Central America

Date of publication
Agosto 2013

The present study describes, and
quantifies the provision of basic urban services to the
poor, in three Central American cities in El Salvador,
Honduras, and, Panama. It also identifies priority areas for
government intervention, using specialized household surveys
to quantify current deficits, and to rank households from
poor to rich, using aggregate consumption as the measure of
welfare. The urban poverty profile is examined in each city,
through migration, growth, and mobility patterns, including
education and labor characteristics. In terms of land and
housing, in all three cities, almost half of the poor who
reported being property owners have weak, or no
documentation over their properties, and, considerable
portions of the poor population, are not connected to the
public aqueduct, while few if any, receive help from the
government. High dependency on public transportation was
reported, e.g., one hundred percent in El Salvador, ninety
seven percent in Tegucigalpa. Institutional, and policy
issues explain the current situation: in terms of
decentralization, municipalities have limited functions
vis-a-vis the delivery of basic services; as for the housing
sector, there is a vast gap between housing provision, and
housing finance; and, particularly for water, and
sanitation, the institutional framework for the delivery of
basic services, is characterized by great uncertainty.
Strikingly, public transportation is entirely provided by
the private sector, but the lack of regulation, causes
problems reflected in an overall low quality of service.

Date of publication
Julio 2013
Geographical focus

This regional study encompasses three
Central American countries: Nicaragua, Guatemala and
Honduras. The focus of this report is Guatemala. The study
is motivated by several factors: First is the recognition
that sub-national regions are becoming increasingly
heterogeneous, and economically differentiated as part of
ongoing processes of development and diversification, with
some areas advancing, and others being left behind. Second
is the acceptance that one rural strategy does not fit all;
design of an appropriately tailored rural strategy requires
understanding the assets, markets, and institutions that
frame household opportunities and livelihood strategies.
Third, rural heterogeneity requires identification of
sufficiently homogeneous areas and household types to
facilitate policy formulation, investment strategies, and
project design. Fourth, there is a need to bridge the gap
between conceptual strategies, and their timely
implementation in order to obtain tangible and sustainable
results. To this end, it is necessary to identify the
appropriate sequencing, and complementary of investments in
assets needed to drive growth and reduce poverty. The
study's focus on assets is appropriate given
historically stark inequalities in the distribution of
productive assets among households in the region. Such
inequalities are likely to constrain how the poor share in
the benefits of growth, even under appropriate policy
regimes. Rural poverty in Guatemala is characterized by
three important features. First, geographic isolation,
caused by varied topography, and inadequate transport
networks, is an important correlate of poverty. The second
dominant feature of rural poverty is ethnic exclusion.
Poverty rates are far higher among indigenous groups and
groups whose primary language is not Spanish. Third, rural
poverty is concentrated in particular areas: that is, it has
a particularly strong spatial dimension in Guatemala.
Findings indicate that the high degree of overlap between
high poverty rates, and high poverty densities in areas such
as the Western Altiplano, means that investments there
should reach significant proportions of the country's
rural poor. Thus, to generate substantial gains in poverty
reduction and broad-based growth, complementarities between
productive, social, and location-specific assets must be
addressed. Specifically, the report focuses on access to
land, and strong local level institutions, and social
capital, to compensate for lack of physical assets. This
also requires a move from geographically untargeted
investments in single assets, to a more integrated and
geographically based approach of asset enhancement, with
proper complementarities.

Date of publication
Julio 2013
Geographical focus

This regional study encompasses three
Central American countries: Nicaragua, Guatemala and
Honduras. The focus of this report is Guatemala. The study
is motivated by several factors: First is the recognition
that sub-national regions are becoming increasingly
heterogeneous, and economically differentiated as part of
ongoing processes of development and diversification, with
some areas advancing, and others being left behind. Second
is the acceptance that one rural strategy does not fit all;
design of an appropriately tailored rural strategy requires
understanding the assets, markets, and institutions that
frame household opportunities and livelihood strategies.
Third, rural heterogeneity requires identification of
sufficiently homogeneous areas and household types to
facilitate policy formulation, investment strategies, and
project design. Fourth, there is a need to bridge the gap
between conceptual strategies, and their timely
implementation in order to obtain tangible and sustainable
results. To this end, it is necessary to identify the
appropriate sequencing, and complementary of investments in
assets needed to drive growth and reduce poverty. The
study's focus on assets is appropriate given
historically stark inequalities in the distribution of
productive assets among households in the region. Such
inequalities are likely to constrain how the poor share in
the benefits of growth, even under appropriate policy
regimes. Rural poverty in Guatemala is characterized by
three important features. First, geographic isolation,
caused by varied topography, and inadequate transport
networks, is an important correlate of poverty. The second
dominant feature of rural poverty is ethnic exclusion.
Poverty rates are far higher among indigenous groups and
groups whose primary language is not Spanish. Third, rural
poverty is concentrated in particular areas: that is, it has
a particularly strong spatial dimension in Guatemala.
Findings indicate that the high degree of overlap between
high poverty rates, and high poverty densities in areas such
as the Western Altiplano, means that investments there
should reach significant proportions of the country's
rural poor. Thus, to generate substantial gains in poverty
reduction and broad-based growth, complementarities between
productive, social, and location-specific assets must be
addressed. Specifically, the report focuses on access to
land, and strong local level institutions, and social
capital, to compensate for lack of physical assets. This
also requires a move from geographically untargeted
investments in single assets, to a more integrated and
geographically based approach of asset enhancement, with
proper complementarities.

Date of publication
Junio 2012
Geographical focus

A major objective of this report is to provide a deeper, more policy relevant understanding of the welfare impacts of the coffee crisis - including the effects of the crisis on household income, consumption, poverty, as well as on basic human development outcomes, such as education and child nutrition. To do this, the study has generated a body of new empirical evidence, drawing from an unusually rich collection of household survey data from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This includes "panels" of data from Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras that enable one to track changes in welfare of the same households over the period of the crisis. This has helped to provide a more detailed, clearer understanding of the crisis than has been available to date. Given the prevalence of both natural and economic shocks in Central America, another key objective of the study is to draw out the broader policy lessons of the coffee crisis - to enhance the abilities of the region's governments to respond to a range of shocks in a timely and effective manner. To do this, the report draws not only on evidence specific to the coffee crisis, but to other recent analysis on the role and efficacy of different safety net programs in the face of different types of shocks. By learning the lessons of recent experience, Central American governments, along with their development partners, can be better prepared to deal with a variety of different shocks in the future. In pursuing its objectives, the report has been organized into two volumes. Volume I presents a synthesis of the key findings and policy implications, focusing both on the impacts of the coffee crisis, specifically, and the lessons for government responses to shocks, more generally. Volume 2 goes into more detail on the specific impacts of the coffee crisis, presenting the collection of background studies commissioned for this report.

Date of publication
Agosto 2013
Geographical focus

The present study describes, and
quantifies the provision of basic urban services to the
poor, in three Central American cities in El Salvador,
Honduras, and, Panama. It also identifies priority areas for
government intervention, using specialized household surveys
to quantify current deficits, and to rank households from
poor to rich, using aggregate consumption as the measure of
welfare. The urban poverty profile is examined in each city,
through migration, growth, and mobility patterns, including
education and labor characteristics. In terms of land and
housing, in all three cities, almost half of the poor who
reported being property owners have weak, or no
documentation over their properties, and, considerable
portions of the poor population, are not connected to the
public aqueduct, while few if any, receive help from the
government. High dependency on public transportation was
reported, e.g., one hundred percent in El Salvador, ninety
seven percent in Tegucigalpa. Institutional, and policy
issues explain the current situation: in terms of
decentralization, municipalities have limited functions
vis-a-vis the delivery of basic services; as for the housing
sector, there is a vast gap between housing provision, and
housing finance; and, particularly for water, and
sanitation, the institutional framework for the delivery of
basic services, is characterized by great uncertainty.
Strikingly, public transportation is entirely provided by
the private sector, but the lack of regulation, causes
problems reflected in an overall low quality of service.

Date of publication
Julio 2013
Geographical focus

This regional study encompasses three
Central American countries: Nicaragua, Guatemala, and
Honduras. The focus of this report is Nicaragua. The
objective of the study is to understand how broad-based
economic growth can be stimulated, and sustained in rural
Central America. The study identifies "drivers" of
sustainable rural growth and poverty reduction, where
drivers are defined as the assets and combinations of assets
needed by different types of households in different
geographical areas to take advantage of economic
opportunities, and improve their well-being over time. The
study examines the relative contributions of these assets,
and identifies the combinations of productive, social, and
location-specific assets that matter most to raise incomes,
and take advantage of prospects for poverty-reducing growth.
The study's focus on assets is appropriate given
historically stark inequalities in the distribution of
productive assets among households in the region. Such
inequalities are likely to constrain how the poor share in
the benefits of growth, even under appropriate policy
regimes. In Nicaragua, economic potential has a strong
spatial pattern, with high potential areas close to the main
cities. But to generate substantial gains in poverty
reduction and broad-based growth, complementarities between
productive, social, and location-specific assets must be
addressed. The report thus recommends the move from
geographically untargeted investments in single assets, to a
more integrated and geographically based approach of asset
enhancement with proper complementarities. And, if the
development objective is to reach the largest number of
poor, invest in a variety of social and productive household
assets, in higher potential areas with the highest rural
poverty densities. However, remote areas such as the
Atlantic, need specialized analyses and differentiated
strategies and investments. The report highlights the need
for more strategic convergence in linking the investment,
and impacts of sectoral projects backed by the Bank, and
other donors in the diverse geographical regions of the country.

Date of publication
Junio 2012
Geographical focus

The asset-based approach considers links between households' productive, social, and locational assets; the policy, institutional, and risk context; household behavior as expressed in livelihood strategies; and well-being outcomes. For sustainable poverty reducing growth, it is critical to examine household asset portfolios and understand how assets interact with the context to influence the selection of livelihood strategies, which in turn determine well-being. Policy reforms can change the context and income-generating potential of assets. Investments can add new assets or increase the efficiency of existing household assets, and also improve households' risk management capacity to protect assets. After all is said and done, a household's asset portfolio will determine whether growth and poverty reduction can be achieved and sustained over time. The asset-based framework is amendable to different analytical techniques. Siegel suggests combining quantitative and qualitative spatial and household level analyses (and linked spatial and household level analyses) to deepen understanding of the complex relationships between assets, context, livelihood strategies, and well-being outcomes.

Date of publication
Julio 2013
Geographical focus

This regional study encompasses three
Central American countries: Nicaragua, Guatemala, and
Honduras. The focus of this report is Honduras. The
objective of the study is to understand how broad-based
economic growth can be stimulated and sustained in rural
Central America. The study identifies "drivers" of
sustainable rural growth and poverty reduction. Drivers are
defined as the assets and combinations of assets needed by
different types of households in different geographical
areas, to take advantage of economic opportunities, and
improve their well-being over time. The study examines the
relative contributions of these assets, and seeks to
identify the combinations of productive, social, and
location-specific assets that matter most to raise incomes,
and take advantage of prospects for poverty-reducing growth.
It adopts an asset-based conceptual approach, where assets
are defined to include natural, physical, financial, human,
social, political, institutional, and location-specific
assets, and, focuses on how households deploy their assets
within the context of policies, institutions, and risks to
generate a set of opportunities. The report further analyzes
the quantity, quality, and productivity of assets needed by
households in different geographical areas, to exercise
their potential for generating long-term growth and
improving well-being. Findings indicate that while there are
well-defined areas of higher economic opportunity, given
their underlying agricultural potential, relatively good
access to infrastructure, and high population densities,
poverty is widespread, and deep in rural Honduras,
particularly in hillside areas. And, although agriculture
should form an integral part of the rural growth strategy in
hillside areas, despite its limited potential, agriculture
alone cannot solve the rural poverty problem, yet, those
remaining in the sector need to be more efficient,
productive and competitive. It is recommended to move from
geographically untargeted investments in single assets, to a
more integrated and geographically based approach of asset
enhancement with proper complementarities, such as land
access and security, technical assistance provision, health
and education services, and strong local level institutions,

Date of publication
Junio 2012
Geographical focus

A major objective of this report is to provide a deeper, more policy relevant understanding of the welfare impacts of the coffee crisis - including the effects of the crisis on household income, consumption, poverty, as well as on basic human development outcomes, such as education and child nutrition. To do this, the study has generated a body of new empirical evidence, drawing from an unusually rich collection of household survey data from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This includes "panels" of data from Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras that enable one to track changes in welfare of the same households over the period of the crisis. This has helped to provide a more detailed, clearer understanding of the crisis than has been available to date. Given the prevalence of both natural and economic shocks in Central America, another key objective of the study is to draw out the broader policy lessons of the coffee crisis - to enhance the abilities of the region's governments to respond to a range of shocks in a timely and effective manner. To do this, the report draws not only on evidence specific to the coffee crisis, but to other recent analysis on the role and efficacy of different safety net programs in the face of different types of shocks. By learning the lessons of recent experience, Central American governments, along with their development partners, can be better prepared to deal with a variety of different shocks in the future. In pursuing its objectives, the report has been organized into two volumes. Volume I presents a synthesis of the key findings and policy implications, focusing both on the impacts of the coffee crisis, specifically, and the lessons for government responses to shocks, more generally. Volume 2 goes into more detail on the specific impacts of the coffee crisis, presenting the collection of background studies commissioned for this report.

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