South Asia Development Forum

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Home to a fifth of mankind, and to almost half of the people living in poverty, South Asia is also a region of marked contrasts: from conflict-affected areas to vibrant democracies, from demographic bulges to aging societies, from energy crises to global companies. This series explores the challenges faced by a region whose fate is critical to the success of global development in the early 21st century, and can also make a difference for global peace. The volumes in it organize in an accessible way findings from recent research and lessons of experience, across a range of development topics. The series is intended to present new ideas and to stimulate debate among practitioners, researchers, and all those interested in public policies. In doing so, it exposes the options faced by decision makers in the region and highlights the enormous potential of this fast-changing part of the world.

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Engendering Access to STEM Education and Careers in South Asia

2023-06-20, Sosale, Shobhana, Harrison, Graham Mark, Tognatta, Namrata, Nakata, Shiro, Gala, Priyal Mukesh, Brown, Sherrie, Holtz, Paul

Building a skilled and diverse science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce is crucial for economic development, cross-border trade, and social inclusion in South Asia. However, underrepresentation of girls and women in STEM education and careers remains a persistent issue. What kinds of macro and micro socioeconomic interventions are needed to increase girls’ and women’s access to and participation in STEM education and careers in South Asia?

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In the Dark: How Much Do Power Sector Distortions Cost South Asia?

2019, Zhang, Fan

Electricity shortages are among the biggest barriers to South Asia’s development. Some 255 million people—more than a quarter of the world’s off-grid population—live in South Asia, and millions of households and firms that are connected experience frequent and long hours of blackouts. Inefficiencies originating in every link of the electricity supply chain contribute significantly to the power deficit. Three types of distortions lead to most of the inefficiencies: institutional distortions caused by state ownership and weak governance; regulatory distortions resulting from price regulation, subsidies, and cross-subsidies; and social distortions (externalities) causing excessive environmental and health damages from energy use. Using a common analytical framework and covering all stages of power supply, In the Dark identifies and estimates how policy-induced distortions have affected South Asian economies. The book introduces two innovations. First, it goes beyond fiscal costs, evaluating the impact of distortions from a welfare perspective by measuring the impact on consumer wellbeing, producer surplus, and environmental costs. And second, the book adopts a broader definition of the sector that covers the entire power supply chain, including upstream fuel supply and downstream access and reliability. The book finds that the full cost of distortions in the power sector is far greater than previously estimated based on fiscal cost alone: The estimated total economic cost is 4–7 percent of the gross domestic product in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Some of the largest costs are upstream and downstream. Few other reforms could quickly yield the huge economic gains that power sector reform would produce. By expanding access to electricity and improving the quality of supply, power sector reform would also directly benefit poor households. The highest payoffs are likely to come from institutional reforms, expansion of reliable access, and the appropriate pricing of carbon and local air pollution emissions.

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Glaciers of the Himalayas: Climate Change, Black Carbon, and Regional Resilience

2021-06-03, Mani, Muthukumara, Mani, Muthukumara

Melting glaciers and the loss of seasonal snow pose significant risks to the stability of water resources in South Asia. The 55,000 glaciers in the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain ranges store more freshwater than any region outside of the North and South Poles. Their ice reserves feed into three major river basins in South Asia—the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra—that are home to 750 million people. One major regional driver of the accelerating glacier melt is climate change, which is altering the patterns of temperature and precipitation. A second driver may be deposits of anthropogenic black carbon (BC), which increase the glaciers’ absorption of solar radiation and raise air temperatures. BC is generated by human activity both inside and outside of South Asia, and it may be meaningfully reduced by policy actions taken by the South Asian countries themselves. Glaciers of the Himalayas: Climate Change, Black Carbon, and Regional Resilience investigates the extent to which the BC reduction policies of South Asian countries may affect glacier formation and melt within the context of a changing global climate. It assesses the relative impact of each source of black carbon on snow and glacier dynamics. The authors simulate how BC emissions interact with projected climate scenarios, estimate the extent to which these glacial processes affect water resources in downstream areas of these river basins, and present scenarios until 2040.

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Exports to Jobs: Boosting the Gains from Trade in South Asia

2019-02-24, Artuc, Erhan, Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys, Robertson, Raymond, Samaan, Daniel

South Asia’s economy has grown rapidly, and the region has made a significant reduction in poverty. However, the available jobs for the growing working population remain limited. Policy makers are contending with lingering concerns about jobless growth and poor job quality. Exports to Jobs: Boosting the Gains from Trade in South Asia posits that exports, could bring higher wages and better jobs to South Asia. We use a new methodology to estimate the potential impact from higher South Asian exports per worker on wages and employment. We find that increasing exports per worker would result in higher wages, mostly for the better-off groups—like the better-educated workers, men, and the more-experienced workers—although the less-skilled and rural workers would benefit from new job opportunities outside of the informal sector. Our report shows that to spread the benefits from higher exports widely, policies are needed to raise skills and get certain groups, such as women and youth, into more and better jobs. Complementary measures include removing trade barriers and investing in infrastructure, and increasing the ability of workers to find higher-paying jobs. Together, these actions would help South Asian countries spread the gains from being closely integrated into the global economy through exporting. This book, which is the product of a partnership between the International Labour Organization and the World Bank, contributes to our understanding of the impact that growing exports can have on increasing well-being, and it bridges the gap between academic research and policy making.