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Development Committee Backs Plan to Boost Support for Safety Nets

April 21, 2012

  • World Bank-IMF Development Committee meeting wraps up in Washington.
  • Safety nets seen as bolstering poor people’s resilience during crisis.
  • World Bank “uniquely placed” to advise countries on harnessing private sector, committee says.

April 21, 2012 - The World Bank won support from member countries for a plan to boost its work on “efficient and fiscally sound” social safety nets, said President Robert B. Zoellick at the close of the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington.

“At international meetings, we talk a lot about the global financial safety nets. We need to focus equal attention on the human safety nets,” said Zoellick at a Development Committee press briefing Saturday. “As we know, there are dangers when institutions are too big to fail. But let’s remember that beyond the talk of financial systems, of regulations, or of firewalls, it is people who are too important to fail.”

“Social protection makes sound development sense,” said an April 21 communiqué of the Development Committee, made up of the boards of governors of the World Bank and IMF. “Social safety nets bolstered poor people’s resilience to the last financial crisis and are also an important component of longer-term poverty reduction when they are well-targeted, affordable, gender-sensitive and sustainable.”

While growth remains relatively strong in emerging and developing countries, poor countries continue to need support, the Development Committee said. The committee called on the World Bank to support a New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States and to continue to look for solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition.

The committee also endorsed the Bank Group as “uniquely placed” to innovate and advise countries on how to harness the private sector for development.

“The global economy depends on proper incentives for private financing,” said Zoellick. “The World Bank Group has been a leader in developing public policies to encourage private sector innovation, investment, and job creation.”

“At the end of the day, the best safety net is a job,” he added.

The Development Committee praised the outgoing Bank chief’s tenure at the helm of the international institution, citing the Bank’s timely and effective responses to the food and financial crises and natural disasters under his leadership. It also lauded Zoellick’s championing of issues such as gender equality, climate change, agriculture, and infrastructure, as well as the institution’s work in fragile and conflict-affected situations.

Zoellick helped transform the World Bank Group, making it more open, transparent, accountable and ready for a new era of “modernized multilateralism,” the committee said.

The committee congratulated Zoellick’s successor Jim Yong Kim and thanked Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Jose Antonio Ocampo for their candidacies and for sharing their ideas for the World Bank Group.