Posts tagged under News reviews
The Asian Trends team conducted a survey among urban poor residents in Jakarta, Manila, Hanoi and Vientiane. The questions covered basic services such as water, sanitation, health care, education as well as access to financial services. Here is a short preview of the survey results in the area of financial inclusion.
Four out of five respondents did not have a bank account. More than half of respondents still keep their savings in cash hidden at home. The majority of respondents are employed in the informal economy, struggling to make enough money to feed their families every day. Thus, even a single emergency, such as urgent medical treatment for a family member, can wipe out a family’s entire savings. The survey also showed that 53% of respondents have severe difficulties to save at all.
Despite the fact that at least a handful of Microfinance institutions (MFI) currently offer their services in each of the cities included in our survey, the vast majority of the urban poor in Southeast Asia fly below their radar. With incomes below US$2/day, they are a difficult and often not very profitable client group. Several MFIs confirmed that they prefer to lend to the “upper poor”: households that have some existing working capital, a certain level of business acumen, and more reliable revenue streams.
Recently, I came across an interesting article entitled Can 4 Economists Build the Most Economically Efficient Charity Ever? and became curious to find out what the author meant by “most economically efficient”.
The article is written for an American audience in light of the traditionally strong charitable Christmas season. Where to donate? Which cause, how will my money benefit the needy? Traditional charities as well as international aid often suffers from inefficiency such as high overhead costs, expensive marketing campaigns with sometimes unclear motives (think Invisible Children). The unsatisfying conditions in the aid industry served as inspiration for four graduate students to develop their own giving model:
“In 2008, four Harvard and MIT graduate students studying developing-world economics decided to form their own giving circle. The research literature on anti-poverty aid was discouraging. In India, an estimated 50 to 60 cents of every government dollar spent on food or employment aid for the poor is lost due to corruption, and private philanthropy, too, is heavily skimmed as it makes its way into the hands of the poor.”
The independent, non-industry based UK charity Tourism Concern has published a report on tourism and water equity. It sheds a lot of light on the inequalities of water consumption and the enormous water waste caused by hotels and resorts. While many of us have stayed in hotels and serene resorts in exotic destinations, reading the report I wonder, how many of you (myself included) have given our water consumption during the holidays a serious thought?
- Are you aware of how many litres/day of clean water you are consuming when on holiday?
- Did you know that it can be up to 16x the water consumption of the average local household?
- A 5-Star hotel room can account for up to 3,200 litres of water consumption per day!
In addition, many holiday destinations are in water scarce environment. While tourists splash around at the pool, surrounding villages might struggle to meet their daily needs. In Zanzibar, this has led to serious conflicts between hoteliers and local residents over how access to water resources should be handled fairly. It also opens up the question of how to define water equity and how to enforce it?
Social and economic inequality are a “hot topic” for the media as well as for researchers. The ATM team published a series of data posters on inequality in ASEAN in 2011 with a special emphasis on access to basic services such as health, water & sanitation but also financial services. Our friends from Trendnovation Southeast recently published an infographic on inequality in ASEAN with a slightly focus on three areas:
- Social security and health expenditure,
- Politics & human rights, and
- Economic situation
While not everyone would agree that the indicators are a good choice to measure inequality in these areas, they have chosen very interesting indicators to illustrate the rising inequality in the region. Intra-country inequality is a definitely an important issue, but this infographic very clearly illustrates inter-country differences. Not a single ASEAN country comes out consistently on top – not even Singapore (the usual suspect for No.1 in ASEAN rankings).
Singapore does not so well on government expenditure on health, human rights, and the GINI coefficient on income inequality. At the same time it takes top spot for control of corruption, contribution to social security (really?) and GNI per capita ($). Thailand scores low on political stability, human rights issues and social security, but fares quite high in government health expenditure and control of corruption.
Imagine a whole country country with less than 20 ATMs, where only 1 in 10 people has a bank account. Imagine a completely underdeveloped banking infrastructure in a country where more than 90% of people are unfamiliar with any kind of modern financial service… welcome to Myanmar today. After hearing these few facts, a case for financial inclusion seems pretty hopeless. After all, how many examples are out there where banks and microfinance organisations have managed to rapidly expand their services throughout a country.
But in this day and age, Myanmar has a unique opportunity to leapfrog towards financial inclusion. Senior Microfinance Specialist Eric Duflos from the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) commented on the necessary steps to enable Myanmar to bring financial services to its largely unbanked population within a short period of time. In his blog post he points out that the extremely low starting point could turn into an advantage at the attempt to bring millions of unbanked into the formal financial system.
Recently, I stumbled upon the release of a new report with the title “IC4D 2012: Maximizing Mobile” published by the World Bank. It’s the third in a series on Information and Communications for Development (IC4D) with a special focus on the development of the emerging “app economy”. Furthermore, it dedicates individual chapters to the transformative impact mobile technology has had in sectors such as the agricultural value chain, mhealth, mobile money, entrepreneurship and employment and e-governance.
Along with the report comes an astonishing infographic (see below). It illustrates the breathtaking pace at which mobile phones have spread globally with now 6 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. It is estimated that 3 out of 4 people have access to a mobile phone, today. Especially developing countries have made a huge leap in mobile ownership: From accounting for 29% of all mobile subscriptions in 2000, they have risen to 77% in 2010. Mobile applications are changing the lives of millions of poor around the globe. Some of the most promising examples where mobile phones are helping to provide access as well as bridge service gaps are mobile money, agricultural apps, simple e-government initiatives and mobile apps for entrepreneurs.
Infodev.org lists three very promising examples:
This weekend I came across a headline familiar from last year’s reporting about the Arab Spring – only that the country discussed in the news article was Myanmar. The article was entitled “Myanmar poverty risks stoking unrest”. In the past months mainstream media and blog entries in unison praised developments in the conflict-ridden country, in particular steps taken towards further democratisation and the opening up to foreign investments. Business delegations from China, Japan and increasingly also Western countries have visited the country eager to scope out the enormous economic opportunities in a country that desperately needs better infrastructure and technology.
Most articles focus on Myanmar’s economic potential:
- Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi makes parliamentary debut (BBC July 9, 2012)
- Myanmar: Open for business (Aljazeera.Com June 9, 2012)
- New foreign investment hits $133 million: MIC (The Myanmar Times, July 15, 2012)
Although others caution the international community not to disregard the enormous challenges with regard to simmering ethnic conflict, social and economic inequality and the country’s rampant unemployment. In her first foreign visits after over 20 years of house arrest, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged investors to keep a “healthy scepticism” with regard to her country’s reform agenda and its deficient judicial system. She called her country’s level of youth unemployment a “time bomb” that has to be defused urgently. Two articles that illustrate how human rights and extreme poverty remain a threat for Myanmar’s future development can be found here:
Where do you think this bag was designed? Have you seen it in one of the boutiques along Singapore’s famous shopping street Orchard Road? Do you wish you owned such a bag or you would love to be involved in designing a product line like this? Then read on:
This bag was designed and produced in the Philippines and is made entirely from recycled products. In fact it was produced by women from a trashpicker community from the former Smokey Mountain site in Tondo, Metro Manila (see further below for a picture of their livelihood). It is made from 1,000+ can lids in intricate craftsmanship and the proceeds directly benefit poor families (they earn a regular income for the production) as well as the work of the responsible charity, the Philippine Christian Foundation (PCF). In Paradise Heights (former Smokey Mountain) PCF runs a school for the trashpickers’ children.
The Global Journal has published a list of the Top 100 NGOs according to their definitions, and research criteria. The list is topped by the Wikimedia Foundation, followed by Partners in Health, Oxfam, BRAC and the International Rescue Committee. Unsurprisingly, the list is dominated by US organisations (37), followed by UK (14), Switzerland (9) and France (4); Rest of the world (29). Southeast Asia is sparsely represented: There is Digital Divide Data, a social enterprise from Cambodia, Friends-International, an INGO also based in Cambodia, and the Population and Community Development Association from Thailand.
This new ranking is supposed to represent the top 100 leading actors of the non-profit world:
The first international ranking of its kind, this exclusive in-depth feature will no doubt stimulate debate, while providing academics, diplomats, policymakers, international organizations and the private sector an insight into the ever changing dynamics and innovative approaches of the non-profit world and its 100 leading actors.
In his blog A view from the cave, Tom Murphy raises a few important questions:
- What indicators are used to produce the ranking? (staff size? funding? no. of projects?)
- Why is the ranking methodology not published in detail?
Although the issues in the article aren’t exactly new (the anti-REDD movement has been around for a while), the article does a good job of re-raising quite a number of questions, especially about how governments should deal with indigenous people.
Here’s a supplementary reading courtesy of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), the NGO mentioned in the article, as well as another one by NO REDD. Although the pieces are clearly skewed in support of the rights of indigenous people, it still provides a good overview of the problem.
It’s quite difficult to figure out how to feel about this recent development. On one hand, one cannot help but sympathize with the plight of indigenous people, having been marginalized and exploited throughout history. It would probably only be fair that their voice be heard in the REDD negotiations, as well as in the implementation of individual REDD projects. Their lives are sure to be affected by REDD projects, so involving them in the design and implementation is likely to improve the outcomes for everyone involved.