Strong growth has translated into declining poverty and impressive improvements in human development. The proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day was estimated at 18.8 percent as of 2012. Hundreds of millions still live slightly above the poverty line; however, more than 200 million live in slums, and about 500 million go without electricity. In addition, many countries in the region suffer from extreme forms of social exclusion and huge infrastructure gaps, and the larger countries are experiencing increases in inequality. Development in the region will be key to meeting global poverty and prosperity goals.
World Bank assistance
The Bank delivered 37 projects totaling $8.4 billion in fiscal 2016, including $3.6 billion in IBRD loans and $4.7 billion in IDA commitments, of which $100 million was from the IDA Scale-up Facility. Lending included such transformational operations as the $1.5 billion Swachh Bharat Mission Support Operation, which seeks to end open defecation in India; a $920 million package of IDA and IBRD funding that supports competitiveness and structural reform in Pakistan; the $360 million Bangladesh Regional Waterway Transport Project; and the $250 million Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project in Afghanistan. The Bank also delivered 166 analytical and advisory services and approved 10 large Recipient-Executed Trust Fund (RETF) operations, $500 million of which went to Afghanistan.
Focusing on the drivers of sustainable growth
Sustainable growth of more than 7 percent a year is needed in South Asia if the region is to meet its goals by 2030. To help it do so, the Bank’s regional strategy focuses on private sector development (emphasizing infrastructure, job creation, and urbanization); social and financial inclusion (emphasizing labor force participation and gender); governance and security; and enhanced regional cooperation. The Afghanistan Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project, the India Bihar Transformative Development Project, and the Pakistan Power Sector Reform Development Policy Credit are examples of operations aligned with these pillars.
Adopting a new Regional Gender Action Plan
This year the Bank adopted a new Regional Gender Action Plan for South Asia covering fiscal years 2016–20. It prioritizes closing gender gaps and improving human capital outcomes, spurring economic empowerment, and giving women voice and agency. The cornerstone of the plan is efforts to increase female labor force participation rates; create more and higher-skill jobs for women; and make finance, trade, and private enterprise more inclusive of women. The $290 million Bihar Transformative Development Project in India will mobilize women from the poorest households in self-help groups and federations so that they can gain access to formal credits, join farmer producer groups, and increase household savings.
Addressing global climate change
South Asia is the recipient of more than 33 percent of the Bank’s lending addressing climate change and 40 percent of its lending for disaster risk management. A $113 million Weather and Climate Services Regional Project, for example, aims to increase Bangladesh’s capacity to deliver reliable weather, water, and climate information services by strengthening hydrometeorological monitoring and forecasting and improving early warning systems. Bank support will enhance agro-meteorological services to farmers in order to increase their productivity and help them to cope with weather and climate extremes.
Supporting jobs, improving governance and security
The $100 million Punjab Jobs and Competitiveness Program for Results for Pakistan seeks to improve the business environment and support high-potential industrial clusters in Punjab. The $75 million Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Temporarily Displaced Persons Emergency Recovery Project is supporting the recovery of families affected by the security crisis in these areas, promoting child health, and strengthening emergency safety net delivery systems. The $41 million Second Public Financial Management Reform Project is strengthening Afghanistan’s procurement, treasury, and audit systems.
Producing cutting-edge knowledge
The Bank published several important reports this fiscal year. Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability argues that the inadequate provision of housing, infrastructure, and basic urban services, as well as a failure to deal with pollution, are constraining the potential of the region’s cities to fully realize the benefits of agglomeration. Stitches to Riches? Apparel Employment, Trade, and Economic Development in South Asia investigates the potential for expanding and improving jobs in the labor-intensive apparel sector.
The Bank held a South-South Knowledge Exchange forum in Beijing in November 2015. Delegations from South Asia shared lessons from Pakistan’s Benazir Income Support Program and from BRA C’s Manoshi program in Bangladesh for maternal, newborn, and child health, which was implemented in urban slums. Extensive knowledge exchange also took place in the energy sector.
Further Information: World Bank's South Asia Region homepage »