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OPINION June 20, 2019

Solidarity Is Key to Lifting Up the Most Vulnerable in Latin America and the Caribbean

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how far some countries and their people have come in just two generations.  Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean since the middle of the last century. This is cause for celebration, but nearly a quarter of the population remains mired in poverty. While much of the region has prospered, a number of nations still rank among the poorest countries in the world or face particular challenges. These countries need our solidarity, and one of the most effective ways the international community can show that solidarity is through the World Bank Group’s International Development Association (IDA).

IDA helps the world’s poorest countries or those facing unique challenges with grants and concessional loans carrying zero or very low interest rates to support sustainable development. This year IDA’s partners are meeting, as they do every three years, to decide on the replenishment amount of the IDA donations made by around 55 countries. The results of that meeting will have a big impact on the international community’s efforts to help those in the poorest countries in our region lift themselves out of poverty and live a better life.

The grants and loans help countries like Honduras, Nicaragua, Guyana, Haiti and a number of small Caribbean states. In the past, IDA was there with countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Paraguay. During the 1960s, IDA’s first decade of operation, it was there with Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica on their paths towards middle-income status.

This assistance has often been a game changer in the region. In 2018 there was a three-fold increase in resources for small Caribbean island states, Guyana and Central America, while the amount granted to Haiti was doubled.  Support for IDA is all the more important now as countries struggle to promote inclusive development in the face of climate change and other shocks. There are more and bigger hurricanes in the Caribbean each year, and countries need support to build infrastructure that can withstand these storms. In the dry corridor of Central America, it is becoming harder and harder for farmers to support themselves and their families. Haiti is classified as a fragile or conflict-affected state, which undermines economic development.

To have the greatest impact, it is important to leverage contributions with internal resources and funds raised through debt markets. With every $1 from donors, we are able to commit $3 to our beneficiary countries.

IDA has provided (in constant prices) about $600 billion in investments in 113 countries over the past six decades in a massive effort to support the most vulnerable people living in the world’s poorest countries. For 2017-2020, we have scaled up our ambition and are providing $75 billion in financial support. We at the World Bank want to keep this level of ambition and are now negotiating the next three-year package with our 55 donor partners so we can continue contributing to the achievement of the 2030 sustainable development goals.

As a result of our constant efforts, infant mortality is down and education levels are much higher. We’ve supported infrastructure development, as well as access to electricity and clean water. This has meant better lives for many of the citizens of these countries.

For example, with the help of IDA support, cholera infections in Haiti fell sharply and no new cases were reported this year. After hurricane Maria, Dominica received help to build resilient housing that benefitted 32,000 people. In Honduras, 12,600 farmers benefited from strengthened financial inclusion.

Solidarity is the foundation of these efforts. Only by standing together can we face the enormous challenges ahead and help the poorest among us lift themselves up. We can’t leave anyone or any country behind.

For over 70 years, the World Bank Group has strived to support lasting, sustainable development. We are always looking for more friends and partners from the international community to further this work.  We hope more countries and partners will join this effort, and that we can count on more support from the countries across Latin America and the Caribbean to help their neighbors. This solidarity means empowering poor people to reach their dreams, to change their lives and create a better life for their children. They deserve nothing less.

 

Last Updated: Jun 20, 2019

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