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Desalination in Micronesia Could Alleviate Water ScarcityMicronesia, a cluster of hundreds of islands nestled in the Southwest Pacific, is a region with unique obstacles to development. Nationwide efforts to fight poverty are difficult to execute because of the disconnected nature of the islands. One of the greatest barriers for Micronesian communities in the fight against poverty is access to safe water. As of 2015, around 15% of the rural population lacked access to basic drinking-water sources. Water supply in the South Pacific is particularly susceptible to the climate, with certain weather patterns making the water too brackish, or is diseased with cholera, typhoid and other deadly water-borne illnesses.

Hardships and the Importance of a Stable Water Supply

In 2016, the region experienced one of the worst droughts in Micronesian history. An emergency response coordinator at the International Organization for Migration explained that the drought’s impacts went beyond just providing drinking water. In early 2020, some preparatory schools in Weno were forced to close because wells were drying up.

Furthermore, because agriculture employs almost half of the nation’s labor force and produces 60% of food supply, groundwater supply is critical. In the past, severe droughts have led local farms, which are the backbone of the economy, to be shut down.

A Promising Solution

Since problems of national drought and water insecurity in the country continue to resurface, many understand that there must be a restructuring of the Micronesian water infrastructure. Fortunately, the islands’ seafront location is leading many to suggest the potential of desalination in Micronesia. This process makes ocean water drinkable and has the potential to meet Micronesia’s needs. The Marshall Islands, one of the five states in Micronesia, recently completed a desalination project that purifies 1,600 cubic meters of seawater a day. Partially funded by the Asian Development Bank, the project has been revolutionary for the Marshall Islands’ water independence. Beyond the South Pacific, nations around the world have caught on to the capabilities of desalination, from Saudi Arabia and Oman to China and India. Plants operate in more than 100 countries, and many areas, like Dubai, have been able to shift to almost 100% desalination.

The Role of Renewable of Energy

Not only does desalination in Micronesia give islands the autonomy to have a stable water supply, but the desalination plants typically encourage the growth of renewable energy, like solar panels. This is partially a result of the fact that most modern desalination plants are powered through solar energy. When government funding is available to introduce solar energy, a presence for renewables is better established in the economy and further investment is more likely. The new plants in the Marshall Islands are solar-powered and have catalyzed the development of solar street lights estimated to significantly reduce energy consumption. These plants also provide reliable drinking water to 3000 Micronesians.

 

While poverty and child mortality rates have steadily dropped in the region in the last decades, Micronesia cannot continue to improve on this progress without access to a stable water supply. Fortunately, the development of infrastructure to encourage desalination in Micronesia alongside current plants in the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu is a groundbreaking step in this effort for nationwide water security.

Jack Berexa
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Laos
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, or Laos, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. One of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the country has halved its poverty rate in the past 20 years. This is an impressive feat for the import-heavy country given that less than 5% of its land is suitable for agriculture. Poverty in Laos, however, remains a formidable issue. Laos faces a significant wealth gap between its capital Vientiane and poorer rural areas. Foreign aid and international efforts strive to reduce poverty in Laos.

The World Bank and the Poverty Reduction Fund

Created in 2002, the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) linked Laos to the international community through the World Bank, aiming to reduce poverty in Laos. The goals of the PRF have progressed over time, reducing poverty at a grassroots level and helping the Laotian poor achieve self-sustainability.

PRF has positively impacted more than 10,000 Laotian women and their families – self-help groups in different villages provide microloans, monthly household income has increased exponentially over the years and nutrition centers, roads and schools are constantly improving and serving Laotian villagers.

In December 2019, the World Bank approved additional funding of $22.5 million as a soft loan to Laos. This loan supports the Laotian government’s National Nutrition Strategy, which seeks to improve rural conditions by developing agricultural infrastructure.

The Asian Development Bank

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) grants loans, technical assistance and equity investments to promote development in Asian countries. The ADB has assisted poverty-reduction operations in Laos since 1968 and still finances assistance to the country. As of 2019, it has provided Laos with a total of $2.91 billion.

The ADB generally focuses on sustainable development in Laos but also funds education to achieve social and economic development. Because of its early involvement in Laos, the ADB’s efforts have yielded impressive results, having connected more than 20,000 households to electricity and water and providing education facilities to more than 100,000 Laotian students.

The United Nations Development Program’s Brand Laos Initiative

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) fights global poverty, seeking sustainable development and global equality. The UNDP has several ongoing projects in Laos supporting gender parity and government transparency. One notable initiative is a project it calls Brand Laos – a mission fighting for a unique Laotian brand and niche.

Brand Laos researches Laotian economic niches in order to create a unique marketable perspective for the country, finding viable products for farmers, producers and service providers. This economically benefits Laos, raising income for agricultural workers and producers. A Laotian niche could reduce poverty while bringing spurring development.

In particular, these types of projects seek high-quality products for international markets where consumers pay extra for ethically produced foreign products. Brand Laos has looked into products and services such as tea, silk-based clothing and ecotourism.

Conditions in rural Laotian households have improved drastically in recent decades, thanks to these international efforts. The Laotian national poverty rate was 46% in 1992 and fell to 23% in 2015. Additionally, households have greater access to electricity, water and even extraneous symbols of development like smartphones. With continued work, the poverty rate in Laos should continue to go down.

Maggie Sun
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis or coronavirus pandemic continues to grow as the number of global cases rises. With U.S. President Donald Trump approving a fiscal stimulus package of $2.2 trillion, the dire economic ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis grow more significant. Yet, there are disproportionate economic impacts on the world’s poor that highlight the implications of COVID-19 on global poverty.

What the COVID-19 Crisis Means for Global Poverty

Unfortunately, the aftershocks of COVID-19 will destabilize the world economy even further during the beginning of 2020 and beyond. The Asian Development Bank already estimates that the collective global impact of the COVID-19 crisis will be between $77 billion to nearly $347 billion in economic output costs worldwide.

The World Economic Forum calls the COVID-19 crisis a “pandemic in the age of inequality” as it especially impacts countries lacking universal health care or adequate health care systems. Many workers have lost work and are cannot even take paid sick leave of any kind.

“[I] fear hunger will kill us before coronavirus,’’ says Momanned Sabir, a young street entrepreneur in Delhi who owns a yogurt-based drink shop. Her words come in response to the three-week lockdown that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed. Poverty and unemployment impact many daily wage earners and workers in informal and unorganized sectors. This is particularly evident in nationwide lockdowns from India, China, the Philippines, the Middle East and European countries.

Among the 50 countries under the United Nations’ Least-Developed Country Status (LDC), more than 900 million remain vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19. This is due to the poor health care infrastructure and resources to support a large-scale health crisis. Most importantly, many countries continue to be in short supply of testing kits.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for $2 billion to help the world’s poor who have been impacted by COVID-19. World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus implores G20 nations to offer aid and support low and middle-income countries.

Future Course of Action

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamn has proposed an economic stimulus package for financial relief to women and vulnerable groups. For example, there are welfare systems that distribute free gas cylinders, wheat and rice for up to three months. For women in India’s Jan Dhan banking system, the government offers compensation of 500 rupees for the next three months. In addition, India has issued a bailout package of $22 billion to help cushion the economic impacts of its lockdown, especially as several daily wage and unorganized workers have lost out on work and pay during this period.

The number of testing kits will also increase soon due to the invention of a new working test kit by Dr. Minal Dhakave Bhosale. India will thus rely less on more expensive imported kits. There will be a distribution of more than 100,000 kits every week from now on.

Moreover, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provided $50 billion to control the COVID-19 crisis in low-income countries that seek support through its emergency financing facilities. Along with the IMF, the World Bank is also providing debt relief to poor countries through loans and grants. The group is also working with more than 35 countries to address the economic implications of the pandemic. The World Bank also plans to spend a whopping $160 billion over the next 15 months and is already securing fixed amounts for wide-scale mitigation efforts and projects.

Oxfam International is working on ways to use its knowledge and expertise in public health to better address the ongoing crisis, especially after its work during other outbreaks like Ebola and the Zika virus. Oxfam is also assisting in the delivery of sanitation services and offering accurate information to people.

Looking to the Future

To help those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19, the Asian Development Bank recommends focusing on strengthening social assistance. It also urges attention to upgrading labor market policies and programs.

The COVID-19 crisis could also impact the way the world addresses global poverty going forward, especially given the potential global impacts. It will take long-term development strategies to get low-income workers and poorer communities back on their feet.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr

sanitation in Cambodia
Despite experiencing robust economic growth in recent years, GDP per capita in Cambodia remains low. While urban Cambodians are now able to enjoy increased sanitation services and access to clean water, the majority of the population resides in rural areas where the living conditions are sub-standard. Below are the top 10 facts about sanitation in Cambodia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cambodia

  1. Access to Clean Water and Sanitation: Approximately 50 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation and basic water supply, but only a quarter has safely managed water. More than 2 million people, or about 13 percent of the population, are still living without clean water and 6 million do not have access to safe sanitation.
  2. Increased Access to Improved Sanitation: The total number of people with access to improved facilities increased from 3 percent in 1990 to 42 percent in 2015. Cambodia has eradicated open defecation in urban areas and 88 percent of urban Cambodians have access to improved facilities. The progress is even remarkable among the poorest urban households with 82 percent now having access to improved sanitation, up from 0 percent in 1990.
  3. Open Defecation: Cambodia has the highest rate of open defecation in the region with 80 percent of the poorest rural Cambodians defecating in the open. This unsafe practice contaminates the land and water sources, exposing the population to dangerous waterborne infectious diseases and causing preventable deaths. Cambodia is working towards its national target of eliminating open defecation by 2025.
  4. Disparities Between Urban and Rural Areas: Forty percent of Cambodians in rural areas do not have access to hand-washing facilities compared to only 12 percent of the urban population. Almost 90 percent of the urban population has access to improved latrines while only 40 percent of the people living in rural areas do.
  5. Economic Costs: Lack of sanitation costs Cambodia up to $448 million annually, which is equivalent to 7.2 percent of the nation’s GDP. Health-related losses are some of the largest contributors to this economic impact, which account for 42 percent of the impact, or $187 million. Costs of accessing cleaner water, welfare and time losses and tourism loss due to poor sanitation also contribute to the high economic impact.
  6. Asian Development Bank (ADB): To support financing Cambodia’s goal of providing universal access to improved water supply and sanitation services by 2025, the ADB has approved $49 million in funding. Since 2005, more than 1 million people in Tonle Sap Lake have received benefits from ADB-supported water supply and sanitation services projects. The new project will benefit more than 400,000 people in at least 400 Cambodian villages.
  7. Plan International Cambodia: Since 2006, the program by Plan International has helped to promote the adoption of clean water consumption, hygiene and sanitation practice in hundreds of Cambodian villages. Using the community-led total sanitation approach, the program has helped 750 villages achieve the open defecation free status, as well as construct and install 130 wells, 65 water purifying systems and 700 sanitation facilities at schools.
  8. Latrine Access: Cambodia is making steady progress in increasing latrine access in the population, doubling the coverage rate in rural households from 23 to 46 percent in five years. Production costs have plunged, making latrines accessible and affordable to an increasing proportion of the population. The director of the Department of Rural Health Care estimates that 80 percent of Cambodians can now afford latrines.
  9. Cambodia Rural Sanitation: iDE, or previously International Development Enterprises, has announced a $10 million Development Impact Bond (DIB) to support Cambodia’s sanitation initiatives in partnership with USAID and the Stone Family Foundation. It is the world’s first DIB developed for the WASH sector, aiming to eradicate open defecation in 1,600 villages in six provinces by 2023. The impact bond will support iDE’s Sanitation Marketing Scale-up Program, which delivers affordable latrines to 10s of thousands of households annually and has successfully increased sanitation coverage from 29 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2018.
  10. Sanitation Marketing: Traditional programs focusing on education may be successful in raising awareness, but do not always translate to purchases of hygienic toilets. Sanitation Marketing is a market-based approach that aims to increase both the capacity to supply and the demand for sanitation by making owning a toilet more appealing and desirable for families. iDE and WaterSHED implemented this new approach and focused on the rural Cambodian areas, and both have been successful in enabling the sale of more than 260,000 toilets and increasing improved sanitation coverage in Cambodia’s rural communities considerably.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Cambodia give a brief overview of the challenges and progress the country is making regarding the WASH sector. Cambodia is making improving the quality of water and sanitation a priority, which not only ensures the basic rights of people and protects human dignity but also indirectly and directly benefits Cambodia’s socio-economic development. Despite facing many challenges, with support from different international and local NGOs, the government of Cambodia has committed itself to the achievement of its goal of providing universal access to clean water and sanitation services by 2025.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

ADB Helps Pakistan to Fight Poverty

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) helps Pakistan to fight poverty by pledging  $10 billion to Pakistan over the next 5 years for the purpose of infrastructure development, with the goal of improving important economic sectors that could revitalize regional trade. Two central areas of investment for the ADB will be water resource development and transportation infrastructure. Transportation infrastructure is an especially important focus area, as it undergirds the possibility of developing trade in other sectors of Pakistan’s economy. Water resource development will be crucial in continuing to sustain the agriculture sector and in ensuring that citizens have access to water. Here are some ways ADB helps Pakistan to fight poverty by addressing some major issues.

Trade and Transportation

While trade and poverty may appear to be separate, the economic growth prospects offered by expanding trade programs often spill over to effect poverty reduction. The positive gains in GDP growth result in increased capital coming into a country, which creates more opportunities for employment and access to markets. Since 2001, consistent yearly GDP growth in Pakistan, ranging from 1.7 percent to 7.5 percent has come alongside a 24.7 percent reduction in the number of Pakistanis living in extreme (less than $1.90 a day) poverty.

However, the poor transit system could have negative effects on the future of economic growth in Pakistan. Most of the nation’s railway system is over 100 years old and was built during the British colonial period. This has severely hampered the possibility of ramping up trade and industrial production, as only 4 percent of commerce can be shipped via rail. This has had a while GDP growth has been consistent, the share of growth caused by trade has declined, as the service industry, at 58.6 percent of GDP and agriculture sector at 24 percent both outpace the contributions of industrial production, which has declined from 22 percent of GDP to 19.3 percent. Moreover, the ADB estimates that 2 percent of GDP is lost annually due to poor transportation infrastructure.

In response to this, the ADB has announced plans to invest in providing more locomotives, increasing the overall prospects for shipping capabilities by rail, and has also invested in updating railway lines, as well as improving north-south highways for travel via motor vehicles.

Water Resource Development

Water resource development is another way ADB helps Pakistan fight poverty. This is not to suggest that agriculture is unimportant, as in some cases, agricultural development is integral to the maintenance of local economic growth, offering a means of mitigating the worst impacts of poverty. This is especially true of Balochistan, a province that faces severe water scarcity, impacting both the living standards of the population and the local economy. Agricultural production requires massive levels of water to operate successfully, and with 60 percent of the population employed in agriculture, the impact of water scarcity on poverty is compounded by pressing economic concerns.

As a result of water scarcity in Quetta, the provincial headquarters of Balochistan, many tube-wells were installed in order to redirect water from rural areas to provide water to the urban areas. This program has produced a massive strain on the population of Balochistan, eliminating access for water for both drinking and for use in agricultural production, with poor water resource management producing a scenario in which one portion of the population is only able to access the water by depriving another.

However, the ADB is seeking to combat this water scarcity by protecting watersheds and building 276 kilometers of new irrigation channels, to support agricultural production. Watersheds will prevent soil erosion, and increase water storage capabilities in the region, while irrigation channels will assist in combating the scarcity brought on by tube-wells. Beyond its use for irrigation, these programs will also be important for developing methods of helping increase access to water in the region, which some estimate could have a profound impact on increasing women’s access to water.

Conclusion

Water scarcity and poor transportation infrastructure have hindered effective economic development in Pakistan, limiting the prospects for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. The influx of capital offered by expanding networks for regional trade promises to offer new avenues for employment and sustainable income for Pakistanis living in poverty. Water resource management will provide new avenues for managing agricultural development, ensuring stable irrigation routes and providing overall water security.

Alexander Sherman
Photo: Flickr

Trade in Bangladesh

Increased global integration has happened in Bangladesh as a result of domestic policy changes and the ability to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the international market. The increasing openness of the country’s economy reflects this. With the trend of Bangladesh devoting foreign aid towards project aid, foreign assistance has been playing a key role in increasing trade in Bangladesh.

Aid for Trade in Bangladesh by the World Trade Organization

Trade liberalization is not enough as many developing countries are still unable to take full advantage of it due to a lack of proper infrastructure and the relation between aid and trade flows. As a result, the concept of Aid for Trade (AfT) emerged in 2005 as an effort to assist developing countries to overcome supply-side constraints and improve trade capacity. This initiative also included economic infrastructure and productive capacity-building.

Aid for Trade in Bangladesh has helped strengthen its trade-related supply-side capacities through technical and financial support from various bilateral and multilateral development partners. Bangladesh had received a significant amount of trade-related assistance even before the institutionalization of AfT in 2005.

Over the years, AfT disbursements in Bangladesh have increased from $376.2 million in 2006-2008 to $910.1 million in 2015. As of 2015, the top AfT disbursement donors were Japan with $359.5 million, IDA with $292.4 million, AsDB Special Funds with $88.8 million, the United States with $50.6 million and Korea with $35.2 million. Most of these disbursements went to energy generation and supply, followed by transportation and storage, and agriculture, forestry and fishing.

By 2015, exports of goods increased by 183 percent and commercial services increased by 81 percent. Import of goods increased by 164 percent and commercial services increased by 220 percent, reflecting the increase in trade in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Regional Connectivity Project 1 by World Bank

On December 7, 2017, the World Bank signed a $150 million agreement with Bangladesh to improve trade-related infrastructure, systems and procedures so that Bangladesh could increase trade regionally with India, Bhutan and Nepal.

The Bangladesh Regional Connectivity Project 1 will develop and improve four land ports – Bhomra, Sheola, Ramgarh and Benapole, which are key ports for regional trade, especially with India. The modernization of these ports will not only increase trade in Bangladesh and its freight volumes but also lessen truck clearance times at border posts. For instance, the expectation is that clearance time will decrease by 83 percent in the Bhomra port.

According to Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, “By addressing the key barriers to trade, especially transport and clearance delays, Bangladesh can become more competitive regionally and globally, and reach more emerging and dynamic markets with diversified product mix, including higher-value garments.”

The project will also develop a National Single Window, a single electronic gateway, through which traders can submit all import, export and transit information needed by the Customs and other regulatory organizations. Not only will it reduce transaction time and costs but also increase transparency in international trade procedures.

The project will also initiate skills development programs to include more women in formal trade networks and global value chains, while also developing the necessary infrastructure, logistics and transport services for women.

Trade Finance Program (TFP) by Asian Development Bank

ADB’s TFP provides guarantees and loans to banks in order to support trade and fill the gaps in trade financing. The program works with over 200 banks to provide financial support to companies so they can actively participate in exports and imports in the challenging markets of Asia. The program supports transactions of commodities and capital goods to medical supplies and consumer goods.

This program has been working with Bangladesh since 2004 and has been involved with 13 local partner banks. It has conducted around 1,983 transactions in total, supporting trade in Bangladesh worth $3.1 billion and benefiting 966 small and medium-sized enterprises in various sectors ranging from food and agricultural goods to commodities and industrial machinery, capital goods and more.

Dutch-Bangla Bank Ltd. (DBBL) in Bangladesh partnered with the bank of TFP in 2009 and signed an agreement on February 22, 2018, to receive $10 million in loans annually from the program to support and increase trade in Bangladesh.

Multilateral and bilateral trade preferences towards Least Developed Countries have played an important role in increasing trade in Bangladesh, specifically the growth of exports, and as a result, the contribution of export-oriented sectors towards the country’s GDP, employment and investment. With diversified programs from development partners, the expectation is that the quality, volume and transparency of trade will increase for Bangladesh.

– Farihah Tasneem
Photo: Flickr

Water management in Armenia

With 25.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line, the people of Armenia consider water a luxury. Armenians face daily water shortages and unclean water supply in their homes. Despite this, several groups are working together to improve water management in Armenia. Maintaining a stable supply of water is an important step in lowering poverty and improving the lives of citizens.

3 Efforts to Improve Water Management in Armenia

  1. Relief to Yerevan: The World Bank sponsored a $50 million project to make water more accessible to Armenians living in the capital city, Yerevan. Before the intervention, families would have access to water in their homes for approximately six hours per day, and the water was usually unclean. Now, 332,000 families in the capital have access to water for 21 hours per day, and thanks to nine new chlorination stations, the water is cleaner and safer. The World Bank also recognized the need to monitor the water supply to prevent waste, so they introduced a software program that oversees the entire network of pipes and water mains. The program makes it possible to pinpoint areas within the network that need renovation or attention to maintain a stable supply of water. This program could help thousands of Armenians if it were implemented in other cities, but so far, it has brought a sense of security and relief to Yerevan.
  2. Wastewater Treatment Methods: Before 2010, the wastewater treatment system allowed unsanitary water to contaminate agricultural lands, causing a jeopardized food supply and an increased risk of disease. In the village of Parakar, Global Water Partnership’s Armenia branch stepped in to reform the wastewater treatment methods. They chose a cost-effective technology that treats domestic wastewater so that it can be later used for irrigation purposes and vice versa. This allows water to be recycled and reused, promoting a message of sustainability. The treatment program also focused on public awareness of the new treatment technology, involving the community in the process which facilitated the plan’s success.
  3. Water Within Reach: Armenians used to have to travel very far to get potable water. Some families were forced to drive over an hour to get to the public tap, spending a large portion of their income on the expenses associated with this travel. The Asian Development Bank launched a project that aimed to reduce the cost of obtaining water by making it clean and available within people’s own homes, benefitting more than 600,000 people across the country. Having access to water in the home for at least 17 hours per day now costs $12 per month – significantly less than what it previously cost to make the drive to the public tap. This initiative marginally contributes to the decrease in poverty among Armenian families, and it improves the quality of their lives significantly.

The World Bank, the Global Water Partnership and the Asian Development Bank have changed lives because of their work to improve water management in Armenia. This is a small but mighty step towards decreasing poverty in Armenia.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

Youth Education in Nepal
Nepal is a landlocked country located in South Asia. Much of the country’s population of 29 million lives in rural and distant places, making it difficult for youth education in Nepal to be reachable for the entirety of the country. Successful steps have been made in improving youth educational development through various nonprofit organizations and government programs.

Nepal in Numbers

Nepal is one of the least developed countries in Asia, ranking at 149th place out of 189 countries by the 2017 U.N. Human Development Index. According to the Asian Development Bank, about 25 percent of the population was living on less than $1 per day in 2011.

Nepal has many rural and distant communities that do not have a solid educational system. About 83 percent of the population lives in rural areas and 14 percent of the population is characterized as living in remote areas. Data from 2006 show that 76 percent of the Terai Dalits, 62 percent of Muslims and 45 percent of the Hill ethnic group did not attend school.

Despite the situation not being so good currently, it is safe to say that Nepal has seen a great improvement in education rates in the last few decades. The number of students enrolled in primary schools grew from 400,000 in 1971 to 3.9 million in 2001. Secondary school admittance increased from 120,000 in 1971 to 1.5 million in 2001, and the literacy rates improved drastically, from 20.6 percent of the population in 1981 to 64.7 percent in 2015.

Government expenditure for education was at 16.1 percent of the country’s budget in 2014-2015. Meanwhile, parents are spending close to 50 percent of their households budgets on the education of their children. In 2004, only 6 percent of the educational budget was used for higher education.

My Education…My Hope

Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), Qatar’s leading nonprofit education development system launched the “My Education…My Hope” fundraising campaign in 2014, with the goal of providing educational resources to vulnerable children in Palestine, Yemen, Pakistan, Nepal and Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The program implemented in Nepal will focus on providing resources to rural communities who desperately need the support. It is estimated that 50,000 Nepalese children will benefit from this project by improving the quality of youth education in Nepal and educational facilities, as well as by creating innovative educational solutions.

The Earthquake Consequences on Education

In April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, causing serious damage to the country’s infrastructure. It was estimated that over 8,000 schools were damaged. This had huge consequences on youth education. Even before the earthquake struck, attendance in primary schools in Nepal, according to UNICEF, was 96.2 percent for males and 91.4 percent for females. This natural disaster made it even harder for kids to attend schools.

In response to these issues, the government set up 8,000 Transitional Learning Centres, and another 4,000 were set up by different nonprofit organizations. The Asian Development Bank has pledged over $110 million and the Japan International Cooperation Agency has pledged $112 million for reconstruction of schools in Nepal in the near future.

National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) help start the School Earthquake Safety Program (SESP), with the initiative of making schools more earthquake safe, as well as educating families on earthquake safety. The program has completely reconstructed close to 300 schools to better withstand earthquake activity. Since schools are oftentimes used as community shelters during emergencies, ensuring the safety of these institutions is important for the children, but for the adults as well.

Youth education in Nepal has improved in all aspects during the last few decades, thanks to the joint effort of the government and various nonprofit organizations. While there is still work to be done in educating people in rural areas, nonprofits have been instrumental in giving resources to schools to protect them from natural disasters, ensuring the continuous and safe education.

– Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Developing Asia
Over the past 25 years, developing Asia has annually created 30 million jobs in industry and services. Job creation improves productivity, raises earnings for workers and largely reduces poverty.

The Impact of Technological Progress

Shifts in employment from sectors with low productivity and pay, typically subsistence agriculture, to sectors with higher productivity and pay in the modern industry are contributing to this process of raising wages. Productivity improvements come from technological progress within sectors, such as diverse high-yielding crops, innovative machine tools in manufacturing, information and communication technology in the service industries.

A common concern with technological progress affecting the economy is the predicted accompanying job displacement; However, recent studies invite a more optimistic prediction of productivity gains that will generate a positive feedback effect of creating more jobs than are being lost. Furthermore, industries that improve productivity with new technology will lower production costs in industries that depend on them, creating a ripple of higher demand and employment in other industries.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) supports the power of rising demand with data from 90 percent of the region’s total employment spanning 12 developing Asian economies between 2005-2015. The analysis predicts an 88 percent increase in employment, which is equal to an annual addition of 134 million jobs with rising incomes.

The ADB has also reported that jobs that necessitate cognitive and social skills and use information and communications technology have increased 2.6 percent faster than the total employment rate annually over the last decade. The wages associated with these jobs also increase faster than those of manual jobs.

Reasons For an Optimistic Outlook for Technological Progress in Developing Asia

The ADB emphasizes that most new technologies are implemented in only some aspects of a job, usually routine tasks, so that they create more time for complex tasks for workers. For instance, ATMs allow bank tellers to prioritize customer relationship management. The more obvious benefit entails the job creation to manage these new technologies.

In the last decade, 43 percent to 57 percent of jobs in India, Malaysia and the Philippines were in informational and communication technologies. The category of India’s craft and related workers is expanding to include specialized technicians who manage machines. Moreover, job sectors that would incorporate technological progress have a large capacity for growth.

Healthcare and education jobs make up 15 percent of jobs in The U.S. In lower and middle-income economies in developing Asia, healthcare and education jobs make up 3.5 to 6 percent of jobs, and business services jobs make up 1.5 to 6 percent of jobs, indicating a high potential for expansion.

Technology in the farming industry can have a positive impact on agriculture. In developed countries, waiters tend to receive the poorest wages; whereas in developing Asia, the agricultural workers receive the poorest wages. Technological progress can help farmers the most directly.

Mobile applications such as phone apps or text messages can assist farmers with tracking agricultural inputs. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have been supporting farmers in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Fiji, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Sri Lanka to implement emerging technologies.

The Necessity of Job Creation

Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KP) has suffered from instability and militancy for several decades with increasing out-migration and shrinking private industries. Since 2014, the government, in partnership with The World Bank, has recognized the demand for job creation, especially for the half its population of 30.5 million that are under the age of 30.

Turning to the opportunities of the digital revolution in 2018, the government created a program, Digital KP, that directly addressed this youth unemployment issue by preparing the younger generation for occupations in the technology sector. By supporting the youth with advancing technology, the region is on its way to stability and success.

Many educational programs are being implemented to provide foundations for learning necessary skills. Another strategy involves increasing local IT and digital businesses and attracting investment for them through tax relief programs, promoting co-working spaces and sponsoring annual tech events such as The Digital Youth Summit.

Addressing the Potential Issues

As developing Asia is expected to grow by 6 percent in 2018 and by another 5.9 percent in 2019, governments are aware of the potential challenges presented by increasing new technologies. Some businesses might not overcome the displacement of jobs.  

“ADB’s latest research shows that, on the whole, countries in Asia will fare well as new technology is introduced into the workplace, improving productivity, lowering production costs, and rising demand,” said Yasuyuki Sawada, ADB’s Chief Economist.

“To ensure that everyone can benefit from new technologies, policymakers will need to pursue education reforms that promote lifelong learning, maintain labor market flexibility, strengthen social protection systems, and reduce income inequality.”

Benefits of the ADB

The ADB offers different strategies, such as tax policies that will fight against income inequality. The same technological progress that may cause issues to workers could also foster skills, job-match and provide social protection. For the unemployed, the government can create programs that support them as they navigate the new labor market.

Developing Asia also benefits from the technological progress as it allows older workers to continue participating in the labor force past current retirement age. Artificial intelligence can either substitute or complement physically demanding tasks.

To maximize the benefits of technological progress while compensating for any losses, governments must adapt to the situation with policy changes. Technological progress can then become an optimistic gateway to reducing poverty in developing Asia.   

– Alice Lieu
Photo: Flickr

Why is Myanmar PoorLocated in Southeast Asia and bordering six other countries, Myanmar is slowly working to correct economic woes that have crippled the country for decades and have led many to ask “why is Myanmar poor?” Aside from widespread poverty, Myanmar is dealing with potential acts of genocide after 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh. This comes at a time when the country has been rebuilding its reputation after holding its first democratic elections in 2010. Under the previous rule by a military junta, development assistance had been on the decline due to the “unfriendly business environment.” The country has since undergone major reforms, including a string of altering economic policies and revamping sustainable development, as well as holding government officials accountable for human rights abuses.

The fact remains that “more than one-fourth of the country’s 60 million people live in poverty.” Myanmar is deeply dependent on agricultural land, and its infrastructure, as well as human capital, are abysmal. However, some reports suggest a promising economy in the years to come. The Asian Development Bank stated that “Myanmar could follow Asia’s fast-growing economies and expand at 7 percent to 8 percent a year, become a middle-income nation, and triple per capita income by 2030.” With the U.S. easing sanctions in 2012 and an increase in foreign development investments from $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion, gradual refinements to shift Myanmar to a competing free-market economy have been the key to harnessing growth.

Recently, the Burmese government decided to heavily invest in food security and rural development to reduce the migration of young people to cities, which depletes the labor available in rural areas. According to the U.N., in 2030, approximately 60 percent of the world’s population will inhabit urban areas. In addition, a recent survey showed that “25.6 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line in Myanmar and most of them are farmers from rural areas.” For this reason, Vice President U Henry Van Thio provided solutions to these queries by offering examples of ways the government would aim to persuade people not to migrate. Some solutions included:

  • Creating more robust transportation and electricity service to villages and rural areas
  • Provide agricultural loans to farmers
  • Building all-season roads

He noted that some underlying factors which have contributed to a wave of people fleeing rural areas include job shortages, climate change, food insecurity and difficult financial situations. Additionally, he noted that there was a solution underway to respond to the infrastructure deficits that are hindering Myanmar’s development. He attested that “the Department of Rural Road Development has been established as a new department under the Ministry of Construction in order to hasten and streamline infrastructure projects.”

With no recent announcement concerning the “14,000 Rohingya who are at risk of dying from malnutrition in the refugee camps,” the Burmese government is in a serious predicament. Their main focus is on dealing with a humanitarian crisis and furthering their agenda domestically. With labor shortages being a concern in rural areas, the next steps by the Burmese government must be prudent, well-executed and permanent if they aim to answer to the grievances of their people. The goal to transition Myanmar to a developed country can come only at the cost of their own expenditures. The question of “why is Myanmar poor?” comes at a time when the focus has shifted to international compliance as well as eagerly enforcing policies at home that will benefit its people. Humanitarian assistance, as well as development initiatives, are in conjunction to see improvements that come at a most pressing time.

– Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr