MR. ZOELLICK: Well, first I would like to very much thank the Chief Minister of Bihar and the people of Bihar, and the people of India more broadly, for their very warm welcome and hospitality. I've been fortunate since I arrived to meet a range of people, highlighting the opportunities but also the challenges facing the State of Bihar and metropolitan mega-cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.
Today, I had a chance to talk to some of the village families that are being helped with the Bank-sponsored Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project. Women in villages in Gaya have achieved food security for their families by using the opportunities made available to them, and they're now actively taking part in efforts to improve local schools and health care and village roads. The farmers now want more information and better inputs for their farms. Young men and women are seeking quality education and skills to build better futures. The prospect of sustained economic growth, as Bihar has been achieving, puts all this within reach.
Today, I've also seen some of India's entrepreneurs, including one that has been able to use rice husks to create light and generation for villages, that otherwise would not have had access through the electricity grid. These mini power plants are providing electricity to rural families with the project boosted through support through IFC, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank's private sector arm.
The World Bank's involvement with Bihar began in the mid-2000s, and one reason I wanted to come here today was because we're looking to expand the range and scope of our projects over the next 2 years to help the state move forward.
As a first step- and the one you've just witnessed- is the signing of the Bihar Kosi Recovery Project where we're helping reconstruction efforts after the Kosi floods.
We remember that more than 500 people lost their lives and the devastating impact t on thousands of other families that are dependent on farming. People lost their wheat, paddy and other crops; their livestock; lost land because of heavy deposits of silt; and laborers found themselves without work. Two years on, despite vigorous relief efforts, many people still remain in temporary shelters or unable to earn a living, or they're cut off by the destruction of bridges and roads.
So this project will help put a roof over the head of some 100,000 families, using an owner-driven reconstruction model. We've helped provide the financing with the State of Bihar, but people put in their own work and effort.
More than 2 million people will benefit through the building of much needed bridges or culverts as well as the rebuilding of about 290 kilometers of rural roads in a move to try to help overcome the problems that children now face getting to school or putting--getting people access to health services.
The project also aims to help put money into people's pockets through increased access to finance, through self-help groups such as the ones I met this morning, and improved job opportunities for the farm and non-farm sectors, and it's estimated that about 160,000 households will benefit from this.
Two years on, there remains not only an urgent need to restore the livelihoods of those affected, but also, as the Chief Minister and I discussed, to mitigate the risk of future floods. So to help improve emergency responses, this project will allow for contingency funding for works, goods and services required to respond to future calamities.
For more than a decade now, the World Bank has been helping the government of India to respond effectively to disasters. The lessons we've learned along the way will put us in good stead for our future efforts in Bihar. This project, I hope, will also mark a new phase of our relations with Bihar, to help meet the state's longer-term need for comprehensive disaster management.
And today, I'm pleased to announce that we're aiming to provide about US$1 billion in support of the Government of Bihar through the World Bank projects over the next few years. Subject to the approval of our Board of Executive Directors, we'd like to increase support to Bihar to focus not only on flood management and disaster preparation, but also boosting agricultural productivity and road infrastructure.
Bihar's focus on development has delivered benefits to its people. But we know that the challenges are still great, and we're very pleased that the World Bank Group can play a role in helping the state as it and India move forward with the goal of achieving inclusive and sustainable development.
And today, I express my condolences for the Chief Minister's personal loss, and I appreciate very much he and his team taking time to see me. I wanted to come, personally, to get a sense of his priorities and some of the efforts where we might be able to provide more support for the Government of Bihar.
I had the opportunity this morning to also take a brief trip on the river Ganga, which is another project of about a billion dollars that we are supporting India nationally, and some of that money in that project will obviously be spent in Bihar as well. I had the opportunity to be joined by Minister of Forests and Environment Ramesh, who is kind enough to be here and who has played a key, leading role with this project.
So we're very excited about the opportunities in Bihar, and in particular I wanted to compliment the Chief Minister for the extraordinary leadership he has provided the state over the past years and to say that we look forward to deepening our partnership with him.
SPEAKER: I now invite [inaudible] Chief Minister of Bihar, Mr. Nitish Kumar.
MR. KUMAR: [Speaking Hindi.] I invite you publically to visit Bihar again. [Speaking Hindi.]
SPEAKER: I now invite [inaudible.]
SPEAKER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the President of the World Bank [inaudible] of Bihar will now take a few questions. One question is how [inaudible].
QUESTION: [inaudible] We've been providing [inaudible] and how do you propose to [inaudible] of this project?
MR. ZOELLICK: Well, we have been very impressed with the series of reforms that the government of Bihar has instituted over past years, and one of the issues that we discussed even today was the ongoing efforts to improve transparency and to fight corruption. So we've worked in different ways with different types of programs to assist people.
In this case, we believe that the subsidies can enable people to be able to get back to their normal livelihoods more quickly, and one of the aspects of this is also to provide them financial support so that they can use their own labor to be able to rebuild the homes and rebuild aspects of their communities.
And in terms of the monitoring process, we try to monitor and we assess all the projects that we do all, around the world. And one of the reasons our partnership with Bihar has expanded is because we think that this is a shared sense where people in Bihar, as well as World Bank shareholders, want to make sure they get the full value for the money that they spent.
QUESTION: Mr. President, [inaudible] calamities have taken place in most parts of the country, but what propelled to sanction this [inaudible] 1.) Despite the Chief Minister supporting your plea to support a gentle government for financial institutions, and you have provided the assistance[inaudible]. 2.) Do you think the Bihar government will suffice for the needs of capacity-building as well as human resources [inaudible]?
MR. ZOELLICK: Well, as for your first question, all the World Bank loans and projects also go through the national governments. So while this is with the state government, it's with the support of the national government, and you have the Joint Secretary here from the Department of Economic Affairs.
So we do a combination of programs that are national in scope--some that cover a group of states, for example, the Ganges River cleanup involving all the states, the five states I believe, along the Ganges River--but we also try to focus on some of the lower income states. So on my visit to India a year ago I visited Rajasthan, and we had some particular projects in Rajasthan.
Now the project with Bihar is an evolution of the development we've had over the past five years, and it's a very encouraging story for us in that as the government started with its reforms we started to provide some technical assistance, some knowledge and experience in some of the areas that the government wanted to stress. And then as the capacity is developed, we then could provide additional financial support, and we've done that with the Rural Livelihoods Project that I wanted to visit, but I had a chance to see some of the women that are part of it. We did so with the Development Policy Loan.
And so, this project is, by its very nature, is to both deal with the destruction of the flood but also recognizing that Bihar has a particular vulnerability to natural disasters. That's how to try to position it to be able to deal with natural disasters more effectively in the future.
So--and then we talked with the Chief Minister about some of the other interests that he had in terms of how we can support the expansion of capacity. He has a particular interest in developing the state connection to the Panchayats, the village program, and so we talked about a way in which we hope with a few extra steps we'll be able to bring to our board this year an additional loan. So, when I mentioned an estimate of about a billion dollars over the next two or three years, that's the fact that we have a number of programs moving forward.
But as your question suggested, this is an ongoing process of helping build the capacity at the same time that we are providing the assistance.
Your second question was?
QUESTION: Regarding capacity-building and human resources.
MR. ZOELLICK: Yeah. Well, and so I--in a sense, I addressed that. We believe the two have to go hand in hand, and we've been very pleased with the progress that the state government has been making, and we believe that the nature of our engagement has been such that the absorption capacity for the financial side has increased.
And as the Chief Minister mentioned, one reason I wanted to see him personally was to see what his plans are for the next period of years, to try to build on some of the successes. We recognize that in areas such as security and crime and corruption this was a very big problem not too long ago, and there was some very bold action taken in that area.
But we talked about human investment on the health and education side, but we also talked about infrastructure investment.
And we also had Rashad Kaldany, who is one of our senior officers from IFC, about the private sector development. We talked about possibilities, for example, in agri-business, possibilities in tourism and other areas where we might be able to expand our private sector investment which is separate from the funds we just talked about.
QUESTION: Mr. President, [inaudible].
MR. ZOELLICK: Is this the rural program you mention? Yes, we talked about that with the Chief Minister, and I also asked Roberto Zagha, our Country Director. He may be able to add on this, but yes, we do plan to expand it to additional districts.
We think it's been a very successful program. We think that we've done similar programs elsewhere in India and in other parts of the world, and the Chief Minister and I both shared our experience. When you get a chance to meet some of the self-help women's groups, you see the tremendous empowerment this has created. And even more than the value of the financial support, this creates a sense of community ownership that affects all aspects of governance.
So, for example, I was asking some of the women about the schools. In some of the schools in the village, the teachers hadn't shown up as much. But when the women get organized, they come and they insist on the teacher showing up and teaching.
Some of the women talked about the fact that when they would go individually to the village heads they would often be dismissed; when they went as a group, they got more attention.
And these groups then spread to other villages. So some of the women with whom I spoke were community organizers, and they showed me the program that they would have as they'd go visit another village for a month to expand the operations.
So we think that these are tremendously important in building the social capital as well as some of the physical aspects.
We talked about basic agricultural development and how just in some; I was shown with some of the planting and methods people had been able to double their productionwithout great capital additions or others, but just to be able to have better planting methods.
We talked about some of the local livelihoods projects, and capturing some of the history and culture of Bihar and some of these regions and be able to put them in art and textile forms.
So this is an enormously beneficial program, and that's one reason we want to expand it.
So, Roberto, do you want to add?
MR. ZAGHA: Yes, that we will soon have [inaudible].
QUESTION: Good morning [inaudible]?
MR. ZOELLICK: I think my meeting with the Prime Minister is actually the next day, but--and the Finance Minister.
My prime reason in coming is really to listen to the Prime Minister and others to learn more about India's development challenges. So I've tried to meet government officials. I've tried to meet some state officials, and here I wanted in particular to come to Bihar because we've been very pleased with the progress, and I wanted to see for myself what we might be able to do next. But I've also met people from the private sector, civil society. So I'm really trying to get a sense of; given where we are in the recovery of the international downturn, that what are the next items on the agenda for India.
Slightly more in specific, I think we're interested in trying to support the government in having an inclusive growth process--so not only the general growth numbers, but what we can do to help all the people of India benefit from this.
We have a particular interest in the agri-business and agricultural sector. We think that with the proper investments in some of the rural infrastructure this could generate additional incomes and help overcome poverty. And, as you know, there are still sadly high malnutrition numbers in India.
Third, some of the environmental and sustainable development issues--Minister Ramesh has been a very, very good partner on issues from biodiversity to climate change to the Ganges River and also with tiger preservation where India plays a key role with the global effort. So I'm interested in comparing notes with him as well.
We've had some interesting discussions about urban development, and much of the focus has been traditionally on India's rural areas; that's understandable. This is also a topic that I talked about with the Chief Minister because we think that the migration is going to be increasingly in cities, and given the--some of the challenges of urbanization, there may be some particular projects and work in some of these area.
And finally, I also want to get the Prime Minister's views and the Finance Minister's views about the G-20 process. I had a chance to see President Sarkozy in Paris in late December, and we at the World Bank try to play a supportive role for the G-20. While India is understandably focused on its development and growth, it's also a key player in the global economy. So we're interested in getting a sense of some of the priorities that India sees at the global level as well as at the domestic level.
Infrastructure is another very important area. We've been working closely with Mandi Kala Wali [ph.] on this in particular, but across various ministries. So there are a number of areas that we think would be very important interests.
India is the biggest source of our private sector investment through IFC. So that's another area that we want to understand some of the priorities.
And really, it's an opportunity for me and the team to get a better sense of where India thinks its challenges are, so we can then compare it with the framework that we've been using in the past.
QUESTION: [Inaudible.] I would like to know what [inaudible].
MR. ZOELLICK: Okay, I think I pretty much responded to this, but the key point was that given the relationship we have with Bihar, but also the national government, we thought we could be supportive. And in addition to the reconstruction from the Kosi flood, we believe that given some of the past natural calamities in the state we want to build a more resilient system, working with the state government, for the future.
SPEAKER: Before closing this function, I want to thank Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Honorable President Robert Zoellick--