Thank you for coming. I know many of you have attended Annual Meetings before. This is my first, and I'm looking forward to meeting with Governors and our stakeholders.
First, let me thank the government and people of Japan. The planning and work done and the hospitality extended to us has been just wonderful.
I think it’s especially meaningful because this year marks the 60th anniversary of the strong relationship the Bank and Japan has enjoyed over the years.
Japan started out as our client in the 1950s and 1960s, borrowing a total of $863 million for 31 projects, including signature projects such as the bullet train, Kuroyon-Dam and the Tomei Expressway. Japan now is our second largest shareholder and the third largest donor to the International Development Association – the Bank’s fund for the poorest. It is truly a success story and a remarkable show of generosity.
But it doesn’t end there. Japan has shared its knowledge and experience with the rest of the world as it evolved from a developing country to a developed country.
I was just at one such platform, the Sendai Dialogue, yesterday. The Government of Japan has asked us to use the convening power of the World Bank to help them share the lessons learned on disaster risk management from the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Many nations take tragedy and improve. Great nations like Japan take tragedy and share lessons learned with others.
We know the world is interconnected. Knowledge gained in one part of the world can apply to another. Things that are happening in one part of the world, such as in Europe, can have huge impacts in other parts of the world.
We are in challenging times. Food prices remain high and volatile; growth in high-income countries is weak; and developing countries, which have been the engine of growth, will not be immune to the increased uncertainty in the global economy.
The economic announcements emanating in recent weeks have been sobering. Everyone is vulnerable during times of uncertainty, but especially the poor who have few, if any, safety nets and resources and live from day to day. Our job at the World Bank Group now is to make sure the growth over the last five years that we’ve seen in developing countries in Africa and Latin America and Asia is not destroyed by further worsening in the situation.
As part of starting a dialogue around barriers and solutions to ending poverty, the World Bank has launched a global online conversation: a “What Will it Take to End Poverty” campaign in the lead up to these meetings. We are crowd-sourcing ideas and comments through social media and video. It's a great way to drive a conversation around real, practical results.
Because ultimately this is about results. I am asking our teams – “what can we do to fundamentally change the arc of history to end absolute poverty more quickly than it is currently predicted.”
It's our job to have a catalytic effect on poverty. The good news is that around the institution the World Bank Group, the answer has been a very strong yes, we can bend the arc of history. That's why we came to work at the World Bank – we want to fight poverty and we want to make a difference in history. It's been my life's work and I’ve worked in situations of great poverty and this organization is embracing this fundamental mission.
I've been on the job for 104 days. While I'm excited by how much the Bank has changed around openness and results and accountability, I believe the Bank can go further. We need to be more nimble and focused on delivery. During these meetings I'll not only share my thoughts on areas of reform, I'll listen to the views of our stakeholders, and look for ways to enact effective reforms.