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World Bank Helps Bangladesh Modernize Safety Net Programs

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Today, the government of Bangladesh signed an agreement with the World Bank to improve the equity, efficiency and transparency of its major safety net programs.

The $245 million additional financing to the Safety Net Systems for the Poorest Project will help improve beneficiary targeting, information management, and benefit payment of the country’s five large safety net programs. These are: the Employment Generation Program for the Poorest, Work for Money, Test Relief, Vulnerable Group Feeding, and Gratuitous Relief. Implemented by the Department of Disaster Management, these programs collectively reach over 9 million poor and vulnerable households.

In FY 2017, Bangladesh spent around $3.5 billion on social protection, which was about 1.4 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. To ensure effective use of public resources, the World Bank is supporting the country to build common digital platforms to better administer safety net programs.

An integrated social protection service delivery system will help ensure equity, build resilience and create opportunities for the poorest population. At the same time, it will reduce administrative efforts, costs and errors,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. “Efficient and transparent delivery of social assistance to the right households at the right time will help Bangladesh reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity.

Currently, only the Employment Generation Program for the Poorest Program is administered with a management information system. The program also pilots digital payment of benefits to the target beneficiaries. The financing will help digitization of the other safety net programs as well as scale up digital payments using various technologies.

The financing will also help the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) to complete the country’s first universal poverty registry – the National Household Database. The database will be integrated with information systems of various ministries and agencies to use for beneficiary selection purposes. For this, BBS has already completed data collection in Barisal, Rangpur and part of Mymensingh divisions. This month, BBS will start data collection in Dhaka and Chittagong divisions.

The government of Bangladesh is committed to strengthen its safety net management and oversight capabilities by developing an integrated social protection service delivery system, in line with recommendations of the National Social Security Strategy 2015,” said Kazi Shofiqul Azam, Secretary, Economic Relations Division. “The additional financing is a critical milestone in this process.

Kazi Shofiqul Azam and Qimiao Fan signed the agreement on behalf of the government of Bangladesh and the World Bank, respectively, at the Economic Relations Division. With this additional financing, World Bank support to the project now stands at $745 million. The credit is from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessional lending arm. The credits are interest-free and repayable in 38 years, including a 6-year grace period, and carry a service charge of 0.75 percent.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then, the World Bank has committed close to $27 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. In recent years, Bangladesh has been the largest recipient of the World Bank’s interest-free credits.

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Philippines Growth to Remain Strong Despite Global Uncertainty

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The World Bank maintains its 6.7 percent growth forecast for 2018 and 2019 despite rising global uncertainty. Considering recent economic data, the composition of expected growth was revised as compared to the April edition of the World Bank Philippines Economic Update.

Given recent fiscal trends, government consumption growth was revised upwards, while private consumption growth is expected to expand at 5.9 percent in 2018 and 6.2 percent in 2019.

Investment growth was slightly upgraded due to higher public capital outlays, including increased infrastructure spending. Overall, it is anticipated that real GDP growth will increase towards the end of 2018 and into the first half of 2019 with higher election-related public spending.

The government’s ability to carry out its investment spending agenda will determine if the Philippines can achieve its growth target of 6.5-7.5 percent over the medium term,” said Birgit Hansl, World Bank Lead Economist for the Philippines. “In addition, higher private investment levels will be critical to sustain the economy’s growth momentum as capacity constraints become more binding.”

Exports, a key driver of growth for the Philippines economy, are projected to moderate in the coming years as global growth is expected to decelerate.

The World Bank’s June 2018 Global Economic Prospects projected a gradual global slowdown over the next two years, predicated on moderately higher commodity prices, strong but gradually moderating global demand, and incremental tightening of global financing conditions. Uncertainty around global growth conditions has risen, with the possibility of trade and other policy shocks emerging from major economies.

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New Programme Aims to Improve Infrastructure Procurement Capacity in Africa

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The Africa Infrastructure Fellowship Programme (AIFP) was today announced by Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

The World Economic Forum, the Global Infrastructure Hub and the private investment firm Meridiam have partnered to create the Africa Infrastructure Fellowship Programme (AIFP), an initiative to help African governments strengthen internal procurement capability by training and retaining key officials in procurement agencies, with the aim of attracting greater private-sector investment to Africa.

The components of the programme will be tailored to the needs of each country but, at its core, the AIFP will be made up of the following elements:

  • Three-day introduction to infrastructure procurement and networking with peers (provided by GI Hub)
  • Tutoring and examination through the Multilateral Development Banks’ Private Public Partnerships certification course
  • Two-week intensive course in infrastructure procurement (provided by selected universities)
  • Two-month placement in a private-sector company’s infrastructure team
  • Ongoing support for 12 months following the programme, including twice-yearly AIFP-related events hosted by the GI Hub

“It is important to emphasize that this project is in line with the mission of the Forum, to improve the state of the world. It is necessary to highlight the importance of jointly solving the challenges that surround the development of infrastructure at the global level,” said Denise Burnet, Head of Event Management and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.

Chris Heathcote, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Infrastructure Hub, said that, despite ongoing efforts, attracting private-sector investment into Africa remains a major challenge, and is a barrier to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“In order to meet the UN SDGs and the demands of accelerating economic and population growth in the African continent, we forecast that these countries will need to spend $7.6 trillion to 2040. Our analysis forecasts that the continent will invest $4.3 trillion based on current trends, exposing an investment gap of $3.3 trillion, or 43%. Investors will only invest in countries where market conditions are favourable, and it’s our goal through this initiative to assist in creating an environment that is conducive to private-sector investment in infrastructure,” said Heathcote.

Thierry Déau, Chief Executive Officer of Meridiam, added: “As long-term investors, we are convinced that key success factors to projects rely on excellent synergies between the private and public sector. We chose to accompany the AIFP initiative, convinced that this agile organization based on strong commitments of stakeholders is the perfect tool to accelerate the deployment of sustainable infrastructure in Africa.”

Africa has the highest population growth globally, and a number of its countries rank highly in terms of economic growth; and yet these countries also have the lowest growth in infrastructure stock.

The AIFP will be a six-month capability-building programme that will give participants a robust understanding of procurement, governance and the role of the private sector in infrastructure projects. The programme will provide participants with a mix of theoretical and practical training, opportunities to work within major private-sector companies, and lead to the establishment of a strong network of infrastructure practitioners across Africa.

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How ICT is transforming and making our societies more resilient

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Together with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other partners, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has organized a side event at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to explore how information and communication technology (ICT) is transforming and making our societies more resilient.

The HLPF, which runs through to 18 July, brings together more than a thousand government, business and civil society leaders. The Forum, which meets annually under the auspices of ECOSOC, is a platform for the exchange of experiences in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), identifying gaps and lessons learned.

A selected multi-stakeholder panel at the side event, “ICT enabling the transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”, included government, business and the UN. Participants discussed how digital technologies are improving productivity and competitiveness, pointing out that recent studies confirm that digitalization has immense potential that could deliver around $100 trillion in value to business and society over the next decade. It was also noted that digital solutions have the potential to enhance resource optimization and efficiency in water and energy consumption.

Providing a UN perspective, UNIDO’s Takeshi Nagasawa said, “The sustainable energy transition and Industry 4.0 share important characteristics that can be interconnected to pursue a sustainable energy transition. Such integrated approaches could be guided by the SDGs, which provide important target setting for energy, climate change and industry,” adding that UNIDO has “the capability and relevant portfolio to foster Industry 4.0 across all stages of industrial development.”

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