FEATURE STORY

World Bank Group Hones Poverty Strategy as Meetings Wrap

April 12, 2014

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • World Bank Group wins broad, uniform support for its plans to tackle poverty and prosperity goals.
  • The Bank Group’s strategy will entail lifting 50 million people a year out of extreme poverty.
  • In July, newly formed communities of experts will focus on bringing global solutions to local problems.

A year ago, the World Bank Group won support for the audacious goal of ending extreme poverty. Today, as the 2014 International Monetary Fund-World Bank Spring Meetings wrap up, the Bank Group is close to implementing its strategy to tackle the goal.

The Development Committee, the body that advises the Bank Group and the IMF on development issues, said in its communiqué that it welcomed “progress made in implementing the change agenda,”  since it was endorsed six months ago, and called on the Bank Group to “work effectively to complete the reforms.”

“Literally everyone from the advanced countries, from the low-income countries, from emerging countries, all the participants, all the attendees, expressed admiration" for the change process, said Development Committee Chairman Marek Belka, adding that change "is never easy, but has a potential to release a lot more from the excellent group of people that we have in the World Bank Group."

“Today, I was very humbled to receive such a strong endorsement of the change agenda we’ve put forward,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “We have made a lot of progress … and we will continue to focus all of our efforts on improving our ability to serve clients.”

At the 2013 Spring Meetings, the committee backed two goals proposed by the Bank Group: reducing extreme poverty to no more than 3% by 2030, and boosting the incomes of the bottom 40%  of the population. 

The poverty goal will entail lifting 50 million people a year out of extreme poverty – defined as living on less than $1.25 a day.  Kim said this week achieving the goal will require a “laser-like focus on making growth more inclusive and targeting more programs to assist the poor directly.” While “extraordinarily difficult,” the goal can be met, he said. “This can be the generation that ends extreme poverty.”

A new paper, “Prosperity for All,” released April 10 says economic growth is vital to achieving the goals, but must be complemented by policies that allocate more resources to the extreme poor, such as cash transfer programs. 

 

Open Quotes

Literally everyone from the advanced countries, from the low-income countries, from emerging countries, all the participants, all the attendees, expressed admiration [for the change process]. Close Quotes

Marek Belka
Development Committee Chairman

In the last several months, the Bank Group has begun to implement a strategy to improve its effectiveness as a development institution and align its work to the goals.  Changes under way include cutting costs, realigning personnel, streamlining some processes, and encouraging closer collaboration among teams and among the various arms of the Bank Group.

Starting in July, the Bank Group will have communities of experts focusing on bringing “global solutions to local problems,” said Kim at his Spring Meetings opening press conference. The Bank Group will retain a strong presence in the countries where it works.

The Development Committee said it expects the Bank Group’s new structure “should lead to better global knowledge sharing to benefit all client countries, and to strengthening its role in support of South-South and regional cooperation.”

It also welcomed the Bank Group’s plans to increase financing capacity from $45 billion to $50 billion a year today to more than $70 billion within a decade.

“We look forward to continued progress in achieving a leaner cost base via improved organizational and operational efficiencies, as well as ongoing efforts to develop innovative approaches and mechanisms to mobilize additional financing. We encourage increasing the level and quality of investment in infrastructure,” the communiqué said.

The Development Committee praised the Bank Group’s “stepped-up engagement in addressing the regional drivers of fragility and conflict” through initiatives in Africa’s Sahel and Great Lakes regions, as well as its role in helping to close infrastructure gaps in Africa.

The committee called for “enhanced focus” on the Middle East and North Africa and support for Arab countries in transition.

“We remain deeply concerned about the continuously deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Syria,” the committee said. “We commend the generosity of governments and families in neighboring countries who are hosting those displaced at significant economic and social cost.”