I am honored to assume the Presidency of the World Bank Group. I do so at a moment that is pivotal for the global economy, and defining for the World Bank as an institution.
The global economy remains highly vulnerable. We need to boost confidence in markets and within the private sector. And we need to boost confidence among citizens that our economic system and policies can deliver more sustainable, fair and inclusive economic growth.
As a global development institution, the World Bank has an economic and moral imperative to help address risks to global growth, no matter where they emerge. A strong global economy benefits all countries; a weak global economy makes all countries vulnerable. It is urgent that European countries take all necessary measures to restore stability because their actions will impact growth in all regions of the world.
Over the coming months, I will be engaging closely with clients, partners and my colleagues in the Bank Group to take stock of the challenges ahead and ensure that the Bank’s strategy is suited to supporting our member countries’ needs.
Already, however, several priorities of our work are clear.
My immediate priority will be to intensify the World Bank’s efforts to help developing countries maintain progress against poverty in these volatile times.
I will work with our clients and partners to ensure that we are creating a new economic firewall: one that protects people in developing countries against shocks. I know from my work in poor communities around the world that, when a crisis hits, and no safety net is in place, the effects can be devastating. The World Bank substantially increased its lending during and after the global financial crisis. We must continue to build more effective and sustainable ways to ensure citizens have basic income protection, and access to education, healthcare and energy. This is also critical for strengthening domestic demand because when people have basic security, they are empowered to be creative and tap their full potential.
While short-term crisis management and social protection are naturally a concern in these times, we must capitalize on the opportunities that lie beyond the horizon. Despite the volatility, we must remember that the world has unprecedented resources, knowledge and experience at its disposal. If the international community can use these effectively, we can achieve within a generation goals that for centuries have been a distant dream. We can reduce poverty to levels never seen before, and usher in a time when the majority of the world’s people will be part of a global middle class, enjoying better living conditions and greater opportunities. We can help create the next set of emerging markets, especially in Africa, that will drive global demand and growth. We can accelerate inclusive growth and social progress in places where development has not yet taken hold.
The World Bank is uniquely positioned to assist countries build longer-term development strategies through its lending, knowledge and expertise. The World Bank will continue to partner with countries to make smart investments in people, infrastructure and institutions in a fiscally sound and sustainable way. Through the IFC and MIGA, we will continue to support the catalytic role of the private sector, which accounts for almost 90% of jobs in the world. Drawing on the experience of its global shareholders, the World Bank can broker solutions on transnational challenges.
Public trust and confidence are invaluable assets for governments and institutions. The Bank Group is already active in promoting transparency in public finances and strengthening governance. This is an increasingly important area of engagement because it drives confidence and decision making amongst investors, businesses and households.
I believe the World Bank’s best days are still ahead. The economic success of emerging market economies, the rise of citizen power led by young people and the unprecedented penetration of new technologies are challenging old development paradigms. Thanks to the leadership of Bob Zoellick, the World Bank has moved toward becoming more open and has embarked on an innovative modernization agenda. Strengthening its leadership as the premier development institution will mean continuing to adapt to a world that is changing profoundly.
Together, with partners old and new, we will foster an institution that responds effectively to the needs of its diverse clients and donors; delivers more powerful results to support sustained growth and help governments to become more accountable to citizens; prioritizes evidence-based solutions over ideology; harnesses and attracts the best talent; amplifies the voices of developing countries; and draws on the expertise and experience of the people we serve.
A central part of my responsibility in the next five years will be to ensure that the Bank’s distinctive strengths are aligned with the needs of a world in transformation and transition.