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China: A Watershed Moment for Water Governance

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Effective management of water resources is central to China’s economic prosperity. Despite significant investments in water management and infrastructure, more tangible innovative policies and incentives are required to strengthen and better integrate water management at both national and regional levels. Providing more water for environmental uses, expanding the use of market mechanisms to driver water efficiency and adopting transformational approaches to fight water pollutions are among the key tasks for the rapidly growing economy. In facing these challenges, the Chinese experience will make important contributions to the global discourse, says a new a report jointly launched by the World Bank and the Development Research Center (DRC) of China’s State Council today.

The joint study Watershed: A New Era of Water Governance in China closely examines the key water management issues in the context of China’s rapid development and recommends a new approach to the governance of water. This is aligned with the goals of the ecological civilization and its aims to balance economic growth against increasing water demand under conditions of water scarcity.

“China’s water governance faces a rapidly changing context with increasingly serious challenges, with more complicated problems and more ambitious goals,” said Wang Yiming, Vice Minister of the Development Research Center. “The study makes an important contribution to enhancing the framework for China’s water management and provides a practical set of tools and policy guidance. We believe these recommendations will be substantially helpful to further enhance the level and capacity of China’s water governance.”

 “Water is key to the realization of China’s sustainable development. This study leverages the Chinese experience to combine with the Bank’s global knowledge in providing a framework for enhancing water governance in support of sustainable social and economic development,” said Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific. “The Chinese experience in managing the development of water resources also has important lessons for other transitioning economies and informing efforts to address global risks to economic progress, poverty eradication, peace and security, and sustainable development.”

Despite being the world’s second-largest economy and being home to 21 percent of the global population, China has only 6 percent of the world’s freshwater resources. In the past 50 years, China has made significant investments in water management and infrastructure, which has led to significant achievements in water supply, irrigation, flood control and hydropower generation. However, the country is still facing acute challenges with respect to both water quantity and quality. Rapid urbanization is driving increasing demand for water from all sectors. Water pollution poses significant risks to human health. Ecosystem services are under severe pressure from urbanization and growing water demands. Drought and local water scarcity affects large parts of the country due to the uneven distribution of water resources and variable rainfall. Small and medium sized cities and rural areas remain unevenly served by water supply, sanitation, and flood protection infrastructure.

China has implemented a series of reforms and pilots in recent years. These have been designed to address the many water-related challenges, including water scarcity, water pollution, ecological degradation, and increased risks and impacts of floods and droughts. The Strictest Water Resources Management System established three major control objectives, known as the Three Red Lines Three Red Lines, and the construction of an “ecological civilization” has become one of the government’s highest policy priorities. The 19th Party Congress in October 2017 further highlighted the goal of building a “beautiful China” to meet increasing public demand for improved environmental quality.

As China pursues a new growth model within the context of an ecological civilization, the report recommends a new water governance strategy that built around five key water governance reform priorities:

Enhance the legislative foundation for water governance. The Water Law, which was last revised in 2002, should be updated to reflect the new principles and challenges. China has established many water quality standards but more work is needed for enforcement and addressing cross jurisdictional issues. The market has an important role to play. As one of the world’s most important and active arenas for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the water sector, China would benefit from further strengthening and codifying the existing regulations concerning PPPs.

Strengthen national and basin water governance. Reflecting the cross-sectoral nature of water, China could consider creating a high-level, inter-agency mechanism with representatives from the primary ministries concerned with different aspects of water governance. This would help contribute to coordinated policy efforts, reach consensus, identify national strategic priorities and provide guidance to river basin planning. The river basin agencies provide an integrated management for water resources, water ecological environment and the catchment landscape, and should be given enhanced authority and clarity in the key areas of planning, coordination, implementation, enforcement, and financing. Formally linking provincial River and Lake Chiefs with the river basin agencies will help to institutionalize the River and Lake Chief System.

Improve and optimize economic policy instruments. The further development and implementation of economic instruments, such as water pricing and water rights trading, will promote more sustainable and efficient water use. More empirical evidence is also needed to assess the effectiveness of these instruments and adapt. The report suggests four ways to improve target setting of the Three Red Lines to strengthen the effectiveness of China’s Most Stringent System for Water Resource Management. Innovative financing mechanisms can also be better aligned to help sub-national areas meet national targets.

Strengthen adaptive capacity to climate and environmental change. Already faced with scarce water resources, the prospects of global climate change increase the sense of urgency in implementation. China should expand the use of green infrastructure approaches for flood management and experiment with water pollutant discharge permit trading. The report highlights the need to sharpen policy focus on non-point source pollution and explore alternative financial mechanisms, and suggests to explore the development of the Red Line targets for ecological water flows.

Improve data collection and information sharing. The establishment of a national water information sharing platform will help to foster coordination and collaboration including water resources and water ecological environment across agencies and support entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific discovery in the water sector. The report calls for a greater role of public awareness and participation, which will not only help ease the task of monitoring water quality but also contribute to the goal of a “water-saving society”.

The study was jointly produced by World Bank and the Development Research Center of the State Council, with active involvement of domestic and international research institutions and great support from the relevant government ministries.

Read the Policy Brief of Watershed: A New Era of Water Governance in China

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Curbing Corruption in the Midst of a Pandemic is More Important Than Ever

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Progress against corruption can be made even under the most challenging conditions, a new World Bank report finds. At a time when unprecedented levels of emergency funds have been mobilized to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report offers a fresh look at some of the most effective approaches and tools to enhance government accountability.

Enhancing Government Effectiveness and Transparency: The Fight Against Corruption focuses on ways to enhance the effectiveness of anti-corruption strategies in the sectors most affected. It serves as a reference guide to policy makers and anti-corruption champions as further work is needed to sharpen the application of traditional tools.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in large scale emergency spending by governments at rapid speed to revive the economy as well as protect the poor and vulnerable who suffer disproportionately. As countries embark on the road to a more resilient and inclusive recovery, prudent use of scarce resources in a transparent manner is critical,” said World Bank Managing Director Mari Pangestu, “Progress is possible in all environments and we are committed to work closely with our partners in government, civil society, and the private sector to address corruption and its corrosive impacts.”

Some of the unprecedented emergency spending against COVID-19 has occurred without adhering to the regular checks and balances. While speed is understandable, without proper controls, it exposes governments to a variety of corruption risks that may undermine the effectiveness of their responses. To foster greater accountability, the report calls on governments to clearly articulate their actions, enforce rules, address violations, and remedy problems as quickly as possible, and in a transparent manner.

The report covers five key thematic areas: public procurement, infrastructure, state-owned enterprises, customs administration, and service delivery, and cross-cutting themes such as open government initiatives and GovTech, with case study examples from around the world. It will help equip public sector officials and civil society with a modular set of approaches and tools that can be drawn upon and adapted to their specific country context. 

The report’s case studies show that measures to curb corruption are often opportunistic, targeting specific areas of vulnerability where and when the political space allows. But even when actions have apparently limited impact, they can provide important foundation for future progress.

In Bangladesh, the implementation of the e-Government Procurement, combined with increased transparency and citizen participation, halved the number of single bidder tenders which improved competition significantly; increased the number of contracts awarded to non-local firms; and led to better prices with successful bidders.

Colombia updated its e-procurement system to publish data in an open way following international standards.  As a result, single bid tenders in the public roads agency, INVIAS, went down from 30% to 22%, while cities like Cali saw competitive processes increase from 31% to 56% in about two years.

In Ukraine, making wealth declaration forms of public officials available online was recognized by citizens and the international community as a key tool in the fight against corruption. The latest data shows that close to 5,3 million documents in the e-declarations system are accessible to the public. As of mid-2020, the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine had 19 cases against officials accused of submitting false information in the Asset and Interest Declaration or intentionally not submitting a declaration.

In Afghanistan, the customs department has been progressively implementing a countrywide computerization of customs clearance operations. Although significant vulnerabilities exist and revenue loss at the borders remains a substantial challenge, revenue collected by customs has increased seven-fold between 2004 and 2019, and clearance time and the transparency of trade transactions has improved significantly.

The land reform program in Rwanda helped manage the conflicts around land and led to increased efficiency, transparency, citizen participation, and development of viable land governance institutions. Automation of land records reduced bribes paid to land registry officials as the information was in public domain.

“Institutions are incredibly important for implementing government policies, engaging civil society, and ensuring greater transparency in government operations,” said Ed Olowo-Okere, World Bank Global Director for Governance, “The global report highlights the importance of complimenting the traditional methods of dealing with corruption with advanced ones like GovTech and e-Procurement to address corruption, even in the most challenging and fragile environments.”

The World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response. We are supporting public health interventions, working to ensure the flow of critical supplies and equipment, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. We will be deploying up to $160 billion in financial support over 15 months to help more than 100 countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. This includes $50 billion of new IDA resources through grants and highly concessional loans.

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A rapid rise in battery innovation is playing a key role in clean energy transitions

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Affordable and flexible electricity storage technologies are set to catalyse transitions to clean energy around the world, enabling cleaner electricity to penetrate a burgeoning range of applications. Between 2005 and 2018, patenting activity in batteries and other electricity storage technologies grew at an average annual rate of 14% worldwide, four times faster than the average of all technology fields, according to a new joint study published today by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Energy Agency.

The report, Innovation in batteries and electricity storage – a global analysis based on patent data, shows that batteries account for nearly 90% of all patenting activity in the area of electricity storage, and that the rise in innovation is chiefly driven by advances in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in consumer electronic devices and electric cars. Electric mobility in particular is fostering the development of new lithium-ion chemistries aimed at improving power output, durability, charge/discharge speed and recyclability. Technological progress is also being fuelled by the need to integrate larger quantities of renewable energy such as wind and solar power into electricity networks.

The joint study shows that Japan and Korea have established a strong lead in battery technology globally, and that technical progress and mass production in an increasingly mature industry have led to a significant drop in battery prices in recent years. Prices have declined by nearly 90% since 2010 in the case of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, and by around two-thirds over the same period for stationary applications, including electricity grid management.

Developing better and cheaper electricity storage is a major challenge for the future. According to the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario, for the world to meet climate and sustainable energy goals, close to 10 000 gigawatt-hours of batteries and other forms of energy storage will be required worldwide by 2040 – 50 times the size of the current market.

“IEA projections make it clear that energy storage will need to grow exponentially in the coming decades to enable the world to meet international climate and sustainable energy goals. Accelerated innovation will be essential for achieving that growth,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “By combining the complementary strengths of the IEA and the EPO, this report sheds new light on today’s innovation trends to help governments and businesses make smart decisions for our energy future.”

“Electricity storage technology is critical when it comes to meeting the demand for electric mobility and achieving the shift towards renewable energy that is needed if we are to mitigate climate change,” said EPO President António Campinos. “The rapid and sustained rise in electricity storage innovation shows that inventors and businesses are tackling the challenge of the energy transition. The patent data reveals that while Asia has a strong lead in this strategic industry, the US and Europe can count on a rich innovation ecosystem, including a large number of SMEs and research institutions, to help them stay in the race for the next generation of batteries.”

The joint study follows the publication earlier in September of the major IEA report Energy Technology Perspectives 2020, which has deepened the IEA’s technology analysis, setting out the challenges and opportunities associated with rapid clean energy transitions.

As governments and companies seek to make informed investments in clean energy innovation for the future, sector-specific insights like those offered by the joint study will be highly valuable, including for helping bring about a sustainable economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. The innovation study provides an authoritative overview of the technologies and applications receiving research attention – and of those that are underserved. It also shows where they stand in the competitive landscape.

Innovation is increasingly recognised as a core part of energy policy, and this year the IEA has been introducing more tools to help decision-makers understand the technology landscape and their role in it – and to track progress in innovation and the deployment of technologies. This includes a comprehensive new interactive guide to the market readiness of more than 400 clean energy technologies.

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Russia Among Global Top Ten Improvers for Progress Made in Health and Education

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Russia is among the top ten countries globally for improvements to human capital development over the last decade, according to the latest update of the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI).

The 2020 Human Capital Index includes health and education data for 174 countries covering 98 percent of the world’s population up to March 2020.

Russia’s improvements were largely in health, reflected in better child and adult survival rates and reduced stunting. Across the Europe and Central Asia region, Russia, along with Azerbaijan, Albania, Montenegro, and Poland, also made the largest gains in increasing expected years of schooling – mainly due to improvements in secondary school and pre-primary enrollments. The report also shows that over the last 10 years Russia has seen a reduction in adult mortality rates. However, absolute values of this indicator remain high in the country with this progress now at risk due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Human capital contributes greatly to improving of economic growth in every country. Investments in knowledge and health that people accumulate during their lives are of paramount concern to governments around the world. Russia is among the top improvers globally in the Index. However, challenges persist and much needs to be done to improve the absolute values of Index indicators,” said Renaud Seligmann, the World Bank Country Director in Russia.

The HCI, first launched in 2018, looks at a child’s trajectory, from birth to age 18, on such critical metrics as child survival (birth to age 5); expected years of primary and secondary education adjusted for quality; child stunting; and adult survival rates. HCI 2020, based on data up to March of this year, provides a crucial pre-pandemic baseline that can help inform health and education policies and investments for the post-pandemic recovery.

Of the 48 countries in Europe and Central Asia included in the 2020 Human Capital Index (HCI), 33 are among the upper-third in the world, and almost all are in the top half. However, there are significant variations within the region.

In Russia, a child born today can expect to achieve 68 percent of the productivity of a fully educated adult in optimal health. It is at the average level for Europe and Central Asia countries and the third result globally among the countries of the same income group. There is a stark contrast between education and health subscales in Russia. While the education outcomes of the country are high and outperform many high-income peers, its health outcomes are below the global average.

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