The World Bank has supported Latin America’s development agenda by tailoring its wide-ranging financial, knowledge, and convening services to the region’s diverse needs. Through financing; including innovative mechanisms, such as the Climate Investment Funds; in-depth development research, such as a recent study on improving teacher quality, technical assistance and convening services, the Bank helps the region address its pressing development challenges.
In fiscal year 2014, the World Bank Group committed approximately US$10.2 billion to the region - US$4.6 billion from IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the part of the World bank which serves middle income countries) and US$455 million from IDA (International Development Association, which serves the poorer nations) for 43 new projects. In addition, the IFC (International Finance Corporation, which works with the private sector) provided about US$5.1 billion for 148 projects. Support was aimed at creating opportunities for all through public and private sector projects that expand public services, improve regional productivity, competitiveness and integration, create quality jobs and assist those most in need.
Some noteworthy examples include:
In Mexico more than 4 million students will be able to prepare for college following a loan to improve upper secondary education (EMS, in Spanish), which covers studies prior to joining a university.
In Colombia, over 200,000 low-income students will be able to afford higher education, as a result of a US$200 million project to support the Colombian Institute for Educational Credit and Technical Studies Abroad (ICETEX, in Spanish). Similarly, the World Bank has funded scholarship programs, full-time school models, and labor intermediation programs in Honduras and El Salvador, where youth unemployment rates reach double digits.
Climate Change and the Environment
To shield its vital power sector from climatic changes and oil price volatility, Uruguay recently acquired innovative insurance coverage. The US$450 million policy protects Uruguay’s electric power company, Administración Nacional de Usinas y Transmisiones Eléctricas (UTE) against exposure to droughts and high oil prices. More than 80 percent of the country’s electrictricity is produced via drought-sensitive hydropower.
A sustainable cattle ranching project has benefitted 2,241 farms in 12 departments in Colombia. Farmers received technical assistance on setting up and sustaining environment-friendly cattle systems.
In Peru, over 400,000 residents in the former Inca capital Cusco, will benefit from improvements to major roads with a US$120 million investment. In neighboring Bolivia, 27,000 rural households, schools and health centers will be powered by solar energy, helping reduce the health and environmental impacts of the traditional cooking stoves.
Meanwhile, Brazil will place more than 17.5 million hectares of ocean, an area larger than Greece, under environmental protection. The creation of conservation areas is fundamental to protecting the ocean’s biodiversity and maintaining fishery activities, which currently generate some 800,000 jobs.
Several initiatives have contributed to saving the lives of thousands of mothers and children in the region. In Argentina, Plan Nacer provided health care to almost 2 million women and children who were previously uninsured. In the rural north, the share of expectant mothers receiving early pre-natal consultations rose from 3 percent to 67 percent in 2012.
In Nicaragua, a community health project has helped to increase the number of pregnant women receiving post-natal care, from a third of the total in 2010 to almost half today. The project is being expanded with additional financing to cover 34 additional municipalities, taking the total number to 100 municipalities.
From the regional development knowledge perspective, a study launched in March 2015 found that one out of five Latin Americans are “chronic poor”. Born into poverty and unable to escape their status, they benefitted little from the growth of the 2000's and some have even fallen through the cracks of the social assistance system, according to the report. It recommends a wide range of policy measures to tackle this issue including, for the first time, addressing the poor “state of mind,” which can lead to low aspirations and perpetuates their status.
A study released in July 2014 found that public school students in Latin America and the Caribbean lose the equivalent of one full day of class every week due to poor teacher quality.
Based on unprecedented research, involving the observation of over 15,000 classrooms in 3,000 primary and secondary schools in seven Latin American countries, the report, Great Teachers: How to Raise Student Learning in Latin America and the Caribbean, suggests options to increase teacher and education quality.