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Private Sector Development

Railways are the future—so how can countries finance them?

Martha Lawrence's picture
Photo: Kavya Bhat/Flickr
As a railway expert working for the World Bank, I engage with many client countries that are looking to expand or upgrade their railway systems. Whenever someone pitches a railway investment, my first question is always, “What are your trains going to carry?” I ask this question because it is fundamental to railway financing. 

Railways are very capital intensive and increasingly need to attract financing from the private sector to be successful. That is why the World Bank recently updated its Railway Toolkit to include more information and case studies on railway financing. Here, in a nutshell are the key lessons about railway financing from this update. 

Sri Lanka at 70: Looking back and forward

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
A view from the Independence day parade.At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation.
A view from the 2018 Independence Day parade. At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation. Credit: World Bank

Like many Sri Lankans across the country, I joined Sri Lanka’s 70th Independence Day festivities earlier this month. This was undoubtedly a joyful moment, and proof of the country’s dynamism and stability. At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation.
 
The country’s social indicators, a measure of the well-being of individuals and communities, rank among the highest in South Asia and compare favorably with those in middle-income countries. In the last half-century, better healthcare for mothers and their children has reduced maternal and infant mortality to very low levels.
 
Sri Lanka’s achievements in education have also been impressive. Close to 95 percent of children now complete primary school with an equal proportion of girls and boys enrolled in primary education and a slightly higher number of girls than boys in secondary education.
 
The World Bank has been supporting Sri Lanka’s development for more than six decades. In 1954, our first project, Aberdeen-Laxapana Power Project, which financed the construction of a dam, a power station, and transmissions lines, was instrumental in helping the young nation meet its growing energy demands, boost its trade and develop light industries in Colombo, and provide much-needed power to tea factories and rubber plantations. In post-colonial Sri Lanka, this extensive electrical transmission and distribution project aimed to serve new and existing markets and improve a still fragile national economy.
 
Fast forward a few decades and Sri Lanka in 2018 is a far more prosperous and sophisticated country than it was in 1954 and, in many ways, has been a development success story. Yet, the island nation still faces some critical challenges as it strives to transition to another stage of its development and become a competitive upper middle-income country.
 
Notably, the current overreliance on the public-sector as the main engine for growth and investment, from infrastructure to healthcare, is reaching its limits.  With one of the world’s lowest tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios -- 12% in 2016, down from 24% in 1978 —Sri Lanka’s public sector is now facing serious budget constraints and the country needs to look for additional sources of finance to boost and sustain its growth.
 
As outlined in its Vision 2025, the current government has kickstarted an ambitious reform agenda to help the country move from a public investment to a more private investment growth model to enhance competitiveness and lift all Sri Lankans’ standards of living.
 
Now is the time to steer this vision into action. This is urgent as Sri Lanka is one of the world’s most protectionist countries and one of the hardest to start and run a business. As it happens, private foreign investment is much lower than in comparable economies and trade as a proportion of GDP has decreased from 88% in 2000 to 50% in 2016. Reversing this downward trend is critical for Sri Lanka to meet its development aspirations and overcome the risk of falling into a permanent “middle-income trap.”

The APMG PPP Certification Program: Q&A with Abdul Nafi Sarwari

Abdul Nafi Sarwari's picture



The APMG PPP Certification Program enables participants to take their skills to the next level, and the Certified PPP Professional (CP3P) credential is a means to officially convey that expertise and ability.

At the core of the program is the PPP Guide, a comprehensive Body of Knowledge that distills globally agreed-upon definitions, concepts, and best practices on PPPs. The program is an innovation of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), and the World Bank Group (WBG), with financial support from the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF).

Whether you’re thinking about signing up, or already enrolled, in this series we share some insight from practitioners who have already passed the test. This week, we caught up with Abdul Nafi Sarwari, a Senior Financial & Economic Specialist for PPPs with the Central Partnership Authority within Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance. Read his answers below.

The Toyota way or Entropy? What did we find when we went back 8-9 years after improving management in Indian factories?

David McKenzie's picture

Between 2008 and 2010, we hired a multinational consulting firm to implement an intensive management intervention in Indian textile weaving plants. Both treatment and control firms received a one-month diagnostic, and then treatment firms received four months of intervention. We found (ungated) that poorly managed firms could have their management substantially improved, and that this improvement resulted in a reduction in quality defects, less excess inventory, and an improvement in productivity.

Should we expect this improvement in management to last? One view is the “Toyota way”, with systems put in place for measuring and monitoring operations and quality launch a continuous cycle of improvement. But an alternative is that of entropy, or a gradual decline back into disorder – one estimate by a prominent consulting firm is that two-thirds of transformation initiatives ultimately fail. In a new working paper, Nick Bloom, Aprajit Mahajan, John Roberts and I examine what happened to the firms in our Indian management experiment over the longer-term.

Maximizing finance for development works

Hartwig Schafer's picture
People in Saint-Louis, Senegal. © Ibrahima BA Sané/World Bank
People in Saint-Louis, Senegal. © Ibrahima BA Sané/World Bank


Massive investment is needed to meet the ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity by 2030. By some estimates it could cost as much as $4.5 trillion a year to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and obviously, we will not get there solely with public finance. And there’s the rub: Countries will only meet the SDGs and improve the lives of their citizens if they raise more domestic revenues and attract more private financing and private solutions to complement and leverage public funds and official development assistance. This approach is called maximizing finance for development, or MFD.

Breathing new life into power utilities through debt restructuring tools

Teuta Kaçaniku's picture


Photo: Raymond Ward | Flickr Creative Commons

Sector reform is a familiar concept for anyone working in the energy sector, particularly in developing countries. Typically, reforms involve measures such as building an institutional framework that allows for an independent regulator, improving the operational efficiency of utilities (for example, by unbundling vertically-integrated utilities), creating an environment for private sector participation, and last but not least, introducing tariffs that reflect costs. All these measures are designed with one goal in mind: to put the sector on a sustainable path and improve the quality of service for end-users.

While acknowledging the many benefits that sector reforms can bring, one issue we continue to face is the poor financial state of key power utilities. In other words, a lack of creditworthiness. Often, their lack of financial creditworthiness is the most critical obstacle to implementing investment programs. This makes utilities even more dependent on continuous government subsidies.

Making taxes work for the SDGs

Jan Walliser's picture
Also available in: Français
Graphic: World Bank Group

Taxation plays a fundamental role in effectively raising and allocating domestic resources for governments to deliver essential public services and achieve broader development goals.

Yin Yin Lam - 10 candid career questions with infrastructure & PPP professionals

Yin Yin Lam's picture



Welcome to the “
10 Candid Career Questions” series, introducing you to the infrastructure and PPP professionals who do the deals, analyze the data, and strategize on the next big thing. Each of them followed a different path into infra and/or PPP practice, and this series offers an inside look at their backgrounds, motivations, and choices. Each blogger receives the same 15 questions and answers 10 or more that tell their career story candidly and without jargon. We believe you’ll be as surprised and inspired as we were.  

How an online platform helps drive infrastructure in developing countries

Catherine Workman's picture


Photo: Free-Photos / Pixabay Creative Commons

In order for investors to see the potential in developing long-term attractive infrastructure assets, projects must be well prepared. The lack of such primed projects is a major obstacle for ramping up global infrastructure, particularly in developing and emerging economies.

This is one of the priorities for the G20, as Argentinean President Mauricio Macri emphasized in December 2017: "Infrastructure for development" will be one of the key issues of focus during the country's G20 Presidency and it will "…seek to develop infrastructure as an asset class by improving project preparation."

Why providing pre-seed and seed capital is the essential step to bringing West Africa and Sahel’s entrepreneurs to the next level

Alexandre Laure's picture

"In Chad, young people increasingly turn to innovative entrepreneurship but often become demoralized when confronted with the common issue of lack of early-stage financing.” This is how Parfait Djimnade, co-founder of Agro Business Tchad, a leading e-commerce agribusiness and social enterprise in Chad, described the challenge many aspiring entrepreneurs face in securing the necessary capital to fund and grow their start-ups, specifically in the Sahel and West Africa.

The frustration Parfait highlights is common across the Africa region, where more than 40 percent of entrepreneurs cite access to finance as the major factor limiting their growth, according to World Bank Enterprise Surveys. West African start-ups and innovative young SMEs are indeed facing the classic ‘valley of death’ — the space between where the entrepreneur’s own resources from family and friends (“love money”) gets depleted and when the company is financially viable enough to attract later-stage investment and financing available on the market. The shortage of financing in the market starts from the pre-seed stage (US$20,000) to early-venture capital stage (US$1 million).


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