Malawi Digital Foundations Project
In June 2017, the World Bank approved a $72.4 million credit to go toward the Digital Malawi Program Phase I: Malawi Digital Foundations Project, a program that aims to improve internet accessibility in Malawi.

In 2014, the rate of internet penetration in Malawi was less than six percent, one of the lowest figures for a country worldwide. This statistic is largely a financial issue: Cell phone service costs the average Malawian 56 percent of their income compared to the five percent it would cost someone in Kenya.

Internet services are taxed almost 20 percent, and an additional ten percent excise tax is added to text messages and data transfers in the country, as of May 2015. Low literacy and electrification rates and a gender divide make it even harder for Malawians to access information communication technology (ICT).

Despite its status as a “least developed country,” Malawi has seen significant economic growth in the last few years (almost six percent in 2014), and the ICT sector has contributed notably to the country’s GDP. If Malawi only had a local internet exchange point, the country would not have to pay to run data through service providers in Africa or Europe and could make service more affordable, in this way building the country’s ICT market.

The Digital Foundations Project will address this issue from four different angles. One program, entitled Digital Ecosystem, will aim to make Malawi a “more attractive and competitive place for digital investment and innovation” while working to expand ICT accessibility at the same time. The Digital Ecosystem will consist of ICT regulation, policy development and implementation and digital skills development.

Another goal of the Digital Foundations Project is to improve internet speed and affordability. Malawi does not just need wider ICT access; the country needs to also expand its reliable services. This fact is especially true in rural areas where only one percent of households have access to electricity, as well as in institutions of higher learning where high-speed internet connections are essential to learning and communicating with the world.

Importantly, the internet access the Malawi Digital Foundations Project aims to provide would serve as a source of empowerment for those Malawians living in poverty or rural areas, as it would provide Malawians with autonomy and control over their communication, education, and especially banking.

Already, more Malawians use mobile money than open formal bank accounts, and better internet would facilitate Malawians’ interactions with mobile money programs which currently run slowly due to their popularity.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Google

Military ViolenceMilitary action can seem to be the logical fix to solving many of the issues of poverty-stricken areas. Because these areas are so susceptible to violence, it might seem like the authority of a powerful military could be the solution. However, military involvement might actually be having the opposite effect and contributing to global poverty.

It continues to remain an unanswered question: are countries poor because they are violent or violent because they are poor? According to World Bank’s World Development Report, although there are several contributing factors to poverty, violence is becoming the primary one.

While on the surface it appears that these countries have fallen vulnerable to a poverty trap, the World Development Report suggests that there is something deeper than the poverty trap. Beneath the poverty trap is a violence trap that puts a constraint on the development of countries living in poverty. While peaceful countries are able to escape poverty, countries affected by military violence remain impoverished and sometimes even worsen.

One form of military violence that has severely hurt 39 impoverished countries is civil war. All 39 of the countries that were involved in a civil war since 2000 have also had one in the last three decades, according to The Economist.

Although not many countries suffer from civil war, it causes enough of an impact on global poverty to create lasting damage. Following many civil wars is extreme gang violence. Today, more people are murdered in Guatemala per year by gang violence than from military violence during the country’s civil war in the 1980s.

The countries involved in civil wars — as well as interstate wars and coups — experience more poverty issues than they did in the past. Today, fewer countries experience this type of military violence, but the ones that do are suffering repeatedly.

According to The Economist, citizens in these countries are more than twice as likely to be malnourished, three times as likely to miss primary school and almost twice as likely to die in infancy as people in other developing countries.

Increasing military involvement is leading to increased poverty in these already poor countries because they do not have the financial stability or unity to develop after these wars. People’s homes and communities are destroyed as well as the little food that was once available to them. As a result of this military violence, poverty increases to incredibly dangerous levels.

While countries are spending more money on militaries than they ever have in the past, funding for necessities such as food, education and healthcare is being put on hold. Military involvement has an impact on global poverty for the violence it entails, but it also contributes to the brutality of poverty.

As stated in Bainbridge Island Review, “every dollar spent on weapons and war is a dollar not spent on food, education, health care and the environment.” Thus, peaceful countries are more capable of reducing poverty because they are putting funding toward helping people rather than fighting.

Although military involvement can seem like a plausible solution to finding peace in countries living in poverty, the violence it ensues contributes to the issues of poverty that caused the military involvement in the first place.

To put an end to this vicious cycle, less military involvement and more participation in funding for food, education and other necessities in countries living in poverty can reverse the damage that has been done by repeated military violence. As stated in The Economist, “Violence, it seems, is always with us, like poverty.”

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in the Dominican Republic
According to the World Bank, the Dominican Republic has experienced one of the most remarkable growth seasons in the Caribbean in the last 25 years. Official estimates say that the number of Dominicans living in poverty dropped by almost six percent from 2014 to 2016. Although the country has made strides in the business front, they still have much to accomplish to stay competitive with other nations in the region.

A country is not just poor randomly, meaning factors contribute to the poverty rates in the country. Below are some of the causes of poverty in the Dominican Republic.

Increasing Population
The population of the country has been steadily increasing for decades.  It has risen by two million people since 2000 and is currently over 10.6 million inhabitants. A rising population also raises living standards, can make jobs harder to find and, in some cases, can keep young women from finishing their education.

Improper Documentation
Dominicans of Haitian descent are the poorest in the country and usually live close to the Haiti-Dominican Republic border. Low incomes and poor living conditions keep them in a cycle of poverty, and social exclusion does not help the most vulnerable families. Dominicans of Haitian descent are usually undocumented or migrant sugar cane plantation workers, which means they do not receive aid from social assistance programs.

Ignored Agricultural Sector
In the past decade, the Dominican Republic government has focused on building the tourism and service industries, virtually ignoring the agriculture sector of the economy. Without government investment in the small farms so that they can provide for their families, many farmers have to look for jobs elsewhere. Farming technologies have begun to make their way to rural communities, which will potentially increase productivity.

Natural Disasters
Recent research has found that natural disasters (such as drought, extreme rainfall and flooding) are and will be the biggest factors in keeping people in poverty.

Because most developing governments invest money in responding to disasters as opposed to protecting citizens from the inevitable, the poorest citizens lose more when that disaster hits. Having policies that highlight disaster prevention can potentially save the country millions of dollars and give the poor more of a chance to survive.

These are just some of the causes of poverty in the Dominican Republic. Understanding the poverty of a country is an ongoing process, so staying updated is a way to ensure you know how to help a country when it needs it. The causes of poverty in the Dominican Republic can change with the economy, and hopefully, this beautiful country will continue moving toward stability.

Emily Arnold

Photo: Flickr

Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project
On April 28, 2017, the World Bank approved a $13.3 million credit toward the Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project. The project aims to improve various aspects of school operations at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels in Guyana.

While school enrollment is rapidly expanding at all levels, many Guyanese students still fail to meet baseline standards in math or English. In the 1970s, Guyana faced major economic decline and public schools received little funding. Many teachers left the country in order to pursue higher-paying positions, leaving schools with untrained and inexperienced teachers.

The economy began to improve in the 1980s as Guyana diversified its exports. Several education-focused aid programs began implementation. Approved by the World Bank in 1989 and completed three years later, the Primary Education Improvement Program of Guyana aimed to train more teachers and provide better physical facilities at the primary level. From 1987-1992, UNESCO sponsored the Equal Opportunity for Girls in Technical and Vocational Education, which involved the training of teachers and female students in the industrial arts at the secondary level.

These and similar programs that ran at the same time had mixed successes. Girls studying the industrial arts program scored better than their peers on standardized tests, and a significant number went on to take courses in the industrial arts at the Guyana Industrial Training center. However, despite the amount of work that has been done to sufficiently train teachers in different disciplines, the Cyril Potter College of Education, Guyana’s main teacher-training facility, simply cannot meet primary and secondary schools’ demand for teachers.

Taking this into account, the Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project will mainly work toward developing new curriculums at the primary and secondary levels and training 6,500 teachers in these curriculums. As a lack of facilities continues to pose a problem, the project will also build a new facility to house the University of Guyana’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Tahseen Sayed, the World Bank Country Director of the Caribbean, notes that “[q]uality education is one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty.” As Guyana’s GDP has continued to rise dramatically every year since 2005, the Guyana Education Sector Improvement project will hopefully reinforce this economic growth–and vice versa.

Caroline Meyers
Photo: Flickr


At the Leader’s Summit on Refugees on September 20, 2016, then-President Barack Obama announced the creation of the World Bank Global Concessional Finance Facility in response to the additional costs middle-income countries have incurred because of the refugee crisis.

As of June 2017, the Global Concessional Finance Facility has approved $900 million of concessional financing — financing at a reduced rate compared to market value — for development projects in target nations.

Initially, the concessional finance facility provided funds solely to Jordan and Lebanon, two middle-income nations which together have accepted two million Syrian refugees, the largest amount in the world relative to population.

The new objective is to raise $1 billion for Jordan and Lebanon and an additional $500 million for other potential middle-income countries which could face an influx of refugees in the next five years.

While refugee host nations generally receive humanitarian assistance, long-term development is often ignored, hurting native populations. Jordan, for example, has had to spend an additional $550 million annually to assist the refugees.

The goals of the World Bank’s Global Concessional Finance Facility are to bridge humanitarian into long-term assistance, increase international coordination to address the refugee crisis, provide aid to both the native and local populations of target nations and implement sustainable policy reforms.

Japan is the top contributor to the fund allocating $100 million. The U.S. has contributed $50 million. Overall, there are 10 supporting countries.

Every dollar in grant contribution equals $4 in concessional financing. If the World Bank’s goal is reached, the international organization will be able to provide $6 billion in financing to middle-income countries for development projects.

Two recent projects funded by the Global Concessional Finance Facility that benefited both native and refugee populations were a $250 million grant for improving water and electricity delivery and $200 million apportioned for updating the road system in Lebanon.

The very first project funded by the facility was a $300 million investment called the Economic Opportunities for Jordanians and Syrian Refugee Program, which bolstered Jordan’s labor market. This was especially useful in Jordan, where 84 percent of refugees live in urban and rural areas as opposed to refugee camps.

The issues facing countries who accept Syrian refugees is daunting. In relative terms, Lebanon has accepted the equivalent of the population of France moving to the U.S. Nevertheless, the global community has taken a step to alleviate the burden of a few countries to not only avert disaster but to recognize public good and promote international cooperation.

Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr

Stunting in Pakistan
On May 26, 2017, the World Bank approved a fund of $61.6 million to reduce stunting in Pakistan over the next 25 years through the Sindh Enhancing Response to Reduce Stunting Project.

Stunting refers to children under the age of two who are deprived of nutrients and thus are of low height. It is often associated with delayed physical and cognitive development. For a few decades, stunting in Pakistan has been widespread and currently affects almost 45 percent of children in the country.

Half of Pakistani children have anemia, a condition that also affects mothers, and both may suffer from wasting and iron deficiency. This is especially problematic for mothers, as all of these conditions can restrict fetal growth and make babies more prone to stunting. Unsurprisingly, the poor and food-insecure are at the highest risk of stunting.

The stunting problem is an education issue as well as a health issue. Early marriages, a low literacy rate for women and a lack of knowledge of maternal care procedures all contribute to malnutrition. Women may feed their children tea and animal milk in place of breast milk simply because they don’t know of any other option.

In the long-term, stunted children may have a hard time getting an education due to arrested mental development. According to Illango Patchamuthu, the World Bank Country Director for Pakistan, stunting “puts them at a permanent disadvantage in the age of the knowledge economy.”

The World Bank recognizes the different consequences of stunting, and according to the Sindh Enhancing Response to Reduce Stunting Project, its strategy to reduce stunting will be two-fold. The project will first address stunting directly by expanding a “package of services” that focus on nutrition practices.

It is important that the World Bank establish frameworks for nutrition programs, as these will hopefully contribute to stunting reduction beyond the program and also help educate mothers and families on the myriad of issues relating to nutrition that affect stunting in Pakistan.

The second part of the project will attempt to establish a cash transfer program. Cash transfers are a form of direct monetary aid that can allow poor families affected by stunting easier access to nutritious food. However, cash transfers aren’t always the most helpful form of aid as their effectiveness depends on the stability of local economies, which is likely why this cash transfer program is being established on a “conditional” basis.

Through these efforts, the World Bank aims to reduce stunting in Pakistan by one percent each year for the next five years.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr

Reduce Funding for the World Bank
President Donald Trump has proposed to reduce funding for the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) by around $650 million over three years. The White House has stated that, in doing so, “the U.S. would retain its current status as a top donor while saving taxpayer dollars.”

The World Bank is one of two global MDBs. MDBs are supranational in nature, which means they do not face transnational limits, but shareholding foreign states do organize them. These organizations exist to support economic and social development in developing nations, largely in the form of grants and loans. They also exercise more direct involvements such as policy advice and conference participation.

As a global MDB, the World Bank’s programs are wide-reaching. One example of this is a proposal for additional funding for the Sustainable and Rural Water and Sanitation Project in Ghana. Approved on June 28, 2017, with a budget of $47.5 million dollars, the program aims to bring reliable access to water and sanitation services to rural towns across the country. New programs for over 100 countries are approved almost every day and are visible on the World Bank’s website.

The rationale for the funding reduction proposal places more value on preserving the U.S.’s status as a top donor than the work done on the ground as part of the World Bank’s programs. The Sustainable and Rural Water and Sanitation Project is not a donation, but an attempt to create sustainable sanitation services that can serve the people of Ghana for years to come. A smaller World Bank budget won’t just mean less money—it will result in a lack of human support that is necessary for the development of sustainable infrastructure in developing countries. At the moment, the U.S. is not even considered a top donor, ranking 20th on a list of donating governments in 2015.

Fortunately, there are several new and influential MDBs backed by non-Western nations that will likely continue to flourish even if the U.S. reduces funding for the World Bank. One of these is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which began in January 2016. The China-backed bank began nine large-scale development projects in 2016 throughout South and Southeast Asia and exceeded its lending goal. Contrary to what some expected, the bank’s programs have not been used to advance Chinese interests, as some Chinese investments in African countries have in the past. The early success of AIIB follows the upward trajectory of non-Western nations such as China, India and South Africa in the field of international aid.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Cambodia Poor
Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia that is home to nearly 16 million people. The following statistics outline the poverty rate and socioeconomic state of the country in order to help to answer the question: “Why is Cambodia poor?”

 

5 Answers to the Question “Why is Cambodia Poor?”

 

  1. According to data collected this year, 14 percent of the Cambodian population sits below the National Poverty Line. This makes it the fourth poorest country in Southeast Asia.
  2. According to an economic overview by the CIA World Factbook, Cambodia has experienced strong economic growth over the last decade. Between 2000 and 2010, the GDP of Cambodia grew at an average annual rate of more than eight percent.  It has had a growth rate of at least seven percent since 2011. Such improvements are due to the tourism, garment, construction, real estate and agriculture sectors, all of which have provided hundreds of thousands of individuals with new jobs.
  3. Despite recent achievements, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia. Further economic development is hindered by the nation’s deep-rooted corruption, with most of the workforce throughout rural Cambodia unseen, toiling away in factories or subsistence farming. Limited human resources and high income inequality are other influential factors of poverty in Cambodia. According to a study conducted in 2012, about 2.66 million only utilize $1.20 per day to survive. Worse still, 37 percent of Cambodian children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
  4. The necessary infrastructure to lift millions out of poverty has not been a priority for the Cambodian government.  Only 24 percent of Cambodians have access to electricity, 64 percent to clean water and 31 percent to adequate sanitation. Hospitals are also low-quality, and the impoverished cannot receive proper care and treatment.
  5. Another possible answer to the question “why is Cambodia poor?” has to do with the quality of education made available to the country’s population. While private schools have become more available and affordable, public schools are so ill-equipped that 75 percent of high-school students failed their graduation exams in 2014. This adds to the cycle of poverty already permeating the population.


Cambodia struggles due to ongoing corruption, a lack of adequate education and limited opportunities for employment. However, the Cambodian government has been working with donors such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to address the country’s pressing needs. Over time, to tackle major economic challenges, Cambodia must work to create an environment in which the private sector can produce enough jobs for its people and move forward from there.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

Ecuador Poverty Rate
Ecuador is a country of 16.14 million and counting. With a rapidly growing population that stalls above replacement level fertility, more people are being born than dying. This increasing population growth spreads the country’s already limited resources very thin, and results in widespread youth unemployment (10.9 percent among 15 to 24-year-olds) and the overcrowding of rural education and healthcare services. Such changes within the population result in a very high Ecuador poverty rate.

Although Ecuador draws its wealth from lucrative petroleum exports, the wealth distribution is largely skewed between urban and rural areas. The result of this disproportion is that close to four million Ecuadorians, or 35 percent of the population, live in poverty. Of this, one and a half million live in extreme poverty and would not meet their daily nutritional needs even if they spent their livelihood solely on food.

An additional 17 percent of the population is considered vulnerable to falling below the poverty line. Two out of three poor Ecuadorians live in rural areas with restricted access to education, land, low market integration and low employment, especially in the rural highlands of the Sierra and the Amazon region.

This income inequity disproportionally affects the country’s indigenous and mixed race populations.

To fight income inequity in rural areas and lower the poverty rate, the Ecuadorian government has implemented conditional cash transfer programs. In these programs, participants’ children are required to attend school and have regular medical checkups.

These programs improved educational engagement and health among poor children; however, more educational programs are necessary to decrease the birth rate and prevent child and teen pregnancy.

The World Bank Group developed a four-prong approach to poverty reduction in Ecuador, including creating basic nutrition and health programs, asset strengthening programs for the poor (around labor, land and housing rights), support for a strong and stable demand for labor and the financing of social programs and targeted interventions, such as subsidizing electricity and cooking gas.

The first two components of the plan require public resources, which is why activists must engage with the government in mobilizing the country’s resources in order to combat the high Ecuador poverty rate.

Saru Duckworth

Photo: Flickr


The poverty rate in Afghanistan is currently at 39 percent, accounting for all Afghan citizens living below the poverty line. This translates to 1 in 3 citizens who are unable to satisfy their basic needs.

This high poverty rate is not only an increase of three percent from 2011 to 2012, but it is also demonstrative of the 15 years of economic and social progress that is increasingly at risk in the nation. According to the World Bank’s Poverty Status Update Report, since the beginning of the withdrawal of international forces in 2011 and of the political transition period, Afghanistan has suffered deteriorating security and employment opportunities despite general economic growth.

The World Bank’s report stated that one of the main reasons for the increased poverty rate is the significant decline in labor market conditions, a setback that hurts rural and youth populations the most. Between 2011 and 2014, rural poverty increased by 14 percent while urban poverty remained unchanged.

These numbers reflect the social inequalities deeply ingrained in Afghan society that are stressed in times of hardship, insecurity or crisis. Afghans living in urban settings are simply better protected and have better access to economic opportunities and health services than those who live in rural areas. Gender inequality is still overwhelming in Afghanistan, illustrated by a sharp decline in girls’ primary school attendance congruent with the rise in poverty.

In Afghanistan’s rural areas, 90 percent of women and 63 percent of men are illiterate. Furthermore, these men and women are also heavily dependent on livestock and agriculture for a decent portion of their income. A basic lack of resources, harsh climate conditions and years of conflict have made rural livelihoods difficult and vulnerable to any peril.

Fortunately, Afghanistan’s economy is predicted to eventually rebound; however, in order to reduce poverty going forward, areas of struggle and fragility must be addressed and prioritized. To promote future progress, health and education services need to be made more accessible to everyone and youth need to be integrated into the labor force.

Overall, to reduce the poverty rate in Afghanistan, the state needs to focus on more comprehensive, particularly rural, development to close the wide gap between the upper and lower classes and cultivate a more equal, prosperous population.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Flickr