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On the importance of snow and joint climate action in Central Asia

Kulsum Ahmed's picture
Kyrgyz Republic / World Bank

If you think about it, snow is a pretty amazing thing. It is nature’s way of storing water in the winter, and then using it in the summer when it is needed, namely during the growing season. If it gets too warm, the water does not stay locked up as snow till the summer. Too much warmth also means that more snow and ice may melt than usual, resulting in floods. But at the same time, if the water comes down the mountain too abundantly and too early, there may not be enough water during the growing season, causing drought-like conditions.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are among the Europe and Central Asia Region’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. In these five landlocked Central Asian countries, water resources depend on glaciers and snow pack. In this region, we have already seen average annual temperatures increase since the mid-20th century by 0.5°C in the south to 1.6°C in the north, and impacts are already being observed, from melting glaciers in upland areas (where glaciers have lost one-third of their volume since the 1900s), to droughts and floods in the lowlands (where weather-related disasters are estimated to cause economic losses from 0.4 to 1.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product per year for Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyz Republic, for instance).
The future looks even more challenging. According to a World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal,” the region’s glaciers, which account today for 10 percent of the annual stream flow in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya basins, are projected to lose up to 50 percent in volume in a 2°C warmer world, and potentially up to 75 percent in a 4°C warmer world. Melting glaciers and a shift in the timing of rivers’ flow will result in a lot more water in the rivers but this excess availability will not be in sync with growing season’s water needs.  In the second half of the century, there would then be too little water flow in the rivers when the glacier volume is reduced.  The timing of peak flow of key rivers is projected to shift towards spring with a 25 percent reduction in flow during the critical crop growing season. The report also projects increased heat extremes which mean more of a reliance on irrigated agriculture (the report projects a 30 percent increase in irrigation demand) leading to an increase in water demand, exactly when water availability becomes more unpredictable. In this region, water is also connected to energy security, given the reliance on hydropower, creating further challenges.

Rising Financial Pressures from the East

Aurora Ferrari's picture
It’s hard to get a break in the Europe and Central Asia region, it seems – even a short one. Hit hard by the troubles in the Eurozone at the beginning of the decade, emerging and developing countries in Eastern Europe are, at the beginning of this year, contending with renewed fears. Meanwhile, external pressures have built up on the Central Asia side as well.

All eyes turned to Russia recently, when on 16 December the ruble plunged by more than 11 percent, despite the Central Bank of Russia’s last-minute interest rate hike of 6.5 percentage points to 17 percent. When it looked like Russia’s turmoil might spread to global markets, western economies sat up and paid close attention.

What may have gone unnoticed, however, is the ongoing impact on our client countries in the Europe and Central Asia region.

Moving 4 Degrees South

Victor Neagu's picture
Also available in: Русский
We talk so frequently about how we shape our work and yet rarely about how our work shapes us. Let me explain. I recently moved 4 degrees in latitude – from Chisinau, Moldova to Almaty, Kazakhstan, on a six-month development assignment – and it has been fascinating to discover in just one week how similar our collective mentalities are!

Two Forums, One Common Goal

Ilya Domashov's picture
Also available in: Русский
Citizen participation in any issue is most often thought of in the context of formal procedures. Sometimes, civil society representatives, like me, are invited to events, commissions or programs that ensure formal connections with civil society. So while we are not ignored, our participation feels more like a cursory part of the process, without any significant opportunity to influence the processes or explain our position.

This time, things were different. We became real players in the public discussion about mitigating climate change in Central Asia.

The forum in question --  the second Central Asia Climate Knowledge Forum: Moving towards Regional Climate Resilience – was organized by the World Bank Group in Almaty in May, and brought together  about 200 participants from nearly all institutions interested or involved in this problem -- including top officials of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and donors. Around 30 civil society representatives from the Central Asian countries also attended the event. NGOs were represented more solidly at the second forum compared to the first.

”Focus on the journey, not the destination,” was our guiding principle.  

New Horizons for Shared Growth in Kazakhstan

Laura Tuck's picture

Laura Tuck, Vice President for the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia region, shares her impression on her trip to Kazakhstan, its economy growth, progress in development, and the World Bank's partnership with the country.


Dialogue with Central Asian countries

Laura Tuck's picture

Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic – Laura Tuck, the vice president for the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia unit, talks about her trip to Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and important issues related to the economic growth of the region that she discussed in these Central Asian countries.


Completely Booked Out in Astana

Shynar Jetpissova's picture
Also available in: Русский

If you love books as much as I do, perhaps you too cherish the sensation of holding a new book in your hands for the first time. Or the way your nose twitches when dust lifts off the pages of an old paperback you just discovered on a bookstore shelf. Books are real treasures – they appeal to many different senses and can create memories that stay with us from childhood.
Today, more and more books take a very different form to when I was a kid. The Internet now provides us access to a vast electronic library where billions of books are available digitally rather than in the old-fashioned paper form. But there are many of us who still prefer the real thing. With this in mind, my colleagues and I at the World Bank office in Astana, Kazakhstan, held a book donation on the threshold of the New Year at the National Academic Library - one of the four depositary libraries in different regions of Kazakhstan (Almaty, Astana, Ust-Kamenogorsk, and Pavlodar) back in 2005 as an effective channel for sharing of knowledge and information.

For the event, we brought a ton of World Bank publications from the country office, inviting people to walk in and take any books that appealed to them. It took just one hour to clear the shelves! As people selected multiple books from the shelves, I asked, “Are you really going to read all of those books?” Their responses surprised me pleasantly.

Thriving Cities Will Drive Eurasia's Growth

Souleymane Coulibaly's picture

Cities have always been the driving forces of world civilizations. What Niniveh was to the Assyrian civilization, Babylon was to the Babylonian civilization.  When Peter the Great, third in the Romanov Dynasty, became Russia’s ruler in 1696, Moscow’s influence began to expand. Peter strengthened the rule of the tsar and westernized Russia, at the same time, making it a European powerhouse and greatly expanding its borders. By 1918, the Russian empire spanned a vast territory from Western Europe to China.

As Peter the Great and his successors strove to consolidate their reign over this empire, major social, economic, cultural, and political changes were happening in the urban centers. Moscow led these changes, followed by St. Petersburg, which was built as a gateway to filter and channel western civilization through the empire. By fostering diversification through connectivity, specialization, and scale economies, these cities started the structural transformation of the Russian empire away from depending on commodities and limited markets in a way that more effectively served local demand.

The Soviet era altered this dynamic.

Will the Real Small Business Please Stand Up?

Munawer Sultan Khwaja's picture

Browsing through a large departmental store in Yerevan, I selected a tie, pair of trousers and a shirt to make up for having arrived in the city before my suitcases did. The store manager pointed me to three different cash counters for the three items I had purchased.  “But isn’t this all one store,” I asked in my inadequate Russian, that never fails to amuse native speakers. “Perhaps,” she smiled. “But never mind; these are different otdels (units).”

While governments around the world try to use simplified regimes to decrease the compliance burden of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), it also opens the door wide open for larger businesses to abuse these regimes either by hiding as a small business, or splitting a larger business into smaller units. This is particularly true when there are few checks on firms entering the simplified regime. Think aforementioned department store!

Women in the Workforce – a Growing Need in Emerging Europe and Central Asia

Sarosh Sattar's picture

Emerging Europe and Central Asia (ECA) is an interesting region because what you expect is not always what exists. Since this is written in honor of International Women's Day, discussing women’s labor market participation seems appropriate. The standard indicator used for this is the “female labor force participation” (LFP) rate, which is the proportion of all women between 15-64 years who either work or are looking for work. 

Since much of the region has a common socialist legacy, you would expect to see similar labor market behavior among women. However, the proportion of women who work ranges from a low of 42 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 74 percent of adult women in Kazakhstan. And it wasn’t 20 years of social and economic transition that led to this divergence. Even in 1990, the range was about the same. The exception was Moldova which saw a 26 percentage point decline.