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Thursday, 5 March 2020

My Morning Routine: Laura Sanchez Puerta, program leader for human development at the World Bank

Laura Sanchez Puerta, program leader for human development at the World Bank: My Morning Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Laura Sanchez Puerta, Program Leader for Human Development at the World Bank.

My name is Laura Sanchez Puerta and I’m the program leader for human development at the World Bank. I work with the health, education, and social protection teams in Egypt, Yemen, and Djibouti to advance the human development agenda. I was born and raised in Argentina. I moved to the US in 2000 to pursue my doctorate degree in labor economics at Cornell University and soon after landed my dream job at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. where I worked and lived until moving to Cairo in 2018. I am a widow, and a mother to two children — Julian, 10, and Clara, 8 — who always keep me on my toes.

I’m generally a morning person and I like to start my day at 6:30 am with a little competition with my daughter to see who can get ready the fastest. We have a sit-down breakfast with my son as our DJ, playing songs off Spotify. Then, I walk them to school and head to work. On my 45-minute morning commute, I read Enterprise and respond to emails that came in overnight from DC.

I find my work rewarding because I get to engage with the people, very passionate ministers, development partners, and country teams. Every day is different. I have meetings with our counterparts and with development partners, catch up with teams in the three countries, and touch base with the headquarters-based colleagues regularly. What really fuels my energy is when I get to mentor junior staff — in person or on the phone.

After work I exercise to counter the time commuting in the car — I just ran the 10k around the pyramids and I also play tennis and basketball with my kids. Since I was 15, I’ve been routinely journaling before going to bed which led me to write an autobiography about the journey our family experienced with my husband’s cancer.

I love the art scene in Cairo. I became a member of “Friends of the Opera” and recently attended a great musical performance by the trio “Des Equilibres.” But the most fun has been the “Peter Pan” musical at Cairo American College in which my daughter performed. I enjoy TED talks and generally listen to those related to socio-emotional skills. Angela Duckworth’s talks and her book on the power of grit are fantastic.

The World Bank Group (WBG) works to end extreme poverty and meet the development challenges of the 21st century through a combination of financing, knowledge, and long-term commitment. In Egypt, we support Egypt’s three human development sectors: health, education, and social protection. Our health project aims to improve the quality of primary and secondary healthcare, family planning services, and support the prevention and control of Hepatitis C.

In record time — 9 months — 52 mn citizens have been screened for Hepatitis C and noncommunicable diseases. WBG’s support of Egypt’s education reform is to improve the quality of learning and teaching, where the government is aiming to become more tech-driven. We also support Takaful and Karama, the cash transfer program that covers 9 mn of Egypt’s poorest and encourages families to keep children in school and providing them with needed health care.

Quality jobs are the cornerstone of economic and social development and offer the most direct path out of poverty. With anticipated demographic changes, Egypt needs to create around 6 mn additional jobs between 2019 and 2030 just to keep employment rates constant. Increasing the number of quality jobs requires a multidimensional approach involving a stable and predictable environment, adequate labor market regulations, appropriate skills in the labor force, and well-designed risk management programs.

Economic growth is unsustainable without inclusiveness, and women are Egypt’s untapped resource. Egypt ranked 140 out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Gender Gap Index for economic participation, and women’s labor force participation is currently around 23%.

The best piece of advice I’ve received was from my parents and it’s something I hope to pass on to my kids: “The two things you are in total control of in your life are attitude and effort.”

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