For the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to be the World Bank’s resident economist for Mauritius and Seychelles. With this now coming to an end, here are some especially striking impressions of these countries’ successes and challenges that I hope can provide food for thought more widely.
Migration and Remittances
The just-released Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS) paints a stark picture of the reality facing Afghanistan today. More than half the Afghan population lives below the national poverty line, indicating a sharp deterioration in welfare since 2011-12. . These figures are the first estimates of the welfare of the Afghan people since the transition of security responsibilities from international troops to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in 2014.
While stark, the findings are not a surprise
Given what Afghanistan has gone through in the last five years, the significant increase in poverty over this period is not unexpected. The high poverty rates represent the combined effect of stagnating economic growth, increasing demographic pressures, and a deteriorating security situation in the context of an already impoverished economy and society where human capital and livelihoods have been eroded by decades of conflict and instability.
The withdrawal of international troops starting in 2012, and the associated decline in aid, both security and civilian, led to a sharp decline in domestic demand and much lower levels of economic activity. The deterioration in security since 2012, which drove down consumer and investor confidence, magnified this economic shock. Not surprisingly, Afghanistan’s average annual rate of economic growth fell from 9.4 percent in the period 2003-2012 to only 2.1 percent between 2013 and 2016. With the population continuing to grow more than 3 percent a year, per capita GDP has steadily declined since 2012, and in 2016 stood $100 below its 2012 level. . In recent years, as population growth outstripped economic growth, an increase in poverty was inevitable.
- South Asia
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Private Sector Development
- Labor and Social Protection
- Migration and Remittances
- Social Development
- Conflict and Fragility. fragile and conflict affected states; Poverty; Agriculture; Rural Development
Our team at the MENA Youth Platform recently had a conversation about women-and youth-led entrepreneurship in the MENA region, and for which emerging trends to look for. One thing is very clear: the next revolution could look very different.
Each one is different - one has pink rims, and multi-sized dots, and hues of electric orange, deep fuchsia, and sea foam green. Another is donning pinstripes in red and orange, with mint green rims. And another – violet, blue, and red checkers with accents of lavender.
- from new financing mechanisms in Jordan and Lebanon, to new cash transfer programs in Yemen allowing more refugees access to food.
According to a World Bank study, the current violence in the Middle East and North Africa Region led to fifteen million people fleeing their homes, giving rise to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Many sought refuge in neighboring countries that are economically fragile, further complicating the tragedy. Women and children bear the brunt of war and this is what Helen Zughaib aimed to capture in her paintings.
The World Bank Art Program, in partnership with the Office of the Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region, organized an exhibition of the works of artist Helen Zughaib, titled: The Arab Spring/Unfinished Journeys, that were on view in the main building of the World Bank’s Washington headquarters from January 18 to February 16. The theme of Helen’s work depicts the sense of hope and dignity that prevailed when the Arab Spring began, only to dissipate soon after with the horrors of war and forced migration.
How is the World Bank helping countries create more and better jobs? Do we need new strategies in the new world of work reshaped by new technologies and other global challenges? In this video interview with David Robalino, manager of the Jobs Group at the World Bank, we introduce two new partnerships for tackling the multi-pronged challenges of job creation in a comprehensive approach.
[Put together the puzzle pieces to reveal the picture. Scroll down to #9 for hints.]
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that pounded coastal United States and the Caribbean; the severe drought that struck Somalia; forest fires that are ravaging through southern California… Hard to miss were the natural disasters that displaced – even killed – individuals and families.
There were also the “manmade” disasters – conflicts that erupted or lasted in many parts of the world continued to force men, women, and children out of their homes and homelands.
Yet, turning to the bright side,
Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, global and local leaders gathered at the One Planet Summit in Paris to firm up their commitment – and ramp up action – to maximize climate finance for a low-carbon, disaster-resilient future.
At the World Bank, our teams working on social development, urban development, disaster risk management, and land issues have endeavored with countries and cities worldwide throughout the year to achieve a common goal: building inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities and communities for all.
How did they do? From our “Sustainable Communities” newsletter,
#1: Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World
Released in February 2017, our report on cities in Africa notes that, to grow economically as they are growing in size, Africa’s cities must open their doors and connect to the world. Improving conditions for people and businesses in African cities is the key to accelerating economic growth, adding jobs, and improving city competitiveness. Two more reports released in 2017 also shined a light on inclusive urban growth in East Asia and the Pacific and in Europe and Central Asia respectively.
- natural disasters
- Sustainable Communities
- disaster risk management
- Migration and Remittances
- Labor and Social Protection
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Climate Change
- Urban Development
- Social Development
- The World Region
- East Asia and Pacific
Around 250 million migrants currently live outside their countries of birth, making up approximately 3.5 percent of the world population. Despite the widespread perception of a global migration crisis, this ratio has stayed remarkably stable since the end of the Second World War and lags well behind other major metrics of globalization – international trade, capital flows, tourism etc. A more remarkable statistic is that refugees, at around 15 million, account for 6 percent of the migrant population and only 0.2 percent of world population. In other words, we can fit all refugees in the world in a city with an area of 5000 square kilometers – roughly the size of metropolitan Istanbul or London or Paris – and still have some space left over.
The Syrian conflict has reached the grim milestone of becoming the largest displacement crisis since World War II, with over half of the country’s pre-war population having left their homes since 2011—a particularly sobering statistic as we observe International Migrants Day on December 18, 2017 today.
For many of us, the Syrian crisis brings to mind images of refugee families blocked at European borders and sprawling humanitarian camps. Yet the majority of those fleeing the violence have remained in cities inside Syria and in neighboring countries, in the hopes of reaching safety, and accessing better services and jobs.
—and it is not confined to Syria, but a reality across many countries affected by conflict in the Middle East and beyond.
There are the booming megacities such as Tokyo, Mumbai, and Nairobi. Then there are cities that are declining in population, such as Detroit.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where we recently conducted a study on urban growth trends, we found unique demographic patterns affecting the urbanization process in the region.
For example, the region has had fertility rates below replacement levels for more than two decades, and most countries in the region have negative net migration rates.
This signifies that the population of most countries in the region is either growing very slowly or declining, and in some countries urban population has started to decline.
What does this mean for cities?
Resulting from this competition, we find that most of the cities in the region are shrinking while population growth is increasingly concentrated in a few cities. Per our estimates, 61% of the region’s cities shrank between 2000 and 2010, losing on average 11% of their population.
This scale of city population decline is unprecedented.