January 11, 2015: World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today attended the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, to which he was invited by India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Speaking at the inaugural session, Kim said he was fortunate to be here at a time that felt like a critical moment in India’s history. The World Bank Group is committed to helping create a vibrant India, as an India that shares its prosperity more broadly is essential to ending extreme poverty by 2030 and ensuring that many more of the world’s people live secure lives with dignity and opportunity.
On the economic front, India has much reason for optimism, Kim said. The country is expected to grow even faster in 2016 making India a bright spot in an otherwise mediocre global economy.
He said Prime Minister Modi and his government are putting in place the building blocks for more rapid growth, streamlining the regulatory structure, using public funds more efficiently, and promoting social inclusion.
Kim said he was encouraged by the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which will create a common market in India, making it easier to do business in the country. He also lauded the elimination of diesel subsidies that for years have been a drag on India’s growth and harmed the environment. Investing some of these newly-liberated funds in human capital will improve labor productivity, raise incomes and create jobs across the country, Kim said.
In addition to a focus on economic growth, the Prime Minister is also promoting programs to share its benefits more broadly, Kim said. This was especially relevant as Indian society has an enduring social exclusion that can impede shared prosperity.
However, more can be done to unleash India’s massive development potential, he added. To this end, the World Bank Group will build on its long-standing partnership with India by continuing to offer technical expertise and sharing knowledge on a variety of issues central to the country’s rapid economic development.
Kim said he was particularly excited about the World Bank Group’s work with India on renewable energy which has the potential to make India the world leader in solar energy. The Group is helping design solar parks and farms and plans to provide billions of dollars in financing to make these designs a reality. This will not only help India meet its ambitious target of producing 100,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022, but also improve access for areas that remain unconnected to the national grid.
While China has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty over the past few decades, Kim said, India can now be the leader that brings about the final end of world poverty. Indeed, of all the things to “Make in India,” the most important is to make the world free of poverty.
Later in the day, Kim updated Prime Minister Modi on the Group’s progress in taking forward the six areas identified for priority support. Together with Modi, he also witnessed the signing of two agreements between the Group and the state of Gujarat. The agreements covered the Swachh Bharat Mission (sanitation for all) which aims to end one of India’s most intractable challenges - that of eliminating open defecation by 2019 - and support for the Smart Cities initiative.
The World Bank Group is already supporting India’s rural sanitation mission through ongoing projects worth $1.1 billion. These include a $500 million rural water and sanitation project that is funding sanitation investments in low-income states, including Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh.
The Group is also helping India work towards its Smart Cities initiative that aims to create 100 smart cities and refurbish 500 others in the wake of the unprecedented rural-urban transformation taking place in the country today.