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Office of the Chief Economist, South Asia Region

South Asia Development Update October 3, 2023

Toward Faster, Cleaner Growth

At just under 6 percent, South Asia is expected to grow faster than any other developing country region this year—but slower than its pre-pandemic pace and not fast enough to meet its development goals. The region faces many risks to this outlook, including due to fragile fiscal positions created by high government debt. Countries need to urgently manage and reduce fiscal risks, and over the longer term, accelerate growth and create jobs in a sustainable manner. The global clean energy transition is an opportunity for the region to lift productivity, cut pollution, reduce reliance on fuel imports, and create jobs. To capitalize on this, countries need to encourage the adoption of advanced energy-efficient technology and take steps to protect vulnerable workers impacted by labor market shifts.

PUBLICATION June 21, 2023

Private Cities: Outstanding Examples from Developing Countries and Their Implications for Urban Policy

Institutional constraints and weak capacity often hamper the ability of local governments in developing countries to steer urbanization. As a result, there are not enough cities to accommodate an unabated rural-urban migration and many of those that exist are messy, sprawling, and disconnected. The flipside is the emergence of entire cities—more than gated communities or industrial parks—led in whole or in part by private actors. To date, little systematic research has been conducted on the conditions that are necessary for such unusual entities to emerge, on the roles played by private actors, or on the consequences for efficiency and equity.

South Asia Economic Focus Spring 2023 April 4, 2023

Expanding Opportunities: Toward Inclusive Growth

South Asia’s outlook is shaped by both good and bad news in the global economy. Lower commodity prices, a strong recovery in the services sector, and reduced disruptions in value chains are aiding South Asia’s recovery but rising interest rates and uncertainty in financial markets are putting downward pressure on the region’s economies. Going forward, broad reform programs are needed to put South Asia on a more robust and inclusive growth path. Inequality of opportunity, which is higher in South Asia than in other regions of the world, is both unfair and inefficient. Reducing inequality of opportunity and increasing economic mobility will help broaden countries’ tax base and boost support from the population for the critical reforms.

REPORT December 14, 2022

Striving for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia

Nine out of the world’s 10 cities with the worst air pollution are in South Asia. Concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in some of the region’s most densely populated and poor areas are up to 20 times higher than what WHO considers healthy (5 µg/mᶾ). It causes an estimated 2 million premature deaths in the region each year and incurs significant economic costs. Air pollution travels long distances in South Asia and gets trapped in large “airsheds” that are shaped by climatology and geography. This report identifies six major airsheds in the region, analyzes four scenarios to reduce air pollution, and offers a roadmap for airshed-wide air quality management.

The Office of the Chief Economist provides timely, high-quality, and innovative analysis on pressing economic issues for policy making in the South Asia Region. To achieve this mission, the Office publishes the semi-annual South Asia Economic Focus as well as topical, policy-oriented analytical studies on region-wide and cross-sectoral issues; fosters a community of economists interested in the region; and offers advice on operational matters. The Chief Economist of the South Asia Region serves as the Bank’s principal regional spokesperson on economic issues facing South Asia.


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