Friday, June 6, 2008

Worst places to be a woman

The FP magazine lists the world's worst places to be a woman: Haiti, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and Moldova. (HT: Chris Blattman)

I am surprised that my country, Nepal is also in the list. Never thought it was so bad! Actually, it is the worst place to be a woman in South Asia, according to the ranking.

Worst in South Asia

Share of women in Constituent Assembly: About 32 percent

Female-to-male income ratio: 50:100

Female literacy rate: 35 percent

Marriage comes early in Nepal: Women born in the late 1970s married at a median age of 16. And motherhood is particularly dangerous. Nepal is the “deadliest place in the world to give birth outside Afghanistan and a clutch of countries in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to a 2006 report by the International Federation of the Red Cross. That’s because only about 1 in 5 births is attended by trained health personnel. But the government is taking steps to improve women’s lives: A quota system for women and minorities resulted in a third of the Constituent Assembly seats going to women in the April elections.

Market failure and the need for government intervention

Ken Lewis, chairman and chief executive of Bank of America, argues that for a secure energy future markets alone would not bring solutions; government intervention is needed as well. Markets always do not work and hence government intervention is needed to rectify market failures or to keep the markets in track. This article from one of the bigwigs of the financial markets calling for government intervention shows how far we can rely on the markets, despite all its failures arising from coordination problems and spillover effects. Markets are the supposedly the most efficient economic model but it is always not true because of several missing elements arising from coordination failures and externalities/spillovers.

In 1859, one economic player had a notably small role: the government. The oil industry was free to develop as the market dictated. Today we do not have time to depend solely on the market to drive change. Our desire to balance economic growth with protection of our climate, to reduce our dependence on global oil markets and to account for the long-term costs fossil fuels impose on our economy requires action not only from the private sector but from policymakers as well.

It should sound strange to hear the chief executive of a global bank calling for government intervention. It is not a position I take lightly. But it is also not unprecedented. The government played a significant role in electrifying the rural US and building our transport infrastructure. Landmark legislation such as the clean air and clean water acts have been environmental and econ­omic successes. And state governments often encourage the development of new industries.

Good economic news for Nepal

Finally, after some years of stagnation, Nepali economy is set to rebound. The central bank predicts that GDP would grow by 4% this fiscal year, thanks to a 6% expected increase in agricultural outputs and a 14% rise in tourism. However, inflation still poses a challenge.

"The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has predicted national output to grow by 4 percent in the current fiscal year, thanks mainly to a record agricultural growth of 6 percent, the highest in 13 years.

Despite a wonky manufacturing sector, the impressive rebound by the agriculture sector along with an almost 17 percent growth in tourist arrivals contributed to the economic expansion, according to the central bank's economic report that covered the first nine months of the running fiscal year.

However, a record high inflation, which looks to be marching toward double digits, has painted a bleak picture of the economic outlook. The year-to-year consumer inflation stood at 8.9 percent in mid-April 2008 compared to 5.6 percent in the corresponding period last year, said the report."