World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick Opening Statement
October 27, 2011
Thanks to all of you for coming today.
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to return to the Philippines. I've always appreciated the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people.
I had the privilege this morning of meeting with President Aquino, as well as with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and members of the economic team. This afternoon, I'll have the opportunity to meet leaders and representatives of civil society, the business community, and also an opportunity to talk to our sizeable World Bank and IFC staff here.
I was honored to have the opportunity to visit Mt. Samat, Bataan yesterday and pay my respects to the courageous Filipinos and Americans who died together and it was an opportunity to see part of the Philippines’ proud heritage.
I was especially struck yesterday by the warmth and welcome and the commitment of the women and young children I met in Pasay City - women and children who benefitted from the government's 4P program through which they receive modest benefits in terms of sending their children to school and getting medical check-ups.
My prime purpose of this visit was to listen and to learn so we can better assist the government of the Philippines with their reform program.
My visit has helped me to better understand the importance of President Aquino's program for good governance and the government's priorities to improve the business climate, develop infrastructure, increase investments in health and education, and protect the most vulnerable people.
In Washington DC last month, President Aquino gave a speech where he spoke about the power of the Filipino people and his moves to turn People Power into a strong accountable government - a government that’s working to promote inclusive growth, and to help overcome poverty. There are, and no doubt, will be more challenges along the way. It’s a tough business to fight corruption. It’s also tough to combat the ravages of the challenges that are beyond our control, such as the weather.
I’d like to express my personal sympathies to people for the lives lost during the recent typhoons. I was able to assure President Aquino of the World Bank support through a new rapid response line of credit worth $500M that can be drawn on immediately in the event of a major natural disaster. And I am pleased to announce a $2M grant which will help the Philippines gain access to global best practices in disaster risk reduction.
While actively helping the Philippines boost its agriculture sector, the World Bank is also working to make the agricultural and fisheries sector more climate-resilient. We also stand ready to assist the government as it deals with the public private partnership agenda and to help business, rural investments, and encourage government improvements through our private sector arm, IFC, the International Finance Corporation.
I’ve also been impressed by the resilience that the country has shown to recent external shocks. Strong financial and trade resources and economic fundamentals have helped cushion the impact of the global economic turmoil on the local economy.
And so let me draw the connection between the financial dramas in the Eurozone and my visit to Pasay.
Distant events, even in developed countries, can send shockwaves through trade, banking, and investment markets that hit developing countries.
The world learned the hard way during the East Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998 that the cost of turmoil hits the poor the hardest. They have no cushion. So in these globally uncertain and risky times, the relatively new conditional cash transfer program here in the Philippines offers a vital safety net to the most vulnerable people. It cushions already some 2.2 million families, about 6 million children for a very modest cause and the government plans to expand it to some 4 to 5 million families. It shows that good governance matters to help ensure that the right people get the right benefit at the right time, in the right way.
The Philippines program is one of some 40 conditional cash transfer safety net programs that the World Bank has helped develop around the world. The idea actually started in Mexico and then Brazil, which have launched these very successful anti-poverty programs that cost about one half of one percent of GDP.
These conditional cash transfer programs are a great example of how developing countries, with the help of the World Bank, can learn from one another. At the World Bank, we believe that every country should have a targeted, effective, efficient social safety net program that doesn’t bust the budget- because certain events, whether arising from Europe, the Americas, or Asia - can compromise the poor. And the poor need a partner too.
President Aquino has said that good governance is good economics. I think that good governance is vital if the Philippines and other countries want to step on the pedal and accelerate growth to benefit all.
I am pleased to take your questions.