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Office of the Chief Economist, South Asia Region


Hope Over Fate: Fazle Hasan Abed and the Science of Ending Global Poverty

The Office of the Chief Economist for South Asia invites you to join the book launch of Scott MacMillan's Hope Over Fate: Fazle Hasan Abed and the Science of Ending Global Poverty. The untold story of BRAC and its influential founder, it is also the biography of an idea—the idea that hope itself has the power to overcome poverty. “For too long, people thought poverty was something ordained by a higher power, as immutable as the sun and the moon,” Abed wrote in 2018. His life’s mission was to put that myth to rest.

BLOG July 28, 2022

A price tag on carbon can improve lives across South Asia, combat climate change

The area of climate change mitigation and carbon taxation is fraught with complexities, especially for South Asia. Debates on who should share the burden of mitigating climate change seem to suggest that it is unfair to impose carbon taxes on developing countries. After all, most of these countries emit but a small fraction of the existing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, even as they face the severest challenges from climate change.

BLOG June 23, 2022

Unlocking growth across South Asia

In the decade before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, South Asia struck a strong growth note of 5 percent per year in per-capita GDP, strongly outpacing other developing regions in the world, notably Latin America and the Caribbean; the Middle East and North Africa; and Sub-Saharan Africa—all of which grew less than 1 percentage point per year. Only East-Asian economies outperformed South Asia at a growth rate of 6.5 percent. Undoubtedly, South Asia as a region, possesses a powerful growth engine. Yet, what is striking is that this engine has not been firing on all cylinders, implying that large numbers of people and significant parts of the economy are not participating in the strong growth.

South Asia Economic Focus Spring 2022 April 14, 2022

Reshaping Norms: A New Way Forward

The uneven recovery from the pandemic has left countries in South Asia with multiple policy challenges, exacerbated by the impact of the war in Ukraine. While several countries are navigating rising inflation and growing difficulties to finance fiscal deficits and trade deficits, the region must also chart a new way forward to address rising inequality, accommodate an energy transition, and unleash new growth potential. To reshape their economies, the region cannot avoid redesigning tax systems, increasing competition, and challenging vested interests and existing gender norms.

EVENT May 11, 2022

The 9th South Asia Economic Policy Network Conference on Social Norms and Gender Equality

Social norms can be a key obstacle to achieving gender equality across many domains. This is well-known but the channels through which social norms influence gender disparities have not been systematically explored. Watch the replays of our two days virtual sessions featuring academic paper presentations & discussions, a keynote lecture, an expert panel discussion and a short presentation on the main findings of the South Asia Economic Focus 2022: Reshaping Social Norms about Gender: A New Way Forward.

The Office of the Chief Economist in the South Asia Region (SARCE) aims to generate knowledge on policy and institutional reforms in South Asia. It provides guidance on strategic priorities and the most pressing development issues facing the region through rigorous economic analysis in the form of research articles and reports.

This mission is accomplished through analysis that challenges conventional wisdom, takes on new, topical and controversial issues, and provides cross-sectoral and region-wide analysis. SARCE supports the initiative to foster a community of economists interested in South Asia, within the World Bank and on the continent.

SARCE translates its research priorities into the following activities, or research pillars, that produce various forward-looking analysis, foster debates and dialogues, and suggest testable experiments, in addition to its up-to-date continuous economic monitoring and support to Global Practices within the Bank. 

  • Win-win-win solutions: Vested interests of advanced economies have for too long characterized climate change solutions. A developing-country perspective on climate change starts with the need to grow more, grow clean, and to build resilience. This activity automatically focuses the discussion on conditions for sustainable growth.
  • The interplay between public and private sector: This activity focusses on answering questions such as how can the need for maximizing development finance be balanced with the need to limit contingent liabilities; to what extent is it feasible and desirable to privatize utilities and what is the impact on consumer fees; and analyze how disruptive technologies can be used to increase energy access and change the interplay between public and private sector.
  • Informality: This activity examines the challenges of raising productivity and reducing vulnerability in the informal sector. It looks at how new digital technologies can help informal firms get better access to markets, how innovative programs can help informal workers build resilience and how institutional change can create a more level playing field between the formal and informal sectors.  
  • Social divides and norms: disparities across gender, opportunity, location in South Asia: Countries in the region are affected by insufficient intergenerational mobility, low female labor force participation, and stark spatial economic gaps. These entrenched disparities – part of what is usually labelled inequality of opportunity – erode cohesion, political stability and negatively impact long term prospects. The goal of our research under this pillar is to pave the way toward a more inclusive and sustainable development in South Asia. This will be achieved by informing policy choices so that they can be more effective in relieving the damage of the pandemic and in breaking with long-term trends of poverty and inequality. 


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