I am proud to be here today launching the “Knowledge and Innovation Initiative on the Reduction of Poverty” with the Ministry of Social Development, the Institute of Applied Economics (IPEA) and the United Nations International Policy Center on Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG).
This agreement that we will shortly sign recognizes Brazil as a global leader in reducing poverty and inequality. Progress made during the last decade has been remarkable and the world can learn a lot from the Brazilian experience.
President Dilma, whom I will meet later today, not only shares these common goals but is a leader in moving this agenda forward in Brazil and in the region.
In Brazil, the percentage of the population living under extreme poverty has fallen from about 20 percent in the early 1990s to about 7 percent in recent years.
And the percentage of the population living under moderate poverty has fallen from just under 45 percent in 1990, to about 25 percent today, while the middle class has expanded. If we use the international benchmark of $1.25 per day, poverty has fallen even more, from 18 percent in the early 1990s to 5 percent in 2011.
At the same time, the Gini coefficient-the most common measure of income inequality-has fallen by 9 percent since 2001 compared to a drop of 5.3 percent in Latin America as a whole.
Since I joined the World Bank last July, the question I have posed as I travelled around the world is “what will it take to end extreme poverty faster?” and “how can we help create more opportunities so that all citizens in society are able to benefit from the prosperity that comes with growth?”
Boosting shared prosperity and equality go hand in hand. Brazil has demonstrated that solid economic policies coupled with social responsibility are not only possible but desirable. And that growing while at the same time reducing inequality is an attainable goal.
So of course the question is what is the essence of the Brazilian approach to fight poverty and boost shared prosperity for all citizens? How did the Government of Brazil manage to do it so systematically? The answers can generate valuable knowledge for other nations around the world.
When I met Minister Guido Mantega at our Annual Meetings in Tokyo, I asked him whether the Government of Brazil would be willing to partner with the Bank to create a knowledge hub on the reduction of poverty and inequality --sharing its lessons with the rest of the world and drawing on lessons from other international experiences. And some months later here we are making this idea a tangible reality.
We know that there are many factors behind Brazil’s success. Growth and the increase in labor incomes have played an important role. So too has improvement in access to education. The establishment and expansion of robust social programs, including the world-famous Bolsa Familia program, have also played a fundamental role, helping not only to provide a safety net, but to encourage positive behavior such as pre-natal care visits and school attendance for kids in families receiving transfers.
We are very pleased to have partnered with the Government of Brazil and the Ministry of Social Development and its excellent staff on the establishment, continued development, and monitoring of the Bolsa Familia Program.
As such programs evolve there are also “second generation” challenges to meet. How do we reach groups that have not yet been part of Brazil’s social programs? How do we draw on existing systems to strengthen other government programs? And how do we ensure that access to services is also accompanied by quality services, for example, in education and health care?
We know that with the introduction of the Brasil Sem Miséria program in 2011, Brazil has re-affirmed its commitment to poverty reduction and social inclusion. The program’s multi-sectoral approach and high level commitment to its implementation not only helps sustain poverty reduction in the short term, but will also create conditions for equitable growth based on the creation of opportunities for all.
The Bolsa Familia program and Brasil Sem Miséria serve as an inspiration to other countries, and our partnership with the Ministry of Social Development has allowed us to help share the Brazilian experience and expertise. The World Bank is supporting the implementation of conditional cash transfer systems in over 60 countries around the world and in many states here in Brazil.
Over the last year, high-level delegations from Haiti, Nigeria, and Vietnam, to name just a few, visited Brazil and returned to their home countries with new ideas and renewed commitment to develop or strengthen their own social assistance programs.
Together with our partners of the Ministry of Social Development we are now looking into more ambitious horizons, while at the same time expanding our collaboration with IPEA, with its in-depth analysis of economic and social system spheres in Brazil; and the UN International Policy Center on Inclusive Growth, with its extensive comparative analytical work on social protection systems and its global network of practitioners and relations with governments.
This Initiative is part of a global effort by the World Bank and partner countries such as Brazil to systematically capture evidence and knowledge about the effective implementation of government programs – the so-called Science of Delivery or Science of Implementation -- and disseminate this evidence and experiences both nationally and internationally.
In China we will focus on the challenges of urban transport, and in South Africa delivering health services in the Townships.
Here in Brazil, the initiative will focus on the Brazil Sem Miséria program and initiatives at the state and municipal level. The Initiative will build three types of activities:
First, it will serve as a knowledge repository, pulling together what we know about the implementation of Bolsa Familia and the Brasil Sem Miséria and drawing on IPEA, the World Bank and other institutions. It will build a network of practitioners within Brazil and globally, and work with the Government to support e-learning, facilitation of international visits, workshops and conferences.
Second, it will focus on examining and learning with tools such as impact evaluation and case studies that draw out multidisciplinary approaches in the implementation of policy. Drawing on Brazil’s vast experience at the federal, state and municipal levels, it will consider the specifics of what makes policy actions succeed, or what causes them to fail; what innovations take root and have the potential to be expanded, and what lessons from implementation may be relevant across Brazil and globally.
Third, the initiative will work to gather feedback and find solutions to difficult implementation problems drawing on new technologies and social media, using techniques such as crowd-sourcing, “hackathons”, rapid feedback through the use of new cell phone technology. Such techniques can generate news ideas and spur innovation, as well as making the policy dialogue more inclusive.
Dear Minister and partners, through this Knowledge and Innovation Initiative we look forward to learning and innovating together, sharing the lessons of the Brazilian experience throughout the world and as a result bringing the idea of a more balanced and just world a bit closer.