South Asia has experienced a long period of robust economic growth and it has been among the fastest-growing in the world.The latest figures indicate that growth in South Asia is expected to continue firming to 7.1 percent in 2015.

This strong growth has translated into declining poverty and impressive improvements in human development. But poverty in the region remains high. About 399 million people—40 percent of the world’s poor—live on less than $1.25 a day. More than 200 million people live in slums, and half a billion people go without electricity. 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.

South Asia will play an important role in the global development story as it takes its place in the Asian Century. It has the world’s largest working-age population, a quarter of the world’s middle-class consumers, the largest number of poor and undernourished in the world, and several fragile states of global geopolitical importance. With inclusive growth, South Asia has the potential to change global poverty.

Last Updated: May 29, 2015

The World Bank Group is a significant development partner in South Asia. The Bank approved $10.5 billion for the region for 42 projects in fiscal year 2014. The leading sectors were Energy and Mining ($2.4 billion); Transportation ($2.3 billion); and Education ($1.4 billion).

To unleash the region’s development potential, the Bank’s strategy for South Asia was updated in March 2015. Work in the region supports the Bank’s overarching goals to eliminate poverty and boost shared prosperity. The strategy is based on three pillars:

  • accelerating economic growth including investments in infrastructure, energy, urbanization, agriculture while expanding access to finance and promoting regional and global integration
  • Enhancing social inclusion by addressing the severest exclusions (malnutrition, sanitation, illiteracy, gender, caste and ethnic discrimination) while improving the quality/access to health, education, and other public services and finance. It would also promote social protection and increase labor force participation
  • Climate and environment management to help countries prevent disasters and improve their readiness. This would include comprehensive policies for adaptation in sectors such as energy, agriculture, urbanization

In addition, there are two cross-cutting themes in the Bank’s South Asia Region strategy:

  • Governance: this includes the mobilization and management of public resources and tax reforms as well as improving the accountability/efficiency of public service delivery. It would also increase the transparency of public resource management, strengthen institutions and enhance corporate governance
  • Gender action to include advocacy against gender-based violence, improving female labor force participation, access to assets and finance for women, and empowerment through rural livelihood programs. It would also promote reproductive health and education for girls

Last Updated: May 29, 2015

World Bank support has helped South Asia achieve the following results, among others:

  • Afghanistan: Bringing 6 million children back to school: Girls enrollment has reached over 2.7 million and overall enrollment has reached 7.1 million
  • Bangladesh: Employment Generation Program for the Poorest, established in response to the 2008 global food price crisis, provided a secure and regular source of income to more than 700,000 of the poorest people, of which more than 230,000 are female
  • India: Disaster Planning Pays off in Odisha with a 99.6 percent reduction in deaths from a comparable storm 14 years before
  • Nepal: Vocational training provided to 4,400 young women leading to employment and economic independence
  • Pakistan: 2,370 MW power projects supported by IFC and MIGA with 4.4 m tons of CO2 avoided, to be complemented by planned Bank projects
  • Sri Lanka: Supporting conflict-affected communities: 1 million people living in 1,000 communities received support through 3,200 community infrastructure projects

Last Updated: May 29, 2015

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