South Asia's 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.
Supporting sustainable growth and creating jobs
The region can sustain high growth only if both investments and exports grow stronger.
With an estimated 1.5 million people entering the job market every month over the next two decades, job creation is essential.
To address these challenges, the Bank has been supporting efforts such as the $250 million Jobs Programmatic Development Policy Project in Bangladesh to address jobs challenges and strengthen systems that protect workers and build resilience.
In Afghanistan, the $100 million Women’s Economic Empowerment Rural Development Project aims to increase the social and economic empowerment of poor rural women.
The Bank Group is also helping countries maximize their development resources by drawing on sustainable private sector solutions.
In Nepal, a $100 million project—the first in a series of two—is supporting the financial viability and governance of the electricity sector, while the IDA18 IFC-MIGA Private Sector Window will provide $103 million in financing and guarantees for the Upper Trishuli-1 Hydropower Plant, lowering risk and encouraging the private sector to invest.
In India, the $400 million Innovation in Solar Power and Hybrid Technologies Project supports renewable energy and battery energy storage solutions.
Investing in people and supporting inclusive growth
To strengthen human capital as a driver of growth, the Bank is helping the region improve access to and quality of education, address childhood stunting and malnutrition, strengthen health systems and services, and expand safety nets to protect the poorest.
Alongside development partners, we organized human capital summits in Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan.
The new Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future report emphasized the country’s urgent need to invest more and better in its people, if they are to be richer, better educated, and healthier by 2047.
Meanwhile, initiatives such as the $400 million Program toward Elimination of Tuberculosis in India build on earlier efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of health and nutrition services.
Fostering resilience to conflict and climate change
Conflict and fragility risks are increasing in South Asia, resulting in greater displacement and growing border tensions.
We are working with partners to provide basic services to the displaced and hosting communities, such as the $200 million grant for the Afghanistan Eshteghal Zaiee–Karmondena Project, which aims to strengthen jobs and economic opportunities in cities with a high influx of displaced people.
South Asia is also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including climate-induced natural disasters and rising sea levels.
The South Asia’s Hotspots: Impacts of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards report suggests that 800 million people in the region live in areas where livelihoods are vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Progress depends on reducing carbon emissions, changing the energy mix, mitigating the effects of climate change, and building resilience.
For example, the $125 million Climate-Smart Irrigated Agriculture Project in Sri Lanka will improve agricultural productivity and diversification through the adoption of climate-smart practices and better water management.
The $246 million Andhra Pradesh Integrated Irrigation and Agriculture Transformation Project in India aims to enhance productivity, profitability, and climate resilience for smallholder farmers.
The $175 million Bangladesh Sustainable Forests and Livelihoods Project will improve forest management and increase benefits for forest-dependent communities, with emphasis on women and adolescent girls.
Promoting regional integration
South Asia remains one of the least economically integrated regions in the world.
Hence we support cross-border trade, transport and energy connectivity, and longterm water security and environmental sustainability in the region.
The $460 million Khyber Pass Economic Corridor Project aims to expand economic activity between Pakistan and Afghanistan by improving regional connectivity and promoting private sector development along this key corridor.
The Exports to Jobs: Boosting the Gains from Trade in South Asia report analyzes how labor market policies can help various groups of workers acquire the right skills and ensure that the gains of increased exports are shared more broadly across societies.
Our report, A Glass Half Full: The Promise of Regional Trade in South Asia, unpacks critical barriers to trade integration and offers precise, actionable policy recommendations that could help achieve measurable progress in key areas of trade and integration, benefiting all countries in the region.
Last Updated: Oct 11, 2019