South East Asia Country Management Unit
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South East Asia Country Management Unit
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Last updated January 31, 2023
Lars Sondergaard is based in Bangkok where he is the Program Leader for Poverty and Human Development covering Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. Lars is a macroeconomist by training but most of his work at the World Bank has been related the economics of education, with a particular focus on how to improve the efficiency of public spending in education. Lars has written and co-written many publications. His most recent reports are Thailand Systematic Country Diagnostic, and the Lao Development Report 2014: Expanding Productive Employment for Broad-Based Growth.
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Skills, Not Just Diplomas : The Path for Education Reforms in ECA(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2010-05) Murthi, Mamta ; Sondergaard, LarsEurope and Central Asia (ECA) countries are currently emerging from the deepest recession among all developing regions. In the post economic-crisis world, financial resources are more limited and more expensive and export growth is restrained by potentially slower growth in the destination countries. Restoring and sustaining growth in this context require reforms to boost competitiveness and increase labor productivity. ECA had a well-regarded education system prior to the end of central planning. While the intervening years have taken some of the shine off this reputation, the countries continue to have some strong achievements in the field of education. Notably, enrollments are high at all levels of education. The socialist legacy is particularly visible in the low income countries in the region which show the highest secondary enrollments in the world for their income level. Whatever measures countries take, it would be important to continue to build learning assessment systems and monitor and evaluate the impact of the reforms on desired outcomes. This is the only way of telling whether the adopted measures had the intended effect and whether course correction is needed. The education reform agenda ahead of the countries in the region is an extremely important one as it lies at the heart of their competitiveness. The reform will take time, suggesting that there is no time to lose to make a start.
A New Data Tool to BOOST Public Spending Efficiency(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2011-09) Kheyfets, Igor ; Mastruzzi, Massimo ; Merotto, Dino ; Sondergaard, LarsThe BOOST data tool makes it easy to analyze how the allocation and use of public expenditure can be made more efficient. BOOST makes detailed public spending data, including data on sub-national spending, more open and accessible than ever before. The global financial crisis has prompted many governments to seek efficiency savings in order to reduce budget deficits and restore medium-term structural balance without harming long-term growth prospects or service quality. To reap savings from inefficiencies, governments must be able to identify such inefficiencies and examine their root causes. One way of doing so is through analytical work that sheds light on where in the budget more can be done with less the process starts by gathering detailed government expenditure data directly from a country's treasury system. By requesting raw data at the most disaggregated level available, the resulting BOOST database takes advantage of the full breadth and depth of the country's budget classification system. The data on expenditures, organized using all of the country's budget classification codes, is then compiled in one database that covers all sectors, all spending units, and all types of expenditures recorded in the treasury system. Obtaining more detailed data than what is commonly available to researchers and making it readily available in an easy-to-use format will facilitate the work of many different actors within and outside the World Bank. Any opportunity to conduct more insightful analytical work improves the quality of advice provided to policymakers.
Closing the Gap: Expanding Access to Social Services(World Bank, Yangon, 2016-01) Pyne, Hnin Hnin ; Dutta, Puja Vasudeva ; Sondergaard, Lars ; Stevens, James ; Thwin, Mar Mar ; Kham, Nang MoMyanmar has an important opportunity to improve the health status and education outcomes of its people after decades of underspending and institutional neglect in the social sectors. Low access to health, education and social protection services has severely worsened human development outcomes, which ranked among the lowest in the region. Since 2011, there has been a sea change in public policy with rapidly rising social spending to expand access to services and protect families from poverty. The payoffs are immense, in Myanmar, an additional year of schooling is estimated to be associated with 6.7 percent higher income (World Bank, 2014a), which will be compounded with better health and social protection. Although significant progress has been made recently, immense challenges and opportunities remain. Policies to close the gap in access to social services are fundamental to inclusive growth in Myanmar.
Skills, Not Just Diplomas : Managing Education for Results in Eastern Europe and Central Asia(World Bank, 2012) Sondergaard, Lars ; Murthi, Mamta ; Abu-Ghaida, Dina ; Bodewig, Christian ; Rutkowski, JanThe countries of Europe and Central Asia (ECA) are currently emerging from the deepest recession suffered by any developing region. Post-crisis conditions are very different from those of preceding years. Financial resources are more limited and more expensive, and export growth is restrained by potentially slower growth in destination countries. Restoring and sustaining growth in this context require reforms that boost competitiveness and increase labor productivity. Such reforms are all the more important given the shrinking of the working-age population in many countries of the region. This book uses a range of different data sources to argue that the skills problem in the ECA region relates more to the quality and relevance of the education provided in ECA countries than to problems of access. A central argument of the book is that ministries of education are constrained in a number of ways from effectively managing their education and training sectors. The three most important and interrelated impediments to improving quality and relevance are the lack of systematic data on key skills-related performance issues (i.e., how much students are learning and whether they are finding jobs after they graduate), the legacy of central planning, and inefficient use of resources. Lack of data on student learning and employment outcomes makes it difficult for education ministries to address the legacy of central planning, which emphasizes centralized management based on inputs. Ministries of education in the region continue to micromanage the sector using detailed norms and regulations. This input-oriented style of management leads to the inefficient use of resources and results in a rigid education sector not the type of flexible sector needed by ECA to create modern, skilled workforces. This book highlights how these constraints manifest themselves and then presents ways of overcoming them, relying on the experience of ECA countries that have successfully addressed them, together with international experience. Recommendations are presented in separate chapters for pre-university, tertiary, and adult education.