Good morning. Welcome to the 2014 World Bank Group-IMF Annual Meetings. I have three topics that I’d like to talk about, and then I’ll take your questions.
I’ve just come from a high-level meeting on the Ebola crisis response. We heard from the presidents of the three most affected countries, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and the challenges that each faces. We had a very productive discussion related to the response – especially with the emergency needs, but we also discussed the importance of building back the health systems of the three countries after the Ebola outbreak is contained.
Just yesterday, we gained a much better understanding of the potential economic damage from this outbreak. The World Bank Group released a new economic impact assessment that said if the epidemic is not quickly contained and if it spreads to neighboring countries, the two-year regional financial impact could reach US$32.6 billion dollars by the end of 2015. That would be catastrophic for people throughout the West Africa region.
Over the past month, the international community has stepped up the global response. But there’s no doubt we are still way behind the curve, and that we have to quickly speed up, and scale up, the global response to this crisis. One issue, for instance, is the critical need for more trained health workers in the countries. The World Health Organization has just estimated that Liberia alone needs an additional 360 foreign medical staff today to treat those infected. We now must reach out to countries around the world to urgently send health workers to the three countries. I will be part of that effort.
The second subject involves infrastructure.
Today I will be launching a new partnership initiative – the Global Infrastructure Facility – aimed at mobilizing the private sector to help tackle the massive infrastructure deficit now facing developing countries and emerging markets. We estimate these countries need $1 trillion a year in extra investment through 2020.
The Global Infrastructure Facility – known as GIF (pron Gif – hard G – not Jif) – represents a unique collaborative approach among the private sector, especially institutional investors; donor nations; multilateral development banks; and the World Bank Group to help unlock billions of dollars for infrastructure projects in developing and emerging economies.
With public purses stretched, it’s significant that the heads of some of the world’s leading institutional investors will be signing up as partners in the GIF
Institutional investors have deep pockets – insurance and pension funds have some $80 trillion in assets -- but less than 1 percent of pension funds are allocated directly to infrastructure projects, and the bulk of that is in advanced countries.
We’ve been hearing loud and clear that the money’s out there. The real challenge is not a matter of money but a lack of bankable projects – a sufficient supply of commercially viable and sustainable infrastructure investments.
The GIF is a new concept that can be piloted quickly and does not require tens of billions in new resources. The aim is to crowd in the tens of billions – or potentially more – that’s now waiting on the sidelines for good investments, and addressing issues like the risks.
And my third topic involves the fight against cholera in Haiti. Today, the World Bank Group is pledging $50 million dollars to help improve access to safe water and sanitation for all Haitians aimed at preventing waterborne diseases.
We’ve made significant progress in controlling the cholera epidemic in Haiti, but too many people are still getting sick, mainly because they don’t have access to clean water and lack sanitation systems. Cholera remains endemic and water borne diseases are one of the leading causes of infant mortality in Haiti. Expanding coverage of safe water and sanitation is possible. We cannot ignore this opportunity to prevent thousands more Haitian children from dying from waterborne diseases.
Later today, I’ll be chairing a conference with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, with the objective of raising donor contributions from leading partners.
Thank you very much. I’ll now take your questions.