South Asia has had the highest growth rate among the regions since mid-2014.
Robust growth has translated into declining poverty and impressive improvements in health and education.
However, as of 2013, the proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day was estimated at 14.7 percent, or about 249 million people—a third of the global poor.
Moreover, many countries in the region suffer from extreme forms of social exclusion and significant infrastructure gaps.
The high growth has also not translated into creating jobs at the pace needed to accommodate around 1.5 million people entering the labor force every month. The rate of women's participation in labor markets is very low at 28 percent and is even declining in some countries.
Some recent events are also changing the region's development path, including i) increasing conflict and fragility risks, resulting in displacement surge in Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and impeding regional integration efforts; ii) disorganized and poorly planned urbanization, as reflected in the widespread slums and informal urban settlements, home to at least 130 million people across the region, as well as growing population, congestion, and pollution; and iii) increasing changes in temperature and extreme weather events – with rapid glaciers melt, floods and a growing number of hot spots.
To respond to these existing and emerging needs, the WBG operational framework for South Asia focuses on three themes: (i) Supporting Sustainable Growth, (ii) Investing in People and (iii) Addressing Fragility.
To support Sustainable Growth, we are deepening dialogue on the tough structural reforms to create a sustainable macro environment, and an enabling framework for the private sector and job creation. We are prioritizing investments in (i) clean renewable energy (ii) enhancing the livability and growth potential of our iconic cities; as well as decongesting cities and addressing pollution with investments in public transport and (iii) transformational rural growth (promoting climate smart agriculture and agri-business).
To strengthen Human Capital as a driver of growth, we are focusing on improving access and quality of education, addressing stunting and malnutrition, expanding support on skills, strengthening health systems and services, improving governance; and supporting safety nets to protect the poorest families. One key priority we are committing to this year is women workforce participation, given its multiplier effect. We are using our engagement in the region to enhance our focus on skills and financial inclusion, as well as improving access to safe transport for women.
To address Fragility, we are scaling up our engagement on displacement to deal with the recent surge and support basic services and economic opportunity for the refugees, returnees, IDPs and host communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In all South Asian countries, we are working to strengthen public institutions and address governance and corruption risks, including our support to the decentralized governance in Nepal under the newly introduced federalism structure.
The countries in the region cannot grow alone, and South Asia's integration is essential to sustain current growth in the medium to long-term. Our role in supporting regional cooperation efforts remains critical and we continue working on energy and electricity trade and transport, and pursuing long-term water security in the region.
Last Updated: Oct 05, 2018