The Dominican Republic is a middle-income country, with the largest economy of Central America and the Caribbean. The country has weathered the global economic crisis well and in 2010 experienced one of the highest growth rates in the region.
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What are the main challenges the Caribbean region faces in its energy production?With the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean region is largely dependent on imported fossil fuels for the g... Show More +eneration of electricity and for its transportation services. Even with the relatively lower cost of petroleum these days, electricity produced from oil products - whether diesel or heavy fuel oil - remains expensive given their relative inefficiencies in terms of their electricity productivity. Many of the countries have electricity tariffs between US $0.20 and US $0.50 per kWh, which is around 3 to 4 times what we pay in the US or in some other developed countries. So, first I'd say is a high cost associated with this type of electricity generation of.Another challenge would be social costs. In recent years the oil imports have drained hard currency resources and have cost the countries as much as 10% of their GDPs in expenditures and outlays for importing oil.Finally we have the environmental impact of using oil products. There is a high carbon footprint associated with petroleum products for power generation and the Caribbean countries themselves are very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The Caribbean countries are certainly not responsible for the effects of climate change that we are seeing given their very low carbon emissions, but they do have an opportunity to set an example for the rest of the world of using carbon-friendly resources for power generation.What are the alternatives for the region?The Caribbean countries are blessed with an abundance of renewable domestic natural resources, which can be used to produce electricity, such as:Geothermal; Solar; Wind; Biomass Ocean or marine resources. The costs associated with these alternative energy systems have fallen dramatically over the past decade, to the point at which they are, in many cases, the most cost effective options for power generation.How are these being used in the Caribbean?Multiple renewable energy solutions are increasingly being deployed throughout the Caribbean. We are seeing numerous examples of wind farms, solar photovoltaics, solar hot water heating and other renewables. For example, nearly half of the households in Barbados already make use of solar hot-water heating systems, which use the sun to heat water for household and commercial applications. Additionally, these are cheaper to produce - cheaper than electric water heaters today- so companies originating in Barbados are now doing business around the region, creating jobs and of replicating opportunities throughout the Caribbean.Solar photovoltaics (SPV) - which produce electricity directly from the sun, as opposed to solar hot water which uses the thermal energy to heat water – have dramatically dropped in price over the last decade, to the point where the electricity produced is very competitive with the existing grid-network supply. Likewise, prices have fallen dramatically for wind technology and we are seeing more wind-farms in the region. With over 50 MW of installed wind power in Aruba by the end of this year, combined with solar photovoltaics, waste to energy and aggressive energy efficiency measures, Aruba hopes to be generating half of its electricity from renewables by the end of this year, increasing to 100% by 2020. It’s a very aggressive target.Finally, numerous countries in the region have significant geothermal potential. The only active geothermal power plant online today in the region is in Guadeloupe, but islands of volcanic origin, such as St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada are aggressively pursuing geothermal as a clean, renewable, baseload power option. In addition to renewables, what other sustainable energy solutions may be critical for the Caribbean’s energy future?There are other fossil resources which may contribute to the energy security and sustainability in the Caribbean, including the use of natural gas, which may be increasingly available for the Caribbean to import and use in its power systems. Natural gas is an excellent transitional fuel. Its carbon output is more than 25% less than diesel and heavy-fuel oil - which they are using today - and is potentially a more cost-effective solution. Secondly, energy efficient solutions should certainly be combined with other sustainable power generation solutions. That means using less energy for the activities that we use electricity for, for example: higher efficiency air conditioners or other appliances; high-efficiency light bulbs; conservation by customers and higher-efficiency in generation services. What is the potential for mass adoption across the region?There’s tremendous interest in adopting renewables across the region, but we still see a number of obstacles limiting uptake. For example:Policy and regulatory frameworks which aren’t necessarily attractive to investing in these technologies. Limited access to financing and the resources necessary to take on these technologies.A continued need for knowledge sharing and capacity building to help us understand better how these technologies can be deployed in the region.Being relatively small countries, the costs are sometimes higher than they would be in a larger country. There may be some added benefits to demand between multiple countries in the region, so that orders are larger or that projects developed are on a larger scale.What is the Bank doing in this context?Ultimately, the Bank's primary interest is in providing technical assistance and financing to countries in the region to enable the development and use of sustainable energy solutions. Recognizing the many barriers that are still there, we're offering to work with the countries, with other multi-laterals, bi-laterals and with the non-governmental community to identify solutions to the obstacles which currently inhibit the use of these solutions. The World Bank Group is already active throughout the region providing support to countries, such as the regional project for energy regulation in the Eastern Caribbean (ECERA), work on energy efficiency and alternative energy in Jamaica, support for improved electricity distribution in the Dominican Republic, and assistance for geothermal power generation in St. Lucia and DominicaHow does energy security in the Caribbean impact the wider American community?The Caribbean is in a unique situation given their heavy dependence on imported fossil fuels. Many of the other countries - from Canada down to Argentina & Chile - have the benefit of fossil fuel resources and/or cross-border interconnections where they can share electricity and resources easily across land. Not only do the island nations not have access to abundant fossil fuels, they are also isolated in terms of their lack of interconnectedness.Secondly, through sea-level rise, increased frequency, propensity and strength of hurricanes and other natural disasters, island nations are potentially the most vulnerable to the effects brought on through climate change. I think we have a moral obligation to support the Caribbean, as with SIDS around the world in both addressing their energy needs, and adapting to the challenges that they are facing due to the increasing threat of climate change.The Americas are interconnected. Not just in terms of people, but also economically and as a trade partner, all of the Americas stand to benefit from stronger economies in our region, including in the Caribbean. Show Less -
“They hit me, insult me, call me names,” says a high school student when describing a typical day at his school in Latin America. His is not an isolated case: beatings, insults and harassment form par... Show More +t of daily life for millions of Latin American children.In fact, more than half of sixth-graders in the region report having been the victim of some type of violence at the hands of their classmates (theft, insults, beatings or threats), according to a study published in the magazine of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).In Mexico, nearly 69% of high school students who responded to an Education Ministry survey said they had experienced some type of aggression or violence at school. In Brazil, 70% of students reported having seen a classmate being intimidated at least once, according to Plan International. UNICEF reported that 66% of students in Argentina said they were aware of frequent harassment of students.These figures clearly demonstrate that different types of violence are rife in Latin American schools. This situation is directly related to the environment, the communities and societies where those schools are located. According to Joan Serra Hoffman, a citizen security expert at the World Bank, “a school is not an island.”“The most predictive factor is the level of violence in the surrounding area,” she said. How safe it is to travel to and from school is crucial, for example, as well as whether there are safe routes or adequate supervision in the area around the school. “Generally, schools with higher levels of violence are located in less organized communities,” she added.A violent continent, violent schoolsAccording to experts, this classroom violence is a reflection of our experience in the region, the world’s most violent. Latin America has 10% of the world’s population but 30% of its homicides. Of the 50 cities with the highest murder rates, 42 are in Latin America.But there is hope, according to Serra Hoffman. School is the ideal place to create a “refuge” where students can “develop co-existence skills.” After all, she said, young people sometimes spend more time with their teachers and classmates than with their parents.Several initiatives have been implemented to promote peaceful co-existence and tolerance in schools. Medellin, for example, has the Mi Sangre Foundation of singer Juanes, which implements programs to improve school environments.Sebastián Álvarez, a young participant from the Comuna 13 neighborhood known for its history of violence, said that the Mi Sangre project is about painting and writing, but also about “creating people with the capacity to forgive, to love, to engage in dialogue and to communicate.”The role of the communityAccording to the World Bank expert, one of the first things to consider is the link between school and community. “Frequently, the education sector is at the state or federal level and the link that should exist with the community near the schools is not there, even though it is an important ally,” Serra Hoffman said. She believes that schools and communities should work together to improve safety on the route to school, to have spaces for recreation and to create a healthier environment.Additionally, it is important to encourage dialogue between schools and parents. “There were many initiatives in which schools consistently opened their doors to parents and the community as part of their pedagogy,” said Serra Hoffman. Several Latin American schools offer cultural activities or workshops for parents.A healthy school environment can contribute to reducing violence as well as improve other factors, such as preventing teenage pregnancy or illicit drug consumption, according to the expert. Show Less -
If you’re with your family, you’re with your family “I’m often irritable at home because my work is exhausting.” “My family complains that I don’t pay enough attention to them because I’m always ... Show More +working.” “I make sure that my partner/children/family does not feel neglected, even when I have a lot of work.”These are some of the responses to a survey of the Hacé el click hoy campaign launched by the Argentine Advertising Council. The campaign seeks to raise awareness on striking a balance between work and personal life and on the importance of family ties.“It’s paradoxical because you work for the well-being of your loved ones, but they see our worst side because we are tired from working,” says Debeljuh, who provided advice for the campaign. “Balancing work and personal life is as much an ethical question as it is a question of productivity,” says Rigolini. “Certain conditions permit adapting to workers’ needs and improving their performance and commitment.”Thus, together with the personal changes workers may make, many companies are deciding to make work days more flexible and to provide conditions that favor balancing office hours with family life.The role of companies“I work twice a week from home, which means savings in time and money (I don’t spend money on eating lunch out, I don’t pay transportation costs and the company reimburses my internet expenses) and I avoid the physical fatigue of traveling to the office,” says Victoria, who applauds the flexibility policies of her company, a multinational consulting agency with offices throughout Latin America.Debeljuh proposes introducing the concept of “family corporate responsibility,” where companies recognize employees’ families as interest groups. “When companies hire a technician, analyst or manager, they have to understand that they are hiring a person who has a family,” she says.“Companies are now taking a more comprehensive view of individuals,” says Virginia Meneghello, one of director in the campaign and Organizational Culture Manager of Telecom, a telecommunications company.For example, “policies should create a place for men’s new roles, such as rethinking the length of paternity leave.” However, for Meneghello, “the work-personal life balance is not only associated with time, but also with other initiatives, for example, with facilitating economic services for employees.”Although many Latin American companies have begun to recognize the advantages of having motivated workers, for experts like Debeljuh, “the state should provide support through legislation because many employers are not sensitive to their employees’ reality.”According to Rigolini, “the state plays a key role in ensuring and promoting workers’ rights.” He stresses the need for campaigns to raise awareness on workers’ rights and why they are important. “Employers should not view things like 12-hour work days as normal,” he says.Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, several companies have successfully proved their theories about reducing work hours. Since 2008, the Iberdrola Company has implemented a six-hour and 15-minute work day, with a 45-minute window for arrival and departure times. According to company management, among other benefits, the firm has increased productivity and gained more than 500,000 work hours annually by reducing absenteeism by 20% and work accidents by 15%. Show Less -
It appears that this year, Latin America will no longer grow at the same pace as it did over the last decade. However, it will be the year when citizens will demand better services to boost their qual... Show More +ity of life.Clearly, one of the region’s most pressing problems is public insecurity. With only 10% of the world’s population, Latin America accounts for 30% of all homicides. This, together with other crimes, has grave consequences for individuals, but also for the region’s economies and development.“Strategies for studying violence, to understand it and the methods for trying to evaluate it and explain what works and what doesn’t, are very similar to those used to understand other epidemics,” said epidemiologist Andrés Villaveces in this interview. Dr. Villaveces forms part of a team working to create a regional platform for exchanging knowledge and ideas on how to address the problem.Some of these ideas are being put into practice, not only by governments and international organizations, but also by the perpetrators of violence. In Central America, one such example is the former gang members who are working to discourage other youth from following in their footsteps.However, many experts believe that the emphasis should be on fighting inequality. This is a priority for Latin America, given that it is the region in the world with the greatest income disparities.Inequality and informal employment “An increase in inequality because the rich keep getting richer (rather than due to an increase in the percentage of the poor), which has contributed to rising homicide rates,” said economist Hernan Winkler, co-author of a World Bank study on inequality and violence in 2,000 Mexican municipalities, in this interview.This is not an easy task given that around half of all jobs in the region are informal. Latin American countries face the daunting challenge of generating quality, formal employment.The fight against poverty in the region has also enjoyed some successes, such as conditional cash transfer programs, in which the poorest families receive cash in exchange for sending their children to school and taking them for regular medical checkups.One of the most successful of these initiatives, the Bolsa Familia Program in Brazil, managed to reduce extreme poverty by half. It serves as a model for the rest of the world.Women, rights and equalityWomen’s efforts have been crucial for reducing extreme poverty in the region. In fact, many Latin American women are abandoning more traditional roles to engage in what was previously considered “men’s work.”Several women have undertaken initiatives to form small businesses to address and overcome the effects of violence in their lives and that of their families. With respect to women’s political participation, key efforts have been made to ensure that they have increasing access to decision-making entities.Unfortunately, in Latin America, prejudices and stereotypes from the past remain and cases of harassment or street violence against women continue. Additionally, the rights of sexual monitories are often not respected, despite the enactment of several laws in their favor.Innovation and educationMuch remains to be done in the education field. Although there is widespread access to education in most of Latin America, the main challenge continues to be education quality, as demonstrated by the World Bank study, Great Teachers: How to Raise Student Learning in Latin America and the Caribbean.Based on direct observation in schools, classrooms and of teachers in different countries of the region, the study concluded that Latin American students lose an average of one day of classes weekly due to teachers’ inefficient use of time.However, the region has made some notable progress in this area, such as in Jamaica, where basic education coverage is nearly 99%; and in initiatives such as a private school in Mexico which students attend for free; as well as a school with thatched roofs in Costa Rica that has surpassed all attendance records.In terms of innovation and new technologies, some countries of the region are exploiting their comparative advantages. For example, several Caribbean nations have taken advantage of the English-language skills of their populations along with the proximity to the United States to position themselves as allies in industries such as animation and software or videogame development.The enormous penetration of smart phones in the region (almost all countries have more than one cellphone per inhabitant) is also an opportunity for young programmers to join forces with development experts to create technology tools to fight poverty.Chikungunya and obesityThe increase in non-communicable diseases in the region is of growing concern for governments, who must add this burden to their already overwhelmed health systems. In Mexico alone, some six million people are obese or overweight, many of whom suffer from diabetes. “The average number of calories we ingest in the region is on the rise and, in several countries, foods providing little nutrition account for a large percentage of calorie consumption in our diet,” said World Bank Health and Nutrition Expert María Eugenia Bonilla-Chacín in this conversation.Another health concern is Chikunguña. In August, experts warned that the spread of this disease throughout Latin America would be difficult to control given that it is a relatively new illness, for which reason Latin Americans have yet to develop the necessary antibodies to fight it.This means a major challenge for governments and their health systems, as along with uncertain economic effects.Additionally, cancer, one of the leading causes of death in the region, disproportionately affects the poor, who have limited access to good doctors, lack the funds to pay for treatments, and do not have the possibility of taking time off to recover from the illness."Depending on the phase of the disease, patients may not be able to work and relatives may even have to quit their jobs to help care for them. In many cases, income declines, worsening the living conditions of these families,” explains David Oliveira de Souza, a World Bank health expert. Show Less -