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Office of the Chief Economist, South Asia Region

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.

BLOG May 6, 2022

COVID-19 quietens, South Asia faces stronger headwinds and shifting risks

As the gusts of the COVID-19 pandemic quieten, South Asian economies, left fragile and uneven in their recovery, are facing renewed headwinds : high inflation, rising fiscal deficits, and deteriorating current account balances are disrupting growth. These are further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which has led to skyrocketing global commodity prices.

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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