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TOP HEADLINES 19 December 2014
1. INDONESIA: Banking on infrastructure
2. NEPAL: Top recipient among LDCs
3. VIET NAM: Population hits more than 90.4 million
P O V E R T Y   S P O T L I G H T
ASIA: Threefold increase in natural disaster-related deaths
4. CAMBODIA: Growth potential hangs on diversity
5. INDIA: Use of new tech could add 30% to growth
6. INDONESIA: Early warning system for landslides
7. NEPAL: Part of Silk Road Economic Belt
8. PRC: Foreign aid features livelihoods
9. BANGLADESH: Improving nutrition through cash transfers
10. MEKONG: Conservation-payment schemes are a study in contrasts
IN DEPTH
1. INDONESIA: Banking on infrastructure
Source: themalaysianinsider.com

"One of President Joko Widodo's key pledges was to establish an infrastructure bank to finance long-term projects, thereby enhancing national competitiveness and prosperity. An infrastructure bank seems like a sensible idea because Indonesia is trailing behind most countries in the region in terms of roads, water, electricity and telecommunications services. Greater infrastructure development through low-interest financing should increase productivity, spur economic growth and reduce poverty.

Commercial banks prefer to provide short-term funding, and are reluctant to offer long-term loans for major projects, which can take up to 15 years and may carry high risk. Establishing a special infrastructure bank would fill the void; however, concern over how to source adequate operating capital has made some people look abroad for a solution."



2. NEPAL: Top recipient among LDCs
Source: ekantipur.com

"Nepal was the top recipient of remittance as the share of GDP among least developed countries (LDCs) last year, according to a report released on Wednesday by UNCTAD. The remittance growth rate in Asian LDCs, however, slowed-rising by a modest 0.8 percent. Nepal accounted for 25 percent of the remittance flowing into Asian LDCs. Remittance to Nepal grew 9 percent last year.

In terms of LDCs' progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goals, the report said Nepal achieved, or is on track of reducing extreme poverty, under-five mortality rates, maternal mortality rates and access to drinking water. Nepal has made medium progress on reducing the number of under-nourished population and access to improved sanitation facilities. However, the country is progressing slowly on net enrollment ratio in primary education."



3. VIET NAM: Population hits more than 90.4 million
Source: thanhniennews.com

"Vietnam's population has exceeded the 90 million people mark since April this year, the General Statistics Office announced Wednesday. The office said in a meeting to announce the results of a mid-term national census that Vietnam now has more than 90.4 million people.

The population density is 273 people per square kilometer, ranking third in Southeast Asia, after Singapore and the Philippines. Between 2009 and 2014, the population increased by 1.06 percent annually, according to the office. The urbanization rate in Vietnam is also increasing, at 3.3 percent annually. Currently, 33.1 percent of the population is living in urban areas."


P O V E R T Y   S P O T L I G H T
ASIA: Threefold increase in natural disaster-related deaths
Source: livemint.com

"The Asia-Pacific region has recorded a near threefold rise in deaths because of natural disasters, with over 700,000 recorded deaths between 2004 and 2013. The region also witnessed over 40% of the world's reported natural disasters during the same period which caused economic damage of over $560 billion, according to the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2014. In terms of GDP, it was the low-income economies which suffered more from the disasters. Between January and August, there have been 32 natural disasters in 20 Asia-Pacific countries, of which eight occurred in Indonesia alone.

The report called Asia-Pacific the world's most disaster-prone area and added that 'it faces increasing risks of natural disasters'. The report also said that between 1970 and 2010, the average number of people in the Asia-Pacific region exposed to yearly flooding increased from 30 million to 64 million, and the population living in cyclone-prone areas grew from 72 million to 121 million. The statistical yearbook, however, also stated that the region continues to drive the global economic recovery. It said that around one billion people escaped extreme poverty since 1990 in Asia-Pacific but over 700 million people in the region still remain in extreme poverty."

Full report


4. CAMBODIA: Growth potential hangs on diversity
Source: phnompenhpost.com

"As Cambodia becomes increasingly integrated into the global market, the country needs to accelerate its efforts to diversify production or the local economy risks becoming stuck in a low-wage trap, the Asia Development Bank (ADB) warned Wednesday. The economy's four pillars of growth -- rice, garments, tourism and construction -- have all contributed to high levels of GDP over the past two decades, but only very basic products are being made within these industries.

According to a new report, low quality of education, poor infrastructure, weak management within the public sector and a lack of tax revenues all hamper the country's ability to move away from simple levels of production. The lack of product diversity leaves Cambodia vulnerable economic slowdowns in key export nations."

Full report



5. INDIA: Use of new tech could add 30% to growth
Source: domain-b.com

"Implementation of 12 new technologies ranging from mobile internet to cloud computing to advance genomics will have a huge impact on growth and social progress in India, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute released on Tuesday said. The use of these technologies would add from $550 billion to $1.5 trillion a year by 2025, which is equivalent to 20-30 percent of GDP growth.

McKinsey said that the 12 'empowering' technologies will have the greatest impact on India's economic growth and its efforts to reduce poverty. The country's prowess in IT will play a big role in its efforts to improve living standards. The global report assessed more than 100 technologies that are advancing rapidly around the world and identified twelve that are likely to have the most impact on addressing India's challenges."



6. INDONESIA: Early warning system for landslides
Source: shanghaidaily.com

"Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday ordered authorities to establish an early warning system in areas vulnerable to landslides following the landslide in Central Java that killed at least 82 people. The government would also conduct training for those living in landslide-prone areas.

Around 40.9 million people live in areas prone to landslides in Indonesia. The vast archipelago country of Indonesia is frequently hit by landslides during heavy downpours. The Indonesian government has installed an early warning system for tsunami in areas near coastlines and has conducted drills and training for people living in those areas after the mega tsunami in Aceh province in December 2004 that killed over 170,000 people."



 DEVBlogs ROUNDUP
The natural silk industry in Cambodia is on the verge of extinction as a result of widespread use of pesticides that have damaged the health of silkworms. Thus, producers have had to rely on imported synthetic fibers to meet the demand. Silkworms living in polluted environments produce poorer quality and smaller amounts of silk. An unhealthy silkworm can produce up to 100 meters of thread in its lifetime of about 20-24 days, while a healthy silkworm can produce nearly five times that.

7. NEPAL: Part of Silk Road Economic Belt
Source: myrepublica.com

"Nepal has signed an agreement with China to be a part of the Silk Road Economic Belt. A four-point agreement to this effect was signed during a Nepal-China Inter-governmental Business and Investment Coordination meeting held in Beijing on Tuesday. Beijing also put forth various agenda likely to be signed during the possible visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal.

China has prominently raised the issue of Nepal's participation in the Silk Road Economic Belt. Nepal and China have agreed to revive the old Silk Road that runs from Lhasa to Kathmandu to Patna, India. Among other things, China has also agreed to provide financial assistance to the schools lying in Nepal's northern belt."



8. PRC: Foreign aid features livelihoods
Source: ecns.cn

"Poverty reduction and the improvement of the livelihoods of people in developing countries has been the main feature of China's assistance to other nations, Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said on Tuesday. Nearly 80 percent of China's foreign aid between 2010 and 2012 went to areas including poverty reduction, education, hygiene, sports, culture, transportation as well as infrastructure, Shen said.

Shen refuting recent reports that China's foreign aid projects were disproportionately in favor of leaders' home towns in recipient countries. Shen added that China's foreign aid projects were open and transparent, with relevant data updated annually on the commerce and finance ministries websites. Meanwhile, aid projects are also open to public scrutiny in recipient nations."



9. BANGLADESH: Improving nutrition through cash transfers
Source: worldbank.org

"Despite Bangladesh's remarkable record in reducing poverty, the presence of high numbers of extremely poor people poses a daunting development challenge for the government. Bangladesh has successfully reduced child and maternal mortality, but the country still remains among the 10 countries with highest prevalence of malnutrition: 41% children below the age of 5 are stunted, according to the World Health Organization.

Bangladesh currently spends over 14 percent of its budget on over 100 safety net programs. But only a negligible amount of the budget supports programs that aim to improve maternal and child nutrition and cognitive development. Local governments responsible for implementation of most social safety nets suffer from weak administration capacity. Thus setting up common administrative platforms at the union level for safety net beneficiary identification, enrollment, and payment can fill the critical gap in the implementation of social safety nets."



10. MEKONG: Conservation-payment schemes are a study in contrasts
Source: cifor.org

"One river, many ways to protect its forests -- but are those ways effective? A recent workshop on incentive-based conservation in four Southeast Asian countries explored the diversity of approaches being employed-and highlighted worries about their long-term viability. In the Mekong River region, the concept of Payment for Environmental Services (PES) has gained attention as a cost-effective and innovative means of promoting sustainable environmental management while improving livelihoods.

Vietnam -- which has the most developed PES scheme in the region and generates tens of millions of dollars annually -- requires water supply, hydropower and tourist companies to pay fixed rates. These funds are distributed to the environmental services providers, which include state companies and villagers as they conserve forests for watershed protection and landscape aesthetics. Vietnam's efforts toward greater PES effectiveness, efficiency and equity will offer valuable lessons for Cambodia, Laos and Thailand where the idea of PES is still fairly new."



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