communities, and promote academic content for Somali students.
 
Launched on July 18, the SomaliREN is currently made up of 19 institutions. It maintains its own network operations center, and has already deployed a 155 Mbit/s connection to seven universities, translating into roughly 20 Mbps of bandwidth for each institution.

Could complex value chains help explain lower export elasticities?

François de Soyres's picture

This blog post is based on de Soyres, Frohm, Gunnella and Pavlova (2018), Bought, Sold and Bought Again: Complex value chains and export elasticities”, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper Series No. 8535.

Economics textbooks outline a clear-cut relationship between movements in a country’s exchange rate and its export volumes. When the currency depreciates, export volumes are expected to increase by some amount. By how much exports increase is called the exchange rate elasticity of exports. Yet, some recent episodes of significant exchange rate movements, such as those in Japan (2012–2014) and the United Kingdom (2007–2009), were not associated with very large movements in trade volumes.1 This perceived unresponsiveness of exports to exchange rate fluctuations has raised the question among some commentators as to whether the exchange rate elasticity of export volumes have changed or even become zero.

A glimpse into the future of social protection

Michal Rutkowski's picture

Your neighbor drives for a ride-sharing company. Your nephew just joined his third start-up.  Your daughter lands a job as a freelance journalist. Your street vendor who sells flowers down the street has been absent due to an illness.

The changing nature of work is upending traditional employment. But as the gig economy, part-time jobs, contracts and other diverse and fluid forms of employment grow, what happens to the protections the traditional job market offered to people and workers?

On shaky ground: Housing in Europe and Central Asia

Ashna Mathema's picture
Housing in ECA


















The social, political, and economic transition of countries across Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia over the last three decades has been a long and arduous process, and many challenges remain. Among them, an imminent concern is the seismic threat faced by certain housing typologies that are believed to have outlived their design lifespan, and suffer from serious deterioration and disinvestment.

How many people can share a toilet?

Rebecca Jean Gilsdorf's picture

An Introduction to Shared Sanitation

Co-authors:
Rachel Cardone

Martin Gambrill

How many people can share a toilet? This question might sound like the start of a joke but it’s actually a serious issue for many across the world. That’s because an estimated 20 percent of the global population do not have their own toilets.
 
In urban areas, almost one person in ten uses a shared household toilet, i.e., a toilet shared with at least one neighboring household. But sometimes no one in the neighborhood owns a private toilet, so some of these families instead have no choice but to use community toilets - that are locally available and used by anyone who lives nearby. In such cases, hundreds of people might be using the same block of community toilets. Now let’s think about the other toilets we all use – when we’re out shopping or running errands, when we’re at work or school, or when we’re in transit. These public toilets might be used by hundreds or thousands of different people at different times of day.
 
Many of us go through the day without giving much thought to this. But for hundreds of millions of people worldwide who do not own their own toilet, these are daily realities. Additionally, even for households who have their own toilet, when they are outside of the home, they still need access to improved sanitation facilities. The illustration below depicts a day in the life of the Mijini family (Mijini means urban in Swahili). The Mijini ’s sanitation situation is great in their home, as they have an individual household toilet, but it’s underwhelming and even dangerous once they leave home for their day. Their experience is not unique, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Building bridges: cities helping cities achieve more – a Romanian-Japanese partnership

Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu's picture
The central square of the old town. Brasov
Photo: The central square of the old town. Brasov. Transylvania. By Ann Stryzhekin/ Shutterstock
When U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Yokohama in 1854, it was a backwater village in Japan with a largely rural, relatively undeveloped economy. But it soon grew to an urban agglomeration with around 3.7 million people. Since then, Yokohama has managed to continuously reinvent itself – from a port city, to a large industrial area, and now to a modern, global service and lifestyle hub.
 
Within a century, Japan would become the world’s second largest economy. Its growth has been fueled by cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kobe. Japanese cities can offer a myriad of lessons to their counterparts in developing countries.
 
Japanese cities are also at the forefront of dealing with some of the world’s most pressing challenges. For example, cities like Osaka and Toyama have developed a number of tools to address the social issues caused by rapid aging. Most developed and developing cities in the world will face similar challenges in the years to come. Providing a platform where these cities can learn from the experience of Japanese cities may lead to significant development impact.
 
Supported by a partnership between the World Bank and Japan, the Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC) does just that.

Lebanese youth are helping to bring tourism back to Tripoli

Chadi Nachabe's picture


Alaa Jundi, 27, from Tebbaneh outside Tripoli, Lebanon, didn’t have the chance to continue his education. But he loved the arts and had an ambition was of being an actor one day. After feeling hopeless that he had no opportunities, he took art classes that were part of a World Bank project to build his skills. “At first, I felt this was a dream, I was just participating to fill my time and practice my hobby.” But the skills he learned led him to opening an entertainment company with a colleague to host kids’ birthday parties and events.

Pages