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A Dynamic Private Sector and an EU Orientation Should Be the Driving Force in Ukraine’s Recovery



image source: photo: Vadim Ghirda

– Yesterday, the World Bank approved a new Development Policy Loan for Ukraine with a significant sum, $1.5 billion. How fast these money will come to Ukraine and what are the priorities of this loan? 

– The loan approved on 7 June – the Public Expenditures for Administrative Capacity Endurance in Ukraine (or PEACE in Ukraine) – is not a Development Policy Loan, but one that finances core government expenditures so that the government can continue to operate and provide services to the people of Ukraine. In its current version, the World Bank undertakes to reimburse the government for all salaries of core civil servants as well as salaries of educators every month (beginning in March, after the war began, until at least the end of the year), so long as the salaries are actually paid in full. So, after an initial big reimbursement for the March-May period, the remaining amount will be paid month-by-month on the basis of proof of actual expenditures. All of this will help Ukraine preserve and protect the capacity of the government and help in ensuring that this strong government capacity is preserved for economic recovery. 

– What types of financial assistance can Ukraine expect from the World Bank Group in 2022 and 2023? What additional amount can be received through the Bank’s Trust Fund? Could the Bank participate in covering Ukraine’s sectoral deficits, for example, in the electricity and gas sectors?

– Given the acute financing needs for the central budget, The World Bank is now concentrating on helping provide fast and immediate assistance – which in turn can help the population, especially the most vulnerable. First, very soon we will disburse a further $100 mln to help internally displaced people. We are continuing, within our existing projects, to help in the health sector, infrastructure and energy. We are also exploring with other bilateral development partners (such as Italy, Japan and the United States), who are very interested in adding to the PEACE loan and financing other types of verifiable budget expenditures; the specific items are not yet agreed, but will certainly include additional payments to internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups in Ukraine. Our sister organization, IFC, who works with the private sector, is helping with guarantees to promote trade and agriculture. 

– On what conditions, in your opinion, should financial assistance be provided to Ukraine during the war and after it, for the reconstruction of the country? How strict should they be? How to avoid the formation of Ukraine’s debt overhang, because according to the World Bank forecast only this year its debt will increase from 50.7% of GDP to 90.7% of GDP?

– Ukraine right now needs enormous resources every month to keep the economy functioning during the war – the government’s estimate, which we broadly endorse, is around $5 billion a month (or $35 bn from now until the end of 2022). Clearly, getting sufficient resources is the most important challenge – but the cost of these resources also matters, exactly because Ukraine will need to service these increasing debts in the future. 

So the best way for partners to support Ukraine is through grants – which is most prominently being done by the US. Since grants of sufficient magnitude are not easily available, the next best option are loans that are quite concessional, with low interest rates and longer maturities – such as from the World Bank and other IFIs. Some countries, such as the UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia and Denmark, have innovatively helped increase the volume of such cheap loans to Ukraine, by issuing guarantees to the World Bank and other IFIs. 

– In early April, the WB forecasted a decline in Ukraine’s economy this year by 45,1% with inflation of 15% and its recovery in 2023 year by only 2,1%. How much has this forecast changed as of now?

– Our 2022 GDP projection is still unchanged (authorities currently have 44 percent GDP decline in 2022). But our estimate of the medium-term recovery is now at risk due to the prolonged war, with active combat still continuing in parts of Ukraine. So the impact on the GDP is coming from the relatively large area with active war, while the remaining part of Ukraine is suffering from shelling with corresponding damage to infrastructure, assets and thus livelihoods and jobs. And unfortunately, the probability that the war can last beyond 2022 is now higher. 

There is another risk to the broader economy. Inflation pressures are growing – due to the need to cover some part of fiscal needs during March- May via Central Bank monetization and financing from domestic banks and depreciation expectations, together with decreased supply of essential goods. Thus, inflation is now expected to increase further – and can reach 20 percent in December (vs 15 percent in our April projections). 

International partners have recognized the fiscal challenges and have already committed around $20 bn of financing to help Ukraine. Despite these significant commitments, the timing of its disbursement will remain critical in order to address Ukraine’s ongoing needs.  

– What is the current World Bank’s assessment of Ukraine’s losses from the war? How fast can the economy of Ukraine and the level of poverty of its population return to the pre-war level? Under what conditions?

– At the end of March, we estimated damages to infrastructure and structures to be around $60 bn, which was close to the estimates being provided on a continuing basis by the Kyiv School of Economics, which is using World Bank methodology. By now, the direct physical damages are well over $100 bn. If you additionally account for the economic losses that companies and individuals have undergone because of the war, the damages rise to two or three times that amount. Together with the government of Ukraine and the European Union, the World Bank will come up with a broader “Damage and Needs Assessment” by late summer.

Catching up to pre-war levels of the economy will not, unfortunately, be quick or easy. Ukraine will need rapid economic growth – far higher than the average of 3 percent a year that we saw in the pre-war era. A simple way to think about this is the “rule of 70” – the number of years it takes a country to double its GDP is 70 divided by the rate of growth. So at 3% growth, Ukraine would take 22 years to double its economy. But if Ukraine can achieve a consistent 7% growth, it will need just 10 years.

– In your opinion, what economic steps would help Ukraine better adapt to the war-caused situation? For example, should the state increase or decrease its expenditures? Should tariffs be fixed or subsidies increased?

– To achieve the sort of growth rate needed for recovery, Ukraine will need to reinvent its economy to one that is led by a dynamic, competitive private sector and an EU orientation. It will need to take measures – on investment climate, rule of law, justice and logistics infrastructure – to attract large amounts of foreign private capital and technical expertise. The model here is what Western Europe was able to do after World War II with the help of the Marshall Plan – where modernizing their economies was as or more important than the large grants from the US.

So the state expenditures will play a big part – for essential infrastructure, for essential services, for education and health, for social protection, and of course for defense and security. Because of this, the state will also need to collect sufficient revenues to do all this. But public spending by itself will not be enough for recovery and growth – a major role for the state will be to set the conditions (that go much beyond tax rebates or special subsidies) to help all Ukraine’s competitive private sector flourish. 

– What are your suggestions for the current Ukraine’s social safety nets sector? Does it worth for Ukraine to establish Universal Basic Income system? How should the government build its financial relations with refugees, who left the country?

– Ukraine’s social safety net system, including pensions and the Guaranteed Minimum Income program – as well as the new benefit program to support internally displaced persons (IDPs) – provides important financial protection to the population during the economic disruption caused by the war. The system will soon come under pressure, though – a pressure that will worsen the longer the war endures. Our own estimates show that the household losses from the income shock and higher cost-of-living will be around 25 percent of the household budget. Poverty, under the worst-case scenario, may reach as high as 58 percent in 2023. This will push millions more people onto social assistance. 

Although the government budget is under fiscal strain, sweeping social expenditure cuts should be avoided since they would have catastrophic consequences for beneficiaries of these social safety net programs. This is why the Bank has been supporting, and will continue to support, the Guaranteed Minimum Income program (including through a new $50 million disbursement). As I mentioned earlier, the World Bank will also provide nearly $100 million in reallocated lending to support the IDP program during the period of martial law. The government is also to be commended for its impressive leveraging of the existing digital Diya platform to allow new cash transfers to be paid to IDPs within just eight days, reaching 3.5 million beneficiaries within a month. 

– What wartime solutions for the medical sector, education and science does the World Bank offer?

– The war is having a devastating impact on health and education in Ukraine and is expected to affect generations to come.The most obvious effects on health are immediate, in the form of thousands of conflict-related deaths and injuries. Less visible is the illness caused, and worsened, by people not being able to access care for acute and chronic conditions. In education, due to the combination of COVID-related and war-related school closures, Ukrainian children have been out of school for more than a year. This will imply huge learning losses, whose consequences will impact future employment and income, with estimated future earnings losses of more than 10 percent per year per student.

While the war still rages, the health system will need to focus on meeting emergency medical needs related to war-related injuries, but also ensure continuation of other essential health services, including for COVID, and for chronic conditions (like hypertension and diabetes), so that long-term population health is not jeopardized. This is why World Bank projects are continuing to support both the procurement of emergency medical equipment and also the financing of the Program of Medical Guarantees. Expansion of services to address the mental health impact of the war is also needed. While providing education during war is difficult, a very promising approach it to use on-line, phone-based, or in-person tutoring can happen anywhere and is both effective and cost-effective. Tutoring could be an important complementary to the classes provided by the All-Ukrainian Online School platform.  Through payments through the PEACE project to cover a share of teachers’ salaries, the World Bank is helping to ensure continuity of education for all Ukrainian students, no matter where they are located. 

– The concept of “RebuildUkraine” was recently presented. It stipulates that while the reconstruction plan must be framed by Ukraine itself, its implementation should be led through the “Ukraine Reconstruction Platform”. In Ukraine, there is a discussion about the effectiveness of this format: they say that a significant part of the funds will go to the bureaucracy instead of financing real projects. Could the “RebuildUkraine” concept be effective? How centralized should the funding process be? What role will the World Bank play?

– Ukraine’s reconstruction, as mentioned earlier, will need efforts from everyone – Ukrainian authorities (and yes, the bureaucracy), Ukrainian farmers, entrepreneurs, those in digital tech industry, heavy industry, banking, retail … 

Key to this process is for the state to provide the essential expenditures and framework for recovery – in terms of basic services, protection of the population, proper regulation and competition policy (that is not too onerous and not too light), security and justice. Improving services and rebuilding institutions not cheap, and it will require significant resources for the state. A lot of that will come from abroad – especially if Ukraine commits itself to build institutions as good as those in the EU to prepare for accession. However, the state also has to enable the private sector to be able to flourish – and that means not just the big industrialists, but also the average Ukrainian farmer or small businessperson. And for this, what will be needed is not just money, but expertise, regulations that are fair and easy to navigate, and attention to ensuring that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed.

The World Bank will play a strong role in helping the Ukrainian authorities in achieving this vision –through our own finances, but also through coordinating with other development partners so that we can all complement each other to get the most resources to the best uses in Ukraine (as we are already doing today for the period of wartime relief). But as important will be our global expertise across all economic sectors, which we hope to share with and work hand-in-hand with Ukrainian authorities to help rebuild the Ukraine of the future.  

– The World Bank has repeatedly claimed the risks of deepening poverty and hunger in many low-income countries due to the war in Ukraine. What is the World Bank Group doing to unblock food exports from Ukraine?

– The cheapest and fastest way to get grain and oilseeds out of Ukraine is through the Black Sea. This needs work in the diplomatic and political areas to unblock these routes. While these are not our area of expertise, we encourage and support these efforts. Meanwhile, we are working to enhance the overland exports of grain, by working with Ukrainian railways and the European Union on how to increase the flow of grain exports through EU countries. Since this will not be able to get all the grain out, IFC and we are also working to see whether we can help farmers obtain better forms of temporary storage for the grain so that it does not spoil before it can get exported or consumed.

First published in Interfax-Ukraine- World Bank

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World Order Is Old Order: New World Order Is No Order



The grand hallucinations: When there is any order, it always becomes visible as an orderly progression, when it is supposed to be a secret or an invisible order, then it is grand hallucinations for a cult of illusionists. Observe how the World Order is an old order, and notice how the new world order is no order. The random engagements in illusionary cultish acts of chaos sold as order. Fakery sold and resold as victory, illusions pushed as hallucinations of success. Courage is needed to see the big magical acts of grand hallucinations.

The feel of afternoon-high: Across the world, free economies are already bent, twisted or broken, while procedures, policies and laws, everything on sale for the right price. Mighty-money, delivered crisply stacked, shrink-wrapped as freshly printed solutions, to buy more chaos, spread misery and create the economic hallucinations and stage the smoke and mirrors, all without any totals, balances or columns. Sold to feel a real afternoon-high.

The interchange: When integrity gone, fakery dominates, when real value-creation gone value-manipulation regulates, when vision gone illusions thrives, when national economics gone hallucinations declared as great success and reality interchanges to fakery.  

The elasticity left: Needed across the free economies of the world, no further proof required, a total change, no further verification needed, as political power no longer economical power, no further help needed, as most nations in need of basic diaper change. Visible damage to skills and competency, inability to understand and articulate the real problems with grassroots solutions is now a big tragedy of our times. Nations already stretched via rubber band economy, some with elasticity left before going bust.

The truth: Which nation has the capacity to face the truth? Which nation can fix itself not just top reshuffle, but rather from top to bottom to the real core? Which nation can uplift its citizenry to stand up to global age skills and cope with global speed and competitiveness? Which nation is capable of understanding and has the right to mobilize its hidden national entrepreneurialism and provide a future for the next generation?

No electricity and missing bulbs: Is there any value left in the most cherished Machiavellian style political power without ever creating any economic power? Is there any remaining value in economic power play of today without entrepreneurial growth models? What good are economies when stuck in waste paper baskets still without digitization like a nation being without electricity? What real economic value is created when odd mindsets playing with economic development procedures like creating light but with no bulb?  

Welcome to cold facts and warm realties.

The branded nations: Why each and every single nation of our planet is now branded every single day of the year? Like it or not, agree with what is said, disagree with what gossiped, simple fact of the day,  each nation is branded, between each sunrise and sunset. Here is some advanced level insight for the national leaderships on global corporate communication challenges, as what may be altering their efforts on global affairs, what might mold their global trades as the deep undercurrents of global ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ from the global populace shape their national global image and rate of popularly and any level of respect on world stage.

The global opinion: Observe how fast the world changed, how the ocean of “global opinion” is now drowning ponds of “national opinion”. Notice, nations already intoxicated, in joy over the popularity of their own national opinion, while having just an opposite global opinion on the world stage. What does this mean to a nation’s image supremacy, how does this translate into economic impacts? Why is any global opinion of any kind important anyway? Be cautious, if such important topics are not discussed in your boardrooms, check out the restrooms.

The fabric of humankind. Every huge, little, deadly, serious or funny incident of any kind, becomes ‘alive’ in global social media, where despite all controls its is processed with common sense with common emotions, commented and circulated around the world, many times, registered, measured, analyzed, criticized and humanized as good, bad or ugly in the minds of the global populace.  No one can stop it. Facing truth is now a new global challenge of moral strength, something that increasingly demands insight and awareness. Shunning, arguing or defending and fighting has little or no power, as the real power hidden is in critical thinking to solve common good, humankind issues.   

The 200 nations, now under their own global digital spell, responding, and adjusting their own feedback and updating reality checks, influenced by the five billion, connected populace driving the world opinion.  The voices are no longer the big old-media, as they have already lost their credibility and power,  but across the world the new known and unknown big and small clusters of people sharing their thoughts amongst their local and global connectivity and surroundings. The truth rises, because this is how the critical needs for common good and social justice advances. The fabric of humankind stretches, starts to cover all nations.

Weaponization of Ideologicalism:  Why are most nations increasingly unable to control their restless citizenry? How much more will the citizens of these nations, continuously influenced by the global opinion, facing common sense, chasing truth, turning internal tribalism, into cultural wars defining limits of ideologies, as Weaponization of Ideologicalism slowly ripping local social fabric and crushing economies. Where are the repairmen, where are the solutions, which leadership is ready to articulate and bring national mobilization of entrepreneurialism as an untapped national treasure. Which nation is ready to face reality and show their advanced skills?

The aimless directives: When nations appear aimlessly drifting into hallucinations, the lack of vision, absence of social justice, unable to control internal tribalism, cultural wars move to ideological wars. Nations fragmented and splintered, now facing street by street mental wars. The visible lack of skills at the top management, lack of speed of execution at middle level and the absence of any motivation at remaining workforces now seriously limits all new options.

The coming revolution: The next global revolution, driven by economic chaos based on social failures, while the middle classes already disappeared, may not be about the mobs of commoners with broom-sticks but most likely the imploding calm and silent systemic collapse of bureaucratic administrative blockades and fall of economic intellectualism for destroying the fabric of humankind.

The absence of dialogue, only proves lack of real pragmatic solutions, skills and competence. Electioneering, sloganeering and fakery of wars to remain in power with no real economic solution, in global opinion a colossal failure.  Therefore, “Self Mastery” urgently needed to differentiate between a mesmerized mind with an enlightened one will possibly be a way to face the new challenges. Economies will only improve when old methodologies declared broken

The new world order: No other time in the history of civilization, so many globally connected will hold responsible the so few in power for destroying the remains of world order and bringing the world to a nuclear war.  A war, suggested to eliminate five billion people. It is possible, the coming revolutions to be less about anarchy but more about establishing real meritocracy. The need to search, find and strive for real value creation to answers grassroots prosperity affairs and eliminate lingering bureaucracies with fermented layers of incompetency. How soon will the five billion connected reach a critical point to select the right players with right policies and declare common good the new ultimate goals? This may eventually lead to a new world order. Pandemic was just a sneeze, economy, now like a hole in the empty pocket, leadership like a circus show, while billions looking up. Acquire mastery. Get ready for major global shifts of major economic behaviorism. The rest is easy. 

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Mosul’s recovery moves towards a circular economy



Five years since the end of the ISIL(so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) conflict in 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with funding from the Government of Japan, has established a debris recycling centre in Mosul. After its initial use, the centre has now been handed over to Mosul Municipality for its continued, sustainable operation.

“On behalf of the Iraqi Government, the Ministry of Environment expresses its gratitude to the Government of Japan for generously supporting this important project and to UNEP and IOM for enabling the sustainable management of the huge quantities of conflict debris and restabilization of the liberated areas in an environmentally sustainable manner,” said Iraq’s Minister for Environment, Dr. Jasim Abdulazeez Humadi.

The handover of the Mosul debris recycling centre marks a significant step in the sustainable management of the huge volumes of debris — an estimated 55 million tonnes — created by the ISIL conflict. It also opens the way for the recycling of routine construction and demolition waste, contributing to ‘building back better’ and an increased circularity in Iraq’s development.

UNEP West Asia Regional Director, Sami Dimassi, emphasized that “by reducing waste, stimulating innovation and creating employment, debris recycling also creates an important business opportunity.” Indeed, construction companies in Mosul have expressed interest in purchasing the recycled aggregate, thereby underscoring the longer-term sustainability of debris recycling.

“This project supports recovery and livelihoods by drawing on principles of a circular economy, wherein waste and land pollution is limited through production processes that reuse and repurpose materials for as long as possible,” explained IOM Iraq Chief of Mission, Giorgi Gigauri. “Collaboration and sustainability are key priorities in IOM’s work toward durable solutions to displacement, and we are pleased to have partnered with UNEP and the Government of Japan so that this is represented not only in the function of the plant itself, but also in its functioning, by supporting local authorities to be prepared to effectively operate the plant moving forward.”

On 28 July 2022, Mosul Municipality hosted an event to officially hand over the debris recycling centre, attended by senior government officials and academia, as well as representatives from IOM, UNEP and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

Masamoto Kenichi, Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Japan to Iraq stated: “We are glad to know that the project funded by the government and people of Japan has contributed to cleanup of debris and reconstruction of Mosul. We would like to commend UNEP, IOM and the city of Mosul for their tremendous efforts of turning the legacy of ISIL’s devastation into building blocks of reconstruction”.

Through the rubble recycling project, nearly 25,000 tonnes of debris have been recovered and sorted, of which around half was crushed into recycled aggregate. Material testing of the recycled aggregate endorsed by the National Center for Structural Tests of the Ministry of Planning confirms its compliance with the Iraqi State Commission for Roads and Bridges design standards for road foundational layers and its suitability for several low strength end-use applications such as concrete blocks and kerbstones.

The project created 240 much-needed jobs through cash-for-work schemes targeting vulnerable persons, including 40 women.

Building on this experience, IOM has set up two other debris recycling operations in Sinjar and Hamdaniya in Ninewa Governorate, and a third in Hawija in Kirkuk Governorate, where a pilot phase using a mobile crusher was implemented in al-Buwaiter Village in 2021. In addition, two other conflict-affected governorates — namely Salah al-Din and Anbar — have  also shown a high-level of interest in replicating and scaling up debris recycling in their own regions. 

UNEP has been supporting Iraq in cleaning up the huge volumes of debris created by the ISIL conflict since June 2017. Initially, this included carrying out technical assessments and planning workshops with UN-Habitat, and subsequently designing and implementing debris recycling pilot projects to support returns in Mosul, Kirkuk and other conflict-affected areas in cooperation with IOM.


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Digital Futures: Driving Systemic Change for Women



Authors: Erin Watson-Lynn and Tengfei Wang*

As digital technology continues to unlock new financial opportunities for people across Asia and the Pacific, it is critical that women are central to strategies aimed at harnessing the digital financial future. Women are generally poorer than men – their work is less formal, they receive lower pay, and their money is less likely to be banked. Even when controlling for class, rural residency, age, income, and education level, women are overrepresented among the world’s poorest people in developing countries. Successfully harnessing digital technology can play a key role in creating new opportunities for women to utilise formal financial products and services in ways that empower them. 

Accelerating women’s access to the formal economy through digital innovations in finance increases their opportunity to generate an income and builds resilience to economic shocks. The recently issued ESCAP guidebook titled, Harnessing Digital Technology for Financial Inclusion in the Asia Pacific, highlights the fact that mechanisms to bring women into the digital economy are different from those for other groups, and that tailored policy responses are important for women to fully realise their potential in the Asia-Pacific region.

Overwhelmingly, the evidence tells us that how women utilise their finances can have a beneficial impact on the broader community. When women have bank accounts, they are more likely to save money, buy healthier foods for their family, and invest in education. For women who receive Government-to-Person (G2P) payments, there is significant improvement in their lives across a range of social and economic outcomes. Access to safe, secure, and affordable digital financial services thus has the potential to significantly improve the lives of women.

Despite the enormous opportunity, there are numerous constraints which affect women’s access to financial services. This includes the gender gap in mobile phone ownership across Asia and the Pacific, lower levels of education (including lower levels of basic numeracy and literacy), and lower levels of financial literacy. This complex web of constraints means that country and provincial level diagnostics are required and demands agile and flexible policy responses that meet the unique needs of women across the region.

Already, across Asia and the Pacific, governments are implementing innovative policy solutions to capture the opportunities that come with digital finance, while trying to manage the constraints women often face. The policy guidebook provides a framework to examine the role of governments as market facilitators, market participants and market regulators. Through this framework, specific policy innovations drawn from examples across the region are identified which other governments can adapt and implement in their local markets.  

A good example of how strategies can be implemented at either the central government or local government levels can be found in Pakistan. While central government leadership is important, embedding tailored interventions into locally appropriate strategies plays a crucial role for implementation and effectiveness. The localisation of broader strategies needs to include women in their development and ongoing evaluation. In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 50,000 beneficiary committees comprising local women at the district level regularly provide feedback into the government’s G2P payment system. The feedback from these committees led to a biometric system linked to the national ID card that has enabled the government to identify women who weren’t receiving their payments, or if payments were fraudulently obtained by others.

In Cambodia and the Philippines, governments have implemented new and innovative solutions to support remittance payments through public-private-partnerships and policies that enable access to non-traditional banks. In Cambodia, Wing Money has specialised programs for women, who are overwhelmingly the beneficiaries of remittance payments. Creating an enabling environment for a business such as Wing Money to develop and thrive with these low-cost solutions is an example of a positive market intervention. In the Philippines, adjusting banking policies to enable access to non-traditional banking enables women, especially those with micro-enterprises in rural areas, to access digital products.

While facilitating participation in the market can yield benefits for women, so can regulating in a way that drives systemic change. For example, in Lao People’s Democratic Republic and India, different mechanisms for targets are used to improve access to digital financial products. In Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the central government through its national strategy, introduced a target of a 9 per cent increase in women’s access to financial services by 2025. In India, their targets are set within the bureaucracy to incentivise policy makers to implement the Digital India strategy and promotions and job security are rewarded based on performance.

These examples of innovative policy solutions are only foundational. The options for governments and policy makers at the nexus of market facilitation, participation and regulation demands creativity and agility. Underpinning this is the need for a baseline of country and regional level diagnostics to capture the diverse needs of women – those who are set to benefit the most of from harnessing the future of digital financial inclusion.

*Tengfei Wang, Economic Affairs Officer

This article is the second of a two-part series based on the findings of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Policy Guidebook: Harnessing Digital Technology for Financial Inclusion in Asia and the Pacific, and is jointly prepared by ESCAP and the Griffith Asia Institute.source: UNESCAP

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