Friday, March 21, 2014


Struggling to cope with lack of funds, corrupt regimes, or well-intentioned but ineffective leaders, the development process in countries of South Asia is frequently derailed. In this context, the World Bank Group (WBG) has long honored its commitment to South Asia by identifying issues, mobilizing communities and supporting initiatives of governments, community organizations and other stakeholders to keep the development process rolling.
World Bank Group (WBG) has long been a crucial development partner in South Asia, with an impressive portfolio of 215 International Development Association (IDA)/International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) projects. By 2012, WBGs total net commitments for South Asia reached $38.7 billion, and the lending program for 2013 offers $8 billion. A brief review of the WBG’s contribution is as follows:
Economic growth opportunities:
According to the World Bank’s (WB) most recent poverty figures on South Asia, about 571 million people (44% of the developing world’s poor) survive on less than $1.25 a day. WBG’s Development Marketplace (DM) offers a competitive grant program that funds innovative, sustainable projects offering services for low-income groups. “DM has awarded, in aggregate, US $60 million to Social Enterprises identified through country, regional, and global competitions.” Onno Ruhl, World Bank country Director in India, has acknowledged that, “The World Bank Group is committed to supporting innovative models and programs that support underserved communities, particularly in low-income states. The DM provides an opportunity to understand what works and under what conditions as a means to improve services to the poor.”
The World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for India is based on a lending program of $3 billion-$5 billion each year from 2013- 17 to encourage inclusiveness of economic growth, cut poverty to 5.5% by 2030 from 29.8%  in 2010, and increase the share of people living above the threshold to 41.3% from 19.1%.
In Bangladesh, the World Bank sponsors 50% of the operating budget of the Infrastructure Investment Facilitation Center (IIFC) since its inception in 1999, to promote and facilitate public private partnerships in infrastructure projects offering expertise in evaluation, negotiation and implementation. Another very successful WBG supported initiative in Bangladesh is The Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERED, which established Solar Home Systems (SHS) in remote areas as an alternative for electrification. Registered under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) for carbon credits, the project helped installation of 2 million solar home systems by 2012. The repeater Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project II (RERED II) approved in September 2012 is working to cover an additional 2.5 million people.
With crucial WBG support, Nepal succeeded in attaining the first Millennium Development Goal ahead of schedule to reduce its poverty levels by half, with a percentage drop from 53.1% in 2004 to 24.8% in 2011.
In Sri Lanka, 200,000 households in 1,000 post-conflict villages have benefited from infrastructure/productive investment by WBG, allowing for rehabilitation of 650 km roads, and 12,000 ha of land brought back to production.
In Pakistan, 4.7 million families have received income support of $12 per month, 5.2 million micro-credit loans were provided since 2000 by the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund supported by the Bank, and 12 million customers supported by IFC investment in power sector.
Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)
In the field of information and communications technologies, the World Bank helps developing countries improve “access to affordable connectivity, transform delivery of basic services, drive innovations and productivity gains, and improve competitiveness”. Its consistent support for ICT sector reforms has drawn over US$30 billion private investment for mobile network infrastructure in IDA countries.
Young adults account for half of the unemployed in South AsiaTo engage the technology-savvy youth and their unemployment challenges, and to encourage ownership of ideas and their implementation, the World Bank and Microsoft recently launched a successful South Asia Regional Grant Competition in Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, titled: “Youth Solutions! Technology for Skills and Employment”.
In Nepal, The World Bank also funded the Violence Against Women (VAW) Hackathon this year. Participants explored ideas and solutions to combat gender-based violence while supporting victims. As Maria Correia, the World Bank’s South Asia Social Development Manager, noted: “We realize that engaging youth and tapping into their passion and creativity is critical for breaking out of the cycle of gender violence. Young people have the greatest potential to change their society and the future.”
WB also hosted a conference in Kathmandu with Oxfam International, Joining Forces to Overcome Violence against Women. The event brought together policy-makers, practitioners and volunteers actively working to check gender-based violence in South Asia. Isabel Guerrero, World Bank Vice President for South Asia, reiterated the Bank’s commitment to fight gender injustice in South Asia, “We will be present here in Nepal with women and opinion leaders from all of South Asia to break the silence. Together, we want to understand the complexity, scale and gravity of Violence Against Women, so that we can take a step forward to overcome it.
Human Resource Development
Strengthening human resource by ensuring access to basic necessities like healthcare and quality education is crucial to development. In the area of health, WBG lays emphasis on fulfilling nutrition needs of women and girls, and providing skilled birth attendants to check infant and maternal mortality. As a result of WB’s support, 99.5% of deliveries take place in medical facilities in Tamil Nadu, and in Nepal, the maternal mortality rate has declined from 538 in 1996 to 380/100,000 live births.
Education projects focus on school enrollment rates and vocational training. The World Bank has made significant contribution towards education reforms in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In Sri Lanka, 2,825 classroom blocks have been built; in Bangladesh, Girls’ enrollment in secondary schools jumped from 47% (2007) to 55 % in 2012; in Nepal, net primary enrollment has increased to 95% and gender parity in primary education has been achieved. In Pakistan, secondary school graduation rate has increased from 30% to 39% during 2008-11, and rural female-male primary net enrollment rate ratio increased from 61% to 72% in 2007-11 in Sindh. The World Bank has provided support to the government’s education reform program in Punjab from its inception, “providing financing of close to $800 million over the last 10 years, helped provide 34 million free textbooks to more than 11 million students in the 2010-11 academic year, helped hire more than 200,000 new teachers since 2003 and improved school infrastructure by adding toilets, boundary walls, and new classrooms”.
Accountability and Transparency in Governance
The Bank supports greater accountability and transparency for governments in order to deliver better services and benefit economic well-being. Supported by the World Bank Institute (WBI), the Dhaka based Affiliated Network for Social Accountability South Asia Region,( ANSA-SAR) and Global Partnership Fund (GPF), promote and strengthen the concepts and practices of social accountability by holding workshops, discussions and deliberation on development-related issues.
In Bangladesh, the Bank has supported the Local Governance Support Project (LGSP), since 2006, to strengthen accountable forms of local governance. Recognizing its positive impact, the Government has requested the Bank for extension of LGSP-approach to other local government levels.
South Asia Social Accountability Network (SasaNet) is another initiative taken by the Centre for Good Governance (CGG) and World Bank to develop a broader understanding amongst various Government and Civil Society Organization towards Social Accountability in promoting good governance. In India and Sri Lanka, SasaNet has used Citizen Report Cards and Community Score Cards in demanding greater accountability and efficiency in the delivery of public services, including healthcare.
Addressing Weather-related Hardships
            Isabel GuerreroWorld Bank South Asia Vice President, has rightly said, “We have a moral imperative to protect the most vulnerable people, standing in the path of climate-driven hardship…we have a duty to respond.”
The South Asian region is experiencing effects of climate change, including, inconsistency and intensity of rainfall, increase in droughts in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, fast melting glaciers in Nepal, and rising sea levels affecting coastal areas of Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
South Asia’s expected population increase from 1.6 billion people in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2050 (WB) will notably strain the scarce resources further. To successfully navigate the worst effects of climate change, “major investments in infrastructure, flood defenses, drought and heat resistant crops are needed”. The Bank is contributing towards provision of services in irrigation and drainage, reforesting water-logged land, and facilitating process of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) for food security.
Regional Cooperation Goals
 The World Bank has always emphasized regional economic cooperation, sharing of information and capacity building through mutual analysis and dialogue. The Bank’s policy studies focus on finding constraints that make South Asia one of the least integrated regions of the world, with lowest level of intra-regional trade. The regional trade is even less than sub-Saharan Africa.WBG suggests focus on “trade in goods, services, and electricity, people-to-people contact, and cooperation in water resources management among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, and Nepal”. An example of regional cooperation in SA brokered by WB is the Indus Water treaty between India and Pakistan in 1960. The World Bank arranged development funds of US $893.5 million, and facilitates dispute resolution and a court of arbitration.
In short, over the last many decades the World Bank has supported South Asia’s regional development process, reenergizing nascent economies and stabilizing existing ones through timely and consistent provision of funds and expertise and proved itself to be a truly reliable partner.

Note: Data for this article was obtained from The World Bank sources.