With its vast workforce, strong growth and expanding purchasing power, South Asia will be the key to reviving global demand, Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry of India, said at a session on Harnessing Regional Cooperation in South Asia at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. “The world cannot afford to ignore the region that will be key to reviving demand,” the minister said.
Despite the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) annual summit being cancelled in 2016 because of a terrorist incident in India, Sitharaman said, it is important to remember that the South Asian Free Trade Agreement is still going strong and has achieved major gains in intra-regional trade in the past few decades. She cited border haats, or markets, on the India-Bangladesh border and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway as other examples of increasing regional integration.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh added that the India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal motor vehicles agreement signed two years ago is another sign of closer ties within South Asia. She said better connectivity of this kind will be an indispensable part of any strategy aimed at bringing nations and people together.
With 1.8 billion people, 7% GDP growth rate and 25% of the world’s middle class, South Asia offers trade and commerce that can improve people’s quality of life while also keeping the peace in a volatile region, the panellists agreed. Manvinder S. Banga, Operating Partner, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, United Kingdom, said that as the world begins to de-globalize, there will be more opportunity for intra-regional trade within South Asia.
He added that countries must set aside political irritants and improve connectivity – a huge advantage for trade – as well as build common physical and social infrastructure, which can be a source of catalytic growth and enable countries to meet the common challenge of fighting hunger and poverty and providing education and healthcare to their people.
Business can help catalyse social infrastructure, particularly through digital technology, Banga said, citing the example of education where information technology offers the opportunity to transform educational reach while reducing the need for brick-and-mortar schools and teachers. Through digital technology, an entrepreneur needs much lower investment and even education to set up a business, Banga said. “There is an opportunity for digitally supported businesses at an unprecedented scale,” he added.
Mosharraf Zaidi, Founder and Campaign Director of Alif Ailaan – Time to End Pakistan’s Education Emergency, Pakistan, highlighted the need for better education for the under-25 population that gives South Asia its unparalleled demographic advantage over other regions. However, he warned that countries’ oversized emphasis on defence spending is leaving little to invest in building the region’s social capital.
Also underlying the discussion was the subtle acknowledgement that political issues such as state-supported terrorism and the legacy of mistrust between nations cannot be wished away.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, admitted that Sri Lanka prefers to deal bilaterally with its larger trading partners outside South Asia as well as those within the region. Nevertheless, he said, intra-regional relations of various kinds continue to thrive between his country and other South Asian countries – such as the “camel trade” between southern India and Sri Lanka in which traders commute daily between the two places. “There is a crisis only when you stop playing cricket with each other,” he said on a lighter note.
EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: Solid progress in supporting refugees
The Commission reported today good progress in the implementation and programming of €6 billion of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey. More than 80 projects are currently up and running delivering tangible results to refugees and host communities in particular on education and health. Out of the €6 billion, some €4.2 billion has been allocated, of which €3.45 billion has been contracted and €2.22 billion disbursed to date.
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations,said: “We continue to make good progress in the implementation and programming of the Facility. More than 80 projects to date provide vital assistance in the areas of education, health, protection and socio-economic support, and more projects are in the pipeline. We remain committed to continue our support to refugees and host communities in Turkey, addressing current needs and increasing resilience and self-reliance for the longer term.”
Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management,added: “The European Union is continuing to support refugees in Turkey, in line with its commitment. 1.6 million refugees are receiving humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Looking ahead to the future, we are working to make our support more sustainable. We remain committed to continue working closely with Turkey to make this possible.”
Today, the twelfth Steering Committee meeting of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey took place in Brussels. It was chaired by the Commission and brought together representatives of EU Member States and Turkey.
The Committee reviewed the third annual monitoring report on the implementation of the Facility and confirmed the progress made in the programming of the second €3 billion tranche of the budget of the Facility. It completed the evaluation of project proposals in the areas of socio-economic support and municipal infrastructure to the tune of €845 million.
The 84 projects set up in the framework of the Facility bring forth concrete outcomes and a significant positive impact for refugees and host communities alike, facilitating the integration of refugees in the Turkish society.
For education, one of the priority areas of action, the EU signed a €400 million contract to continue its support to existing programmes, which is to be complemented by a further €100 million before the summer. This involves the construction of 136 school buildings and 50 prefabricated schools well under way. This progress in education infrastructure goes hand in hand with the implementation of the project for Promoting Integration of Syrian Children into Turkish Education System (PICTES), which benefits 400,000 students.
In the area of health, 5 million healthcare consultations have been carried out, with 178 migrant health centres now operational, employing over 2,600 staff, two thirds of which are Syrian refugees.
The EU is highly focused on ensuring the sustainability of the Facility’s humanitarian and development activities, which aim to support the Turkish authorities in a structural manner and to facilitate refugee integration. Under the humanitarian strand of the second tranche, the EU is implementing projects for a total of €50 million in addition the ongoing projects under the first tranche, those have already delivered tangible results for refugees and host communities.
The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey was set up in 2015 in response to the European Council’s call for significant additional funding to support Syrian refugees in Turkey.
It has a total budget of €6 billion divided into two equal tranches of €3 billion each, allocated over two periods: 2016-2017 and 2018-2019.Out of the operational funds of €6 billion, €2.22 billion has already been disbursed, €3.45 billion contracted, with over 80 projects rolled out.
The Facility provides a joint coordination mechanism, designed to ensure that the needs of refugees and host communities are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. The support seeks to improve conditions for refugees in Turkey as part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to addressing the refugee crisis inside and outside the EU.
European Union and World Bank Support to Help Enhance Georgia’s Innovation Ecosystem
The European Union (EU) and the World Bank launched today the Increasing Institutional Capacity for Innovation (IICI) project, at an event held at Tech Park Georgia. Nika Alavidze, Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Mercy Tembon, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus, and Stig Kjeldsen, First Secretary at Delegation of the European Union to Georgia offered opening remarks at the event.
“The World Bank is proud to continue to stand by GITA as it transforms from a young ‘startup’ agency into a mature framework for Georgia’s coordination of its innovation and entrepreneurship policy and practice,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus. “With support from the EU, and the Bank’s technical assistance, this project will allow GITA to take the next step toward greater institutional capacity and effectiveness, test the potential for technology transfer, and improve opportunities for investing in innovative, early stage companies in Georgia.”
“Innovation increases SME competitiveness and creates jobs, and innovation policy is actually at the heart of the EU’s own Europe 2020 strategy for growth and job creation,” said Stig Kjeldsen, Cooperation Officer at the EU Delegation to Georgia. “Further assisting GITA in building Georgia’s innovation ecosystem falls naturally in line with the EU’s commitment to supporting business development in Georgia.”
The IICI project is financed by the EU to the amount of €2.7 million and will be implemented by the World Bank. The overall objective of the project is to increase GITA’s capacity to develop and implement innovation and entrepreneurship policies and programs with medium- and long-term strategies and results; test and demonstrate the viability of technology transfer between educational institutions and the private sector in Georgia; improve the deal flow of innovative start-ups ready for investment, and fund availability for early-stage companies.
The IICI project is expected to generate important results, including: easier access to support and finance for a greater number of small and medium enterprises and innovative firms, a more coherent public approach to supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs and a boost in overall innovative economic activity.
World Bank Group Releases Little Data Book on Gender
The World Bank Group today released the Little Data Book on Gender 2019 to provide an easily accessible entry point to statistics tracking gaps between men and women, boys and girls for 217 economies around the world with comparable data for 2000 and 2017.
In addition to demographic and economic information, the Little Data Book on Gender indicators include the proportion of women and men who use the internet, sex-disaggregated smoking prevalence, and the percentage of female graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs in tertiary education.
The book includes two indicators from the Women, Business and the Law database: the length of paid maternity leave and whether women are legally able to work in the same industries as men.
“Progress in eliminating poverty and ensuring shared prosperity can be enhanced and accelerated when we have good data,” said Caren Grown, World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender. “The Little Data Book on Gender offers policymakers and development practitioners easy access to data on males and females in the domains in which we work – health, education, and economic life. As sex-disaggregated data becomes increasingly available, there is no excuse to not use it in our policy dialogue and to inform choices about interventions.”
This edition of the Little Data Book on Gender also features online tables that will be updated quarterly.
“Regular online updates will make it easier than ever to see how women and men are faring across a range of global indicators, and to track progress over time,” said Haishan Fu, Director, Development Data Group. “This supplements the fuller, curated data and analysis tools provided by the World Bank Group, including through the Gender Data Portal.”
The Little Data Book on Gender shows remarkable broad progress toward gender equality in education enrollment and health, while gender inequality remains stubbornly persistent in access to economic opportunities. On virtually every global measure, the Little Data Book on Gender reveals that women are more likely than men to be engaged in low productivity activities, and to work more in vulnerable employment.
The Little Data Book on Gender can be accessed online through the World Bank’s Gender Data Portal, and can be used by researchers, journalists, policy makers, and anyone interested in gaps between men and women.
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