The World Bank has supported Latin America’s development agenda by tailoring its diverse 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 the recent study on improving teacher quality, technical assistance and convening services, the Bank helps address the region’s 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 development policy loan to improve the so-called Upper Secondary Education (EMS, in Spanish), which covers studies prior to joining a university.
In Colombia, over 200,000 low-income students could finance 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 reaches double digit rates.
To shield its vital energy industry from climatic changes and oil price volatility, Uruguay recently acquired an innovative insurance. 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 electric power is hydraulic.
A sustainable cattle ranching project has benefitted 2,241 farms in 12 departments in Colombia. Farmers have 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 bigger than Greece, under environmental protection. The creation of conservation areas is fundamental to protect the ocean’s biodiversity and maintain fishery activities, which currently generate some 800,000 jobs.
Several initiatives have contributed to save the lives of thousands of children and mothers 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, which have risen from a third 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 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 more than 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, describes how teacher absenteeism, poor preparation, low skill level and pay, as well as weak school leadership, all serve to cheat students.
On the economic side, a regional flagship study on entrepreneurship, released on December 2013, found that while Latin America is a region of entrepreneurs, a chronic lack of innovation is stifling growth and competitiveness.