Asia

Area code (UN M.49)
142
Date of publication
January 2014
Geographical focus

Recent increases in the prices of
agricultural commodities have spurred a surge of private
investment into farming and agribusiness. Given the right
types of large-scale investment, this can have a
transformative effect in underdeveloped rural areas and have
a positive effect on national economic development including
the provision of domestic food supply to urban areas that
can reduce dependence on food imports. This study analyzes
the experience of the Commonwealth Development Corporation
(CDC) as an investor in commercial smallholder and estate
agriculture and agro-processing in Sub-Saharan Africa and
Southeast Asia and the Pacific between 1948 and 2000. A
simple analysis of the data was undertaken to determine
whether success and failure can be correlated to any
critical factors. Seventy-nine (or 49 percent) of the
projects were classified as failures or moderate failures in
financial terms. This review of CDC agribusiness investments
corroborates the view that agribusiness investments are
risky, particularly when the investment is in a start-up.
While only one fifth of projects were rated complete
failures, one third of equity investments generated at least
moderately attractive internal rates of return, and overall
about 55 percent resulted in financially viable projects.
The majority of projects in both Asia and Africa ended up
being sustainable businesses that delivered broadly the
number of jobs and level of turnover that had initially been
anticipated. This raises the question of why, despite this
low level of returns on equity, these businesses often
survive. The analysis of CDC's agribusiness portfolio
demonstrates both historical potential and pitfalls and
illustrates the need to continuously adapt and innovate to
achieve both political and commercial sustainability.

Date of publication
January 2015
Geographical focus

Across the world, the housing sector
plays a key role in local and national economies, and
expanding access to housing can encourage more equitably
shared economic growth. This report surveys current policy
interventions designed to encourage affordable housing in
East Asia and the Pacific (EAP). The purpose of this report
is to provide a general overview of the recent trends in
urbanization and development in EAP and to consider
different forms of government, market, and nonprofit actions
that support housing affordability. It will also highlight
key constraints and barriers that restrict the provision of
low-cost housing in urban areas. Housing is important
because it represents a significant household expenditure.
The report assesses the strengths and limitations of
affordable housing strategies used by different countries
throughout EAP. This report offers broad conclusions that
account for the broad social, political, and institutional
variation among EAP countries; as such, these conclusions
may well be applicable to more than one country context. The
report also provides specific recommendations for
improvement where existing interventions are new or have
proven less successful. The report is divided into following
chapters: chapter one gives introduction. Chapter two
examines trends in urbanization rates, economic development,
and inequality in order to introduce the need for
high-quality, low-cost housing options. Chapter three
examines EAP regional trends in urban housing affordability
for owners and renters from select cities. Chapter four
outlines future directions for affordable housing provision
based on a comparative consideration of international best
practices. Finally, chapter five surveys different
affordable housing policies currently in place in EAP and
summarizes their strengths and weaknesses.

Date of publication
August 2014
Geographical focus

Deeper regional integration can be
beneficial especially for regions along international
borders. It can open up new markets on opposite sides of
borders and give consumers wider access to cheaper goods.
This paper uses data from five contiguous districts of
India, Nepal, and Bangladesh in the northeast of the
subcontinent to measure the degrees of trade complementarity
between districts. The paper illustrates that the regions
are underexploiting the potential of intraregional commerce.
Price wedges of up to 90 percent in some important
consumption products along with measures of complementarity
between households' production and consumption suggest
the potential for relatively large gains from deeper trade
integration. Furthermore, an examination of a specific
supply chain of tea highlights factors that help industries
scale up, aided by institutions such as an organized auction
and decent physical and legal infrastructure. However,
districts alike in geography but located across
international boundaries face different development
prospects, suggesting that gains from reduced
"thickness of borders" would not accrue
automatically. Much rests on developing intrinsic industry
competitiveness at home, including the reform of regulatory
and business practices and infrastructural bottlenecks that
prevent agglomeration of local economies.

Date of publication
December 2015
Geographical focus

East–Southeast Asia is currently one of the fastest urbanizing regions in the world, with countries such as China climbing from 20 to 50% urbanized in just a few decades. By 2050, these countries are projected to add 1 billion people, with 90% of that growth occurring in cities. This population shift parallels an equally astounding amount of built-up land expansion. However, spatially-and temporally-detailed information on regional-scale changes in urban land or population distribution do not exist; previous efforts have been either sample-based, focused on one country, or drawn conclusions from datasets with substantial temporal/spatial mismatch and variability in urban definitions. Using consistent methodology, satellite imagery and census data for >1000 agglomerations in the East–Southeast Asian region, we show that urban land increased >22% between 2000 and 2010 (from 155 000 to 189 000 km2), an amount equivalent to the area of Taiwan, while urban populations climbed >31% (from 738 to 969 million). Although urban land expanded at unprecedented rates, urban populations grew more rapidly, resulting in increasing densities for the majority of urban agglomerations, including those in both more developed (Japan, South Korea) and industrializing nations (China, Vietnam, Indonesia). This result contrasts previous sample-based studies, which conclude that cities are universally declining in density. The patterns and rates of change uncovered by these data sets provide a unique record of the massive urban transition currently underway in East–Southeast Asia that is impacting local-regional climate, pollution levels, water quality/availability, arable land, as well as the livelihoods and vulnerability of populations in the region.

Date of publication
November 2015
Geographical focus

This report summarizes the knowledge
shared and issues raised during a conference convened by the
World Bank on the above topic held on November 3-5, 2014 in
Manila, Philippines. Building on earlier conferences on this
topic, the conference aimed to raise awareness about, and
share good practice on, building a social protection system
that integrates disaster risk management and climate change
adaptation. It brought together 17 country delegations from
Asia and Pacific region comprised of officials from the
ministries managing social protection, disaster risk
management, and financing and insurance.2 As such, it was
both cross-global practice and cross-regional in focus. The
conference offered a range of learning opportunities,
including presentations from technical experts from the
World Bank, country case studies from Asia, Africa and Latin
America, roundtable discussions, and group work sessions.
The conference was conducted in collaboration with the
Government of the Philippines and was financed by the Rapid
Social Response Fund and the Global Facility for Disaster
Reduction and Recovery.

Date of publication
June 2014
Geographical focus

Central Asia is often associated with
the silk route or road, the longest overland trade route
connecting China to Europe and one of the oldest in history.
Growth opportunities and the future prosperity of the region
are highly dependent upon the efficiency of its internal and
external supply-chain connections, which is the focus of
this report. Supply-chain connectivity depends on the
quality of the infrastructure on specific routes. This study
explains how supply chain fragmentation remains a serious
obstacle to economic development of Central Asia and to
Eurasian integration more generally. It provides a
comprehensive assessment of the various factors that yet
impede supply-chain integration, including weak transport
and communications infrastructure, but as important, and
perhaps more so, critical weaknesses in policy,
institutions, and governance. Based on this assessment this
report provides an insightful set of recommendations that,
if taken up by the governments of Central Asia and by their
key neighbors, will go a long way in promoting the effective
integration of Central Asia into an increasingly connected
Eurasian continental economy and with that into the global economy.

Date of publication
August 2015
Geographical focus

Economic development critically involves
diversification and structural transformation—that is, the
continued, dynamic reallocation of resources from less
productive to more productive sectors and activities. This
paper documents that, over an extended period, developing
Asia has on average been particularly successful in
diversifying its exports, particularly in comparison with
Sub-Saharan Africa. Much of the progress has occurred
through diversification along the ‘extensive margin,’ that
is, through entry into completely new products. In addition,
developing Asia has on average benefited significantly from
quality upgrading, helping it capitalize on already existing
comparative advantages. Yet, agricultural and natural
resources tend to have lower potential for quality upgrading
than manufactures. Therefore, for lower-income “frontier”
countries, diversification into products with longer
“quality ladders” may be a necessary first step before large
gains from quality improvement can be reaped.

Date of publication
November 2015
Geographical focus

New qualitative fieldwork in eight
countries of Europe and Central Asia (ECA) indicates that
the dramatic declines in poverty in much of the region over
the last decade do not appear to be registering very
favorably with men and women on the ground. This paper
provides a gender analysis of findings from equal numbers of
sex-specific focus groups with employed and jobless
individuals. The methodology featured a standardized package
of semi-structured data collection tools, which enabled
systematic comparative analysis of the datasets from 37
urban and rural communities across eight countries in the
region. While lack of jobs and the rising cost of living are
central concerns for both women and men across the sample,
the qualitative data highlights important gender differences
in how men and women are responding to these challenges that
quantitative survey approaches appear to miss. Throughout
the sample, women are widely reported to be doing everything
they can to pull their households out of poverty or to
maintain their families in the middle class, while men voice
deep frustration with their weak economic opportunities and
the need for additional household members to contribute
economically. Women’s increased economic participation in
the face of men’s hardships with breadwinning - and the
stress on gender roles and relations that this entails - are
crucial for making sense of frustrations on the ground
despite the region’s significant social and economic development.

Date of publication
January 2015
Geographical focus

Urbanization is transforming the developing world. However, understanding the pace, scale, and form of urbanization has been limited by a lack of consistent data. East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape aims to address this problem by using satellite imagery and other data to measure urban expansion across the East Asia and Pacific region between 2000 and 2010. Illustrated with maps and charts, it presents trends in urban expansion and population growth in more than 850 urban areas -- by country, urban area, income group, and city size categories. It discusses findings related to increasing urban population densities across the region and quantifies the administrative fragmentation of urban areas that cross local boundaries.

The book discusses implications of the research and outlines potential policy options for governments that can help maximize the benefits of urban growth. These policy options include strategically acquiring land to prepare for future urban expansion; creating national urbanization policies that address the growth of the entire system of cities at once in order to support economically efficient urbanization; investing in small and medium urban areas; ensuring spatial access to the poor in order to make urban growth more inclusive; maximizing the benefits to the environment of existing urban density through location, coordination, and design of density; and creating mechanisms to support interjurisdictional cooperation across metropolitan areas.

Leaders and policy makers at the national, provincial, and city levels who want to understand how trends in their cities compare with others in East Asia, as well as researchers and students interested in the transformative phenomenon of urbanization in the developing world, will find this book an invaluable resource.

Date of publication
August 2015
Geographical focus

The number of people in South Asia's cities rose by 130 million between 2000 and 2011--more than the entire population of Japan. This was linked to an improvement in productivity and a reduction in the incidence of extreme poverty. But the region's cities have struggled to cope with the pressure of population growth on land, housing, infrastructure, basic services, and the environment. As a result, urbanization in South Asia remains underleveraged in its ability to deliver widespread improvements in both prosperity and livability.

Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia is about the state of South Asia's urbanization and the market and policy failures that have taken the region’s urban areas to where they are today--and the hard policy actions needed if the region’s cities are to leverage urbanization better. This publication provides original empirical and diagnostic analysis of urbanization and related economic trends in the region. It also discusses in detail the key policy areas, the most fundamental being urban governance and finance, where actions must be taken to make cities more prosperous and livable.

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