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IMF News

Blog: Do the Math: Include Women in Government Budgets

11 weeks 11 hours ago

Transcript of IMF Press Briefing

11 weeks 14 hours ago

China’s Evolving Exchange Rate Regime

11 weeks 1 day ago
Working Paper No. 19/50

Paraguay: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

11 weeks 1 day ago

Blog: Equality for All

11 weeks 2 days ago

IMF Staff Completes 2019 Article IV Mission to Bahrain

11 weeks 2 days ago

IMF Staff Completes 2019 Article IV Mission to Maldives

11 weeks 3 days ago

Uzbekistan: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

11 weeks 3 days ago

Do Fiscal Rules Cause Better Fiscal Balances? A New Instrumental Variable Strategy

11 weeks 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/49

Samoa: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

11 weeks 4 days ago

Portugal and the Global Economy: The Way Forward

11 weeks 6 days ago

Nonlinearity Between the Shadow Economy and Level of Development

12 weeks 6 hours ago
Working Paper No. 19/48

How Effective is Macroprudential Policy? Evidence from Lending Restriction Measures in EU Countries

12 weeks 6 hours ago
Working Paper No. 19/45

Cash Use Across Countries and the Demand for Central Bank Digital Currency

12 weeks 6 hours ago
Working Paper No. 19/46

Struggling to Make the Grade: A Review of the Causes and Consequences of the Weak Outcomes of South Africa’s Education System

12 weeks 6 hours ago
Working Paper No. 19/47

The Financial Sector: Redefining a Broader Sense of Purpose

12 weeks 17 hours ago

IMF Reaches Staff-Level Agreement on the Fifth Review of Sri Lanka’s Extended Fund Facility

12 weeks 18 hours ago

Negative Monetary Policy Rates and Portfolio Rebalancing: Evidence from Credit Register Data

12 weeks 1 day ago
Working Paper No. 19/44

Scaling Up SME Financial Inclusion in the Middle East and Central Asia

12 weeks 1 day ago

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2019 Article IV Consultation with Malta

12 weeks 1 day ago

IMF Staff Concludes Staff Visit to Georgia

12 weeks 1 day ago

Sovereigns and Financial Intermediaries Spillovers

12 weeks 2 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/43

Malta : Financial System Stability Assessment

12 weeks 2 days ago
Country Report No. 19/70

Malta : Selected Issues

12 weeks 2 days ago
Country Report No. 19/69

Malta : 2019 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Malta

12 weeks 2 days ago
Country Report No. 19/68

IMF Management Complete the First Review under the Staff-Monitored Program with Somalia

12 weeks 2 days ago

IMF Staff Completes 2019 Article IV Mission and Reaches a Staff-Level Agreement with Armenia on a Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement

12 weeks 2 days ago

Macroeconomic Gains from Reforming the Agri-Food Sector: The Case of France

12 weeks 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/41

Are Labor Market Indicators Telling the Truth? Role of Measurement Error in the U.S. Current Population Survey

12 weeks 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/40

Improving the Efficiency and Equity of Public Education Spending: The Case of Moldova

12 weeks 3 days ago
Working Paper No. 19/42

Somalia : First Review Under the Staff-Monitored Program-Press Release; and Staff Report

12 weeks 3 days ago
Country Report No. 19/67

People’s Republic of China—Macao Special Administrative Region: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

12 weeks 3 days ago

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with St. Vincent and the Grenadines

12 weeks 3 days ago

Costa Rica: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2019 Article IV Mission

12 weeks 4 days ago

St. Vincent and the Grenadines : 2018 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report and Statement by the Executive Director for St. Vincent and the Grenadines

12 weeks 4 days ago
Country Report No. 19/66

Eastern Caribbean Currency Union : Selected Issues Paper

12 weeks 6 days ago
Country Report No. 19/63

Eastern Caribbean Currency Union : 2018 Discussion on Common Policies of Member Countries-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union

12 weeks 6 days ago
Country Report No. 19/62

Five Takeaways from Uruguay's Economic Outlook

12 weeks 6 days ago

The Dominican Republic Implements the International Monetary Fund’s Enhanced General Data Dissemination System

12 weeks 6 days ago

The Republic of Azerbaijan Implements the International Monetary Fund’s Enhanced General Data Dissemination System

12 weeks 6 days ago

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Discussion on Common Policies of Member Countries of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union

12 weeks 6 days ago

IMF Staff Concludes Discussions on the Combined Seventh and Eighth Reviews of Ghana’s Extended Credit Facility Program

12 weeks 6 days ago

Uruguay : 2018 Article IV Consultation-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Republic of Uruguay

13 weeks 6 hours ago
Country Report No. 19/64

Uruguay : Selected Issues

13 weeks 6 hours ago
Country Report No. 19/65

Petra Moser on Italian Opera, World Fairs and Innovation

13 weeks 6 hours ago

OECD News - Corruption

Strengthening the Anti-Bribery Convention: Review of the 2009 OECD Anti-Bribery Recommendation

23 weeks 2 days ago
The OECD Anti-Bribery is the first and only international anti-corruption instrument focused on the ‘supply side’ of the bribery transaction. To ensure that it continues to respond to the challenges of fighting foreign bribery, the OECD has launched a review of the 2009 OECD Recommendation for Further Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (OECD Anti-Bribery Recommendation).

2018 OECD Consultation on Fighting Foreign Bribery

23 weeks 2 days ago
This Working Group on Bribery consultation with the private sector and civil society will focus on topics suggested by the stakeholders themselves and launch the OECD study, 'Foreign Bribery Enforcement: What Happens to the Public Officials on the Receiving End?'.

2018 OECD Consultation on Fighting Foreign Bribery

23 weeks 2 days ago
This Working Group on Bribery consultation with the private sector and civil society will focus on topics suggested by the stakeholders themselves and launch the OECD study, 'Foreign Bribery Enforcement: What Happens to the Public Officials on the Receiving End?'.

Internship opportunities working on anti-corruption at the OECD

24 weeks 3 days ago
The OECD Anti-Corruption Division offers short-term internships of 2-6 months for qualified students. These internships provide students with the experience of working in an international organisation on anti-corruption issues and more specifically the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

OECD launches project to support Uzbekistan’s anti-corruption reforms

25 weeks 1 day ago
The OECD and the Uzbekistan Government, with the support of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), has launched a project to strengthen Uzbekistan’s capacity to fight corruption and boost its implementation of OECD Istanbul Anti-Corruption Action Plan (IAP) recommendations.

Monitoring the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention: Call for contributions

26 weeks 23 hours ago
In 2018, the OECD Working Group on Bribery launched its fourth phase of monitoring of Hungary and Japan's implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. To assist this evaluation process, the OECD calls for interested parties to provide written submissions on the evaluated countries.

OECD News - Finance

OECD Sovereign Borrowing Outlook

4 weeks 1 day ago
This report provides updates of trends and developments associated with sovereign borrowing requirements and debt levels from the perspective of public debt managers for the OECD area and country groupings.

2019 OECD Global Forum on Public Debt Management

4 weeks 2 days ago
23-24 April 2019, Paris - Debates at the 2019 Global Forum focused on the funding environment, the role of borrowing instruments in broadening the investor base, technological advances in finance for government bond markets and challenging debt dynamics.

The World Bank - Blog

Women’s mobility and human capital: Some insights from Haiti

1 week 3 days ago
Photo: Alex Proimos/Flickr Transport has a key part to play in connecting people to the resources they need in order to reach their full potential. In other words, transport and human capital go hand in hand. Through improved rural connectivity, for example, children in rural areas of Africa can go to school; women in remote locations can have access to adequate prenatal care and are able to deliver their baby in the hospital; youth can reach job opportunities in cities. Adequate transport design and regulation are also essential to tackling road crashes– which kill an estimated 1.25 million individuals every year, 90% of them in developing countries.  
 
While there are many ways to highlight the linkages between transport and human capital, the example of women’s mobility in Haiti is particularly compelling. When it comes to healthcare, for instance, World Bank data suggests that accessibility is the second largest challenge to women seeking treatment, right after lack of financial resources to pay for medical services themselves: 62% rural households have at least one woman aged 15 to 49 whose decision to seek medical care is affected by distance (World Bank Household Survey, 2012). Poor road conditions act as a deterrent as well, including for prenatal care. These constraints partly explain why only 39% of women in the same age cohort deliver in a health facility, with poorer women being eight times less likely to do so. Pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsia, which is one of the leading causes of maternal death in Haiti, could be avoided with proper prenatal care.
 
To overcome these barriers, the World Bank’s Transport team is working closely with Haiti’s Ministry of Transport and Public Works to improve all-weather connectivity in the rural areas of the South, South-East and Nippes regions, paying special attention to women’s needs. This involves looking at different dimensions:
  1. Project Design with multi-sectoral collaboration. When expanding or upgrading a road network, one of the very first steps is to decide which areas should be prioritized. Some of the variables typically influencing that decision include poverty rates and exposure to climate risk. One innovative feature about the Haiti project is that it also factored in gender considerations right from the design phase, especially regarding access to maternal and reproductive health facilities (including emergency obstetrics and newborn services). To that end, geo-spatial analysis helped us identify which road segments the program should focus on in order to improve access to health clinics for the population. In parallel, the World Bank’s health teams are providing investments and equipment to many of these clinics to improve the quality of service. Accessibility to markets was another important priority. Evidence suggests that improving women’s economic participation and their productive assets can have positive impacts on entire households, as women typically invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities.
  1. Local Mobility Plans that support women and girls’ choices in remote rural locations. Together with investments into the primary and secondary networks, Local Mobility Plans (LMP) will be developed at the community level to identify meaningful complementary infrastructure investments that improve connectivity. A participatory mapping exercise will guide and inform the LMPs. Women will be at the heart of this process, which will ensure that their mobility concerns are adequately reflected in the planning and design of the infrastructure. Complementary public infrastructure such as lighting, for instance, helps women feel safer and can reduce the probability of all forms of crime, including violence against women.
  1. Focusing on evidence to inform future interventions. As a complement to this project, the Quality Infrastructure Investment Partnership (QII) is financing a study that will measure how improved road connections in these rural communities impact women’s socioeconomic outcomes, and how this may differ from the impact on men. Understanding the linkages between rural roads accessibility, household and women’s welfare is essential for us if we are to design gender-responsive projects that ensure equitable access to newly built infrastructure. Invisible infrastructure – such as social norms and behavioral nudges – is key to narrow the gender gap in the use of infrastructure and may explain any differential use.
These efforts toward better connectivity will contribute to improving maternal and infant health—and, ultimately, to strengthening Haiti’s human capital in the long term. While many other factors come into play—such as peers’ influence and education, delivery assistance by trained personnel in a medical facility, quality of service and health facilities—accessibility remains a key prerequisite. This speaks to the nature of the human capital agenda itself: rich, complex, and filled with unlimited potential. To bring this kind of project to life, meaningful collaboration between infrastructure and human development sectors will be critical. And in many IDA countries, the World Bank is uniquely positioned to make this happen.
 
 

Food prices: Markets are well-supplied, but trade tensions, energy prices, and an Africa Swine Fever outbreak could create market instability

1 week 3 days ago

This blog is the fourth in a series of nine blogs on commodity market developments, elaborating on themes discussed in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Commodity Markets Outlook.
Food commodity prices stabilized in the first quarter of 2019, following declines in 2018. The World Bank’s Food Commodity Price is projected to decline 3 percent in 2019 and gain 2 percent in 2020, according to the latest Commodity Markets Outlook. Although food commodity markets are well-supplied, trade tensions, higher energy prices, and an African Swine Fever outbreak pose significant risks to market stability.

Food prices stabilized


Total supplies (beginning stocks plus production) of all key grains, including wheat, rice, and soybeans, are projected to growth 1.8 percent next (2019-20) season, according the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s latest assessment; that marks the fifth consecutive season of positive growth. All key edible oils are also expected to grow next season as well, for the fourth year in a row.

Global food supplies set to grow

 
Risks to the outlook
 
Risk # 1: Energy prices
 
Volatile energy and fertilizer prices pose a threat to food price stability. Energy is a key input to most agricultural commodities and affects production costs directly (through fuel use) and indirectly (through fertilizer and other chemical use). While energy prices are expected to decline 5 percent in 2019, fertilizer prices are projected to gain 5 percent in 2019. Higher-than-expected energy prices could exert upward pressure on grain and oilseed prices. A 10 percent increase in energy prices is associated with an almost 6 percent increase in fertilizer prices and a nearly 2 percent increase in grain and edible oil prices.


 
Risk # 2: Trade tensions
 
Trade tensions also threaten food price stability. Soybean price declined considerably following the imposition of a 25 percent tariff in July by China on soybean imports from the United States. (The market was also under pressure from a larger-than-expected soybean crop and news of a Swine Fever outbreak in Africa, discussed below.) However, the medium-term impact of tariffs was marginal because of trade diversion (i.e., Chinese importers turned to Brazil for supplies) and substitution of soybean meal by maize and soybean oil by palm oil. Nevertheless, escalation of existing trade frictions among other countries or involving other commodities could further depress food commodity prices.

Risk # 3: The African Swine Fever outbreak
 
A third risk emanates from further weakening in demand due to the recent outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF), first detected in China on August 3. Since then, it has been detected in Mongolia (January 15), Vietnam (February 19), and Cambodia (April 2). In an effort to halt the spread of the disease, pigs are slaughtered. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which monitors the disease and provides weekly updates, reported that, as of mid-April, more than one million pigs have been slaughtered in China, 90,000 in Vietnam, 3,000 in Mongolia, and 2,400 in Cambodia. The impact of ASF on feed stock comodities, especially soybean and maize, may be large and prolonged.
 

Wheat prices !function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if(void 0!==a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var e in a.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-"+e)||document.querySelector("iframe[src*='"+e+"']");t&&(t.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][e]+"px")}})}();
  Maize prices !function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if(void 0!==a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var e in a.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-"+e)||document.querySelector("iframe[src*='"+e+"']");t&&(t.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][e]+"px")}})}();   Soybean prices !function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if(void 0!==a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var e in a.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-"+e)||document.querySelector("iframe[src*='"+e+"']");t&&(t.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][e]+"px")}})}();
 
 

Examining the relationship between women’s empowerment and gender-based violence: The case of the Nigeria For Women Project

1 week 3 days ago



Contrary to common belief, evidence suggests that women’s empowerment may increase the risks of gender-based violence, at least in the short term. This was also borne out by the rigorous Gender-Based Violence (GBV) risk assessment we recently undertook in the context of the Nigeria for Women Project (NFWP). In our research, we asked ourselves; would a focus on women’s social and economic empowerment increase risks of gender-based violence in Nigeria? What would be the causal factors? What measures could form part of the project design to address these risks from and to the project?

The Nigeria For Women project aims to support women’s membership in Women Affinity Groups (WAGs) – community-based institutions of women, in selected states of Nigeria. The project is also supporting livelihoods improvement for individual women and their collectives through financial grants, business advisory services, better access to markets, livelihoods and personal initiative skills, and innovations. The GBV risk assessment, which aimed to identify the GBV risks and possible mitigation options with the NFWP, confirmed that women who realize improved livelihoods opportunities, a greater voice and better decision-making power, could experience “backlash” from their intimate partners as well as family and community members. This essentially stems from the community and household level power dynamics where the gender roles are defined and enforced through social norms that regard men as the providers and women as the caretakers. Shifts in these roles as women’s economic contributions to the household increase or when they exercise autonomy, opinions and voice, as a result of interventions through a program like the NFWP, would lead to a backlash. The more entrenched these social norms, the bigger the backlash. A woman from Edo State summed it up by saying, “a man is proud and conscious of his position as the head of the home…an empowered woman who does not respect her husband or is authoritative in her demeanor will attract battering from her husband, and dislike from his relatives.”

On the other hand, it found that women who are economically active are at a higher risk of non-partner sexual assault. For example, a male respondent from Katsina said, “there was a time I saw a Lebanese woman in Kano selling beautiful abbayas, I would have loved for my wife to do this—but I am scared that she could easily fall pray into the hands of all those rough guys and nothing will happen if she is raped or assaulted.”

Building on this analysis that not only identified risks but also opportunities for integrating risk prevention and mitigation measures in the project design, the NFWP team embedded key measures into the project design such as (i) creating an enabling environment for women’s participation through strategic and behavior change communication, targeting religious and traditional leaders, community members both men and women; (ii) ensuring safety and security of particular women groups in the target communities; (iii) age-, gender-, and culturally appropriate ways to facilitate participation of women in Women Affinity Groups, and in the planning, design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of individual and collective livelihoods; (iv) enhancing community awareness, capacities and strengths of project beneficiary communities, implementing partners and government staff in preventing and reducing risks of GBV; and (v) mapping of the existence of and gaps in services for survivors.

Specific interventions acknowledged for reducing the incidence of GBV in Nigeria and globally, are part of NFWP. For example, on GBV prevention, the project is investing in creation of an enabling environment for women through a social norm change campaign that will aim to reach the most marginalized women (young and married) through multiple modes of communications and outreach, enlist the support of village elders and others respected and trusted by the community and reduce stigma associated with women “empowerment” programs. The project will also implement the evidence-based gender dialogue groups model that facilitates non-violent conflict resolution and joint decision making between men and women through simple discussions on child-rearing, household budgeting, etc.

The project also aims to enhance the community level response to GBV in project areas by identifying and training selected affinity group members as non-specialized GBV first responders. Other measures include capacity support to respective project implementing units on survivor-centered approach to GBV prevention and response, enforcing codes of conduct for all parties associated with the project and a GBV sensitive Grievance Redress System in line with guidance provided in the World Bank Good Practice Note on addressing GBV risks in infrastructure projects.

The NFWP is the first-stand-alone women’s project in the Nigeria portfolio which is seeking to establish and strengthen women’s economic empowerment as critical for inclusive poverty reduction in Nigeria. NFWP can indeed bring down barriers to gender equality, however addressing GBV will be a critical element. This GBV risk assessment is a tool to achieve this larger goal and we hope will serve as a model for other World Bank-financed projects in Nigeria and beyond. As implementation of NFWP progresses, we look forward to sharing experiences and lessons on addressing the most perverse form of gender inequality, that is, gender-based violence.

Five ways to help nature help us

1 week 6 days ago
  The Richtersveld Community Conservancy on the south border of the Richtersveld National Park in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Photo: John Hogg/World Bank 

This week I was at the G7 meeting in France’s northern city of Metz, discussing biodiversity with Environment Ministers from the Group of Seven countries (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States), along with delegations from countries such as Egypt, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Niger and Norway. Thanks to France’s leadership, the G7 meetings culminated in what is known as the Metz Charter on Biodiversity, elevating biodiversity on the global agenda.

This charter became even more urgent with the release of a landmark report that provided stark warnings about the state of our ecosystems and biodiversity, the building blocks of the living environment we all thrive on. The report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), warned that [[tweetable]]one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction within a decade.[[/tweetable]] Adding to this bad news, [[tweetable]]natural ecosystems have declined by an average of 47 percent since earlier estimates and human actions have significantly altered three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66 percent of the marine environment.[[/tweetable]]

We are used to grim reports but this one stands out as it shows how human health, natural wealth and livelihoods are inextricably linked. Nature’s ability to provide clean water and food security is in jeopardy, threatening the very existence of human life. Land use change is emerging as the biggest factor driving this race to the bottom. [[tweetable]]We are replacing forests with agriculture, draining wetlands for infrastructure, cutting grasslands for more intensive crops and overfishing our oceans.[[/tweetable]] Since 1980, more than half of the increase in agriculture has been at the expense of intact forests and only 3 percent of the ocean is free from human pressure, according to the IPBES report.

It is no longer about rich and poor countries. All people on this planet will suffer but the poor more so, reversing the gains we have made on poverty reduction in the last few decades. The report rightly calls for 'transformative change'. What can we do about this? The following five steps are a good start:

1. Move beyond GDP and look at the full contribution of nature to the economy

GDP does not capture the impact of development on natural assets that are key to human well-being. [[tweetable]]On paper, cutting down a forest might raise GDP but the permanent losses in ecosystems services are not counted.[[/tweetable]] So far, only a handful of countries are fully able to treat their natural capital as an asset at par with their built assets, such as infrastructure, and their financial capital, but more are coming on board with this approach. The World Bank is supporting countries to capture the full contribution of natural capital through the Global Program for Sustainability (successor to the Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services WAVES program). The Bank is also working on an updated version of The Changing Wealth of Nations, which will give greater emphasis to the quality of natural capital and ecosystems services, as well as the policy applications and implications for a more sustainable future.

2. Examine trade-offs to manage multiple demands on resources

Policymakers are faced with hard decisions – whether to convert a piece of forest into land for agriculture to meet growing needs, or for energy production, infrastructure –while at the same time having to think about coastal protection, air quality, water retention and biodiversity for pollinators. [[tweetable]]We need a systems thinking approach where we look at landscapes as a system and adopt integrated management strategies.[[/tweetable]] For example, building a new road could have devastating costs for forests and biodiversity. Improved assessment techniques that capture the economic and bio-physical synergies and trade-offs could be used to guide these investments and make informed decisions on infrastructure design and associated land-use changes.

3. “Greening” of Public Policies

[[tweetable]]Mismanagement of natural resources can be controlled by fiscal or market instruments such as carbon or pollution permit trading, or the repurposing of harmful subsidies towards good environmental practices[[/tweetable]] (one example is Payment for Ecosystem Services schemes). More thinking needs to go into these market-based instruments.  Governance such as clear property rights (use, transfer, access and exclusion) in land, forests and the eco-system services, global (e.g., carbon sequestration) or local (e.g., pollination), they provide, are the foundations of our economies.  Without clarifying the rights, or lack thereof, to pollute, destroy forests and ecosystem services, the unsustainable outcomes we observe will continue unabated.  Another step would be to provide better information and analysis for the financial markets to enable them to incorporate environmental risks and impacts in investments and risk ratings and require improved environmental –including climate change-- disclosure standards from private investors and producers alike. 

4. Find innovative ways to finance biodiversity  

[[tweetable]]Paying for biodiversity makes economic sense.[[/tweetable]] The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2010-2020 estimated the cost of implementing the 20 Aichi Targets at $150-$440 billion per year. This estimate is very limited when weighed against the economic benefits of natural capital. Pollination services alone, for example, are valued at $235-$577 billion (2015 USD) and are said to contribute to 35 percent of the global crop production volume. The question is who would bear the costs?  Because much of the observed biodiversity loss ultimately comes from the way we produce, consume, trade and dispose, the bulk of the action will come from changing the behavior of consumers, producers and investors. [[tweetable]]Greening public policies will help create the market conditions for the self-financing of sustainable bio-diversity management.[[/tweetable]] Cash flow constraints – that is, finding the money now to benefit us in the future— can be overcome through innovative finance. [[tweetable]]A decade ago, the World Bank’s first Green Bond created the blueprint for what is today a US$500+ billion market.[[/tweetable]] Similar innovative financing mechanisms –in the insurance industry, impact financing, securitization—can and are being developed to finance the “missing middle”.  

5. As citizens, let’s reuse, recycle and rethink how we use our finite resources

[[tweetable]]Plastic pollution has increased ten-fold since 1980. Every year we dump 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes into the waters of the world.[[/tweetable]] We need a circular economy approach – one where waste becomes value and resources are used sustainably. This means that we reuse and recycle everything that we take from our finite resources.

We are working closely with our partners to prepare the post-2020 global biodiversity framework under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The new framework will be adopted at the CBD COP15 in China next year. This is our chance to put some of these steps into commitments and actions and come up with a `new deal for nature’. The G7 Environment Ministers meeting and the agreed Charter was an encouraging sign that biodiversity is getting the attention it deserves. 

Cities under climatic siege: #InclusionMatters

1 week 6 days ago



I have Odisha on my mind. Cyclone Fani has devastated one of my favorite states in India.  But before Fani it was Idai and Kenneth.  And the people of Beira in Mozambique are reeling. All this in a span of just a few weeks. Each of these disasters has flooded cities, towns, villages, and hamlets.  They seem to be under climatic siege.

But there are important differences between floods in villages and those in cities, hence the focused attention to urban floods. In fact, the first time I really understood what urban floods meant for city residents was when I worked for the government of Maharashtra, and low-lying areas in Mumbai would get flooded every monsoon.  Since then I have witnessed innumerable cities being inundated with filthy water.  These are chronic floods, often resulting from clogged drains, bad management of solid waste, and dated infrastructure, among other things.

The Fourth World Reconstruction Conference (WRC4) is being held in Geneva next week, and I am encouraged by its theme – Inclusion for Resilient Recovery. Because [[tweetable]]some individuals and groups are worse affected by urban floods than are others.[[/tweetable]] Yes, people who are income poor are of course at greatest risk, but there is more to exclusion than that. 
 
Excluded groups in cities across the world comprise, inter alia, migrant workers, residents of informal settlements, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and those who work in trades and jobs that are particularly susceptible to disruption during natural hazards, such as street vendors or waste pickers. Plus, [[tweetable]]floods, like other shocks, affect men and women differently.[[/tweetable]] Also, [[tweetable]]the response to floods can exacerbate existing forms of social exclusion – for instance, people of a specific ethnicity, race, caste, or place of origin may be left out of the evacuation or relief process.[[/tweetable]]
 
We just released a short policy note on what social inclusion means for city residence, while focusing on urban floods. Here are our takeaways:

Click here to download the policy note. First, municipal governance and capacity are necessary preconditions for city resilience. The causes of urban floods need to be addressed upstream. In other words, mitigation is in some cases even more important than adaptation. For example, cities must ensure that solid-waste management is well-organized, clear mandates exist for service delivery, and good regulations are in place and are enforced effectively and transparently. They must additionally address the distortions in land and housing markets. 

Second, and intrinsic to overall municipal governance, lasting city resilience will come from city governments, service providers, and the private sector being accountable to city residents. This observation follows the World Development Report 2004, which emphasized the importance of at least three actions: the voice of residents being heard through structured mechanisms, of feedback loops between providers and residents, and of ensuring systematic information flows between state and non-state actors. As a corollary, city governments should view everyday, community-level adaptation as integral to the city’s mitigation and adaptation efforts, instead of viewing the former as small, local, parallel, and separate responses.
 
About this series
More blog posts
Third, it is the abiding responsibility of city governments to know who is likely to be left out of efforts towards city resilience, through which channels, and in which ways. The premise of the World Bank’s social inclusion framework is to ask the right questions for the best possible interventions. The Social Inclusion Assessment Tool (SiAT) provides four simple guiding questions for ex-ante analysis, both in response to catastrophic events (as a part of the post-disaster needs assessment), and more importantly, during times of stability, to help plan for both chronic and severe flooding.

Finally, read this blog by my colleagues in the South Asia region of the World Bank, as they talk about a pilot initiative for project-specific action plans for social inclusion in disaster risk management.
 
READ MORE:

Cities under climatic siege: #InclusionMatters

1 week 6 days ago



I have Odisha on my mind. Cyclone Fani has devastated one of my favorite states in India.  But before Fani it was Idai and Kenneth.  And the people of Beira in Mozambique are reeling. All this in a span of just a few weeks. Each of these disasters has flooded cities, towns, villages, and hamlets.  They seem to be under climatic siege.

But there are important differences between floods in villages and those in cities, hence the focused attention to urban floods. In fact, the first time I really understood what urban floods meant for city residents was when I worked for the government of Maharashtra, and low-lying areas in Mumbai would get flooded every monsoon.  Since then I have witnessed innumerable cities being inundated with filthy water.  These are chronic floods, often resulting from clogged drains, bad management of solid waste, and dated infrastructure, among other things.

The Fourth World Reconstruction Conference (WRC4) is being held in Geneva next week, and I am encouraged by its theme – Inclusion for Resilient Recovery. Because [[tweetable]]some individuals and groups are worse affected by urban floods than are others.[[/tweetable]] Yes, people who are income poor are of course at greatest risk, but there is more to exclusion than that. 
 
Excluded groups in cities across the world comprise, inter alia, migrant workers, residents of informal settlements, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and those who work in trades and jobs that are particularly susceptible to disruption during natural hazards, such as street vendors or waste pickers. Plus, [[tweetable]]floods, like other shocks, affect men and women differently.[[/tweetable]] Also, [[tweetable]]the response to floods can exacerbate existing forms of social exclusion – for instance, people of a specific ethnicity, race, caste, or place of origin may be left out of the evacuation or relief process.[[/tweetable]]
 
We just released a short policy note on what social inclusion means for city residence, while focusing on urban floods. Here are our takeaways:

Click here to download the policy note. First, municipal governance and capacity are necessary preconditions for city resilience. The causes of urban floods need to be addressed upstream. In other words, mitigation is in some cases even more important than adaptation. For example, cities must ensure that solid-waste management is well-organized, clear mandates exist for service delivery, and good regulations are in place and are enforced effectively and transparently. They must additionally address the distortions in land and housing markets. 

Second, and intrinsic to overall municipal governance, lasting city resilience will come from city governments, service providers, and the private sector being accountable to city residents. This observation follows the World Development Report 2004, which emphasized the importance of at least three actions: the voice of residents being heard through structured mechanisms, of feedback loops between providers and residents, and of ensuring systematic information flows between state and non-state actors. As a corollary, city governments should view everyday, community-level adaptation as integral to the city’s mitigation and adaptation efforts, instead of viewing the former as small, local, parallel, and separate responses.
 
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Third, it is the abiding responsibility of city governments to know who is likely to be left out of efforts towards city resilience, through which channels, and in which ways. The premise of the World Bank’s social inclusion framework is to ask the right questions for the best possible interventions. The Social Inclusion Assessment Tool (SiAT) provides four simple guiding questions for ex-ante analysis, both in response to catastrophic events (as a part of the post-disaster needs assessment), and more importantly, during times of stability, to help plan for both chronic and severe flooding.

Finally, read this blog by my colleagues in the South Asia region of the World Bank, as they talk about a pilot initiative for project-specific action plans for social inclusion in disaster risk management.
 
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Dear Mom, Happy Mother’s Day! Sending some money. Please buy flowers as well. Missing you.

1 week 6 days ago

It is to be expected that migrants – a lot of them tend to be young and alone – send more money home, or more of them send money home, ahead of Mother’s Day. This is evident in the monthly flow of remittances to many countries – notably Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil and El Salvador. In Mexico, where remittances last year amounted to $36 bn, larger than its earnings from oil exports, remittances in May tended to be about 37 percent higher than in January, based on data during 2012-2018. Mexican migrants sent more money home, and more of them sent money home, to mark Mother’s Day (see charts). No such increases in remittances during June (Father’s Day, which is apparently celebrated in more countries than Mother’s Day)!

In many countries, such as Colombia and Nicaragua, December marks another or the only peak in remittance flows on account of the holidays. And in the Caribbean countries such as Dominican Republic and Jamaica, the peaks in remittances are observed in March, presumably, due to Spring Break in the United States, and in December, on account of Christmas holidays.

To be able to send money home to support family is perhaps the most important motivation for migration. Remittances provide an economic lifeline to many families in poor countries. And sometimes, the cash received from the loved one abroad has to be used to buy flowers or a meal to substitute for the absence of a key member or members of the family. Migration can be helpful and painful at once. (See article in Washington Post.)

This year, these small amounts cash sent to developing countries by millions of migrants are expected to add up to $550 billion, more than three times the total of development aid and likely larger than foreign direct investment flows to developing countries (see Migration and Development Brief 31).

To mothers all over the world, wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Mental Health Month – Youth Voices from Georgia

1 week 6 days ago
Make a list of 5 things that bring you joy. Dedicate 30 minutes to one of them. 





















During the month of May each year, a wide variety of activities are organized around the world to emphasize the importance of mental health. In Georgia, a youth group based in Tbilisi - Youth Voices Georgia - is participating and contributing with a Mental Health Calendar for May 2019.
 
Mental health is a critical health issue, whether you are young or old, and just as important as physical health. All too often, however, it seems that society tends to emphasize the latter, limiting discussion about important mental health issues.
 
That’s why we, as young Georgians, wanted to use the opportunity of Mental Health Month, this May, to help raise awareness and encourage more open discussion on this topic, especially in our home country.
 
As such, we did some research and produced a calendar which is designed around four key ways for sustaining and improving mental health. The calendar highlights popular activities which, according to scientific studies, can impact our mental health in a positive way...
 
Physical exercise is widely considered an effective way of sustaining and improving mental health. Physical exercise, performed regularly, can have a positive impact on depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more. Once it becomes part of our daily life, we generally start feeling better, stronger and more self-confident. See the activities marked in yellow on the calendar for more tips.
 
Socialization can help reduce feelings of loneliness, while strengthening feelings of belonging and security. Time spent with friends can help improve self-confidence and boost our mood. All these factors better protect us from stress, loss, and negative emotions. See the activities marked in purple on the calendar.
 
Healthy eating habits can boost mental health. Although focusing on avoiding or integrating only one specific ingredient in our diet is not sufficient for improving or even sustaining good mental health. Diets high in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains are thought to have very beneficial impacts on mental health. On the calendar, check out the activities marked in green.
 
Mindfulness. Research suggests that spending 3-5 minutes per day focusing on things we are grateful for increases our happiness and decreases the risk of depression. According to some studies, meditation practices can also help individuals better manage stress & anxiety and fight depression. See the activities marked in blue.
                                                                    
Join us and dedicate May to Mental Health!
 
Youth Voices Georgia:  Elene Gachechiladze, Anamaria Sukhitashvili, Mari Javakhishvili, Tengiz Tetrashvili, Ketevan Nebieridze, Nikoloz Bakradze, Tamar Liparteliani, Zurab Sheshelidze, Tiniko Abuladze.
 

Urban regeneration – a catalyst for inclusive and sustainable cities

1 week 6 days ago
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Urbanization is a defining phenomenon of our time, with an estimated 80% of global economic activity now generated in cities and an increase of two billion city residents, globally, between 2000 and 2030.
 
[[tweetable]]Cities face an ever-increasing demand for land to accommodate their rising population.[[/tweetable]] Meanwhile, cities have become responsible for providing more services to more people, but they often lack sufficient resources to do so. With an inadequate amount of serviced, transit-accessible land available within city boundaries, [[tweetable]]one billion urban residents already live in overpopulated slums to be close to economic activity and jobs.[[/tweetable]]

[[tweetable]]Urban regeneration can help cities address the rising demand for land by densifying existing urban cores, particularly pockets of underused or disinvested land.[[/tweetable]] Higher density is associated with economic growth and social integration. [[tweetable]]Denser, transit-friendlier cities also help lower carbon emissions, reduce pollution, and contribute to increased resilience.[[/tweetable]].
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[Download report: Regenerating Urban Land: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leveraging Private Investment]
 
Earlier this year, a knowledge exchange program, known as the “Technical Deep Dive (TDD) on Urban Regeneration,” brought together practitioners and decision-makers from developing countries, World Bank project leads, and urban development experts from Japan, South Korea, and other countries to exchange experiences in Tokyo and Seoul on planning, financing, and implementation of urban regeneration projects. 
 
The goal of this week-long technical “deep dive” was to promote knowledge sharing and increase the implementation capacity of participants – decision-makers of cities ranging from Barranquilla and Johannesburg to Sarajevo, Almaty, and Kabul – to implement urban revitalization initiatives, particularly with respect to identifying viable business models that maximize the government’s economic and policy goals.
 
The program explored examples of governments’ strategies to spur regeneration, including cases that focused on:
  • Development or relocation of government assets, such as courthouses and Ministry headquarters
  • Construction of new parks and civic space, and
  • Repurposing underutilized ports and other former industrial sites.  
The program paid special attention to the main challenges faced by the participating cities and countries, such as:
  • How to turnaround disinvested neighborhoods
  • How to connect and transform former industrial waterfronts, or
  • How to enhance the social and economic return on investment of a city’s parks. 
While participating city officials face a wide range of challenges, they all share a common interest in exploring more efficient use of urban land. In the video, World Bank Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) and Senior Urban Specialist Valerie Santos discuss how urban regeneration can catalyze the development of more sustainable and socially and economically inclusive cities.  
 
Follow the topic on Twitter using #urbanregeneration and #urbanregenerationTDD
 
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Weekly links May 10: why CCTs aren't enforced before elections, when evidence isn’t used, digitalizing data, and more...

1 week 6 days ago
  • On Let’s Talk Development, results from tax compliance trials in Kosovo show some small increases from reminders, but also highlight the challenges of implementation, with many people not receiving their assigned treatment (e.g. half the letters not making it to recipients, less than one-quarter of emails opened).
  • The CSAE coder’s corner has Meredith Paker sharing her lessons on how to digitalize a dataset using your phone.
  • IDinsight has launched a new blog. Dan Stein writes on when evidence doesn’t drive decision-making, describing a case where their research found lowering the price would increase profits due to high estimated demand elasticity, but the company did not lower prices – he reflects on what they could have done differently (if anything) to increase the likelihood of the evidence being used for decision-making.
  • The Economist summarizes work by Fernanda Brollo, Katja Kaufmann and Eliana La Ferrara on the politics of CCT enforcement in Brazil – Bolsa Familia households whose payments are suspended for not meeting the conditions of the transfer (e.g. kids not attending school enough) punish politicians at the polls – and knowing this, politicians are lax in enforcing the rules in the run-up to elections.
  • A new blog on the use of RMarkdown for reusable/reproducible outputs (blogs, slides, papers books, etc). One of the main obstacles to reproducible research (including moving research projects to GitHub) is folder organization, and the post has useful recommendations on that.  In terms of applications, this is particularly nice for training materials – useful to note that “littering” in the process of editing is not going to be RMarkdown-compatible and so, depending on your co-authorship strategies, this may not be a thing until the very last phase of a paper ...
  • Call for papers: NEUDC will be at Northwestern this year, on Oct 5-6. Submissions are due July 12. 
    As a final note, the World Bank is transitioning all its blogs to a new platform, and we will not be posting until Thursday next week while they transition over.

Weekly links May 10: why CCTs aren't enforced before elections, when evidence isn’t used, digitalizing data, and more...

1 week 6 days ago
  • On Let’s Talk Development, results from tax compliance trials in Kosovo show some small increases from reminders, but also highlight the challenges of implementation, with many people not receiving their assigned treatment (e.g. half the letters not making it to recipients, less than one-quarter of emails opened).
  • The CSAE coder’s corner has Meredith Paker sharing her lessons on how to digitalize a dataset using your phone.
  • IDinsight has launched a new blog. Dan Stein writes on when evidence doesn’t drive decision-making, describing a case where their research found lowering the price would increase profits due to high estimated demand elasticity, but the company did not lower prices – he reflects on what they could have done differently (if anything) to increase the likelihood of the evidence being used for decision-making.
  • The Economist summarizes work by Fernanda Brollo, Katja Kaufmann and Eliana La Ferrara on the politics of CCT enforcement in Brazil – Bolsa Familia households whose payments are suspended for not meeting the conditions of the transfer (e.g. kids not attending school enough) punish politicians at the polls – and knowing this, politicians are lax in enforcing the rules in the run-up to elections.
  • A new blog on the use of RMarkdown for reusable/reproducible outputs (blogs, slides, papers books, etc). One of the main obstacles to reproducible research (including moving research projects to GitHub) is folder organization, and the post has useful recommendations on that.  In terms of applications, this is particularly nice for training materials – useful to note that “littering” in the process of editing is not going to be RMarkdown-compatible and so, depending on your co-authorship strategies, this may not be a thing until the very last phase of a paper ...
  • Call for papers: NEUDC will be at Northwestern this year, on Oct 5-6. Submissions are due July 12. 
    As a final note, the World Bank is transitioning all its blogs to a new platform, and we will not be posting until Thursday next week while they transition over.

Expert witnesses: Cogs or oil in the wheels of justice?

2 weeks 15 hours ago


The wheels of justice turn slowly, so the saying goes. But can the use of expert witnesses help turn them a little faster? Or are they just cogs in the wheels?

An expert witness is a person with a specialized skill set, whose opinion may help a court make sense of the factual evidence of a case. Testimonies from expert witnesses can have tremendous influence on a judge’s final decision, and they have become a mainstay of the judicial system, especially given the technical and complex nature of modern litigation.

By helping simplify and explain complex concepts and by providing information about how and why something may have been illegal or not, expert witnesses can bring an air of objectivity and impartiality to a trial.

But, while expert witnesses are certainly an integral part of the trial process, we wanted to find out what this really meant in practice. In other words, do expert witnesses actually facilitate or hamper the overall efficiency of the courts and the quality of justice delivered?

As such, we undertook a study in four countries in the Western Balkans: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Our research was based on statistics collected from 22 courts across the four countries, gathered through tailor-made questionnaires on the engagement of expert witnesses and from reviewing approximately 1,100 closed cases.

The main takeaways are outlined in our report, Examining the Experts: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Expert Witnesses in Court Systems of the Western Balkans.

For example, we found that there is a shortage of experienced expert witnesses. And the few highly experienced ones are in constant demand and spread very thin across the system. As a result, they either refuse to take on cases, or are dilatory in their submission of opinions, both of which cause delays in the trial.

It also does not help that, despite clear rules which stipulate that expert witnesses should only be engaged when the court does not possess the required expert knowledge to establish relevant facts, expert witnesses are called in for straightforward cases where their testimony is of little or no value to the case. This delays the trial and increases trial costs.

None of the four countries require new expert witnesses to undertake training on trial processes before being admitted into the profession. Without sufficient knowledge of trial processes and an understanding of the correct procedures to be followed when providing expert testimony, expert witnesses can end up causing or exacerbating inefficiency in the trial process instead of facilitating the decision-making process.

Expert witnesses often submit their opinions late, or they submit opinions that need to be revised, supplemented or clarified. At times, this results in the postponement of hearings, or the engagement of several experts in one trial, which prolongs the proceedings.

Judges rarely if ever use the tools available to them to manage the work of expert witnesses to keep trial schedules on track. Also, existing monitoring and accountability mechanisms that govern the work of expert witnesses are weak and ineffective. As a result, it is difficult to sanction expert witnesses in the face of undue delay, incompetence or unprofessionalism.

Informed by best practices outlined in the Guidelines on the Role of Court-Appointed Experts and the Guide to Good Practices in Civil Judicial Expertise in the European Union, our report provides country-specific recommendations on improving the role and engagement of expert witnesses to enhance the delivery of justice and overall performance of the courts.

In Serbia, for example, to improve the process for licensing and selecting expert witnesses, the law could be amended to introduce regular calls into the profession and/or calls for applications at the request of courts and public prosecutors’ offices. In addition, to eradicate the superfluous use of expert witnesses, Serbia’s Supreme Court of Cassation could consider adopting an interpretative opinion, which would provide clarity on when the use of expert witness statements as evidence is appropriate.

In Montenegro, the law could be amended to introduce mandatory training for expert witnesses prior to entering the profession. This would ensure that expert witnesses are familiar with trial processes, thereby reducing the chances of an expert’s testimony slowing down the trial.

To guard against expert opinions that require revisions, supplements or clarifications, the law in North Macedonia could be amended to introduce rules or standards for drafting expert opinions.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, good trial management techniques could be included in the curriculum used to train judges and prosecutors, and courts could be granted the competence to initiate proceedings against expert witnesses, and even revoke licenses when there has been a breach of duty.

To learn more about the role of expert witnesses in the court systems of the Western Balkans, and what it will take for them to help the wheels of justice turn a little faster, you can read our full report in English, or in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian.

Let us know what you think, or if you have comments about the impact of expert witnesses on the trial process in your country.

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Small investment, big difference: Managing accumulated waste in Yemen

2 weeks 15 hours ago
          

Before the conflict began in Yemen in 2015, 10-year-old Raheeb Al Kamali used to play football in a playground with his friends every afternoon in the AlTawahi District of Aden. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were his sporting heroes. He would run across the playground kicking the ball, imitating his heroes. Undoubtedly, it used to be the best part of his day. To play for Yemen’s national football team one day was his dream. 

But everything changed quickly due to the conflict. 

Municipal services deteriorated in AlTawahi District. Waste collection and disposal collapsed, and garbage started piling up. Within months, the playground, which was once a place of joy for kids, turned into a huge dump site. Raheeb was heartbroken at the fate of his playground. With no other playground nearby, the community couldn’t do much for children, and the conflict didn’t seem like it would end soon. The situation was no different from other cities and neighborhoods across Yemen. Playgrounds, parks, and open spaces in other cities became inundated with trash and debris. 

This not only deprived the citizens of public spaces but also resulted in a grave public health emergency. In April 2017, cholera broke out in Yemen and affected 22 out of 23 governorates and 306 out of 333 districts. According to the World Health Organization, the number of suspected cholera cases and associated deaths were 1.2 million and 2,510 respectively by the end of September 2018. One third of the suspected cases were children under 5 years of age. 

Realizing the gravity of the situation, solid waste management became a sub-component included within the World Bank’s Yemen Integrated Urban Services Emergency Project (YIUSEP). As part of this sub-component, assessments were made and solid waste cleaning campaigns were planned in various cities in Yemen to manage all the accumulated waste and debris in the streets and neighborhoods. Aden and Sana’s are the first two cities to benefit from the cleaning campaigns. As shown in the photo below, many neighborhoods are gradually improving, giving some sense of normalcy. 

                                         Playground in AlTawahi District                         Before                                                       After 

The AlTawahi District was one of the first neighborhoods in Aden to benefit from the clean-up following feedback surveyed from its’ engaged community. Raheeb’s playground has now been cleaned, and he has returned to the field with his playmates to play happily again. 

           
“We are thankful to the organization which did this great job of cleaning our playground and surrounding roads” said Raheeb, with a big smile on his face. He, like many kids, may not know of the World Bank and UNOPS teams working behind the scenes, but appreciates the many results and improvements accomplished around his neighborhood. 

To continue to make sustainable, positive changes, the YIUSEP team is also focusing on managing other elements of the solid-waste value chain. For example, cleaning up Sana’a City’s Transfer Station has huge health and environmental benefits for surrounding communities. The transformational impact of cleaning up the site can be seen in the picture below. The team is also partnering with the Cleaning Fund — a local agency responsible for solid waste management — to prevent the reversal of this progress. To that end, the project has also undertaken rapid landfill assessments in Sana’a and Aden to identify the necessary improvements in landfills and transfer stations. 

                                         Transfer Station of Sana’a City                           Before                                                      After 

These small investments in managing accumulated waste and debris are making a big difference in the lives of Yemeni citizens by restoring a sense of normalcy, improving living conditions in neighborhoods, and providing better access to open spaces.

Stand with us to help make land rights a reality for millions of women around the world

2 weeks 18 hours ago


In March 2019, the World Bank and several other development organizations launched “Stand For Her Land,” a global advocacy campaign that aims to realize women’s equal access to land and properties worldwide. Let me share with you why this is important.

For more than 25 years, the World Bank supported over 50 countries in reforming land and property registration systems through modernizing laws and regulations, strengthening institutions, and issuing titles for all properties to lawful land owners. They often use land titles to access credit to improve their land and dwellings – and expand businesses or open new ones, generating jobs, boosting productivity, and increasing incomes. Furthermore, research has shown that secure land and property rights provide incentives for people to invest in agricultural land.

Although such programs are implemented to benefit all of society, several governments are aware of certain societal norms, which, in specific situations, do not include women on the land title. Across 10 countries in Africa, for instance, only 12% of women, compared to 31% of men, report owning land individually. Countries outside Africa reveal similar patterns in the percentage of land owned solely by women.

Take Vietnam as an example. In the early 1990s, most land use certificates were issued in the name of a man alone, because the space on the paper title deed was not enough for two names. The government of Vietnam quickly recognized this problem. They adjusted the law to make sure land titles were issued in the names of both husband and wife and changed the form to allow for two names. As a result, more than 60% of titles issued during a World Bank-supported project were in the name of a women or in the names of husband and wife.
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Lao PDR did the same. To ensure women’s land and property rights, the government of Laos partnered with the Lao Women’s Union in a title registration process, whereby women could explain to other women their rights to ensure they register their land in their names if the land was inherited from their family – or register together with the husband if property was acquired during marriage.

Unfortunately, [[tweetable]]in many parts of the world, realizing women’s land rights remains a challenge.[[/tweetable]] While laws in most countries allow joint ownership of properties, men often register land and property in their names alone, even though women contribute to the financing of the purchased property. Women often lose almost everything in case of death of the husband or in case of a divorce. They are often forced out of their homes. I wrote about Fatima, who lost her husband and house during the 2014 conflict in Gaza. Sadly, there are thousands and thousands of women around the world like Fatima that suffer the same fate every year.

Another problem in many societies is that women do not receive their right to land and property inheritance, despite existing laws including Sharia Islamic law, which clearly defines the right of women to inheritance. In many cases, brothers force their sisters to waive their inheritance rights so that “the land stays in family hand.” While we do not yet have the percentage of families that force their daughters to waive their rights, anecdotal evidence indicates it is high. The World Bank will undertake very detailed research over the next few months to understand the extent of this problem in the Arab countries.

There are many more stories around the world about women being kicked off of their land because they are the vulnerable part in society, especially when they do not have documentation of their ownership. In many places, the legal system is either indifferent or costly, and could easily be influenced by political or economic elites.

The “Stand For Her Land” campaign is an important step to draw attention to the critical issue of women’s land rights. From our research at the World Bank, [[tweetable]]access to assets, including land and property, is one of three important pillars of women’s empowerment.[[/tweetable]] In addition to the global campaign, we will undertake regional and country-level campaigns to draw attention to this important issue. Furthermore, almost all of World Bank-supported projects on land administration and registration will include assessments to identify constraints, and actively implement activities to ensure women get their full rights in registering properties, including joint titles and inheritance rights. The outcome, I hope, is increased awareness of women land rights, as well as changes in laws and practice that ensure women exercise their full land and property rights.

Clearly, we can’t do this alone. We would like to enlist as many people as possible in championing this important agenda. If you are interested, please register your name to become a champion of women’s land rights. If you have a story and you would like to share it, please write or record it and share it on social media using hashtag #Stand4HerLand.

Visit stand4herland.org to learn more about the “Stand For Her Land” campaign.

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Transforming governance for a stronger Pakistan

2 weeks 19 hours ago
A beneficiary at the Arazi (Land Records Authority) center. Photo: World Bank This blog is part of a series that discusses findings from the Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future report, which identifies the changes necessary for Pakistan to become a strong upper middle-income country by the time it turns 100 years old in 2047. 


On March 25, 1948, Quaid-i-Azam set the tone for public servants, and in a single breath raised the bar for the quality of public service and public sector governance in Pakistan.

The young republic had barely become independent yet, in Quaid’s mind, the spirit of the moment called for a new purpose: “Maintain highest standards of honor, integrity, justice and fair play,” he advised public officials. [[tweetable]]That seven-decade message and the country’s resilient spirit is still relevant and must now drive Pakistan’s vision towards the status of an upper middle-income country by 2047[[/tweetable]].

Developing countries, the world over, have made progress under far more difficult circumstances than Pakistan.

From Singapore and Malaysia to Rwanda and Vietnam— reforming countries have had to overcome significant geographical disadvantage or the effects of decades of debilitating conflict.

Today, these countries have summoned the spirit of nationhood, transformed their governance arrangements and are strategically placed to better turn these disadvantages into forces for healthy transformation.

Singapore has now emerged as a growth hub, a pale shadow of its inauspicious start. Rwanda is increasingly shaking its dark history of conflict and turning a corner, largely because of a focus on a developmental state model. In both countries, governance and institutional transformation has been a central focus.

Three paths to transformation

[[tweetable]]If Pakistan hopes to improve its growth prospects, the country must focus on reforming its governance standing[[/tweetable]], otherwise the road to 2047 will be long and uneven.

What needs to be done is clear: to achieve rapid institutional transformation, for instance, Pakistan would have to surmount a few hurdles. Policymakers would have to deal with the large government workforce including many unskilled staff in lower cadres.

Pakistan needs significant effort to improve revenue collection, especially through stronger enforcement of tax policy, to be able to expand the state’s ability to finance its programs.

Altogether, [[tweetable]]significant reforms would have to be undertaken to improve institutional quality, strengthen the business environment and improve accountability[[/tweetable]].

First, Pakistan must deepen devolution. 

The 18th amendment provides a strong basis for deepening administrative, fiscal and political engagement at the local level. But the promise of the 18th amendment is only half fulfilled; federation to province devolution is yet to be matched by province to local level decentralization.

Empowering local level institutions —through stronger devolution— to undertake essential administrative and service delivery functions closest to citizens would help reassert the place of the citizen in the body politic.

[[tweetable]]Devolution would also require facilitating smooth networking across provinces and among the districts, thereby strengthening the transfer of resources to these levels[[/tweetable]].

For devolution to be successful lingering shortcomings including capacity gaps, performance management voids, unequal opportunities, and political empowerment of local level institutions, must be addressed in the short to medium term.

Because provinces vary in economic and capacity endowments, progress towards decentralization of service delivery in some provinces is uneven.

Existing institutional arrangements for result-oriented coordination on policy formulation and implementation at federal as well as at provincial level are insufficient and under-utilized.

Energizing the Council of Common Interests and fully activating the Inter-Provincial Coordination platform between the center and the provinces is required to realize the benefits of devolution and help forge a national consensus for accelerated development.

Second, [[tweetable]]the quality of institutional performance must improve to support the government’s aspirations and improve efficiency[[/tweetable]]. This would require merit-based recruitment of skilled professionals and commensurate remuneration to attract and retain high caliber candidates into the civil service. The focus should be placed on the performance measurement aspects of civil services.

New skills on efficient implementation, performance measurement, and citizen interface must be injected into the civil service to modernize the public sector to take advantage of innovative technologies for solving public policy challenges.

For example, civil servants need new attitudes of citizen-focused service delivery and management techniques to create more service-oriented bureaucratic practices. Strengthening the technical competencies of the public administration through modernization and technology diffusion is necessary for improving the quality of service delivery and to turn the public sector into a growth driver.

Third, Pakistan must deal with capture of state by patronage interests. Inefficient subsidies provided to industrial players and the lack of enforcement in tax collection as well as the inability of the state to shepherd difficult but necessary reforms is a product of state capture.

Elites influence public policy choices with significant consequences. Elite capture of various segments of the economy undermines the country’s ability to sustain welfare enhancing policy decisions, tackle the problem of tax evasion, rein in loss-making state-owned enterprises and improve public sector performance.

Fixing these problems will no doubt be a difficult task. All these challenges require balancing the desire for political stability while increasing accountability.

Pakistan would need to be both an accountable democracy – where democratic leaders are held to account for their performance, for delivery and for corruption— and a strong one, where democratic leaders can do their job without constantly being on the defensive.

This is a tricky line, as the history of institutional reforms is replete with reversals.  

This is, however, possible given the experience of other countries that have been able to marshal the support of their political class, policy makers and citizens to generate the commitment for reform and long-term development policy. 

But, accelerating the pace of growth will require long-term political focus and stability and the kind of ethos that Quaid-i-Azam imagined nearly seven decades ago.

This article was originally published on  March 23, 2019 in Dawn newspaper.

Can regulation promote financial inclusion?

2 weeks 22 hours ago

Economic literature shows that financial systems support livelihood enhancement and economic development by offering savings, payment, credit and risk management services to households and firms. Saving accounts allow households to manage risk, absorb shocks, and plan for emergencies. Affordable financial services enable individuals to access health and education to improve their living standards. Access to payment mechanisms and checking accounts also support core business operations and boost productive investment and consumption.

In recent years, the development community has increased its interest in financial inclusion. The World Bank Group called for achieving Universal Financial Access by 2020 at the 2013 World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings. The G20 also committed to advanced financial inclusion through the implementation of the G20 High-Level Principles for Digital Financial Inclusion. At the country level, about two-thirds of the national regulatory and supervisory agencies worldwide are directly supporting financial inclusion by easing entry barriers to non-traditional financial service providers, increasing consumer protection standards and improving financial literacy. In 2015 Ghana adopted the Guidelines for E-money Issuers, allowing both banks and non-bank institutions to issue electronic money (e-money). In 2015 Mozambique established a legal framework to regulate agent banking activities, allowing agents to provide a wide range of financial services, including cash deposits, cash withdrawals, bill payment, transfer etc. to those who are in need. In 2014 Tanzania enacted dedicated legislation to regulate microcredit activities and microfinance companies.

In spite of global commitments and country level initiatives, financial systems still fall short in many developing countries. To date, 1.7 billion adults around the world don’t have access to basic financial services such as savings and checking accounts. In high-income economies 94 percent of adults have an account at a financial institution. In low or middle income countries, however, the share is 63 percent (Figure 1). Common obstacles include physical distance from providers, lack of trust or lack of necessary documentation. Businesses also face constraints. More than 200 million micro, small and medium enterprises in developing economies are either financially unserved or underserved due to lack of collateral, limited or no credit history and their informal status.


 

Such figures have motivated researchers to better understand the mechanisms to improve financial inclusion. A number of studies have focused on the role of regulation in supporting financial service providers and new delivery channels. Regular onsite supervision is found to increase average loan size – thus reducing outreach to small borrowers – but decrease the share of lending to women. Regulations on e-contracting, consumer protection and interoperability can support the development of mobile banking services. Institutional quality and credit information sharing are found to improve bank branch and ATM penetration, as well as deposit accounts per capita.

A common pitfall of the mentioned literature is to focus on few specific regulatory features to examine its association with financial inclusion. Two trends point at the need of a more comprehensive framework to examine the regulation versus financial inclusion linkage. First, the importance of non-bank financial service providers such as deposit-taking MFIs and financial cooperatives is rising in developing countries. Second, there shows rapid emergence of new financial services delivery channels such as agent, mobile and electronic banking. Such trends have great potential for financial inclusion but imply new and more complex sets of rules to ensure their success.

In our recent paper we test the hypothesis that policy makers can facilitate financial inclusion by enacting more friendly regulations. The paper proposes a broad index of regulatory quality for financial inclusion covering the non-traditional delivery models – e.g. branchless banking – and actors – e.g. non-bank lending institutions. In these domains, regulations worldwide present obstacles to financial inclusion (Figure 2).

We find that individuals are more likely to have an account at a financial institution in countries that adhere to a higher number of regulatory good practices. Incremental improvement of regulatory frameworks doesn’t seem to have significant impact. Only when a country improves its regulatory framework greatly, so that its standing on the regulatory index jumps from the first to the fourth quartile, does the probability of individuals within this country having an account at a financial institution increase.

Measles vaccine coverage at 85% globally

2 weeks 22 hours ago


Measles is a highly contagious disease. It’s also mostly preventable thanks to vaccines and widespread immunization. In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States. Since then, it has reemerged. Outbreaks this year highlight the impact of non-universal immunization in the U.S., Europe, and globally. Reported cases worldwide rose 300% in the first three months of 2019, with several countries experiencing outbreaks, according to World Health Organization preliminary data.
 
Globally, immunization against the disease among children ages 12-23 months has risen from 69% in 1992 to 85% in 2017. Nevertheless, 169 million children worldwide missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, or 21.1 million children a year on average. In 2017, an estimated 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles, according to UNICEF.

The World Bank Group strongly supports childhood immunizations and is a founding member of the global vaccine alliance, Gavi. Funding from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), supported by 52 donor countries, helped immunize 274 million children from July 2011 to June 2018.
 
Vaccines must reach every child, everywhere, to truly eliminate measles.

Labor Data and Quantity/Quality Tradeoffs

2 weeks 1 day ago
In their new paper on fast internet and employment in Africa, Jonas Hjort and Jonas Poulsen examine the impact of submarine internet cables on employment outcomes in several African countries. They report differences-in-differences estimates, exploiting the gradual arrival of the cables along the coast of Africa. (David noted this work in his Weekly links March 29.) In addition to the compelling topic of the paper, what drew my eye to this work was the use of the Demographic and Health Surveys and Afrobarometer data to look at labor outcomes.

Neither survey is known for its employment content – the former focuses on covering in-depth issues on reproductive and child health and the latter are public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, and society. In the case of the Barometer surveys, to identify employment status, there is one question, “Do you have a job that pays cash income?” The DHS questionnaire identifies working women by asking them “Aside from your own household work, have you done any work in the last seven days?” with a follow-up if the response is no, which asks “As you know, some women take up jobs for which they are paid in cash or kind. Others sell things, have a small business or work on the family farm or in the family business. In the last seven days, have you done any of these things or any other work?” Men are asked one question: “Have you done any work in the last seven day?”

Based on my experience (and not based on a recent systematic review of multi-topic household), in multi-topic household surveys (like LSMSs) these screening questions are in a designated labor module of the questionnaire. They are typically broken out by employment type (such as wage/salary work, work on the household farm, being an own-account working of a household enterprise, working as a contributing family worker, and sometimes a question on being an apprentice). My inclination (and that of colleagues I have discussed this with over the years – yes, I have had conversations about this…) is that surveys like the DHS and Afrobarometer are not well-suited to study employment in Africa. This is because of the concern that they under-report non-wage/salary work, though perhaps less so for the DHS with its extra question for women. Notwithstanding this concern, it is easy to understand why one would use the DHS or Afrobarometer surveys to explore cross-country employment in Africa. These data are harmonized and packaged very nicely on their respective web sites, and geo-identifiers can be obtained. Compiling similar data from multi-topic national surveys and labor force surveys (LFSs) in the region entails considerably more effort.

The point of this blog is not to try replicate Hjort and Poulsen (H&P) and explore if using data on employment from multi-topic household surveys or labor force surveys would yield different results. This is partly for practical reasons. H&P have made their analysis files available (programs and data). But their study uses the GPS data for DHS and Afrobarometer, and this requires requesting access and then linking to the geo-referenced internet cable data… extra work I opted to skip for this blog. Rather, I use their paper as motivation to explore, albeit lightly, if I have been too stubborn or orthodox in my approach to what constitutes appropriate labor data and too quick to dismiss these much-easier-to-access data.

But first some minor housekeeping. Two things caught my attention in H&P’s paper. First, the mean level of employment between DHS and Afrobarometer surveys was similar: 68% and 58% respectively (Table 1). Such a comparison, however, is not straightforward because the DHS sample is heavily skewed towards women and is much younger (both by sample design) than the Afrobarometer. This would tend to drive employment rates in DHS down (also, the set of countries are not the same). Offsetting this is the specific Afrobarometer question (with its reference to cash) which struck me as likely to under-report work in household enterprises or on a household farm. Upon closer look at their replication files, the employment indicator constructed from the Afrobarometer excluded people who reported not working and not looking for work (a large share of those not working) – perhaps an error. Going to the data and constructing the same employment-to-population ratio as reported for the DHS, for men and women 18+ with sample weights I find stark difference in employment rates between the surveys: 87% and 39% for men in the DHS and Afrobarometer respectively. For women, the rates are 73% and 27%. Clearly, these surveys are not measuring the same concept of employment.

The second thing that caught my attention, also in Table 1, was that 85% of employed people in the DHS were classified as skilled, what H&P also label as high-productivity occupations. This seem extremely high given that 56% of those working in the DHS sample have less than secondary schooling and 21% with more than primary have less than 3 years of any secondary. The details in footnote 44 explain their definition of skilled as those in occupational categories of professional, sales, services, skilled manual, clerical or employee in agricultural sector (presumably agriculture wage workers). The unskilled occupations are self-employed farmers, domestic workers, unskilled manual. The categories of sales and services likely largely captures informal microenterprises in urban settings. This strikes me as a very liberal concept of skilled employment. And it left me wondering about how much one can say about skills-based technology change in Africa using these data and this definition, as H&P set out to do.

Circling back, how closely do the employment rates in the DHS surveys match the rates from multi-topic surveys or LFSs? Comparing employment rates between 12 DHS and 12 multitopic surveys from 2009-2018 for the 8 countries in the H&P paper, controlling for age and country, rates in the DHSs are 3 percentage points higher (not statistically significant) for women. Rates for men are 9 percentage points higher. The higher employment rate for men in the DHS was a surprise to me. One explanation is that some domestic activities are being included by men in the DHS as employment, given that the single question is vague. For women, these are explicitly excluded in the question wording.

There is variation across countries in these differences for both men and women. The level difference is not necessarily a big concern; but the magnitude of the differences also varies by traits. To illustrate, the table below shows the comparisons of employment rate for Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania for all women (men) and by education levels. No single pattern emerges, if anything more questions are raised. And it leaves me wondering if the findings in H&P on education (where only those with no education do not benefit from fact internet) would hold if using more ‘traditional’ sources of employment data.
   

From this first cut of the data, I am left feeling very leery about using Afrobarometer data to study employment in Africa. As for DHS, I was pleasantly surprised at how close the employment rates are, but still concerned by the variation across countries (which I did not describe here) and across education levels.  So probably I am back to where I started, inclined to recommend using the labor data from LFSs or multitopic household surveys to study labor – despite the extra work to compile which this entails.
 
 

Alternative methods to produce poverty estimates: When household consumption data are not available (Part II)

2 weeks 1 day ago


In Part I of this blog, we discuss the question of how to monitor progress in reducing poverty when the poorest countries of the world are more likely to be missing data for poverty comparisons over time. Drawing from the paper, in this second part of the blog we offer a typology of missing data for poverty comparisons and describe the corresponding candidate imputation approaches for addressing the missing data problem.
 
For presentation purposes, we group all situations of missing data into three broad categories as follows (Table 1):
  1. cross-sectional household consumption data are completely missing
  2. cross-sectional household consumption data are partially missing, and
  3. although cross-sectional consumption data are available, panel household consumption data are (completely or partially) missing

These categories can also be thought of as being ranked, in a roughly decreasing order, according to their severity of data scarcity. A typical example of the surveys that belong to Group A are non-consumption surveys where no consumption data are collected by design, such as the popular Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), (most) Labor Force Surveys (LFS), and other surveys such as school-based surveys. In fact, implementing a household consumption module requires considerable resources and logistic arrangements – thus, most specialized surveys like the DHS, LFS, as well as almost all small-scale surveys (e.g., project-level monitoring and evaluation (M&E) surveys) would normally fall into this category.

Examples for Group B include (i) rounds of the same household consumption survey that are not comparable over time, (ii) where we have a more recent LFS that has no consumption data but has a similar design to an older household consumption survey, or (iii) where the (cross-sectional) consumption data are unavailable at more disaggregated administrative levels than those in the current survey.  
 
Given the significantly higher costs of implementing longitudinal surveys, it is quite rare for a country to have panel data for monitoring both progress in reducing poverty over time as well as factors leading to change in poverty status at the household level. This is especially true for developing countries.
For example, two major household consumption surveys that are commonly employed to provide poverty estimates in China and India—the China Household Income Project (CHIP) survey and the National Sample Survey (NSS)—are both cross-sectional surveys. For countries where panel surveys exist, few such surveys are likely to be representative of the population over a long period of time and without a great deal of effort. One major reason is that the surveyed household unit can change (e.g., household members can die, split off to form a new household, or simply migrate to another place) and it is very costly to track all household members over time. But as global living standards are rising, this data situation can be improved as greater demand for this type of data emerges and more resources are being invested in fielding panel surveys.
 
In Table 1, we list the imputation methods that can be used to provide poverty estimates in the absence of consumption data. These imputation techniques vary depending on whether the consumption data needed are cross-sectional or panel. For data situations in Group A, the most commonly used method is to generate a wealth index from household assets and the physical characteristics of the house (e.g., the material of the floor or the wall, or which type of toilet is available). For data situations in Group B, techniques have been developed to offer survey-to-survey imputation (i.e., imputation from one survey to another) for sub-cases i and ii, and survey-to-census imputation (i.e., imputation from a survey into a census) for sub-case iii. Finally, data situations in Group C can be addressed with recently developed methods that construct synthetic panel data from cross-sectional data, which can substitute for actual panel data to some extent.
 
We provide more technical details about these techniques and also offer examples with data from Vietnam in the paper. Some of the methods we reviewed are more established, but some are rather recent. While micro survey data are becoming more widely available and collected more frequently in developing countries, we expect these methods to be useful for the foreseeable future, including for back-casting consumption from a more recent survey for better comparison with older surveys.
 
In addition, these imputation methods may also be appropriate in contexts where survey costs and/or survey implementation pose a challenge. For example, perhaps most national statistical agencies are keen on producing annual poverty statistics. But given the costly expenses and demanding logistics of fielding a household consumption survey every year, they often implement household consumption surveys every few years at best, particularly for developing countries. In such contexts, poverty rates can be imputed for the intervening years between the surveys, or for project zones of influence, at just a fraction of the cost of fielding a full-fledged consumption survey by, say, using other non-consumption data or implementing a lighter (non-consumption) version of the survey.
 
Seen in this light, imputation techniques can offer a low-cost and reasonably feasible approach to poverty estimation. While we should be mindful of the various assumptions underlying imputation methods, we would earnestly call for more attention to further developing these methods, particularly validation studies that can provide richer evidence in various contexts.

 

Table 1: Categories of Missing Household Consumption Data and Commonly Employed Imputation Methods

Type

Extent of Missing Consumption Data

Typical Situation

Example

Imputation Method

A

Completely missing

i) Non-consumption surveys

Demographic and Health Surveys

Wealth index

ii) Most small-scale surveys

 

B

Partially missing

i) Consumption data not comparable across survey rounds

Some rounds of India's National Sample Surveys

Survey-to-survey imputation

ii) Consumption data unavailable in current survey but available in another related survey

The annual LFS does not have consumption data, but the household consumption survey is implemented every few years

iii) Consumption data unavailable at more disaggregated administrative levels than those in current survey

Population census data are representative at lower administrative level than a household consumption survey, but does not collect consumption data.

Survey-to-census imputation or poverty "mapping"

C

Available cross sections, but missing panel data

Most surveys in developing countries do not offer panel data

 

Synthetic panels

 

Transport pollution: Some practical solutions for developing countries

2 weeks 1 day ago
Photo: LIC/Flickr No matter how you measure it, the impact of air pollution is startling. According to new research, air pollution worldwide cuts life expectancy by 1.8 years for an average person, and is responsible for some 8.8m early deaths a year globally. That is twice as much as previous estimates, making air pollution one of the leading causes of death in the world.

While air pollution originates from a variety of sources, tailpipe emissions from cars, trucks, and buses rank among the largest contributors. In a world where motor vehicles reign supreme and 96% of transport's energy use comes from fossil fuels, we are effectively meeting our mobility needs at the expense of our life expectancy.

Low and middle-income countries pay the highest price: as highlighted in this graph by the Sustainable Mobility for All initiative (SuM4All), countries with a relatively low GDP per capita tend to see higher concentrations of PM2.5, a type of particulate matter generated primarily by road traffic.
  Air Pollution and GDP Per Capita Meanwhile, motorization rates continue to soar across the developing world, while fossil fuel suppliers estimate that oil will remain the dominant fuel source for mobility through at least 2050. In that context, it is easy to feel pessimistic about air pollution and transport. Yet several initiatives emerging in various part of the world show that change is possible. In its Global Roadmap of Action towards Sustainable Mobility (GRA), SuM4All carefully analyzed how countries could build upon these measures to promote greener mobility and help cities breathe better.

Driving Restrictions: In a bid to reduce congestion and air pollution, some cities have chosen to restrain commuters from using their cars during rush hour on a specific day of the week, which typically varies for each driver based on the last digits of their license plate number. The type of demand management measure has been implemented in Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Santiago, and many other urban centers across Latin America. In Quito, research has shown that driving restrictions have achieved a reduction of 9-11% in Carbon Oxide (CO) emissions during peak traffic hours. The efficacy of this policy, however, depends on whether drivers can bypass the restrictions by switching to other private travel modes. In Delhi, around half of the affected drivers were able to use private transport alternatives like other household vehicles, taxis or rickshaws. To avoid this and to maximize the benefits of driving restrictions policies, providing quality public transport options is essential.

Import Regulations on Second-Hand Vehicles: The vast majority of cars, trucks, and buses imported to low income countries are second-hand vehicles. They are typically many years or even decades old and have no catalytic converters to reduce toxic gas emissions, thus contributing significantly to air pollution. There are several ways for developing countries to address this situation: Kenya has regulated the second-hand vehicle market by banning second-hand car imports older than eight years of age; Tanzania charges additional excise duty on used vehicles eight years of age or older; and the whole East Africa region applies depreciation rates to these imports.

Electrification:  There is an urgent need to stave off dependency on fossil fuels and leverage the abundant renewable energy resources found in many developing countries. As shown by India and China, the latest advances in Electric Vehicle (EV) and battery storage technology offer promising new solutions. As noted in the GRA, however, while EVs can be quite effective at combatting local air pollution, they are not silver bullet to tackle other problems such as traffic congestion. In addition, in order to maximize environmental benefits, it is important to make sure the electricity used to power EVs comes from sustainable sources.

Low Emission Zones (LEZs): Access to LEZs is restricted to vehicles that meet specified emission standards. Any vehicle that fails the standards may be either excluded from entering the zone or will be charged a fee to get in. This scheme has been adopted in many European cities and in three different areas of Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, franchised bus operators can only operate vehicles that meet Euro IV standards or above; however, these restrictions do not apply to other types of vehicles like private cars.

Have ideas for more innovative, more ambitious policy measures that could help developing countries accelerate the transition toward green mobility? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or click here to find out how you can provide input on the Global Roadmap of Action Toward Sustainable Mobility!
 

Inclusive resilience: Are we building resilience for all?

2 weeks 1 day ago
Women at a reconstruction site in Nepal. © Keiko Sakoda/World Bank

The World Bank has been steadily increasing its disaster risk management support over the past decade, growing its annual investment by more than 40% in the past six. But as we work to help build resilience on the ground, it’s important to stop and think: are we building resilience for all?

When we design disaster risk management (DRM) projects, are we giving enough thought to bolstering the climate and disaster resilience of all people? Are we considering the specific needs of different genders, the elderly, persons with disabilities, children, and other vulnerable or marginalized people?

Disasters do not impact all people in the same way. For example:

  • Older people: [[tweetable]]In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, 75% of the people who lost their lives were over 60 years old, while this population only accounted for 15% of the population in New Orleans.[[/tweetable]]
  • Persons with disabilities: Persons with disabilities face their own unique set of hurdles depending on their type of disability in an emergency and post-disaster context. For example, some may have challenges evacuating after a disaster due to visual or physical impairments. When a devastating Earthquake and Tsunami hit northern Japan in 2011, the mortality rate of persons with disability was twice that of the total population
  • Marginalized groups: Throughout South Asia, Dalits – formerly known as lower caste people and a culturally marginalized population – have either been denied or given unequal access to clean water, shelter, health services and education following disasters. Culturally marginalized populations often face challenges in obtaining compensation or official post-disaster assistance due to lack of official titles for land and property. 
  • Women: [[tweetable]]Disaster loss data shows that the casualty figures among women typically outnumber men, often due to cultural norms and behavioral patterns that affect women’s mobility and roles[[/tweetable]] (e.g. caring for children, elders or sick household members). In Bangladesh, as a result of cyclone-induced flooding from Cyclone Gorky in 1991, women outnumbered men by 14:1 in mortality rate. Numerous global studies also show an increase in sexual and gender-based violence following disaster events.
Often, people have overlapping and intersecting identities (e.g., a disabled elderly Dalit woman) which makes them more vulnerable to the impacts of disasters and can impose multiple layers of discrimination when accessing relief and other post-disaster support.

How can DRM investments address the different needs of these socially excluded people?

To tackle this issue, [[tweetable]]we started a pilot initiative to develop DRM project-specific action plans for social inclusion.[[/tweetable]]

Led by the World Bank’s South Asia unit, with support from Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) , the pilot aims to create a set of recommendations summarizing possible entry points – project-specific social inclusion ideas – that are practically replicable to similar projects in other countries and localities based on the DRM activity. A unique feature of this pilot is that it identifies social inclusion entry points for the most common DRM activities in the South Asia region. For example, some of the most common DRM activities in the region are for resilient infrastructure.

To do this, our team first analyzed the South Asia DRM projects to identify and categorize the types of DRM activities that make up the projects in the region. From this analysis, the team was able to see the DRM activities that were the most in-demand. Structural resilience in the built environment, risk assessment and information, and institutional capacity building activities were among the most highly-demanded activities in the region, as well as increasing demands on hydromet activity.

We used the same process of identification and categorization to examine the types of inclusion activities that already exist in active projects because we wanted to better understand the status of social inclusion activities in South Asia DRM projects. For example, a project in Bangladesh improved access to safe water and sanitation, prioritizing the access of women, children, and persons with disabilities and support in the aftermath of a crisis. And during the post-earthquake reconstruction process in Nepal, another project helped ensure women’s participation in risk awareness training for home ownership, recognizing them as change agents.

These examples are great and can be replicated in other projects. After the analysis was completed, the team began action planning to identify more proactive and cutting-edge inclusion activities beyond what was found in existing projects. 

The action plans outline entry points for inclusion in high-demand DRM activities, which can be customized for other regions or countries and can help DRM practitioners more easily apply inclusive resilience approaches to their projects.

We will discuss the draft action plans for five pilot countries during the “South Asia – Where Resilience and Inclusion Meet” session at World Reconstruction Conference 4 in Geneva on May 13. Out of this discussion with international experts and the audience, the World Bank’s South Asia unit will support our government counterparts to further refine the priorities and implementation approach of the action plans, in consultation with persons of concern, to ensure that DRM investments in South Asia best achieve social resilience.

[[tweetable]]Whether you’re able to attend the conference or not, we’d love to hear your thoughts on inclusion in disaster recovery.[[/tweetable]] Join the conversation on Twitter with #InclusionMatters and #WRC4.

Fighting gender-based violence in conflict-affected regions – a conversation with Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege

2 weeks 1 day ago
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Dr. Denis Mukwege is a world-renowned gynecological surgeon from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 1999, Dr. Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in response to the devastating conflict that affected his community.
 
As a direct outcome of the conflict, maternal mortality was on the rise. Combatants used systematic rape of women and girls as a means of terrorizing and displacing the civilian population. As violence against women and girls escalated dramatically in the context of DRC’s conflict, Dr. Mukwege and the staff of Panzi Hospital dedicated significant resources to treating women with injuries from sexual violence.
 

Since 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have helped to care for more than 50,000 women and children. What sets his hospital and work apart has not only been his sheer determination to heal and advocate on behalf of survivors of gender-based violence, but also his holistic method. The hospital treats survivors’ physical wounds, and also provides basic education, skills training, family planning, preventative health care, as well as legal and psycho-social services to its patients.  These healing services are all co-located within the hospital for the women’s needs to be assessed and treated in a holistic manner. 

In 2018, Dr. Mukwege and Nadia Murad were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
 
In this video blog, World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender, Caren Grown (@CarenGrown), and Senior Director for Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG), talk with Dr. Mukwege (@DenisMukwege) about efforts to reduce violence against women and girls, support for survivors of sexual violence, and his advocacy against gender-based violence, especially in conflict-affected areas.
 
READ MORE:

A low-carbon future must protect the world’s forests

2 weeks 1 day ago
Aerial view of construction at a large scale mine. © Bannafarsai/shutterstock

The shift to a low-carbon future that includes clean technology such as solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and batteries will require a lot of minerals. In fact, experts predict that between now and 2050 we will need more minerals than have been produced over the past 100 years. This mineral-intensive future has implications for our forests, vital to mitigate global warming. A climate-smart mining approach that protects the world’s forests is essential to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. [[tweetable]]Currently about 1,500 large-scale mines in the world are in tropical forests and a further 1,800 are under development or currently non-operational.[[/tweetable]] More than half of these large-scale forest mines are in low- or lower-middle-income countries.
 
[[tweetable]]Forests provide an important carbon sink for mitigating climate change.[[/tweetable]] According to the World Resources Institute, [[tweetable]]if tropical forests combined were a country, deforestation would rank third in carbon dioxide–equivalent emissions, behind China and the United States.[[/tweetable]] Generically speaking, forest loss is driven by economic activity, mainly commercial and subsistence agriculture. Yet, mining plays an important, though less understood role, accounting for an estimated 7 percent of total forest loss. As the future of our planet hinges on tenths of degrees Celsius, 7 percent may well make the difference.

[[tweetable]]At a national level, mining is contributing to emissions from forest loss in numerous countries and is a dominant cause of deforestation in some.[[/tweetable]] For example, in Suriname, mining is responsible for 73 percent of total deforestation, with the majority attributed to artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) for gold.
 
With so much at stake, [[tweetable]]the World Bank has developed what we call a forest-smart approach to mining – ensuring that this increased need for metals and minerals will not be at the expense of forests.[[/tweetable]] Thus a Climate-Smart Mining approach also needs to be Forest-Smart. Three new reports released today offer solutions to address this challenge.

An artisanal mine in Minkébé, Gabon. © Gustave Mbaza/WWF Gabon

So, what mining takes place in forests? [[tweetable]]Many different minerals are mined in forests, with gold, iron ore, and copper most commonly mined by large-scale operators in forests.[[/tweetable]] Bauxite, titanium, and nickel are the most reliant on forest-based mines, as the ores that contain them are mostly found in forest areas.  All these minerals are crucial components of low-carbon technologies as well as for cell-phones and computers.
 
Importantly, it isn’t principally the mine itself that causes deforestation. [[tweetable]]Our research shows that a mine is often surrounded by large-scale forest losses in areas outside the mining permit area, with notable spikes in deforestation when the mines are first established.[[/tweetable]] This forest loss is largely the result of new roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure built to transport extracted minerals. In addition, the development of large-scale mines in previously uninhabited or inaccessible areas attracts people looking for new economic opportunities. The settlements they establish drive forest loss due to firewood demand, wildlife poaching, agriculture expansion and ASM activities.
 
To address this deforestation, a forest-smart approach to mining requires strong governance to manage the development and impacts of the mining sector, protect forests on a landscape level, and recognize and protect local community tenure and rights. It also requires responsible corporate behaviour, empowered communities, and engaged civil society stakeholders.
 
With this in mind, we analyzed almost 30 case studies of both artisanal and small-scale mines as well as large-scale mining operations to identify best practices that can improve forest outcomes and bad practices to be avoided. The result is a large number of practical examples and a set of 14 forest-smart mining principles.



[[tweetable]]Based on our case studies, no single site, operation, company, or country is wholly forest-smart.[[/tweetable]] Yet, our case studies also demonstrate that a variety of countries are implementing forest-smart practices and applying strong policies. One key finding of our work is that political will and coordination between government entities and other stakeholders is crucial for forest-smart outcomes.
 
In Madagascar, the establishment of coordination platforms between managers of a national park and local authorities helped to develop effective strategies to manage illegal artisanal mining in the park and improve agricultural practices to reduce pressure on forest.
 
In Ghana, a mining company included community stakeholders as partners in planning, decision making, and implementation to achieve positive outcomes for forests and communities. This ongoing consultation led to communities receiving long-term stakes in the work through secure forest plots.  used for sustainably managed small-scale commercial production.
 
In Zambia, a mining company partnered with the Forestry Department and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to manage a large forest landscape, including the West Lunga National Park, together with local communities to protect the forest landscape and prevent further deforestation.
 
Our analysis identified priority countries for applying the forest-smart principles, using the criteria of high forest cover, high economic dependence on mining, a high density of mines in forest areas, and significant greenhouse gas emissions from forest degradation. Countries identified include Guinea, Ecuador, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia, and Indonesia, countries where the World Bank is active in both forest conservation and mineral sector governance, and thus well positioned to help bring together experts, governments, companies and communities to implement forest-smart mining approaches. [[tweetable]]By working together, we can utilize the raw materials needed for clean-energy technologies and conserve forests at the same time – protecting the world’s forests, reducing emissions and stepping up to the climate challenge.[[/tweetable]]

What is TFSCB?

2 weeks 1 day ago



Today we’re launching a new blog series, “TFSCB: Statistics for a Better World.” Read on to learn about what the TFSCB is and how it catalyzed sustainable development in data poor countries.

The Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) is a long-running trust fund supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, IrishAid, as well as generous donations from Korea, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. In its 20 year-run, TFSCB has supported a wide variety of statistical projects in low and middle-income countries all over the world, with the majority assisting Sub-Saharan Africa.

Data are critical for good decision making. The demand for more and better data greatly increased in recent years with the global commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. However, while demand has risen, resources to invest in data and statistics have historically been low. Addressing this critical gap has been the mission of the TFSCB over the last two decades.

Over the past twenty years, technology has evolved exponentially. Today, there’s a vast array of different types of data available to us – geospatial data, remote sensing data, text and big data – and we can take advantage of new methods like artificial intelligence and machine learning. With the advent of new corporations and data partners like Google, Apple, LinkedIn, and Uber, we have become much more connected and our relationship to and understanding of data has shifted accordingly. To adapt to these changes, the TFSCB expanded its focus to include innovation and Open Data, while still supporting more traditional (and much needed) statistical capacity building and national strategies for the development of statistics (NSDS).

In this blog series, we’re aiming to show the human impact that data can achieve by sharing compelling examples of how statistics can catalyze results in low income countries. Today, we’re covering a recent project in Sierra Leone, where the TFSCB supported data collection and analysis of Sierra Leone’s Integrated Household Survey in 2018. This was a pivotal period for Sierra Leone: the government was transitioning to new leadership for the first time in ten years, while the country was striving to recover from the recent Ebola outbreak. The TFSCB assistance covered the whole lifespan of the survey, including developing the questionnaire and sampling, introducing a new data capture system and geospatial data, training field workers, monitoring quality control, and helping to clean and rigorously analyze the data. Through this work, Statistics Sierra Leone’s capacity to collect and analyze survey data was substantially enhanced.

One of the major innovations that this project achieved was that from the data entry stage to the data monitoring phase, multiple new applications – like DropBox, Stata, and WhatsApp – were used to streamline the data collection process. Using these platforms allowed for prompt intervention for data entry errors, resolving data quality issues quickly. The data collection was completed in December 2018 and the microdata will be disseminated in 2019. In addition to updating poverty and food security estimates and assessing the effects of increased petroleum prices on poverty, the data will be used as a baseline to assess the short-term impact on enrollment and out-of-pocket expenditures on education of the government’s flagship Free Quality Education program. Now Sierra Leone can look towards the future with more confidence, knowing that it can continue to design and execute compelling surveys and employ them in service of data-driven decision-making. For queries on the SLIHS and its policy research applications please contact Alejandro de la Fuente (adelafuente@worldbank.org) and Elizabeth Foster (efoster1@worldbank.org).

There’s no such thing as “investment need”

2 weeks 1 day ago


Pixabay | Clker-Free-Vector-Images

How much money do I need to buy a house? It’s a simple question, but fraught with variables. Where’s the house? In New York City or Tegucigalpa? Is the neighborhood fancy or working-class? How big and elaborate is this house? Does it have marble floors and gold-plated faucets?  Or are we talking about two rooms with basic necessities? Is the builder experienced so work gets done well and quickly, or are there costly mishaps? How clever am I in negotiating with the builder, real estate agent, bank?
 
Estimating countries’ infrastructure investment is analogous. The point: there’s no such thing as an investment need; how much a country needs depends on its ambition and efficiency in pursuing that ambition. Moreover, any discussion about so-called investment needs holds little meaning if it doesn’t factor in budget constraints, which we all have—whether we’re homebuyers or countries. 

Yet, discussions on infrastructure needs in most policy circles are often unhelpful, with huge, imprecise numbers thrown around. This obfuscates the real debate that needs to happen around what societies aspire to and what they can afford—and how to reconcile the two.

Our new research shifts from a simple focus on spending more on infrastructure toward spending better on the right objectives using relevant metrics. [[tweetable]]We offer a systematic approach to estimating funding needs to close the service gap for developing countries in water and sanitation, transportation, electricity, irrigation, and flood protection.[[/tweetable]]

Importantly, we address the cost to build infrastructure as well as operate and maintain it. The latter are consequential costs, which most estimates overlook. Yet we know that ensuring resources for operations and maintenance is a necessary condition for success.

Exploring thousands of scenarios,[[tweetable]] we find that new infrastructure could cost developing countries between 2 and 8 percent of GDP per year to 2030, depending on the quality and quantity of service and the countries’ spending efficiency.[[/tweetable]] We then identify three scenarios.

In the low-spending scenario, ambitions are modest and efficiency is high. Countries only need to spend 2 percent of GDP per year on new capital. Here, countries would:
  • Provide basic water and sanitation services and only reach universal access by 2030.
  • Expand access to electricity to satisfy basic needs (say, enough to power a few light bulbs in rural areas) and make energy efficiency a priority.
  • Concentrate on efficient public transportation and use high fuel taxes to push people to switch to public transportation or non-motorized modes.
Our high-spending scenario shows high ambition and low efficiency. Countries need to spend 8 percent of GDP annually on capital to provide universal access to safe water and sanitation (that is, treated water and sewerage systems) and the highest tiers of electricity services (enough to power domestic appliances). This investment would also satisfy an ever-growing demand for transport, generated by urban sprawl and individual use of cars.
 
Our preferred scenario enables countries to achieve universal access to water, sanitation, and electricity; greater mobility; improved food security; better protection from floods; and eventual full decarbonization—while limiting spending on new infrastructure to 4.5 percent of GDP per year. For us, this is the sweet spot where countries:
  • Account for long-term climate goals, avoiding expensive stranded assets later.
  • Invest in low-carbon energy.
  • Combine transport and land-use planning—resulting in denser cities and cheaper, more reliable public transport—and develop reliable railway systems attractive to freight.
  • Deploy decentralized technologies in rural areas—such as minigrids and water purification systems powered by renewable energy.
Here, countries would spend an additional 2.7 percent of GDP annually to maintain the infrastructure. But good maintenance generates substantial savings, reducing the total life-cycle cost. In transport and water and sanitation this savings can be more than 50 percent.
 
What are countries actually spending?
 
It’s remarkably difficult to figure out how much countries actually spend on infrastructure, as fiscal accounts don’t typically report consolidated information on infrastructure investments across ministries, let alone those undertaken by the private sector. We also released a report that makes a great companion to the research on aspirational spending and provides the first consistently estimated data set on real infrastructure investments in developing countries. This research builds on proxies drawn from national accounts data, fiscal data, and the World Bank’s Private Participation in Infrastructure Database.
 
Here’s the neat part: it finds that developing countries spent around 4 percent of their GDP on infrastructure capital investment in 2011. That’s not far off from our 4.5 percent preferred spending scenario. We urge caution, as these averages mask considerable differences across regions. Spending ranges from 2.5 percent of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa to 5.7 percent in East Asia and Pacific while needs in our preferred scenario range from 3.5 percent of GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean to 7 percent of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is particularly worrisome for Sub-Saharan Africa, given its low GDP and low infrastructure endowment. Nevertheless, for many parts of the developing world, we’re not as far off as we may think.
 
Did you catch earlier that the estimated 4.5 percent of spending achieves eventual full decarbonization? I want to emphasize this point and go further: we found that investment paths compatible with full decarbonization by the end of the century needn’t cost more than more polluting alternatives.
 
So don’t fear the infrastructure financing boogeyman who hurls scary numbers—trillions of dollars per year in gaps, estimates by sector or region. [[tweetable]]Achieving the infrastructure-related Sustainable Development Goals is possible: smartly, with informed (if hard) decisions.[[/tweetable]]

Read the report here and play with its interactive data portal.
 
 
Related Posts

 
Subtle but significant changes to private infrastructure investment in first half of 2018

 
Which sectors have attracted most private investments in infrastructure in 2017?

 
New report on private capital for infrastructure in the poorest countries: 2017 a stellar year


Infrastructure: Times Are a-Changin’

 
SDGs and PPPs: What's the connection?


Forecasting infrastructure investment needs for 50 countries, 7 sectors through 2040

   

Collaboratively transforming Thailand towards an innovative, inclusive and sustainable economy

2 weeks 1 day ago
A crowded train stops at a station in Thailand to pick-up more passengers.
In October 1950, the World Bank made a loan of $3 million to Thailand for the
rehabilitation of the Royal State Railways. 


The World Bank has partnered with Thailand for 70 years, through both good times and times of hardship. The World Bank’s first loan in 1950 helped improve Thailand’s transportation systems - including railways, ports and highways - and financed irrigation projects that benefited farming families. Since then the World Bank has continued to support projects in education, agriculture, telecommunications, infrastructure, water resource management, energy, public sector development and health.
 

This land near Sarm Chuk, Thailand is receiving its very first irrigation water,
a direct result of the Chainat Barrage across the Chaophraya River.
Houses within the vicinity of the Port of Bangkok. In October 1950,
the World Bank made a loan of $4.4 million,
the greater part of which was used to open the Port of Bangkok to larger ships.
In recent years, our relationship has developed from that of a borrower-lender to being true knowledge partners. The World Bank Group’s engagement in Thailand revolves around economic policy dialogue, technical assistance and implementation support on issues as diverse as sustained high economic growth, community development and peace-building in the Deep South, climate change, education, infrastructure investment and regulatory reform.  Sound advice from the World Bank Group has helped pave the way for Thailand’s progress along its developmental path.  For instance, Thailand was identified as one of the top 10 economies that improved its ease of doing business, according to the World Bank Group’s flagship report “Doing Business 2018”, due to a broad range of reforms that included streamlining its new business registration process, strengthening the rights of borrowers and creditors, and introducing an automated risk-based system for selecting companies for tax audit.
  A Tadika (muslim) school in Pattani province where a World Bank supported project
is strengthening the curriculum and integrating peace activities into classrooms.
Collaboration between Thailand and the World Bank Group, such as through recent Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS) programs, reflects the strength of our partnership. Under RAS programs, the World Bank works with countries at their request, providing technical advice, analytical services, and implementation support.  Not only have RAS programs been implemented to a high quality, but recommendations from RAS programs have been practical and aligned with Thailand’s national strategies to increase competitiveness and inclusiveness of the Thai economy.
 
Although Thailand currently has strong economic fundamentals in place, it is still facing many challenges. The World Bank Group’s engagement in Thailand in the medium term will be tailored to help Thailand address its economic and social challenges including inequalities; a rapidly aging society; water management; and climate-related risks. Drawing on the “local insight, global knowledge” approach, the current Country Partnership Framework (CPF), 2019-2022, is a significant milestone in our partnership, aiming to promote resilient and sustainable growth while strengthening inclusion.
 
With the commitment of the Thai government and the expertise and tireless efforts of the World Bank Group, we are making a real difference in the lives of many Thai people. In this spirit, I congratulate all of those involved in our 70-year partnership, and I urge everyone to commit to this work, and to work together to support Thailand’s continuing transformation towards an innovative, inclusive and sustainable economy.
 

For a clean and green Pakistan

2 weeks 1 day ago
Farmer working in the fields of Kasur, Punjab. Photo: World Bank This blog is part of a series that discusses findings from the Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future report, which identifies the changes necessary for Pakistan to become a strong upper middle-income country by the time it turns 100 years old in 2047. 

Environmental degradation is not only threatening environmental sustainability, but also Pakistan’s ability to tackle poverty, as well as its ability to generate a substantial share of its growth and employment.

Similarly, while [[tweetable]]Pakistan needs to think for the long term with regard to environmental sustainability, many of the actions it could take to control and reverse environmental degradation and adapt to climate change would have immediate benefits[[/tweetable]] and be particularly helpful to the poorest, who are most vulnerable.

Last year, the federal government launched the Clean Green Pakistan Program.

This is a first excellent step.

Why? [[tweetable]]Because it is a people’s movement and everyone’s responsibility and focuses on behavioral change to create demand for better environmental services[[/tweetable]].

With this measure, the government is making urban communities, including school children, more aware of the value of natural resources in urban settings and importance of protecting them.

Harnessing the power of public pressure by access to environmental data is a key measure to be achieved through:
  • disclosure of pollution data to engage citizens and encourage preventive actions;
  • effectively engaging with local communities and relevant stakeholders in the city development planning processes; and
  • education and raising awareness to empower citizens.

[[tweetable]]Pakistan can strengthen its environmental protection departments’ capacity to disclose environment information and engage citizens in environmental management[[/tweetable]] through awareness campaigns on pollution and green development, as part of the Clean Green Pakistan initiative.

Education on environment and its function in an urban setting is critical for effective citizen engagement.

However, in the context of growing urbanization, and to achieve healthy cities and productive citizens, Pakistan could focus on the following choices.

Environmental Protection Agencies’ (EPA) and local governments’ environmental monitoring capacity can be improved in a coordinated manner among the provinces and the federal government. 

Most of the data about high pollution levels in Pakistan come from global datasets and monitoring is currently weak and lacks granularity.

A key mandate of EPAs is environmental monitoring.

[[tweetable]]The first step is to understand current pollution levels and sources by rebuilding the monitoring network, not only with equipment but also its protocols[[/tweetable]]; analytical capacity; and technical, institutional, and financial sustainability.

[[tweetable]]To plan an effective pollution reduction action plan, the authorities need to better understand the current pollution levels, concentration, trends, and sources[[/tweetable]].

Addressing pollution cannot be done without these basic monitoring features.

Pakistan has an opportunity to enhance the devolution with environmental decentralization, distinguishing between and revising federal, provincial, and local roles and responsibilities, which policy actions need to be taken by whom and how to coordinate it all, given boundary and efficiency issues.

This could start by focusing on the institutions with a core environmental mandate such as the provincial EPAs.

Students at school in Kalabagh, Mianwali District. Photo: World Bank

These entities have pressing needs of reforms in areas such as:

  • estructuring and capacity building, including air and water quality management planning with appropriate labs and models, along with protocols and technical/financial capacity;
  • regulatory reform; and
  • information disclosure and citizen engagement.
Provincial environmental entities can also play a key role beyond enforcement and contribute to the development agenda by improving their capacity to:
  • promote green financing, mainstreaming green investments in the public sector; and
  • support the adoption of resource-efficient and clean production measures in polluting sectors.
In addition, the role of local governments needs to be clarified and optimized as they are crucial in the provision of environmental infrastructure and services, such as solid waste management, local transportation, or water and sanitation.
 
The environment is everyone’s business and so the coordination mechanism among institutions needs to be effective and well-articulated.
 
Air and water pollution are the result of multiple interventions and causes.
 
The role of federal or provincial EPAs that were originally designed was to focus mainly on large point sources, but that is not enough.
 
Air quality, for example, is not only about regulating industry, energy, and vehicles.
 
It is also about investment in public transport, street and construction dust control (managed by local governments), waste management (by local governments), and fuels/stoves used by households and small establishments, as well as agricultural emissions.
 
Even with provincial EPAs strengthened, [[tweetable]]Pakistan is yet to develop the institutional coordination arrangements to manage the environmental challenges such as air or water quality at the airshed and watershed levels[[/tweetable]] and should do so.

Incentivizing greener investments. [[tweetable]]When identifying growth opportunities for Pakistan, the poor state of environment and the looming climate change can also be turned into an opportunity for growth too[[/tweetable]].

The country needs massive and increased investments for growth and hence ‘greening’ investments are critical.

[[tweetable]]The only way to reconcile investments with sustainability and avoid excessive social and health costs is to make them ‘greener’ from the beginning[[/tweetable]].

For this, stronger regulation, enforcement, and EPAs are necessary, but these alone are not enough (and growth may even be stalled if these are not combined with other approaches).

Regulatory approaches must be complemented by incentives, economic tools, fiscal policies, and financing.

[[tweetable]]Pakistan needs a tax reform for higher investment, which represents an opportunity to design a greener tax regime[[/tweetable]] that includes, for example, pro-growth, pro-poor environmental and carbon taxes, and the elimination of environment damaging subsidies (removal of subsidies for fuels consumed by motor vehicles and industries).

It also needs to have a better financing regime for industries and small and medium enterprises.

This is an opportunity to develop green financing that makes access easier for environmentally responsible enterprises and activities.

This article was originally published on March 25, 2019 in Dawn newspaper.

Tax compliance is the cornerstone of safety nets: Lessons from Poland

2 weeks 2 days ago


When searching for an example of how a country can improve revenues through improved taxation, look no further than Poland. By increasing tax compliance and closing loopholes in the tax system, Poland has been able to increase taxes without increasing tax levels.

Improvements in taxation subsequently created fiscal space to expand safety nets, focusing on human capital development, climate change resiliency, and other solutions to the core challenges of the 21st century. For many developing countries looking to boost revenues in order to increase human development through improved education, healthcare, and other basic services improved taxation may be an avenue worth pursuing.

Crackdown on VAT fraud in Poland

You have probably heard that Poland is Europe’s growth champion – a country that was able to navigate the global financial crisis without experiencing a recession. But a story you might not be as familiar with is the role Value-Added Tax (VAT) played in Poland’s prudent public financial strategy.

In Poland, the importance of VAT - a consumption tax on most goods and services levied on a product’s “value added” at each stage of production and distribution - cannot be overstated. VAT represents the country’s biggest source of revenue, accounting for around 40% of the country’s budget

Given this importance, improvements in VAT enforcement and collection is vital. According to the European Commission, countries in the European Union (EU) lost almost €150 billion in VAT revenue in 2016 - almost 1% of the entire EU economy! Following the onset of the financial crisis, Poland began seeing a widening of the “VAT gap” – the overall difference between expected VAT revenue and the amount collected – prompting the country to implement a multi-year, multi-faceted plan to cement the VAT system.

After identifying areas prone to fraud, Poland launched numerous legislative efforts to address them. One of the most effective ‘targeted’ solution was the introduction of a split payment mechanism, where a buyer pays VAT directly to a supplier’s dedicated VAT bank account. In this system, a supplier has limited access to the money in this account - ensuring that VAT-related liabilities are paid. The idea came from Italy and Romania, where the mechanism was introduced a few years earlier.

Another tool employed in the fight to improve taxation was the SAF-T (Standard Audit File-Tax) reporting system, which became a requirement in 2018. Every month, companies must send a report to the tax register via a new IT system. Furthermore, a Central Register of Invoices will be established in 2019 which will help the tax authorities collect and analyze data and then follow-up with taxpayers.

These efforts have significantly narrowed the VAT gap – from nearly 24% in 2015 to around 7-12% of potential revenue in 2018 (depending on the source of the estimate). This means that, according to the latest data, Poland currently has a lower VAT gap than the EU average of 12.3%.

These higher VAT revenues are the direct result of both improvements in the country’s economic climate and the introduction of better regulations.

Tax revenues, tax morality, and the shadow economy

Two other critical components in this effort to improve taxation has been a decrease in economic activity in the ‘shadow economy’ and an improvement in ‘tax morality’ (i.e. the willingness of taxpayers to pay taxes and social contributions). According to estimates from the Polish Economic Institute, the shadow economy decreased from 15.7% of GDP in 2015 to 13.7% in 2018. Total tax revenues in Poland also increased from 32.4% GDP in 2015 to 33.9% GDP in 2017. Importantly, these additional revenues did not come from increases in tax levels, which remained constant during this period.

This increased collection improves the quality of goods and services financed from taxes. For example, the additional revenue from taxes in 2017 (1.5% of GDP) enabled the government to extend its family policy.

Towards efficient safety nets

Increased revenues have also gone toward increasing and improving social safety nets in Poland. While these safety nets are most commonly focused on cash transfers, public works, and school nutrition, the infusion of additional revenues from taxes has helped the system evolve. Recent shifts have included an increased use of cash, the introduction of programs designed to respond to climate change, more focus on productive capacity and resilience, and the promotion of human capital development. Budgetary space, created through initiatives such as improved taxation and more integration into the formal economy, are needed to put new programs into place, the government needs budgetary space.

Lessons from Poland’s experience in these areas offer some insight.

First, fundamental reforms to tax administrations are key – allowing for increases in the number of employees and overall budgets, reforms to the employment system and incentive programs  for employees (promotions and rewards), and a strengthening of systemic risk assessment.

Second, data should be leveraged to both increase the competitiveness of companies and monitor those companies that are most likely to break the law.

Third, making the push to decrease the shadow economy and fight fraud a political matter is paramount. Nothing works better than social pressure – encouraging society to insist on transparency and accountability.
Finally, initiatives to strengthen the Tax Administration’s autonomy must be made in tandem with the development of mechanisms to control the legality of its work, in order to combat corruption. Improving taxation enforcement and collection is not easy – but it is well worth it. In the case of Poland, the country was able to increase its revenues without passing the burden onto its citizens. In turn, these improvements created additional fiscal space to enhance programs aimed at improving citizens lives – creating a truly ‘win-win’ scenario that other countries might be able to learn from!

------
Piotr Arak is the Head of the Polish Economic Institute, a governmental think tank in Warsaw.
 

Natural gas and coal: Plunging prices

2 weeks 2 days ago
This blog is the third in a series of nine blogs on commodity market developments, elaborating on themes discussed in April 2019 edition of the World Bank’s Commodity Markets Outlook.
 
Natural gas and coal prices have plunged this year, in sharp contrast to oil prices, which have staged a recovery (see previous blog). The decline has been most pronounced in European natural gas and Asian liquefied natural gas (LNG) spot prices, which are down more than 50 percent relative to their peak in September. Coal prices have fallen by 30 percent, on average, since their peak in August. The decline has been caused by weak demand and a sharp increase in LNG exports from the United States and Australia. Prices are expected to recover somewhat from current levels as demand recovers, according to our latest Commodity Markets Outlook.
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Natural gas prices have declined sharply since the start of the year, with the wedge between the three main spot prices narrowing dramatically. Spot prices in Europe and Asia, which had risen in the second half of 2018, plunged in March and April. The fall was triggered by weaker demand due to mild weather and the restarting of nuclear power plants in Japan, as well as greater availability of LNG. Prices in the United States have also fallen after a brief surge in late 2018, amid ample production of natural gas from shale fields.
 

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Global exports of LNG have been rising steadily. Exports from the United States rose 50 percent to 3 bcf/d in 2018 and are expected to double to 6.1 bcf/d by the end of 2019. Surging production of natural gas in the U.S. has facilitated an increase in LNG exports, despite a 10 percent jump in U.S. natural gas consumption in 2018. LNG export capacity in Australia and Qatar has also increased substantially and is set to grow further.
Over the next two years prices are expected to recover from their current lows as demand picks up but remain below 2018 averages. Further ahead, the increase in LNG capacity is set to alter the composition of natural gas markets, which have historically seen prices linked to oil prices. The expansion of long-distance gas trade via LNG tankers will cause price differentials between different locations to shrink. This will be good news for importers of natural gas.
 
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Coal prices fell 7.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019 (q/q) following steep declines in the second half of 2018. In advanced economies, demand for coal declined in favor of natural gas, particularly for electricity generation. Seaborne prices have also been affected by China’s decision to curb imports of coal from Australia, its biggest supplier.  

Coal demand growth muted, driven by China and India

Coal prices are expected to partially recover from their current levels and average $94/mt in 2019, a 12.1 percent decline from 2018, reflecting the weakness in natural gas prices, as well as muted demand. The ongoing shift away from coal to natural gas in electricity generation is expected to continue. The medium-term outlook depends heavily on policy decisions in China and India, particularly environmental policies aimed at reducing air pollution. Together, the two countries account for more than 60 percent of global coal consumption and have been the main engines of growth in demand.
 

The unequal burden for new mothers in the Caribbean

2 weeks 2 days ago

This blog is a part of a series using data from the Women, Business and the Law project. The data explores legal and regulatory challenges faced by women through different stages of their working lives. Launched in February 2019, Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform analyses data for eight indicators over the past decade for 187 economies.


When I was born in Trinidad and Tobago, my mother took leave from work to care for me. She did it alone as no national law empowered my father to do so. My father could only afford to take time off from work for two days after my birth. Not much has changed since I was born: today, no Caribbean country contains adequate national legislation for paternity leave.
 
The recently released Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform shows that, on average, countries in the Caribbean score 27 out of 100 in the Having Children indicator, which examines laws affecting women’s return to work after childbirth. Meanwhile, the average for the rest of Latin America in this indicator is 60 and the global average is 54, meaning there is a lot that Caribbean countries can do to catch up. 
Provide adequate maternity leave, paid for by the government.
 
Only Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago have paid leave of at least 14 weeks available to mothers, which is the minimum standard recognized by the International Labor Organization. Additionally, [[tweetable]]Barbados, Belize, Guyana, St. Kitts & Nevis, and St. Lucia are the only Caribbean countries where the government pays 100% of maternity leave benefits, making it less expensive for employers to hire women of child-bearing age[[/tweetable]]. Research shows that employer liability schemes work against the interests of women workers by placing the financial burden on employers and creating a possible source of discrimination against women. This is why it is important that the government pay 100% of maternity leave benefits.
 
Provide paid leave for fathers.
 
To facilitate mothers’ return to work after giving birth and fathers’ uptake of shared childcare responsibilities, governments should allow for paid paternity and parental leave. In the Caribbean, the only country with paid paternity leave is the Dominican Republic, which has 2 days. Jamaica has taken an important step towards introducing paternity leave by starting consultations.
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Prohibit dismissal of pregnant workers.   There is no national legislation that protects pregnant workers from being dismissed in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Suriname or Trinidad and Tobago. 

  Equality of opportunity between men and women must become a fact of business life across the Caribbean. Reforming laws to ease leave burdens and protect pregnant workers is a first step towards helping women return to work after having children. 

Mainstreaming road safety audits: Making Indian roads safer

2 weeks 2 days ago
Photo: Paul Hamilton/Flickr India’s roads claim 150,000 lives a year, with more than 500,000 seriously injured, and the figures have been steadily increasing for the last 25 years, according to Government estimates. The human cost of this road safety crisis is enormous, and so is the impact on India’s economic outlook. A recent study by the World Bank with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies found that reducing road mortality and injuries by 50 percent could boost India’s GDP by as much as 14 percentage points of GDP over 24 years.

But India is now seizing a unique opportunity to reverse this trend. As part of a national push for modernizing and improving the country’s network, tens of thousands of kilometers of roads are being constructed by the central Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and state agencies. And they are committed to make road safety a central part of this effort.

Among the several initiatives being implemented, a key one is the Road Safety Audit.

Until 2014 road safety audits were rare and not required in India. A World Bank-financed initiative—the National Highways Interconnectivity Improvement Project (NHIIP)—helped introduce systematic use of design-stage road safety audits across India’s road system, starting with the project’s 1,100 km of roads.

Among the changes made possible under the audits were geometric design improvements allowing for better geometry and sight distance, the incorporation of speed calming measures, pedestrian facilities, junction improvements, crash barriers, signs and markings and more. All these road safety features increased costs by less than 5 percent.
However, to mainstream and sustain such efforts, a multi-pronged approach was required:
  • First, a mandate in 2014 MoRTH mandated and issued guidelines to its agencies that all road projects costing more than $800,000 will have to mandatorily undergo road safety audits. Subsequently, MoRTH updated and issued detailed guidelines based on experience and feedback.  

  • Complemented with standardized procedures in the form of a Road Safety Audit Manual to guide and standardize the audit process. This manual thoroughly covered the procedures to carry out road safety audits at the design, construction, and operation stages, with illustrative examples. The Indian Roads Congress (IRC) deliberated this draft in their committees and came up with a final product which is now under print, and will apply for all the types of roads in the country’s network: National Highways, State Highways, District and Village Roads, and Rural Roads.

  • And a sustained capacity building effort.  MoRTH is also undertaking a massive effort to build capacity of its agencies and the state Public Works Departments in road safety. It has roped in many educational institutes and individual experts through a specialized training agency to conduct free-of-cost training on road safety and road safety audits to all the staff involved in preparation and implementation of projects. So far, about 2,000 staff have been trained and very soon training of consultants and contractors’ staff will also start.

  • Contracting measures to transfer the onus for road safety to contractors. During this time MoRTH was also exploring contracting innovations that transferred much higher ownership and accountability to contractors. MoRTH made road safety an integral element of contracts by drafting bidding documents that required the contractors to (a) employ a Safety Consultant and conduct road safety audit, (b) deploy qualified safety staff in its team for the entire construction period, (c) prepare a traffic management and safety plan, (d) develop a monitoring and evaluation mechanism, and (e) agree to a penalty structure including stringent measures such as suspension of works. All these measures are helping in bringing in ‘safety culture’ in implementation of projects. Finally, the MoRTH has started procurement of a consultant firm to develop and implement an Integrated Road Accident Database Management System. This will be a web-based system compatible with mobile phone operating systems and with proper linkages to other systems maintained by the Transport, Police and Health departments, and use Artificial Intelligence for predictive modelling.
India is taking bold and innovative steps to tackling its road safety challenge. The proof of the pudding will be in making full use of the audits for the continuous evaluation and taking of corrective steps to keep India’s roads safe now and in the future.


If you want  wide range of technical road safety publications are available from the Indian Roads Congress.
 

Enabling more Pakistani women to work

2 weeks 2 days ago
Student at Hunerkada College of Visual and Performing Arts. Photo: World Bank

This blog is part of a series that discusses findings from the Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future report, which identifies the changes necessary for Pakistan to become a strong upper middle-income country by the time it turns 100 years old in 2047. 

[[tweetable]]There is a broad consensus that no country can progress without the full participation of women in public life[[/tweetable]].

Most of the positive attributes associated with development – rising productivity, growing personal freedom and mobility, and innovation – require increasing the participation of excluded groups.

[[tweetable]]Pakistan stands near the bottom of women’s participation in the workforce. [[/tweetable]]This lack of participation is at the root of many of the demographic and economic constraints that Pakistan faces.

It is in that context that the World Bank, in its Pakistan@100 initiative, has identified inclusive growth as one of the key factors to the country’s successful transition to an upper-middle income country by 2047.

[[tweetable]]Pakistan’s inclusive growth targets require women’s participation in the workforce to rise from a current 26 percent to 45 percent[[/tweetable]].

Women’s participation rate has almost doubled in 22 years (1992-2014) but the increase isn’t happening fast enough and with much of our population in the youth category, we need to rapidly take measures to address gaps in women’s work status to achieve our goal.

Focus should be on the following priority areas:

Increase access to education, reproductive health services: [[tweetable]]Half of Pakistani women have not attended school.[[/tweetable]] Presently only 10 percent of women have post-secondary education whereas their chances of working for pay increase three-fold with post-secondary education compared to women with primary education. More educated women are also more likely to get better quality jobs. 

Pakistan also couldn’t meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of reducing maternal mortality ratio to 150. The government must implement anti early age marriage laws and invest in transforming behaviors of parents and society on such practices. This will allow girls to have more years of education and have better reproductive health outcomes. [[tweetable]]Fertility decline related behavioral change efforts are also critical in addition to improved service delivery to enable women to have healthier lives and find better economic opportunities[[/tweetable]].  

Unpaid Care Work and informal economy:  [[tweetable]]Women are 10 times more involved in household chores, child and elderly care than men in Pakistan.[[/tweetable]] This leads to women being more time poor and having less time to spend in gaining skills and getting jobs.

Social norms also do not support women’s involvement in economic activity outside their homes and this forces them to either fall back in the informal sector (women are heavily concentrated in it) and rely upon unskilled or low skilled jobs (mostly home-based) or to simply not participate in the wider economy. Adoption and effective implementation of home-based and domestic workers laws can address informal economy issues of extremely low wages and lack of access to social security.

The burden of unpaid care work with high fertility rate is in many ways at the root of all of these problems because more children result in more unpaid care work and it also means that women will be in poorer health conditions especially in lower and middle-income levels rendering them unable to acquire the skills needed for gainful employment opportunities.

While recognizing women’s overwhelming engagement in unpaid care work, private and public sector must contribute to reducing the burden by for example investing in daycare centers and adequate maternity and paternity leaves. As part of a wider behavioral transformation process, men in the family need to start sharing unpaid care work with women.

Student at Hunerkada College of Visual and Performing Arts. Photo: World Bank

Safer public spaces: [[tweetable]]Less than half of women surveyed in a 2013 study reported that they feel safe while walking around in their neighborhoods[[/tweetable]] and such women are also more likely to work than women who do not feel safe. Effective implementation of laws on sexual harassment and violence against women will encourage more women to engage in economic activity outside their homes.

Regular massive awareness-raising campaigns are needed to change social norms that perpetuate gender-based violence both at homes and outside. [[tweetable]]Government and other partners must work towards making harassment-free transport options available for women to access jobs[[/tweetable]].  

Availability of gender friendly services at workplaces: Formal sector has massive disparities in terms of women’s underrepresentation in almost all areas of economic activity. A recent study highlights that Pakistan has the highest gender wage gap in the world that gets more pronounced by women’s minimal representation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields because apparently women in some of these fields experience relatively less wage disparity (10 percent) compared to other sectors.

Women with the requisite educational qualifications also find that prospective employers don’t have the ability or will to address the needs of their women employees. This partly explains the phenomenon of highly educated women – for instance, doctors – opting out of the careers they are qualified for.

Their degrees or their qualifications are often seen as an asset in terms of improving their marriage prospects rather than contributing to society at large.  Private and public sector must provide basic facilities such as separate washrooms, effective anti-sexual harassment mechanisms and residential facilities for women’s increased participation.

Enabling environment for women-owned businesses: Globally women-owned businesses are found to hire more women. Pakistan has only one percent of women entrepreneurs because they experience several challenges including limited access to finance and markets. [[tweetable]]Punjab has adopted inheritance laws reforms to improve women’s access to their inherited agricultural land and urban property that can also improve their access to finance[[/tweetable]].

Pakistan needs its women to enter the workforce and thrive in public and economic life. [[tweetable]]Investment in human capital, gender-sensitive policies and transforming social norms can change the status of women’s economic participation[[/tweetable]] and put the country in the direction of growth and prosperity.

[[tweetable]]Without increasing women’s participation, Pakistan cannot meet its development targets or reasonably expect to become a competitive state and society in the 21st century.[[/tweetable]]

This article was originally published on March 22, 2019, in Dawn newspaper.

Measuring electricity access amidst active conflict: Lessons from Yemen

2 weeks 2 days ago


The conflict in Yemen is entering its fifth year. The humanitarian and economic costs are devastating, and the country’s ailing infrastructure is collapsing. [[tweetable]]Public electricity is almost nonexistent in many parts of the country, including Sana’a, Yemen's most populous city with more than two million people[[/tweetable]]. Hospitals cannot provide many critical services, and children cannot study into the evenings.
 
[[tweetable]]Access to electricity has always been an issue for many households in Yemen. Little more than two thirds of the poor had access to electricity when it was last formally measured in 2014[[/tweetable]], the lowest such rate in the Middle East.
 
But things deteriorated rapidly when the conflict started. In March 2015, the country’s largest power plant in Marib, responsible for powering most of the country, went offline and represented a turning point for the country’s electricity sector. The high price of power from private generators and frequent fuel shortages meant that most Yemenis were thrown into the dark.
 
Necessity is the mother of innovation
 
What followed the collapse of the public utility was a surprising and unlikely success story amid otherwise troubling circumstances.
 
Ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit helped the private sector step in to fill the void left by the absence of public utilities. Several firms started importing cheap solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The number of solar importers in the country multiplied, while many small electronic retailers started selling solar home systems, encouraged by surging demand. Solar panels started dotting more and more rooftops in Sana’a.
 
[[tweetable]]Today more than half of all Yemenis use solar power as their main source of lighting.[[/tweetable]]
 
But how do we know that?
 
When the World Bank team had an opportunity to design a project in the energy sector in Yemen a critical challenge was to get a better understanding of the conditions on the ground, and the true reach of solar power in Yemen.
 
Innovative ways to measure access during conflict
 
Measuring electricity access has always been a challenge in Yemen but obtaining reliable data has become especially tough since the conflict started. This has been made even more difficult as Bank staff are unable to go on mission. With non-functioning public institutions, innovative measures had to be used to assess the situation on the ground.
 
The World Bank team went about this task in three ways – all requiring opportunistic, practical and collaborative approaches that transcended traditional team boundaries.
 
The first way was to use satellite imagery to evaluate the status of power generation facilities, and social media to evaluate the availability of service in different cities. This assessment could not cover rural areas, but it provided an important glimpse of the status of the sector almost in real time.
 
The second way was a survey with beneficiaries of a World Bank-financed cash transfer program. Two questions on household electricity access were inserted into the survey. Given the nature of the target group, the survey not only captured largely poor households in rural areas but provided an important data point for the design of the energy sector intervention.
 
The third method was to insert questions on electricity services into a phone survey conducted by the World Food Program in 2017. This survey focused on richer, urban households, providing another important piece of the puzzle to understand the situation on the ground.
 
A war-torn country powered by solar
 
Satellite imagery showed that nearly 55 percent of power sector assets (including transmission lines, power stations) currently have some degree of damage, while 8 percent are completely destroyed – all evidence to support our finding that grid access to electricity was dismally low in Yemen.
 
But the results of the surveys showed a silver lining - we found that electricity access rates in rural areas have improved during the conflict.
 
How?

Simply put – solar power. While the three data sources cover different aspects of the problem, they all point towards the emergence of solar as the primary and most competitive source of electricity in the country.
 
The results also show that poor households do not have other viable alternatives compared to richer households, who can rely on expensive private generators to power larger homes and appliances.
  Figure 1: Yemeni Households by Main Energy Source, according to two different surveys
Left: Survey of beneficiaries of a World Bank-funded cash transfer program
Right: Phone survey carried out by the World Food Programme as part of its regular crisis monitoring
The bottom line - [[tweetable]]solar power has emerged as a beacon of light during Yemen’s darkest times and is a prime example of the Bank’s ‘building back better’ approach[[/tweetable]] as the electricity sector will have to integrate distributed energy as part of any post-conflict reconstruction. Yemen’s experience can be an inspiration for war-torn countries like Syria and also for those fleeing such conditions and taking refuge in other countries.

Fintech and capital markets: What next?

2 weeks 3 days ago
© Markus Spiske/Unslash

[[tweetable]]Financing for development is critical. For many developing countries, these gaps undermine prospects of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and supporting vital economic sectors.[[/tweetable]] Efficient and resilient capital markets can help bridge these gaps—like the gap of 1.6 billion people lacking adequate housing, or the $5.2 trillion in financing required for small and medium sized enterprises in the developing world. Capital markets can help crowd-in private capital to finance strategic sectors. Sound local capital markets protect economies from capital-flow volatility and reduce dependency on foreign debt.

[[tweetable]]Engaging with regulators and central banks to address the fine balance between risks and opportunities is a priority area of our work at the World Bank Group’s Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice (FCI).[[/tweetable]] Indeed, for many of our partners and clients, this is a vision defined by high stakes and high-reward applications. And while the case for financial technology is clear in terms of its transformative impact on societies, business models, financial products and the future of markets; its application is still proof of concept. Taking it to the next level from pilot to scale calls for a more rational understanding of the risks and devising proportionate mitigations measures. The focus is driven by a need for standards and principles of market integrity, efficiency and resilience that can secure long term financing needs for developing and emerging economies.    

The experience varies from one country to another. As a global practice, we are constantly exploring questions and possibilities of security, efficiency, accountability that can be tailored to the range of fintech experiences we are supporting. [[tweetable]]It is fair to say that the fintech experience as an expression of how technology is transforming our lives is relatively young, but the pace of change is unprecedented.[[/tweetable]] Our challenge is to cope with the speed of this transformative power in ways that do not undermine our principles but instead, propel change to empower consumers and small businesses while contributing to functional economies.

Among the key principles that is defining progress at this time is this new foundation of trust that is grounded in data transparency that can be shared by all concerned parties. Allowing systems and consumers to come in synch is reducing costs of error and duplication. Action is faster and risk mitigation is earlier. [[tweetable]]Understanding what technology provides and what it does not provide is a fundamental element of our advice to clients.[[/tweetable]]

[[tweetable]]Fintech holds tremendous potential to transform finance and capital markets.[[/tweetable]] Institutions like OECD have been looking at data- driven financial markets and what we can learn from that. At the G20, digital financial education is a priority to ensure the benefits of fintech are shared evenly by consumers as they choose financial products smartly. Much of our work on finance and capital markets is also focused on the foundations of a digital economy that will digitally enable millions of people and small businesses to have access to finance, manage a savings account and securely transfer payments. The progress we are tracking in many economies is faster where policy interventions are not interfering with market fundamentals. Regulators reaching beyond their mandates are experiencing success in protecting consumers, business conduct and laying the foundation for financial stability.

The next chapter in fintech regulation will emphasize proportionality and a shift from regulating institutions to regulating activities. Small fintechs have a very different risk profile from large banks. The need for new rules to cover technologies is important. Rules, however, will need to accommodate the rapidly changing pace of technology. We can only succeed if the rules are tech neutral and based on principles so as not to undermine the prospects of fintech applications in many developing countries.

In the past few years, the emergence of fintech hubs has proven extremely valuable in convening the various stakeholders to share their knowledge, stories of success and challenge, their assessment of risks and opportunities. Engaging with the experts, investors, researchers, banks, consumers and regulators, financial institutions is facilitating the flow of new practices and applications while promoting cross border cooperation within and between jurisdictions that can potentially minimize regulatory arbitrage and fragmentation.

It is true that in many developing economies the infrastructure, institutions and information technology to enable fintech is not very advanced. It is also true that fintech will not substitute for market inefficiencies. The reality, however, is that fintech can make up for many of these gaps.

To learn more about our work in Fintech click here.

Francophone Africa has the most promising tech startups and they are looking for investors

2 weeks 3 days ago
© Nyani Quarmyne/IFC

[[tweetable]]Across Africa, entrepreneurs are harnessing technology and creating innovative solutions to tackle some of the most critical issues facing their country—whether it is access to water and energy, health services or financing.[[/tweetable]] The reality is, in a lot of African countries, many services and products to address these issues don’t exist, so filling the need is in high demand.
 
Yet, many tech startups in Africa that are at the growth stage are facing what is known as the “valley of death”, a period where they are most susceptible to failure. The main challenge for these maturing tech startups is accessing the financing, specifically venture funding, that will help them take their business to scale.
 
[[tweetable]]Despite the proliferation of incubator and accelerator programs in Africa set up to support startups with training and mentorship, there is limited support for companies in the post-revenue, growth stage who are ready to expand regionally.[[/tweetable]] In addition, these local accelerator and incubation programs leave these growth-stage companies in need of additional support to secure investment.
 


In 2017, the World Bank launched XL Africa, a pan-African acceleration program, to overcome the mentoring and investment gap. The goal was to find 20 of the most promising digital start-ups poised for growth and to demonstrate that the continent can produce world-class entrepreneurial talent that is actively using disruptive technologies. XL Africa received over 900 applications. To date, half of the XL Africa portfolio, which includes companies such as CoinAfrique, Rensource, Asoko Insight, Aerobotics and Sendy, has secured almost $20M in funding.
 
Today, the tech startup boom in Africa is heating up. We are seeing a maturing entrepreneurial ecosystem and a rising interest in the potential of local markets. More venture capital funds are being launched to invest in African startups.
 
Yet, some startups may be benefiting from this boom more than others. According to Partech Ventures’ report on startup funding in Africa, amid a record-breaking year for the continent, startup funding in francophone Africa dipped in 2018. Only 1% of the $1.16 billion raised in equity by African Tech Startup in 2018 was allocated to francophone Africa.
 
And yet by 2021, 62.5% of Africa’s fastest growing economies will be in francophone Africa. To harness this potential, the World Bank launched l'Afrique Excelle, to address critical gaps in existing acceleration programs for francophone African entrepreneurs. This segment has been largely underserved since mature entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa are primarily anglophone. L’Afrique Excelle also employs a regional approach – which is critical for entrepreneurs based in smaller markets and internationalization will increase their profitability.
 
L'Afrique Excelle is an investment-readiness accelerator program designed to support the expansion of 20 startups from francophone Africa, seeking to raise early-stage capital between $250,000 to $5M. It is considered a regional adaptation of XL Africa, using the same online curriculum – XL Academy and robust network of ecosystem stakeholders, and continued engagements with the private sector to source and select l’Afrique Excelle cohort. 
 
After receiving 450 applications, our implementing partners, VC4A, Suguba, and Sahel'innov, along with investors from Partech Ventures, Orange Digital Ventures (ODV), Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P), First Growth Ventures, Brightmore Capital, Breega Capital and Proparco, reviewed, scored, and judged the applications. 

The program kicked off in Bamako where the selected 20 startups participated the Mali residency from March 25-29, 2019. The program of the residency consisted of technical workshops on topics important to pre-serie-A startups such as investor readiness, talent management and legal protection.
 
During this time, the Ministers of Digital Economy for Senegal and Mali held an impromptu town hall with the startups and the investor community to understand how policymakers can scale-up similar initiatives nationally.
 
The Mali residency then concluded with a Venture Showcase at the Francophone African Investors Summit, where 10 of the startups were selected to advance to the France residency from May 11-18, 2019. They will also be pitching at the Afrobytes and VivaTechnology conferences in Paris.
 
The World Bank is committed to expanding the digital economy across Africa. The XL Africa and l’Afrique Excelle programs are key to building Africa’s digital entrepreneurship ecosystems—one of the 5 core pillars of the Africa Digital Economy Initiative.
 
Follow the 10 most promising francophone startups next week as they journey through the L’Afrique Excelle French residency culminating with their pitch to investors at the Afrobytes (May 15th) and Vivatech (May 16th) conferences. Follow along at @WBG_Finance.
 
Here is a sneak peek at l’Afrique Excelle’s 10 most promising francophone African startups:
Diool (Fintech), Cameroon
Eyone (Healthtech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger
Firefly Media (Adtech, Transport), Senegal
GiftedMom (Healthtech), Cameroon, Ivory Coast
LAfricaMobile (Connectivity, SaaS, API), Senegal, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso
Paps (Logistics), Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast
Solaris Offgrid (Fintech, SaaS, Solar), Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon, Rwanda
StarNews Mobile (Media), Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast
Sudpay (Fintech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Guinea
Tripafrique (Transport), Ivory Coast   

Francophone Africa has the most promising tech startups and they are looking for investors

2 weeks 3 days ago
© Nyani Quarmyne/IFC

[[tweetable]]Across Africa, entrepreneurs are harnessing technology and creating innovative solutions to tackle some of the most critical issues facing their country—whether it is access to water and energy, health services or financing.[[/tweetable]] The reality is, in a lot of African countries, many services and products to address these issues don’t exist, so filling the need is in high demand.
 
Yet, many tech startups in Africa that are at the growth stage are facing what is known as the “valley of death”, a period where they are most susceptible to failure. The main challenge for these maturing tech startups is accessing the financing, specifically venture funding, that will help them take their business to scale.
 
[[tweetable]]Despite the proliferation of incubator and accelerator programs in Africa set up to support startups with training and mentorship, there is limited support for companies in the post-revenue, growth stage who are ready to expand regionally.[[/tweetable]] In addition, these local accelerator and incubation programs leave these growth-stage companies in need of additional support to secure investment.
 


In 2017, the World Bank launched XL Africa, a pan-African acceleration program, to overcome the mentoring and investment gap. The goal was to find 20 of the most promising digital start-ups poised for growth and to demonstrate that the continent can produce world-class entrepreneurial talent that is actively using disruptive technologies. XL Africa received over 900 applications. To date, half of the XL Africa portfolio, which includes companies such as CoinAfrique, Rensource, Asoko Insight, Aerobotics and Sendy, has secured almost $20M in funding.
 
Today, the tech startup boom in Africa is heating up. We are seeing a maturing entrepreneurial ecosystem and a rising interest in the potential of local markets. More venture capital funds are being launched to invest in African startups.
 
Yet, some startups may be benefiting from this boom more than others. According to Partech Ventures’ report on startup funding in Africa, amid a record-breaking year for the continent, startup funding in francophone Africa dipped in 2018. Only 1% of the $1.16 billion raised in equity by African Tech Startup in 2018 was allocated to francophone Africa.
 
And yet by 2021, 62.5% of Africa’s fastest growing economies will be in francophone Africa. To harness this potential, the World Bank launched l'Afrique Excelle, to address critical gaps in existing acceleration programs for francophone African entrepreneurs. This segment has been largely underserved since mature entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa are primarily anglophone. L’Afrique Excelle also employs a regional approach – which is critical for entrepreneurs based in smaller markets and internationalization will increase their profitability.
 
L'Afrique Excelle is an investment-readiness accelerator program designed to support the expansion of 20 startups from francophone Africa, seeking to raise early-stage capital between $250,000 to $5M. It is considered a regional adaptation of XL Africa, using the same online curriculum – XL Academy and robust network of ecosystem stakeholders, and continued engagements with the private sector to source and select l’Afrique Excelle cohort. 
 
After receiving 450 applications, our implementing partners, VC4A, Suguba, and Sahel'innov, along with investors from Partech Ventures, Orange Digital Ventures (ODV), Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P), First Growth Ventures, Brightmore Capital, Breega Capital and Proparco, reviewed, scored, and judged the applications. 

The program kicked off in Bamako where the selected 20 startups participated the Mali residency from March 25-29, 2019. The program of the residency consisted of technical workshops on topics important to pre-serie-A startups such as investor readiness, talent management and legal protection.
 
During this time, the Ministers of Digital Economy for Senegal and Mali held an impromptu town hall with the startups and the investor community to understand how policymakers can scale-up similar initiatives nationally.
 
The Mali residency then concluded with a Venture Showcase at the Francophone African Investors Summit, where 10 of the startups were selected to advance to the France residency from May 11-18, 2019. They will also be pitching at the Afrobytes and VivaTechnology conferences in Paris.
 
The World Bank is committed to expanding the digital economy across Africa. The XL Africa and l’Afrique Excelle programs are key to building Africa’s digital entrepreneurship ecosystems—one of the 5 core pillars of the Africa Digital Economy Initiative.
 
Follow the 10 most promising francophone startups next week as they journey through the L’Afrique Excelle French residency culminating with their pitch to investors at the Afrobytes (May 15th) and Vivatech (May 16th) conferences. Follow along at @WBG_Finance.
 
Here is a sneak peek at l’Afrique Excelle’s 10 most promising francophone African startups:
Diool (Fintech), Cameroon
Eyone (Healthtech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger
Firefly Media (Adtech, Transport), Senegal
GiftedMom (Healthtech), Cameroon, Ivory Coast
LAfricaMobile (Connectivity, SaaS, API), Senegal, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso
Paps (Logistics), Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast
Solaris Offgrid (Fintech, SaaS, Solar), Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon, Rwanda
StarNews Mobile (Media), Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast
Sudpay (Fintech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Guinea
Tripafrique (Transport), Ivory Coast   

Francophone Africa has the most promising tech startups and they are looking for investors

2 weeks 3 days ago
© Nyani Quarmyne/IFC

[[tweetable]]Across Africa, entrepreneurs are harnessing technology and creating innovative solutions to tackle some of the most critical issues facing their country—whether it is access to water and energy, health services or financing.[[/tweetable]] The reality is, in a lot of African countries, many services and products to address these issues don’t exist, so filling the need is in high demand.
 
Yet, many tech startups in Africa that are at the growth stage are facing what is known as the “valley of death”, a period where they are most susceptible to failure. The main challenge for these maturing tech startups is accessing the financing, specifically venture funding, that will help them take their business to scale.
 
[[tweetable]]Despite the proliferation of incubator and accelerator programs in Africa set up to support startups with training and mentorship, there is limited support for companies in the post-revenue, growth stage who are ready to expand regionally.[[/tweetable]] In addition, these local accelerator and incubation programs leave these growth-stage companies in need of additional support to secure investment.
 


In 2017, the World Bank launched XL Africa, a pan-African acceleration program, to overcome the mentoring and investment gap. The goal was to find 20 of the most promising digital start-ups poised for growth and to demonstrate that the continent can produce world-class entrepreneurial talent that is actively using disruptive technologies. XL Africa received over 900 applications. To date, half of the XL Africa portfolio, which includes companies such as CoinAfrique, Rensource, Asoko Insight, Aerobotics and Sendy, has secured almost $20M in funding.
 
Today, the tech startup boom in Africa is heating up. We are seeing a maturing entrepreneurial ecosystem and a rising interest in the potential of local markets. More venture capital funds are being launched to invest in African startups.
 
Yet, some startups may be benefiting from this boom more than others. According to Partech Ventures’ report on startup funding in Africa, amid a record-breaking year for the continent, startup funding in francophone Africa dipped in 2018. Only 1% of the $1.16 billion raised in equity by African Tech Startup in 2018 was allocated to francophone Africa.
 
And yet by 2021, 62.5% of Africa’s fastest growing economies will be in francophone Africa. To harness this potential, the World Bank launched l'Afrique Excelle, to address critical gaps in existing acceleration programs for francophone African entrepreneurs. This segment has been largely underserved since mature entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa are primarily anglophone. L’Afrique Excelle also employs a regional approach – which is critical for entrepreneurs based in smaller markets and internationalization will increase their profitability.
 
L'Afrique Excelle is an investment-readiness accelerator program designed to support the expansion of 20 startups from francophone Africa, seeking to raise early-stage capital between $250,000 to $5M. It is considered a regional adaptation of XL Africa, using the same online curriculum – XL Academy and robust network of ecosystem stakeholders, and continued engagements with the private sector to source and select l’Afrique Excelle cohort. 
 
After receiving 450 applications, our implementing partners, VC4A, Suguba, and Sahel'innov, along with investors from Partech Ventures, Orange Digital Ventures (ODV), Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P), First Growth Ventures, Brightmore Capital, Breega Capital and Proparco, reviewed, scored, and judged the applications. 

The program kicked off in Bamako where the selected 20 startups participated the Mali residency from March 25-29, 2019. The program of the residency consisted of technical workshops on topics important to pre-serie-A startups such as investor readiness, talent management and legal protection.
 
During this time, the Ministers of Digital Economy for Senegal and Mali held an impromptu town hall with the startups and the investor community to understand how policymakers can scale-up similar initiatives nationally.
 
The Mali residency then concluded with a Venture Showcase at the Francophone African Investors Summit, where 10 of the startups were selected to advance to the France residency from May 11-18, 2019. They will also be pitching at the Afrobytes and VivaTechnology conferences in Paris.
 
The World Bank is committed to expanding the digital economy across Africa. The XL Africa and l’Afrique Excelle programs are key to building Africa’s digital entrepreneurship ecosystems—one of the 5 core pillars of the Africa Digital Economy Initiative.
 
Follow the 10 most promising francophone startups next week as they journey through the L’Afrique Excelle French residency culminating with their pitch to investors at the Afrobytes (May 15th) and Vivatech (May 16th) conferences. Follow along at @WBG_Finance.
 
Here is a sneak peek at l’Afrique Excelle’s 10 most promising francophone African startups:
Diool (Fintech), Cameroon
Eyone (Healthtech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger
Firefly Media (Adtech, Transport), Senegal
GiftedMom (Healthtech), Cameroon, Ivory Coast
LAfricaMobile (Connectivity, SaaS, API), Senegal, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso
Paps (Logistics), Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast
Solaris Offgrid (Fintech, SaaS, Solar), Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon, Rwanda
StarNews Mobile (Media), Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast
Sudpay (Fintech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Guinea
Tripafrique (Transport), Ivory Coast   

Francophone Africa has the most promising tech startups and they are looking for investors

2 weeks 3 days ago
© Nyani Quarmyne/IFC

[[tweetable]]Across Africa, entrepreneurs are harnessing technology and creating innovative solutions to tackle some of the most critical issues facing their country—whether it is access to water and energy, health services or financing.[[/tweetable]] The reality is, in a lot of African countries, many services and products to address these issues don’t exist, so filling the need is in high demand.
 
Yet, many tech startups in Africa that are at the growth stage are facing what is known as the “valley of death”, a period where they are most susceptible to failure. The main challenge for these maturing tech startups is accessing the financing, specifically venture funding, that will help them take their business to scale.
 
[[tweetable]]Despite the proliferation of incubator and accelerator programs in Africa set up to support startups with training and mentorship, there is limited support for companies in the post-revenue, growth stage who are ready to expand regionally.[[/tweetable]] In addition, these local accelerator and incubation programs leave these growth-stage companies in need of additional support to secure investment.
 


In 2017, the World Bank launched XL Africa, a pan-African acceleration program, to overcome the mentoring and investment gap. The goal was to find 20 of the most promising digital start-ups poised for growth and to demonstrate that the continent can produce world-class entrepreneurial talent that is actively using disruptive technologies. XL Africa received over 900 applications. To date, half of the XL Africa portfolio, which includes companies such as CoinAfrique, Rensource, Asoko Insight, Aerobotics and Sendy, has secured almost $20M in funding.
 
Today, the tech startup boom in Africa is heating up. We are seeing a maturing entrepreneurial ecosystem and a rising interest in the potential of local markets. More venture capital funds are being launched to invest in African startups.
 
Yet, some startups may be benefiting from this boom more than others. According to Partech Ventures’ report on startup funding in Africa, amid a record-breaking year for the continent, startup funding in francophone Africa dipped in 2018. Only 1% of the $1.16 billion raised in equity by African Tech Startup in 2018 was allocated to francophone Africa.
 
And yet by 2021, 62.5% of Africa’s fastest growing economies will be in francophone Africa. To harness this potential, the World Bank launched l'Afrique Excelle, to address critical gaps in existing acceleration programs for francophone African entrepreneurs. This segment has been largely underserved since mature entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa are primarily anglophone. L’Afrique Excelle also employs a regional approach – which is critical for entrepreneurs based in smaller markets and internationalization will increase their profitability.
 
L'Afrique Excelle is an investment-readiness accelerator program designed to support the expansion of 20 startups from francophone Africa, seeking to raise early-stage capital between $250,000 to $5M. It is considered a regional adaptation of XL Africa, using the same online curriculum – XL Academy and robust network of ecosystem stakeholders, and continued engagements with the private sector to source and select l’Afrique Excelle cohort. 
 
After receiving 450 applications, our implementing partners, VC4A, Suguba, and Sahel'innov, along with investors from Partech Ventures, Orange Digital Ventures (ODV), Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P), First Growth Ventures, Brightmore Capital, Breega Capital and Proparco, reviewed, scored, and judged the applications. 

The program kicked off in Bamako where the selected 20 startups participated the Mali residency from March 25-29, 2019. The program of the residency consisted of technical workshops on topics important to pre-serie-A startups such as investor readiness, talent management and legal protection.
 
During this time, the Ministers of Digital Economy for Senegal and Mali held an impromptu town hall with the startups and the investor community to understand how policymakers can scale-up similar initiatives nationally.
 
The Mali residency then concluded with a Venture Showcase at the Francophone African Investors Summit, where 10 of the startups were selected to advance to the France residency from May 11-18, 2019. They will also be pitching at the Afrobytes and VivaTechnology conferences in Paris.
 
The World Bank is committed to expanding the digital economy across Africa. The XL Africa and l’Afrique Excelle programs are key to building Africa’s digital entrepreneurship ecosystems—one of the 5 core pillars of the Africa Digital Economy Initiative.
 
Follow the 10 most promising francophone startups next week as they journey through the L’Afrique Excelle French residency culminating with their pitch to investors at the Afrobytes (May 15th) and Vivatech (May 16th) conferences. Follow along at @WBG_Finance.
 
Here is a sneak peek at l’Afrique Excelle’s 10 most promising francophone African startups:
Diool (Fintech), Cameroon
Eyone (Healthtech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger
Firefly Media (Adtech, Transport), Senegal
GiftedMom (Healthtech), Cameroon, Ivory Coast
LAfricaMobile (Connectivity, SaaS, API), Senegal, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso
Paps (Logistics), Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast
Solaris Offgrid (Fintech, SaaS, Solar), Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon, Rwanda
StarNews Mobile (Media), Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast
Sudpay (Fintech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Guinea
Tripafrique (Transport), Ivory Coast   

Francophone Africa has the most promising tech startups and they are looking for investors

2 weeks 3 days ago
© Nyani Quarmyne/IFC

[[tweetable]]Across Africa, entrepreneurs are harnessing technology and creating innovative solutions to tackle some of the most critical issues facing their country—whether it is access to water and energy, health services or financing.[[/tweetable]] The reality is, in a lot of African countries, many services and products to address these issues don’t exist, so filling the need is in high demand.
 
Yet, many tech startups in Africa that are at the growth stage are facing what is known as the “valley of death”, a period where they are most susceptible to failure. The main challenge for these maturing tech startups is accessing the financing, specifically venture funding, that will help them take their business to scale.
 
[[tweetable]]Despite the proliferation of incubator and accelerator programs in Africa set up to support startups with training and mentorship, there is limited support for companies in the post-revenue, growth stage who are ready to expand regionally.[[/tweetable]] In addition, these local accelerator and incubation programs leave these growth-stage companies in need of additional support to secure investment.
 


In 2017, the World Bank launched XL Africa, a pan-African acceleration program, to overcome the mentoring and investment gap. The goal was to find 20 of the most promising digital start-ups poised for growth and to demonstrate that the continent can produce world-class entrepreneurial talent that is actively using disruptive technologies. XL Africa received over 900 applications. To date, half of the XL Africa portfolio, which includes companies such as CoinAfrique, Rensource, Asoko Insight, Aerobotics and Sendy, has secured almost $20M in funding.
 
Today, the tech startup boom in Africa is heating up. We are seeing a maturing entrepreneurial ecosystem and a rising interest in the potential of local markets. More venture capital funds are being launched to invest in African startups.
 
Yet, some startups may be benefiting from this boom more than others. According to Partech Ventures’ report on startup funding in Africa, amid a record-breaking year for the continent, startup funding in francophone Africa dipped in 2018. Only 1% of the $1.16 billion raised in equity by African Tech Startup in 2018 was allocated to francophone Africa.
 
And yet by 2021, 62.5% of Africa’s fastest growing economies will be in francophone Africa. To harness this potential, the World Bank launched l'Afrique Excelle, to address critical gaps in existing acceleration programs for francophone African entrepreneurs. This segment has been largely underserved since mature entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa are primarily anglophone. L’Afrique Excelle also employs a regional approach – which is critical for entrepreneurs based in smaller markets and internationalization will increase their profitability.
 
L'Afrique Excelle is an investment-readiness accelerator program designed to support the expansion of 20 startups from francophone Africa, seeking to raise early-stage capital between $250,000 to $5M. It is considered a regional adaptation of XL Africa, using the same online curriculum – XL Academy and robust network of ecosystem stakeholders, and continued engagements with the private sector to source and select l’Afrique Excelle cohort. 
 
After receiving 450 applications, our implementing partners, VC4A, Suguba, and Sahel'innov, along with investors from Partech Ventures, Orange Digital Ventures (ODV), Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P), First Growth Ventures, Brightmore Capital, Breega Capital and Proparco, reviewed, scored, and judged the applications. 

The program kicked off in Bamako where the selected 20 startups participated the Mali residency from March 25-29, 2019. The program of the residency consisted of technical workshops on topics important to pre-serie-A startups such as investor readiness, talent management and legal protection.
 
During this time, the Ministers of Digital Economy for Senegal and Mali held an impromptu town hall with the startups and the investor community to understand how policymakers can scale-up similar initiatives nationally.
 
The Mali residency then concluded with a Venture Showcase at the Francophone African Investors Summit, where 10 of the startups were selected to advance to the France residency from May 11-18, 2019. They will also be pitching at the Afrobytes and VivaTechnology conferences in Paris.
 
The World Bank is committed to expanding the digital economy across Africa. The XL Africa and l’Afrique Excelle programs are key to building Africa’s digital entrepreneurship ecosystems—one of the 5 core pillars of the Africa Digital Economy Initiative.
 
Follow the 10 most promising francophone startups next week as they journey through the L’Afrique Excelle French residency culminating with their pitch to investors at the Afrobytes (May 15th) and Vivatech (May 16th) conferences. Follow along at @WBG_Finance.
 
Here is a sneak peek at l’Afrique Excelle’s 10 most promising francophone African startups:
Diool (Fintech), Cameroon
Eyone (Healthtech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger
Firefly Media (Adtech, Transport), Senegal
GiftedMom (Healthtech), Cameroon, Ivory Coast
LAfricaMobile (Connectivity, SaaS, API), Senegal, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso
Paps (Logistics), Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast
Solaris Offgrid (Fintech, SaaS, Solar), Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Cameroon, Rwanda
StarNews Mobile (Media), Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast
Sudpay (Fintech), Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Guinea
Tripafrique (Transport), Ivory Coast   

A different take on “Targeting the Ultra-Poor” programs

2 weeks 3 days ago

Almost exactly four years ago, I wrote a blog post, titled “Poverty Reduction: Sorting Through the Hype,” which described the paper by Banerjee et al. (2015) in Science on the impacts of the ultra-poor graduation approach, originally associated with BRAC in Bangladesh, in six countries. Now comes a new paper by Naila Kabeer, which reports the findings from a qualitative evaluation, which was conducted in two of the six study sites. The paper aims to provide a different perspective to the RCT by digging deeper into issues regarding implementation (including random assignment in the RCT), refusal of take-up, and mediation of effects (or lack thereof) through differences in environment and household characteristics.

While I always like to start with what I liked about a paper, here, for the sake of the reader’s full understanding of the comparisons between the RCT findings and the qualitative study, I need to point out an unfortunate fact. While the qualitative work took place in the same general areas as the study sites, no qualitative work (at least not by the team that included Prof. Kabeer) was conducted in places where the RCT collected data and vice versa. This, despite the fact that the areas the qualitative team worked in (described as a few hundred miles away, which does not seem close to me in absolute terms) had the same procedures of identification of households, random assignment, etc. The short Section 3.1 gives some clues about why the RCT was not conceived as one mixed-methods evaluation rather than two separate studies with different methodologies in different sites, but the fact that a team of BRAC Development Institute and IDS (funded by MasterCard) conducted a study in separate locations than the RCT is simply unfortunate. Many times, throughout reading this otherwise nice and useful paper, I just wished to know what the larger sample quantitative data would have said about the same respondents. Alas, they were not interviewed by the other set of researchers…

Nonetheless, I learned a fair amount from sections 2-4, which provided useful context for the TUP operations in the Sindh (Pakistan) and West Bengal (India). The settings are quite different, including many factors that would reasonably affect project success, such as isolation vs. connectedness of the study villages; role of village elites, NGOs, men, and intra-household dynamics; ability and flexibility of the NGOs to adapt when the basic TUP template needs to be tweaked; social and cultural norms regarding women’s participation in the necessary activities, etc. In fact, by simply laying these out, the qualitative study does a service to the RCT and its readers by laying bare the most glaring shortcoming of a six-country study published in a journal like Science: the template simply does not allow for this kind of detail to be provided as background context – not only in each country, but site by site within countries. Some might say the reporting of the plain facts alone (averaged and analyzed for some basic heterogeneity) without the interpretation of data from small samples in the qualitative study (QS from hereon) is a strength and not a weakness, but it would be hard to argue that we, as the readers, the researchers, and perhaps most of all future adopters would not benefit from the qualitative work. I have more to say on this below, towards the end of the post…

From the qualitative study, we learn a lot. For example, there is evidence that the random assignment procedure may not have been followed by the NGO in the Sindh, who, instead, might have chosen the beneficiaries based on their relationship to the elites. Note that different NGOs were working at different sites even within countries, so this may not have necessarily happened in the RCT sample. Furthermore, the evidence does not actually come from the qualitative work but another independent process-evaluation type study. Nonetheless, it’s not encouraging that procedures were not followed when public lotteries were envisioned.

Much more interesting, however, are discussions of refusal to take up the intervention in West Bengal, how this might have been associated with religion (Muslim villages and households might have been suspicious about the aims of the project, while Muslim women might have had a hard time trying to take advantage of the interventions provided by the program); the suitability of livestock rearing in the arid site in the Sindh; how the NGO in West Bengal was able to change course based on early feedback on which households fared better with what type of entrepreneurial activity; the categorization of households as slow or fast climbers based on a subjective-wellbeing scale and asset accumulation; discussions of the importance of certain eligibility criteria, such as the existence able-bodied male adults in the household; chronic illnesses and availability of health care; the cooperation or lack thereof between husbands and wife; higher mobility and empowerment of certain groups of women at baseline (influential in taking advantage of what’s on offer), etc. I really enjoyed reading these sections, plus I am a sucker for quotes from study participants (even though I try to be aware of the dangers of building elaborate narratives from a quote or two).

While the issues raised by the QS might be cause for some worry regarding internal and external validity of the findings in the RCT, I found that the two studies generally agree with each other. The qualitative study is generally careful and fair in its discussion of how the RCT dealt with the issues of non-compliance, attrition analysis, and the like (nothing non-standard that we need to get into). The weakness of the RCT is, in my mind, not in bias in any obvious way, but in the lack of detail it is able to provide. For example, the issue of low take-up is dealt with by the adoption of the standard ITT estimation – households that did not get treated in the treatment group are still in the sample. Looking at India in the science paper, the effects are huge, which is doubly surprising: the standardized effects on assets and incomes are upwards of 0.5 SD (the internal rate of return is also highest in West Bengal at 23%). But, if we assume that take-up rates were equally low (about 50%) in RCT sites, the ToT effects would have to be double these already unusually high impacts, i.e. huge. Had I known about this issue when I was writing my blog, I would have certainly raised it as a question mark. Kabeer (2019) relates this issue to the quantile regression analysis in Banerjee et al. (2015) and suggests that it may partly explain why we see higher quintiles doing better. Other issues such as the possibility of spillover effects (both countries had individual, rather than cluster, randomization) are also fair, something I raised in my blog four years ago.

It’s important to note that we are judging studies that were planned almost 15 years ago by today’s norms and standards, which is not fair. I don’t think anyone would design such a transfer program as an individually-randomized RCT today, but it was not so obvious a decade ago. The study had a spillover design in some sites, but not others.

Another interesting takeaway from the QS is the roles of the NGOs. For example in West Bengal, the NGO responsible for project implementation in the RCT areas excluded the possibility of self-help groups (SHG) and microfinance clients (in line with the eligibility rules), as such households are also more likely to benefit from other anti-poverty programs. The NGO in the QS area, however, did explicitly make use of SHGs, which was one of its own strengths and might have contributed significantly to the proposed success of the project, by allowing women to bond together, learn from each other, hide their savings in that formal setup (“saving by the book”), and provided them loans with better terms than available otherwise. The NGO in the RCT might have also steered initially unsuccessful participants from livestock rearing towards vegetable growing and other activities and reallocated livestock to better-off, more experienced families. Such adaptation of a basic intervention template to local circumstances seems key, but also introduces heterogeneity of outcomes based on the quality of the chosen implementer. In contrast, the NGO in the Sindh does not come across in the best light, failing to follow instructions and making key errors in judgment (it’s not clear whether these were avoidable or only clearer in hindsight). You can already see why it is unfortunate that we don’t have all these data from a subset of the study villages…

Sure, the sample size in the QS is small (20 in each site, if I am correct) and self-admittedly so, but there is nonetheless a wealth of information here, which help provide context, formulate some hypothesis for further testing, for heterogeneity analysis, and yes, even to assess bias and external validity. So, it pains me more to say that Sections 1 (introduction) and 5 (conclusion) are just discordant with the rest of the paper. Why make this a paper that sounds like it is mainly a critique of RCTs in development economics? Maybe, the author thinks repetition is good and useful? If so, I disagree: the mentions of the paper on Twitter, including by the author herself emphasizing the shortcomings of RCTs, certainly did not make me want to read the paper.

These critiques, which seems to have caused the author to spend an inordinate amount of time whether the assignment was really randomized or not, don’t add value to the paper or the literature. And, they sometimes obfuscate or confuse issues by accident. Program take-up is a completely different issue of non-compliance than randomization procedures, yet they are discussed together. The former is not only a common issue, but also in no way limited to RCTs. The mention of methods employed ex poste to deal with econometric issues feels dated. Sentences like “…RCTs frequently do not collect information on [relevant] variables because they do not consider them relevant to their experiment or even know what they might be” are both unnecessary and unfair to a lot of researchers in the field. What is fair is the statement that the RCT findings could have been interpreted much better with more knowledge of the local context and the trial population (compared with the target population IF they differ). It’s also fun to read the paragraph in the final section about mundane reasons (arising from the QS study) as to why the program effects might have been small in absolute terms in contrast with the higher-level informed speculations of Banerjee et al. (2015) on poverty traps. There is a dig there in there somewhere...

Two things to round up the discussion. First, I was surprised that there is no discussion (or even a passing mention) of the Bandiera et al. (2017) paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which spun together a much better narrative about the impacts of TUP at both the household level and the changes in these village economies, along with the pathways, such as spillovers, general equilibrium changes, occupational change, etc. I do not remember mention of qualitative data collection reading that study, but I would not be surprised if there was one. If not, the authors show that it is possible to provide much needed context and explanations within a well-designed RCT, who are given room to write all their findings, including the background labor market context, pathways, longer-term findings, etc. Of course, they benefit from working with one, and the original, NGO (BRAC) in Bangladesh, but I have a suspicion that Bandiera et al. would not have provided as fertile ground for a critical comparison of QS vs. RCT.

This brings me to the issue of how to design studies, including plans for endline reporting of all the findings. It is not completely fair to criticize Banerjee et al. (2015) for writing a paper that fit the required template of a journal like Science. Many medical journals, but not economics ones, do the same. In the biomedical/public health field, the Lancet/Science articles are accompanied by a series of secondary publications in other journals. Perhaps, one can take issue with the authors not putting out follow-up papers that provide more in-depth context for the interpretation of findings, but maybe they are using their time better by designing follow-up studies – I don’t know. But, in economics, we have neither the culture nor the incentives to write those secondary papers in lower-tier journals. So, what could be done?

One idea might be to not only pre-register the study and get pre-trial acceptance (a la what the Journal of Development Economics is doing with their new Registered Reports) but be even more ambitious and consider a special issue. Remember the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics special issue that published six RCTs of microcredit? Like that, but even more ambitious... First, all articles rather than just the summary article would be pre-accepted. Second, the main article would be a formal meta-analysis of all country studies, but each country study would be written up separately in the same issue by a different team providing needed context. These papers would not only make use of mixed-methods analysis, but there might also be a final (or first or second) paper in the same special issue that is written by the qualitative methods lead – perhaps providing a different perspective. If you are working on a topic of outsized importance in development economics, have secured funding for a multi-country study, then there is no reason why (a) the study cannot have the best design and data collection efforts possible, and (b) be good enough for pre-registration and acceptance prior to the trial. Crazy? Maybe, but it might at least make some people think about the feasible alternatives.

For me personally, I already have mixed methods RCTs in the field, but will be paying even more attention to the data coming from the qualitative side. Researchers with different traditions of arriving at causal effects might have some discomfort and conflict trying to work closely together, but I do believe that the projects, on average, should benefit from such efforts.

ICT skills training critical for Bangladeshi youth

2 weeks 4 days ago
  Mahmuda Siddika, a tech entrepreneur, from Rajshahi district in Bangladesh. Photo: World Bank



We are now experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Our days are characterized by an explosion of innovative technologies blurring the lines between the physical, digital and cyber realities of our lives. This space is marked by technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, quantum computing, the Internet of Things, fifth-generation wireless technologies (5G), 3D printing and fully autonomous vehicles.

[[tweetable]]To adapt to this new environment and ‘future-proof’ the nation, the youth need to learn how to engage with technology. [[/tweetable]]The Bangladesh government is committed to embracing this new direction and has made digitization a national priority. The government has also called for greater skills development of the youth, especially in Information Communication Technologies (ICT), to ensure their employability in any industry. The National ICT Policy 2009 promotes the use of ICT tools in all levels of education and ensures access to education and research for people with special needs, among other measures. It aims to finally to create a sizeable cohort of ICT professionals who can meet competitive global requirements.

Take Mahmuda Siddika, 27, who owns a technology firm in Rajshahi district. She employs eight people, and supports her parents and children with her income. Mahmuda received training from the Rajshahi Mohila Technical Training Center, one of the polytechnics supported by the Skills and Training Enhancement Project (STEP).

“My business offers repairing services for electronic products and computer equipment. Recently, I won a contract to provide the Government of Bangladesh with uninterruptible power supply machines in over 60 sub-districts. I believe my success is entirely due to my training… the program offered me hands-on practical training, industry tours, internships, access to modern training equipment and well-trained teachers, ” she said.

Training institutes like the Rajshahi Mohila Technical Training Center need to build their capacity and infrastructure in order to be to develop strong ICT skills in students. Investment in computer labs, teacher training and electricity is needed, as well as curriculum development, to ensure relevance to industry. Whole professions are now being automated. Activities within occupations are being automated. This means, a car mechanic need not be a technology expert, but he or she needs to be familiar with those aspects of automobile repair that are being automated. Thus [[tweetable]]the competencies within occupations need to be systematically revised and updated to meet industry needs. [[/tweetable]]

Given today’s pace of technology change and integration in a globalized business environment, high-level cognitive skills are in demand. Employers want workers who can operate necessary technologies and also think critically and communicate clearly. Polytechnics are gearing up to strengthen training on problem-solving and communication skills. The recent World Development Report: Learning to Realize Education's Promise showed that the learning outcomes of students at schools in Bangladesh are still very low. Vocational training institutes must compensate and often help students overcome weaknesses in basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Germany, which rank highest in the Global Innovation Index, achieved very low youth unemployment because their training system is based on the shared responsibility of the training sector and employers and trade unions, as well as the state, all of whom invest time and money, working together, to ensure the success of their training system. At the same time, all partners benefit from a common and formal regulatory framework which includes training legislation, a common institutional anchoring and appropriate decision-making bodies for their vocational training institutes. Thus the countries are able to keep the qualification level of employees high.

According to the Survey on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Education in India and South Asia commissioned by infoDev, South Asian countries recognize the importance of ICT in education, and as such, recommend ICT as a subject in the curriculum. The corresponding establishment of computer laboratories is a key focus in the policy framework for all South Asian countries.

[[tweetable]]Most of the countries in the South Asia region have realized the need for training teachers in ICT and have launched various professional development initiatives. [[/tweetable]]However, many of these training activities to date focus mainly on computer literacy instead of enabling teachers to integrate ICT in their day-to-day teaching activities, and master the use of ICT as an effective tool to improve teaching and learning. Capacity building of teachers and administrators is therefore increasingly being recognized in all the countries as critical to the success or failure of an initiative. Some of the most successful ICT for Education initiatives are targeted towards teacher education and training.

For Bangladesh, the study says mobile coverage reaches 90 percent of the population though there is still scope to increase mobile usage. Despite having extremely affordable mobile services, Internet costs for the country are high, and this results in an extremely low Internet usage rate. Another challenge for the ICT sector is the large digital divide prevalent in the country. [[tweetable]]However, Bangladesh can reap great benefits by integrating ICT in the education system since the country has one language and is densely populated. The extensive coverage of mobile network and other media can be leveraged to serve as a medium to deliver education[[/tweetable]].

Policy makers, practitioners and academia need to consider how to empower students to positively engage with technology. Standalone training on specific machines is not enough. [[tweetable]]Students need exposure to basic science and thinking innovatively from a young age. The skills sector must be rethought and redesigned to reduce the digital divide.[[/tweetable]]

My idea was once crushed for lack of press freedom, but I persisted to follow my dreams

2 weeks 6 days ago
The author with his school friends at Baghdad College in Iraq. © Courtesy of Bassam Sebti

In 1992, I went to Baghdad College, a former Jesuit high school in Iraq. A freshman then, I was full of ambition and interest in writing. So, I decided to create the first school newspaper since the Jesuits were expelled in 1969.

I first pitched the idea to three of my friends. They loved it and supported it. Roles were discussed: I was the main reporter, editor-in-chief and calligrapher; Haider was a reporter; Ali was the producer and Ahmed oversaw production, finances and distribution.
 
We took the idea to the deputy principal, Mr. Usama Al-Douri, who agreed on condition that the paper would provide only educational information and nothing else. Right after that, we gathered at the tennis court and brainstormed what to call the newspaper.
 
Al-Ashabal, Haider suggested. It’s Arabic for lion cubs, in reference to youth and the school students, our main audience. We all agreed. It was the perfect name to resonate with the right audience.
 
We took the plan home where we all got our families’ blessings. I remember I couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about the inception of my idea. My dream was about to come true.
 
Throughout the next week, we had several meetings during class breaks. We interviewed students, created a spreadsheet for finances on paper, of course, because it was still 1992 in Iraq, identified a printing house and started producing the first edition. We hung posters everywhere in the school, advertising the launch. I was the school calligrapher, so I created what was back then considered revolutionary: the newspaper title with the tagline: A weekly informative newspaper for Baghdad College.
 
The school was abuzz, and we were approached by so many students praising and showing their interest in buying the paper. All proceeds went to financing the paper. It was a non-profit project. The first edition was a killer. All 100 copies were sold out on Day 1. For the next two weeks, we had to increase it to 150 to meet demand. We were beyond the moon. We were doing something creative, fun and informative.
 
But, three weeks later, the four of us were summoned to the principal’s office. We had no idea what had happened. We were scared. Why did the most powerful, black-mustached, scary man want to meet us? It had never happened to us before. It meant we were in trouble.
 
We got to his dark, 1920-built office room. I still remember the smell of the worn wooden furniture. He took off his glasses and raised a copy of the first edition of our newspaper and screamed without any previous warning: whose idea was this?
 
I was shaking like I was on a death row. I raised my hand without uttering a word. Inside of me, I was disoriented and confused. Why was he angry? I got the permission from the deputy principal and was highly encouraged by almost everyone.
 
He raised the paper higher and tore it to pieces. “No more [acts] like this from now on,” he screamed. “Don’t you know that such acts need to be approved by the Ministry of Information?”
 
And then it hit me. My heart sank. Of course, it did. We were living under the Saddam Hussein tyrannical regime. All I could think of then was if I was going to be the reason for having me and my entire family be hanged in one of the Ba'ath Party prisons.
 
The principal tore the two other editions and threw the pieces in our faces. "You’d better burn them all before they reach the ministry," he shouted. "I will not report you or punish you for this because you’re good students with high grade."
 
And just like that my project was crushed and we went back from a group of pioneering young student writers to just students following the regime propaganda. That day marked how much I realized that there was no press freedom. I was only 12 and it hit me hard.
 
Years passed, and I couldn't write anything other than school material for exams. I read a lot though. My father kept encouraging me and taking me with him to bookstores and libraries. I fell in love with the English language and went through years of inner conflict on what I wanted to be. I dropped out of engineering school to study English, and so I went to a private school where I got a full tuition scholarship every year for being the top of my class.
 
After graduation in 2003, I joined the Washington Post where I started as an interpreter and then a special correspondent in Iraq where I covered the war along with my American colleagues. Years passed and from one job to another to moving to the United States to get my master’s degree in Writing Studies at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, I set my own career path.
 
[[tweetable]]As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day today, I wish I could see my school principal again to tell him that tearing my newspaper 27 years ago did not stop me from being who I want to be.[[/tweetable]] Against all odds, I became a journalist, a writer and now an editor, and I couldn't be prouder!

Launching global consultations on the World Bank Group’s upcoming Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence

2 weeks 6 days ago
A young child looks on as older boys play football next to a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Mogadishu. © Tobin Jones/United Nations

April marked the official launch of global consultations to inform the World Bank Group’s first-ever Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV). [[tweetable]]Over the next two months, World Bank Group teams will engage with civil society and government representatives, as well as partner organizations and the private sector to discuss priorities and challenges in FCV situations[[/tweetable]], building on the comparative advantage of the Bank Group in fragile settings. As we embark on this process, the most relevant question for us is how to build on progress made and optimize our interventions to be our most effective on the ground, with special focus on making a lasting difference for the most vulnerable populations. Furthermore, in FCV settings, we know that no single organization can act alone – as the World Bank Group, this strategy is about positioning our analytical, operational, and convening power to contribute to broader international efforts in support of peace and prosperity.

[[tweetable]]Fragility, conflict, and violence has become the new development frontier, and is central to the World Bank Group’s mission.[[/tweetable]] By 2030, at least half of the world’s poor will be living in fragile and conflict-affected settings. The global fragility landscape has worsened significantly, with more violent conflicts than at any time in the past 30 years; the largest forced displacement crisis since World War II; high levels of interpersonal and gang violence; conflicts driving 80 percent of all humanitarian needs; and insecurity being the norm in many regions. [[tweetable]]Today, conflict and violence impact more civilians than at any point over the last two decades.[[/tweetable]] FCV situations have a clear impact on poverty, and strikingly, the extreme poverty rate is rising primarily in fragile countries. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Bank Group's twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity will therefore require a concerted effort to tackle the challenges of fragility, conflict, and violence. Through the FCV Strategy, we will keep our focus on how to address some of the key drivers of fragility, conflict and violence in affected countries and their impact on vulnerable populations – notably youth and women – with the end goal of promoting peace and prosperity.
 
The World Bank Group Strategy for FCV will build on and scale up the progress made over the past years, notably with support from the 17th and 18th replenishments of the International Development Association (IDA17 and IDA18) – our fund for low-income countries – and with the General Capital Increase (2018) that strengthened the focus on FCV in middle-income countries. We know that engaging in FCV settings is fundamentally different than engaging in non-FCV situations and that the nature of the support to FCV-affected countries needs to be tailored, innovative, and focused on the drivers of fragility and factors of resilience. It is now critical to systematize and strengthen the collective support of the Bank Group – including the IFC, MIGA and the World Bank – where the needs are the greatest. Recognizing the suffering of those affected by FCV, as well as the lost opportunities that can often span generations, the strategy will take stock of the progress made and identify both what to do and how the institution can adapt to increase its impact in FCV settings. 
 
To address these challenges – in poor countries and increasingly in affected middle-income countries – those of us working on development, humanitarian and security solutions to FCV are developing new approaches, including pivoting to prevention or staying engaged in conflict or crisis situations; deploying new tools, including through concessional financing and blended finance or through the Risk Mitigation Regime under IDA – which offers $1 billion for programs that specifically target the factors that risk fueling conflict; and leveraging new partnerships by developing alliances with a diverse set of partners, including with those that are closest to the ground, our UN partners, as well as with international platforms, to deliver more effectively in insecure and conflict-affected settings.
 
Ultimately, the path from fragility to prosperity calls for well-designed sequencing and prioritization. It is a process that requires a step-by-step approach, trial and error, risk-taking when opportune, and the commitment of multiple stakeholders. While it challenges the notion that economic and social development alone will curb fragility, it also shows how critical a role development plays to sustain efforts towards peace and prosperity. And while we recognize that each FCV situation needs to be treated uniquely, the FCV Strategy will be the opportunity to optimize development support to better address these challenges at global, regional, national and local levels. Most certainly, the strategy will emphasize the importance of mitigating crisis risks, building legitimate and accountable institutions and systems, promoting sustainable private sector solutions, supporting resilient societies and communities, and putting people front and center of our work.

Now, we want to hear from you because only a collective effort will make our endeavor successful. In the coming months, we hope to stress-test key areas and principles of engagement. Through this global conversation, we know that we will find new answers, as well as pose new questions. So, whether it is about how to best invest in prevention, how to enhance our work in the most insecure environments, or how to maximize our operational effectiveness on-the-ground, your voice will be critical to developing a strategy that can strengthen our assistance to those in greatest need of our collective support. 

Originally published on PeaceLab

Digital technology spurring online food retail boom

2 weeks 6 days ago
Left photo: Mobile food delivery person. © Artavazd Hakobayan/World Bank. Right photo: Moscow metro map. © news.metro.ru

From meal orders to grocery delivery, the online market for food is growing globally. Nielsen reported that global online grocery purchases increased 15% between 2016 and 2018. China generates the most revenue in food delivery with a total  of US$38 billion in 2019. Online food sales are also on the rise in the United States. Twenty-three percent of American households bought food online in 2016, a 20% increase from 2014. Russia is no exception to online food retail trends. Between 2015 and 2017, grocery delivery services saw a US$2billion increase (133%).

[[tweetable]]The boom in online food retail is visible in Moscow.[[/tweetable]] On their way to and from work, commuters cannot avoid the bright yellow jackets and cubic backpacks of Yandex Eats deliverers or the similar lime green outfits of Delivery Club workers. The ubiquity of the delivery service uniform is a sign of the vibrant food delivery culture in Russia’s capital.

How did the city’s culture transition from one of homemade meals to this bustling, digital system? We see [[tweetable]]three key factors spurring food delivery expansion in Moscow.[[/tweetable]] First, Moscow boasts a dynamic technology sector. According to the RBK 500: Ratings of Russian Business, the majority of the largest IT, telecommunications, media and internet, and electronics companies in Russia are based in Moscow, including Mail.Ru and Yandex. As such, Moscow is often the first to access new technologies.

Second, [[tweetable]]the proliferation of food delivery technology depends on data access.[[/tweetable]] Food delivery apps depend on complex algorithms to connect customers to deliverers and restaurants as efficiently as possible. Deliveroo, a UK-based delivery service, uses vast quantities of real-time data to assign the best deliverer based on location and transit time, respond to traffic delays, and avoid delivery problems all together.  The opening of data with the launch of the Open Data Portal in 2013, served as the basis for 30 mobile applications. With transit data Yandex Eats and Delivery Club, just like Deliveroo in other countries, can coordinate hassle-free deliveries.

Third, Moscow has strong transportation infrastructure, McKinsey ranks Moscow transit in the top ten urban transportation systems globally. Moscow boasts a 14-line metro system in addition to suburban trains, buses, trolleybuses, and route taxis. Recently, the city also introduced Velobike, a shared bike service with stations throughout Moscow’s Garden Ring and similar electric scooter rental station. Food deliverers take advantage of all of these transportation options---metro, bikes, and scooters---with some even facing the cold and snow on their own bikes in the winter.

[[tweetable]]The uptake of prepared meal delivery in Moscow points to enabling factors that other cities could adopt.[[/tweetable]] Although large IT companies are unlikely to relocate and would not be able to have the same presence in every city as they do in Moscow, regional governments can still encourage growth by supporting platforms for collaboration between IT players and city administrations. Based on the Moscow experience, data openness and transportation system efficiency will also be key points to spreading digital services within and beyond food retail.

On the Agriculture team of the World Bank in Moscow, we are exploring how the same factors enabling the uptake of food delivery may be transforming the larger agricultural sector. In Spring 2019 we will pilot a public-private hackathon model to develop digital technology prototypes for small and medium farmers. Stay tuned for our findings on the emerging benefits of digital technology for small and medium farmers. 

We hope to crowd-in some of the world’s best minds to participate in a global conversation on food and technology through the “What’s cooking? Rethinking farm and food policy in the digital age” blog series. We invite people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to join us and share their comments.

 

Energy prices rise in April—Pink Sheet

2 weeks 6 days ago
Energy commodity prices surged more than 4 percent in April, led by oil (+7.5 percent), the World Bank Pink Sheet reported. However, coal and natural gas prices in the U.S. declined 7 and 10 percent, respectively.

Non-energy prices rose marginally (+0.3 percent), with gains in beverages, fertilizers, and metals offsetting declines in food.

Agricultural prices increased marginally as gains in beverages (+3 percent) were partly balanced by declines in food (-0.3 percent).

Fertilizer prices increased 0.5 percent, led by potassium (+8 percent); TSP and DAP declined 3.5 percent each.

Metals prices gained 0.6 percent as a surge in iron ore (+8.4 percent) was balanced by declines in lead (-5.3 percent) and tin (-3.7 percent).

Precious metals prices declined more than 1 percent in response to declines in silver (-1.6 percent) and gold (-1.2 percent).

 The Pink Sheet is a monthly report that monitors commodity price movements.
  Price changes in April (%) !function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if(void 0!==a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var e in a.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-"+e)||document.querySelector("iframe[src*='"+e+"']");t&&(t.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][e]+"px")}})}();   Major commodity price indexes !function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",function(a){if(void 0!==a.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var e in a.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.getElementById("datawrapper-chart-"+e)||document.querySelector("iframe[src*='"+e+"']");t&&(t.style.height=a.data["datawrapper-height"][e]+"px")}})}();
Price change details

Weekly links May 3: reducing survey non-response or perhaps it is ok, s-values, an award for incentives, and more...

2 weeks 6 days ago
  • On the data blog, Nethra Palaniswamy and Tara Vishwanath ask whether survey non-responses rates are doomed to fall as countries get richer – and explain how this need not be the case, based on their work in Jordan if surveys adapt. They reduced non-response rates in the household income and expenditure survey from a rate of around 43% in 2011, to only 5% in the 2017/18 version.
  • On the other hand, in the Evaluation Review, an article by Hendra and Hill (2018) provocatively argues that there can be little relationship between survey response rates and nonresponse bias (in the U.S.). Using a large survey of 12,000 that had multiple stages of tracking, they simulate what results and treatment vs control balance would look like if response rates were only 40% all the way up to their actual 80%+ - finding only small changes. They conclude “Lower response rate targets may yield results that are as valid, more timely, and less expensive... Accepting lower response rates would also reduce the burden on research subjects who are often subjected to multiple phone calls and invasive home visits”. So next time I struggle to get high response rates, I can just claim that this is a strategic choice? Some interesting bits I learned from this:
    • An 80% survey response rate is the standard for Federally funded public policy research, and is set by OMB. Also “A survey of editors at journals in the social and health sciences found that an 80% response rate is a de facto standard”
    • Reaching this standard is expensive, with survey costs reaching or exceeding US$1,000 per completed survey  in the U.S.!
  • Paul Johnson has a nice summary of some of the great work of Oriana Bandiera and Imran Rasul, for which they were both recently awarded the Yrjo Jahnsson award for best European economist under 45.
  • Paul Hünermund on why you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the coefficients on control variables in regressions when estimating causal effects. Basically because they are probably correlated with other determinants of the outcome that we aren’t conditioning on, and so are just a way of soaking up variation in the outcome, with the coefficients then representing a weighting of multiple causal impacts of these controls.
  • Perhaps s-values are easier to interpret than p-values: “Let’s say our study gives us a P-value of 0.005, which would indicate to many very low compatibility between the test model and the observed data; this would yield an s value of –log2(0.005) = 7.6 bits of information. k which is the closest integer to s would be 8. Thus, the data which yield a P-value of 0.005 are no more surprising than getting all heads on 8 fair coin tosses.”  (h/t Cyrus Samii).
  • Over at the CGD blog, Dave Evans summarizes two recent papers showing that readability boosts citations in economics papers and speculates as to why it might be different in the hard sciences. 

A preventable disaster: Landslides and flooding disaster in Freetown, Sierra Leone

3 weeks 15 hours ago
(Directly below the landslide scar area, which is currently being replanted. Photo credit – Ivan Bruce) Evidence is clear that [[tweetable]]climate change is changing weather patterns, increasing the frequencies and intensities of extreme weather events. Unfortunately, those in the poorest communities are disproportionately affected.[[/tweetable]]

On August 14, 2017 a devastating landslide and flooding disaster ripped through Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown.  This caused millions of dollars of destruction and damage to buildings, infrastructure, and a reported loss of more than a thousand lives. In response, the government of Sierra Leone requested financial and disaster risk management support from the World Bank should such an event reoccur.

Prior to the landslide, Freetown experienced three successive days of intense and heavy rainfall which caused part of Sugar Loaf mountain – the highest peak in the North Western Area Peninsula – to collapse.

With bodies being washed up on the beaches, and bridges connecting communities and water distributions networks completely destroyed, response efforts spanning several sectors required millions of dollars to address the direct losses from the disaster. However, this still left the citizens of Freetown extremely exposed and vulnerable to future disasters.
  Photo 1 – debris and clay washed into the sea,   Photo 2 – damaged housing close to the river bank. Photo credit – World Bank A key consideration in post disaster planning is to ensure that build back better principles are well considered and integrated, so that nobody is left behind during the reconstruction efforts. And engineers, architects, designers, are fundamental in ensuring that appropriate design measures are fully integrated and calculated using accurate data sets.
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After the landslide, the World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), and the European Union commissioned analytical studies of the landslide and geology of surrounding areas. While there was no single cause for the landslide, there were many contributing factors.

A common threat to Freetown is the rapid rate of urbanization, coupled with the increased rate of deforestation. In fact, the area where the landslide occurred was within a protected forestry reserve. However, over time, development of large houses had occurred some illegally (without permits) some with permits (legally). And because of these two factors - housing development and deforestation  soil integrity was weakened and the ability to absorb rain during high rainfall and increased the risk of disaster.

Presented with the analysis of the landslide disaster, the newly elected president of Sierra Leone declared that the landslide area is to be re-designated as a protected forest area a memorial park to those that lost their lives during the disaster. The first locally sourced saplings were planted to mark World Environment Day with a total of 30,000 trees making up the memorial park in the hopes that this symbolic memorial park would deter settlements being built.
  The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security planting a tree on behalf of President Julius Maada Bio. (Photo credit: Asad Naveed [[tweetable]]The inherent difficulty of responding to disasters caused by natural hazards is that there is no “silver bullet” solution.[[/tweetable]] However, trends are indicating that disasters and extreme weather events are becoming a frequent norm, that [[tweetable]]every $1 spent upfront on prevention strategies and disaster risk management will save the $3 required for rebuilding after an event.[[/tweetable]]

It is this need that architects, engineers, urban planners, decision makers, financiers, and citizens need to ensure that our cities are not only equipped to manage disasters, but that our infrastructure is resilient to withstand extreme weather events.

One such recent example was a recent “Resilient Homes Design Challenge,” which challenged teams of architects, designers, engineers and students to design disaster-resilient and sustainable homes that can be constructed for under $10,000 (7,885 GBP) for people living in areas affected by or vulnerable to natural disasters. The winners were recently announced and are due to be exhibited in the World Bank and at other related events. Whilst challenges such as this are excellent in raising awareness and generating innovative approaches to resilient housing, they must not be a one-off event, but rather the beginning of community of engaged designers, architects and homeowners.

To check out the winners more in detail, click here.

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Barriers to urban electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa from the perspective of end-users

3 weeks 16 hours ago

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that going about with your daily life is impossible without electricity. And yet, many face this exact challenge. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), 6 out of 10 people did not have access to electricity in 2016. This problem is not just confined to rural areas; a quarter of those without electricity in the region live in urban zones.

Supply-side impediments to grid electrification in SSA have been widely discussed - such as the lack of generation capacity. Demand-side challenges, on the other hand, have not gathered much consideration even though they are arguably the biggest obstacle to greater electrification according to a World Bank study. Another analysis reveals that pure demand-related factors account for about two-fifths of the access gap in SSA.
 
As SSA is the fastest urbanizing region and urban electrification rates vary significantly across countries (Figure 1), it is important to determine what promotes (or hinders) electrification from the perspective of end-users. We present below three factors that are likely to influence households decision to connect to the grid, with a focus on cities - where grid extension remains the main pathway to electrification.



1. Power outages can discourage households from connecting to the grid
 
One of the variables that can influence end-user behavior is reliability. Many firms and households that are already connected to the grid in SSA face regular blackouts. At the same time, research shows that a reliable power supply increases grid connections. We further examine this finding using the power outage measures of Doing Business. Controlling for income, we find that blackouts are negatively associated with urban electrification rates. A recent World Bank study finds a similar result (Figure 2); where the percentage of households having access to reliable electricity is high, so is the electricity uptake rate (i.e. the share of households in proximity to the grid that is connected).



A possible interpretation is that countries that suffer from blackouts typically have a weak infrastructure and less capacity to issue new connections. A second possible explanation is that households are more reluctant to connect to the grid if the supply of electricity doesn’t meet their need. Intuitively, this makes sense. If electricity provision is unreliable, the potential benefit from investing in an electrical connection becomes unclear. Moreover, poor grid reliability means a continued reliance on inferior lighting alternatives (e.g. wood fuels). In such cases, the connected household will need to pay for two energy sources as there is often a monthly fixed charge levied by utilities. A study on India has shown that this extra cost can deter households from connecting to the grid.
 
2. High electricity tariffs can undermine electrification efforts
 
A second demand-side variable that is important to consider is the cost of electricity. The World Resource Institute lists “reasonably priced electricity” as one of the strategies for expanding access to electricity services. The difficulty then lies in determining at what price point electricity becomes “affordable”.
 
Using household tariffs from 2014, we find that where electricity bills take up a large share of household income, access to electricity is significantly low (Figure 3). For example, electricity tariffs in Liberia in 2014 were equivalent to 51 cents per kWh, more than three times the SSA median tariff. At the same time, the urban electrification rate in Liberia in 2014 was 15%.
 
Again, there are two interpretations. Countries with poor grid penetration likely need costly infrastructure investments, which can be partly financed through higher tariffs. The second explanation, from the demand-side, is that high tariffs translate into considerable energy bills and may deter consumers from obtaining a formal connection. In other words, if households cannot afford electricity, then they will not bother to connect to the grid.


 
3. Complex and costly grid connections are associated with lower electrification rates
 
The last demand-side variable that can hamper electrification is the cost and complexity of the connection process itself. A study in Kenya finds that there is such a negative association. Analysis of urban electrification rates in SSA further shows that countries with higher costs, times and procedures to connect to the electricity grid have lower electrification rates. Figure 4 illustrates this; there is a positive association between the Doing Business (DB) Getting Electricity score and urban electricity access rates in SSA.
 
For instance, Rwanda has a relatively efficient connection process, as reflected by its score of 79 on the DB Getting Electricity indicator. The country also has a relatively high urban electrification rate of 80%. On the other hand, Guinea-Bissau has a DB score of 30 and an urban electrification rate of only 30%.
 
The contrasting cases of Guinea Bissau and Rwanda cannot be explained by a single factor. For example, when generation capacity is lacking, like in Guinea-Bissau, a vertically integrated utility (which is still the most common power structure model in SSA) may delay new connections until infrastructure investments catch up with consumer demand. At the same time, administrative barriers, red-tape and the costs to connect to the grid also likely influence demand. And because households are typically responsive to connection costs, policy-makers seeking to expand grid development should be wary of whether users can actually finance electricity connections.



Boosting access to electricity requires comprehensive policies
 
Increasing access to electricity requires policies that focus on the services end-users receive from distribution utilities – not just supply-side factors. For example, evidence suggests that tariff levels, reliability, and the complexity of the connection process impact consumer behavior. In the end, strategies to expend grid penetration need to acknowledge that both supply and demand obstacles are important, as well as interlinked.

Giving Indian girls a chance to shine

3 weeks 16 hours ago
Youth facilitators and counselors motivate female students to participate in and complete skills training and other educational services. Photo: World Bank

This blog is part of a series examining women’s economic empowerment in South Asia. 

“Time is running out for us. Even if we want to do something we can’t do it. We do the hard work but still do not get the success,”
says young Rani with a sense of urgency underpinned by an acute awareness of what adulthood holds for her.
 
The disappointment of unmet aspirations is all too evident in her words.
 
[[tweetable]]Rani lives in Jharkhand, a state in Eastern India with a large youth population—one-third of its 33 million people are between 10 and 24 years old[[/tweetable]].
 
Their youthful energy holds great promise for the development and growth of the state.
 
But sadly, adolescent girls and young women from the cities of Ranchi and Dumka to rural districts such as Koderma and West Singhbum often echo Rani’s downhearted feelings.
 
Many of these young women aspire to better education, skills, and jobs.
 
According to a recent World Bank and Government of Jharkhand survey, [[tweetable]]86 percent of unmarried girls in Jharkhand want to complete secondary school and work after marriage[[/tweetable]]. Nearly half of them desire to attend university. When asked about their career choices, they want to be teachers, doctors or nurses, join the police, or take up jobs in tailoring.

But reality belies their expectations as 62 percent of young women between 16 and 24 are not engaged in any form of education, training or employment.
 
Financial constraints account heavily for these low numbers-- 39 percent of the state’s population lives below the poverty line, including vulnerable communities from discriminated castes and tribes.

The Tejaswini project offers adolescent girls and young women in Jharkhand an opportunity to complete secondary education and develop marketable vocational skills. Photo World Bank

For example, schoolgirls are unable to pay for tuition, books, and uniforms. The disproportionate burden of domestic duties and unsafe public spaces further limits their educational potential.
 
The existing low percentage of girls enrolled in school declines further when girls reach 16 to 17, and their families expect them to marry and assume household responsibilities.
 
[[tweetable]]What will it take to open a path toward education, skills, and jobs[[/tweetable]]?
 
The Jharkhand government’s Department of Women, Child Development and Social Security together with the World Bank has sought to address these questions through the Tejaswini – Socioeconomic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women Project. [[tweetable]]Tejaswini brings together global evidence on effective approaches and state-level diagnostics to address the multiple constraints adolescent and young women encounter[[/tweetable]].

The project relies on community youth clubs (Tejaswini clubs) to involve adolescent girls and young women in 17 districts across Jharkhand in a comprehensive life skills curriculum with modules dedicated to psycho-social skills, resilience, health, nutrition, and financial literacy. [[tweetable]]Trained youth facilitators from the peer group teach the life skills curriculum and motivate their students[[/tweetable]].  

Also included are courses to develop marketable vocational and business skills for better employment or self-employment opportunities.

Interventions are also tailored to the specific needs of the community. For instance, Tejaswini clubs are located as close as possible to girls’ homes to overcome their mobility constraints. [[tweetable]]Out-of-school girls can continue their studies by accessing non-formal education through the project[[/tweetable]].

The project’s life skills curriculum helps build psycho-social skills and resilience, along with health, nutrition, and financial literacy. Photo: World Bank

In remote parts of the hinterland, where training facilities are scarce, the project offers incentives for providers to deliver vocational training and non-formal education locally.

Additional cash incentives encourage students to participate and complete their vocational skills training and non-formal education.
 
In Dumka and Ramgarh districts, an intensive version of the model provides designated Tejaswini Kendras or safe spaces with a counselor and bridge educator for vulnerable groups from certain castes and tribes.  
 
This work is combined with broader community outreach efforts to foster trust and ownership among families and community leaders, especially fathers who hold influence over their daughters’ lives.
 
[[tweetable]]The five-year project will benefit 680,000 adolescent girls and young women in Jharkhand and improve their chances of completing higher education and acquiring the skills needed in the labor market[[/tweetable]].
 
Ultimately, we hope that a generation of women will become resilient and self-confident, earn their own money, create new businesses, and make their communities more prosperous.
 
The guiding force for the Tejaswini project is enshrined in the name itself: Tejaswini in Hindi means luminous, bright and life-giving, a ray of hope that gives girls in Jharkhand a chance to shine. 

Related: National Rural Livelihoods Project

Founded in 2000, the Parliamentary Network is an independent, non-governmental organization that provides a platform for Parliamentarians from over 140 countries to advocate for increased accountability and transparency in development cooperation. Jeremy Lefroy is the current Chair of the Parliamentary Network.

 

The Network – via its international secretariat, regional chapters and country chapters – reaches over 1000 Parliamentarians in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. It strives to increase transparency and accountability in the development cooperation process by fostering the oversight role of parliaments and civil society. The Network has a specific focus on multilateral aid and a sub-focus on the work and modus operandi of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the world’s largest multilateral funders.

 

It provides a platform for MPs and civil society to hold to account their own governments, as well as International Financial Institutions (IFIs), for development outcomes.

Membership is free of charge and open to elected parliamentarians who currently hold a mandate. As a member, you will receive The Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s policy materials, including the quarterly Network Review publication and the Parliamentarians and Development series.

You will also be eligible to attend the Annual Conference and participate in discussions with senior World Bank and IMF leadership. You can also be invited to take part in the Parliamentarians in the Field country visit programme.
In addition, the The Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund often invites partner organizations to join its activities.
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