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Economics Students Unite in Bangladesh to Explore Paths Toward One South Asia
Chittagong, January 18, 2018 – The 14th  South Asia Economic Students’ Meet (SAESM) commences in Chittagong, Bangladesh today, embracing the arrival of over 110 top economics undergraduates and faculties from seven countries in South Asia towards the realization of a more integrated South Asia. Rising economists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka will engage in vigorous academic competitions and research presentations on South Asia’s development opportunities under the theme of regional integration in South Asia. The meet will also include discussions by professors and World Bank experts on how greater regional integration in South Asia can help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “South Asia is a region with immense potential and youthful energy waiting to thrive,” said Selim Raihan, SAESM Organizer for Bangladesh and Executive Director for the South Asia Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM). “Building trust among neighbors through students can help lay the foundation for lasting relationships that will benefit growth, poverty reduction and prosperity in the future.”SAESM Chittagong will include essay presentations and defense by students on their essays submitted for SAESM, a quiz on economic knowledge, as well as a ‘budding economist competition’’ that selects the brightest young economist through the best written and oral defense. Hosted this year by SANEM, participants come from a variety of South Asian universities including Dhaka University (Bangladesh), Delhi University (India), Lahore University of Management Sciences (Pakistan), University of Kabul (Afghanistan), Royal Thimphu College (Bhutan), and Tribhuvan University (Nepal). Recognizing its unparalleled efforts in facilitating regional academic and cultural exchange, the World Bank Group has supported SAESM for many years in the forms of financing, logistical support, external communications as well as speeches and competitions. “Regional Integration in South Asia is a work in progress, but there are many grounds for optimism, including the growing realization that most of the gains from regional integration remain under-exploited.  To help realize some of these gains, the WBG is supporting country governments in South Asia to deepen cooperation with their neighbors in several areas including energy, trade and investment, and connectivity,” said Sanjay Kathuria, Lead Economist for the World Bank. “Gains are likely to be incremental because this is a complex and long-term agenda. Youth can bring a business-like, uncluttered approach to provide greater momentum to the process of creating One South Asia.” Since SAESM was piloted in New Delhi, India in 2004 by a group of university professors, it has been hosted rotationally by organizers in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan. Afghanistan sent its first batch of delegates in 2014. “When we started SAESM, our objective was to bring together brilliant young economists from across South Asia and engage them in intensive academic exchange. Over the years SAESM has itself ‘graduated’ numerous dazzling talents and sent them worldwide,” said Raihan. Follow #SAESM developments on Twitter though the hashtag #OneSouthAsia
Afghanistan: Fiscal Performance Improvement Support Project
World Bank News Release: Loan and Credit Summary WASHINGTON, December 19, 2017 - The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved the following project:Fiscal Performance Improvement Support Project IDA Grant: US$25 million ARTF Grant: US$75 millionTerms: 5 year period from 29 December 2017 to 28 December, 2022Project ID: P159655 Project Description: The program development objective is to contribute to the improvement of domestic revenue mobilization and public expenditures management, and of reinforcing a performance oriented management culture in the Ministry of Finance. 
Quality Care and Health Campaigns Boost Afghan Communities' Well-being
TANAI DISTRICT, Khost Province – A short clip about vaccinations is playing on the TV of the waiting hall. All eyes are locked on the screen. A young girl talks about the importance of vaccination in early childhood. She directly encourages people to bring their children to the nearest health center for vaccination. Alif Khan, 60, is sitting in the tiny waiting hall of the Dargai Comprehensive Health Center (CHC) for a routine vaccination visit. Next to him is his grandson, 4, whom Alif Khan has brought for a vaccination. They are not alone in the hall, a group of more than 20 people are also there, watching the health awareness clips and making small talk. Alif Khan lives in Potkai Lalmi village in Tanai district, Khost Province, in southeast Afghanistan. Eight years ago, people of the district were very conservative when it came to health matters. Alif Khan remembers the time when his brother died of appendicitis because they didn’t take him to a health center. “In the past, when a person had an illness in the village, people thought it was infectious and denied treating them normally,” he says. “It was hard, especially for those who had tuberculosis, because people used to believe that it did not have a cure.” Today, residents in Tanai district are more informed about health matters. Dargai CHC holds public health awareness campaigns regularly, carried out by 24 Community Health Workers (CHW). In addition to the campaigns, doctors in the health center engage in public awareness. The TV in the waiting hall is another source of information. “We are very lucky that our doctors have a good understanding of our culture and traditions. They understand us well and deliver the services efficiently,” remarks Alif Khan as he prepares to take his grandson into the vaccination department.
Access to All-Weather Road Allows Afghan Valley Residents to Flourish
BAZARAK DISTRICT, Panjshir Province – It is mid-afternoon and the sun is beating down hard on the flourishing Parandi valley. The weather in the lengthy valley in the Bazarak district of Panjshir Province is torrid, keeping most of the inhabitants of its 12 villages indoors. But not Razuddin, 50, who sits with workers in the shadow of a wall and eagerly quizzes them on how the building of his house is coming along. Two years ago, Razuddin invested in a new concrete house in his native Dorana, the most remote village in the Parandi valley. The house is expected to be completed soon and will be the second concrete building in the village. Razuddin lives in Kabul Province but decided to build a home in his village after a main road was built linking the village to the Bazarak district center. “When I left the village in 2002, there was no road and the only way to transport food and other necessary materials from the district center was by using animals,” Razuddin says as he sips green tea. “The road has impacted our life positively since everyone can now come to the village by car. It also motivated many like me to come back and build a house.” The rehabilitation of the Parandi valley road by the Afghanistan Rural Access Project (ARAP) has played a key role in developing and improving the financial situation of many villagers, who are mostly engaged in livestock, horticulture, and a small amount of agriculture. The all-weather road allows them to supply their products to the Bazarak market more quickly, increasing their earnings. “Before the road was built, we used animals to transport our products and it took two hours to reach the district center,” says Muhammad Yasin, 25, who raises livestock and grows vegetables in Logasht village. “Now we go by car in 15 minutes.” ARAP, which is implemented by Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and coordinated by Ministry of Finance, aims to benefit rural communities across Afghanistan by improving access to basic services and facilities through all-weather roads. It is a follow-on project of the National Emergency Rural Access Program and is supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). 
Global Economic Prospects in South Asia: Broad-Based Upturn. For How Long?
Recent developments: Growth in South Asia slowed to a still strong 6.5 percent in 2017, in part reflecting businesses’ adjustment in India to the country’s new Goods and Services Tax and to the adverse impacts of natural disasters across the region. India is estimated to grow 6.7 percent in fiscal year 2017/18, which ends March 31, slightly down from the 7.1 percent of the previous fiscal year. This is due in part to the effects of the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, but also to protracted balance sheet weaknesses—including corporate debt burdens and non-performing loans in the banking sector—weighing down private investment.   Pakistan’s growth is forecast to tick up to 5.5 percent in FY 2017/18, which ends June 30, with strong activity in construction and services, a recovery in agricultural production, and robust domestic demand supported by strong credit growth and investment projects. However, the current deficit widened to 4.1 percent of GDP, amid weak exports and buoyant imports. In Sri Lanka, activity expanded at an estimated 4.1 percent in 2017, slightly below expectations as a result of severe weather disruptions. Bangladesh’s growth for FY 2017/18, which ended June 30, is anticipated to slow to 6.4 percent from 7.2 percent in the preceding fiscal year. 
Afghanistan: Girls' Enrollment in Schools Increases with New Facilities
KHOST CITY – It is early morning and girls in their black dresses and white scarves are lined up neatly in the school yard for assembly. After the recitation of the Holy Quran and a short speech by the principal, students go in single file to their classes. This is the daily ritual in Matoon Sarnakot Secondary School in Khost city, the provincial capital of Khost Province. Students in the school come from different villages in the area. When the school was first set up in 2010, classes were held in tents. The hot, sunny days of summer followed by the rainy days of autumn made it difficult for students to attend classes comfortably. “During the warm and rainy days, it was difficult for teachers and students to continue their lessons in the tents,” says Zabihullah, 28, who has taught English and Dari for the past five years at the school. “But, now, teachers and students don’t need to worry as they have proper classrooms in a concrete building.” Today, students attend classes taught by 11 teachers in two sessions in an eight-classroom building. Nahida, 14, a 7th grader who comes from Zakriaan village, is happy for the school building, “After the construction of the new building, we learn in a safer environment,” she says. The school building was made possible through an Infrastructure Development Grant (IDG) of $99,000 from the Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP). Construction took about a year and was completed in 2013. “The school is equipped with classrooms and teaching materials,” says Malmir Eamal, principal of Matoon Sarnakot Secondary School. “It enables us to perform much better than in the past.” 
Flagship Afghan Rural Program Lays Strong Foundation for the Future
Ismaelkhil Mandozayi District, Khost Province –The azan sounds from the village mosque as people gather for the noontime prayer. Shir Khan, 39, leaves off working on his crops and walks past fields of ripening wheat, across the flowing waters of the irrigation canal, toward the village mosque. It has been more than 15 years since Shir Khan returned from Pakistan to his native village, Melani Kalay, more than 15 kilometers west of Khost city in southeastern Afghanistan. Nestled in a broad sweeping valley, and surrounded by bare brown hills, the inhabitants of the village have long endured both floods and water shortages. In recent years, however, they have seen a great deal of improvement in their lives with the help of the National Solidarity Programme (NSP). Some 15 years ago the village had no irrigation canal nor enough water for its people. The farmlands in the village were dry, especially in summer, the peak growing season, and locals had to work as day laborers in neighboring villages or venture out to the provincial capital of Khost city to earn a bare living. “We had no water to irrigate our lands,” remembers Shir Khan, who farms a tiny patch of land (2 jeribs or 0.4 hectare) in the village. “As all the male villagers worked as unskilled agricultural laborers and there was never enough labor, we never had enough money to look after our families.” The irrigation canal, he says, has greatly improved the situation.
د نړیوال بانک نوی راپور: د افغانستان اقتصادي وده به څه نا څه ښه شي
د نړیوالو ځواکونو د وتلو اغیزې لا اوس هم پر متشبثینو او مستهلکینو پاتې دي او هغوی نه دي توانیدلي، څو خپل باور بیرته ترلاسه کړیکابل، د ۱۳۹۶ لمریز کال د لړم ۳۰مه– د نړیوال بانک د نوي اقتصادي راپور پر بنسټ د دې وړاندوینه کیږي، چې د افغانستان اقتصادي وده د تیر کال په پرتله د ۲،۲ سلنې څخه په ۲۰۱۷ زیږدیز کال کې ۲،۶ سلنې پورې لوړه شي. دا په داسې حال کې ده، چې د دغه هیواد پر اقتصاد باندې خراب امنیتي وضعیت ناوړه اغیزې لرلې.په هیواد کې امنیتي وضعیت خراب شوی، څنګه چې د نا امنۍ او جرمونو د کچې زیاتوالی نه پریږدي، چې سوداګر او  مستهلکین په بشپړ ډول هغه باور بیرته ترلاسه کړي، کوم چې په ۲۰۱۴ زیږدیز کال کې د امنیتي مسوولیتونو د لیږد له امله رامینځته شو او په ترڅ کې يې زیات شمیر نړیوال ځواکونه له هیواده بهر شول. د هیواد اقتصادي وده د ۲۰۱۴ او ۲۰۱۵ کلونو په پرتله، کله چې افغانستان له ۲۰۰۳ زیږدیز کال وروسته تر ټولو د کمې ودې شاهد وو؛ په نسبي ډول لوړ شوی دی.د ۲۰۱۷ زیږدیز کال د لومړیو شپږو میاشتو تقریبي ارقام د اقتصادي فعالیتونو د کم رنګه کیدو څرګندوي کوي، په داسې حال کې، چې د متشبثینو له کړنو او د فعالیتونو له کتنې څخه ربعواره سروې ګانې د دې ښکارندوي کوي، چې د ۲۰۱۷ زیږدیز کال د لومړۍ درې میاشتو څخه تر دویمې درې میاشتو پورې د مشتبثینو لیوالتیا او باور ښه شوی، خو بیا هم د ۲۰۱۶ زیږدیز کال د همدې مودې په پرتله څه نا څه لږ دی.د دولت لخوا د مالیاتو د را ټولونې او تطبیق د مدیریت ښه کیدو په پایله کې، اوس مهال د کورني عوایدو کچه ښه وضعیت لري او تمه ده، چې د سږ کال تر پایه پورې په بودجه کې ټاکل شوې موخې ته ورسیږي. په ۲۰۱۴ کال کې په بې سارې توګه د عوایدو کچې د را ټیټیدو وروسته، اوسمهال د عوایدو را ټولول د دریم پرله پسې کال لپاره په ښه توګه عملي کیږي. ترلاسه شوي ارقام د دې ښکارندوي کوي، چې د ۲۰۱۷ کال په لومړیو اتو میاشتو کې د کورني کلني عوایدو کچه ۱۳ سلنه ( د تیر کال د همدې مودې په پرتله) زیاتوالی راغلی."امنیتي وضعیت د اقتصادي ودې او کاري فرصتونو په رامنځته کولو او دوام او د عامه خدمتونو په وړاندې کولو کې د دولت پر هڅو مستقیم اغیز کړی دی،"په کابل کې د نړیوال بانک د دفتر مشر شوبهم چوهدري د دې مطلب د څرګندولو ترڅنګ ټینګاراو زیاته کړه :"موږ په ټول هیواد کې د سولې او ټیکاو رامنځته کیدو په تړاو د دولت له هوډ او ارادې څخه مننه کوو او د دې هڅو د بریالیتوب لپاره اړینه ده، څو په اقتصادي برخو کې پرمختګونه په تل پاتې ډول رامنځته او ورته اسانتیاوې برابرې شي. د سیمه ییزې حکومتوالۍ پراختیا، د اصلاحاتو رامنځته کیدل، د خلکو د باور ترلاسه کول او له فساد سره مبارزه هغه برخې دي، چې د اوږد مهاله ودې او سراسري هوساینې د ترلاسه کولو په موخه خورا مهم ګڼل کیږي." که چیري امنیتي اوضاع د اوسنۍ شرایطو په پرتله خرابه نشي، نو داسې وړاندوینه کیږي، چې په ۲۰۱۸ کال کې د افغانستان د اقتصادي ودې کچه به ۳،۲ سلنې ته لوړه شي. که څه هم دا ارقام د ۲۰۱۴ او ۲۰۱۵ کلونو په پرتله زیاتوالی څرګندوي، خو بیا هم د ۲۰۰۳ نه تر ۲۰۱۳ کلونو کې د ۹،۶ سلنې مینځنۍ کچې اقتصادي ودې په پرتله ډیر ټیټ دی. پر یوه وخت د کورني غوښتنو د کچې لږوالی او د مشتبثینو د باور راټیټیدل له یوې خوا او له بلې خوا د نا امنیو زیاتیدل او له ۲۰۱۴ زیږدیز کال وروسته د افغانستان سیاسي راتلونکې په اړه د ابهاماتو شتون د دې لامل شوو، څو د اقتصادي ودې کچه راټیټه شي. سربېره پر دې، غیر رسمي معلومات د دې ښکارندوي کوي، چې د متشبثینو او د مستهلکینو باور څه نا څه ښه شوی، ځکه د افغانستان او سویلي آسیا حوزې لپاره د امریکا د متحده ایالتونو نوې ستراتیژي له اعلان وروسته؛ د نړیوال ائتلاف د ځواکونو د شتون په اړه ابهامات تر یوه بریده لیري شوي دي. که چیري د امنیت ټینګښت او ټیکاو پراختیا لپاره شته فعالیتونه دوام ومومي او د اږودمهاله اصلاحاتو لړۍ او همدارنګه د نړیوالو مالي مرستو بهیر لږ تر لږه د اوس په شان دوام ومومي، تمه کیږي، چې د اقتصادي ودې کچه به هم په متعادل ډول لوړه شي. تمه کیږي، چې اقتصادي وده به تر راتلونکو ۲ نه تر ۳ کلونو پورې په مالي مدیریت او د پالیسیو د سمون په برخو کې د یو شمېر مشخصو تدابیرو په نیولو سره لوړه شي. کولای شوو په دې برخه کې په ښه ډول د بودجې مصرفول، د بودجوي لګښتونو لپاره د زیاتو سرچینو ځانګړي کول، چې زیات کاري ځواک ته اړتیا لري او سیمه ییز پروګرامونه، چې د ټولنې اړینو خلکو ته رسیږي؛ یادونه وشي.
Afghanistan: School Building Improves Access to Quality Education
KANDAHAR CITY – In an otherwise stark classroom, 51 bobbing heads covered in matching white scarves are focused intently on reciting their lessons, interrupted only by the sporadic rustle of a notebook on one of the many wooden desks. The 51 students, all in Grade 1, and all intent on mastering their Pashto lessons, repeat the alphabet after their teacher. The teacher alternates between chalking down instructions on the blackboard and stalling the recitation from time to time to correct their pronunciation. It is just another school day at Shahid Khakrizwal Girls High School in district nine of Kandahar city. This was not always the case when the school had to battle many challenges because it did not have a permanent building. The hot spring and summer months made it difficult for students to attend classes regularly. Parents were not eager to send their girls to school and the girls who did enroll frequently fell ill from the extreme weather conditions that characterize the province. “Thank God, finally we have our own building with proper classrooms,” says Jamila, 28, the language teacher at the school. Fatima Hashimi, 35, the school principal recalls the time when the school was housed in tents. “We had just four classes and in every class, there were only seven to eight girls,” she says. “We used to hold classes in tents. It was not possible to scale up to add additional grades.” Enrollment has been on the increase since the school building was constructed. There are currently over 680 students from Grades 1 to 11 enrolled at the school. “Now, just in our first-grade class, we have more than 50 students and our enrollment has been increasing year by year,” says Fatima Hashimi. The students are also clearly happy with the improvements in their school. “When our school did not have a building, the noise from the road used to interrupt our lessons. It was also difficult to study under the sun’s heat in the summer and winters were too cold,” says Nasiba, 16, a 10th grade student. “Our lessons are much better and now I am confident that when I graduate from this school, I will be accepted at university.” Established in 2004 as an elementary school, the school had few facilities up to 2008 when it came under the Educational Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP). In 2009, an Infrastructure Development Grant (IDG) from EQUIP enabled the school to build the two-storey school building that houses 20 classrooms. The benefits of having a permanent building however are not just limited to the number of grades or enrollment, but to the quality of education as well. From limited facilities and just five teachers, the school became a high school in 2014 and now has 20 teachers. Shahid Khakrizwal Girls High School is one of 360 schools in Kandahar Province that have received both an IDG and Quality Enhancement Grant (QEG) under EQUIP. EQUIP, now in its second phase, seeks to increase equitable access to quality basic education, especially for girls. It is implemented by the Ministry of Education and was first funded by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) has taken over funding as co-financier of the project. 
Afghan Public Universities Modernize To Attract Talent
BAGHLAN PROVINCE – Becoming a lecturer in the Faculty of Environment at Baghlan University was no small achievement for Nargis Taimoory. She had to clear a very tough competitive examination, but getting the lectureship made it worthwhile. “I was very excited about becoming a lecturer at the university,” says Taimoory. A high performing student, she graduated from the Faculty of Biology and Chemistry at the same university in the provincial capital, Puli Khumri, only a few years earlier. In 2012, when she started as a lecturer, she had come on-board with a bachelor’s degree. “I had just a BSc degree, no experience, and I was not familiar with the new methods of teaching,” she recalls. Despite her best efforts and academic rigor, she felt herself struggling and decided she needed to upgrade her skills to do justice to her job. Taimoory, who is now 28, is pursuing a master’s degree in natural resources management at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. One of 200 scholarship recipients under the Higher Education Development Project (HEDP), she believes she could not have pursued her dream without the project’s help. “With HEDP support, I am studying in a good international university in Thailand,” Taimoory says. “I have learned a lot and feel my master’s degree will improve my teaching abilities and when I come back to Afghanistan, I will be able to teach my students much more efficiently.” HEDP aims to increase access to higher education in Afghanistan, as well as improve its quality and relevance. It has been implemented by the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) since July 2015, with funding support by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). One of the ways HEDP is working to achieve this goal is through capacity building at all levels within the public university system, such as the scholarships for lecturers who want to purse postgraduate degrees to further their academic skills and qualifications. Afghanistan has 36 public universities and institutes of higher education across the country, most of which were established or re-established only within the past decade. One of the most critical challenges they face is the lack of well-qualified lecturers—as high as around 60 percent of all lecturers in public universities hold only a bachelor’s degree. Based on the MoHE second National Higher Education Strategic Plan, 2016-2020, all university lecturers require at least a master’s degree by 2021. HEDP is working to change the old system of higher education to a more modern one to increase its relevance and efficacy. “Through HEDP we would like to transform the old and traditional systems that are being used in public universities with a modernized and internationally recognized system, with serious attention to female participation,” says. Noor Ahmad Darwish, director of HEDP in MoHE.
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