From left, Robert B. Zoellick, President, The World Bank; Corazon “Dinky” Juliano Soliman, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippines; Romulo Paes de Sousa, Vice Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger in Brazil; Michael Elliott, President and CEO, ONE; Dikembe Mutombo, NBA Global Ambassador; Maurice "Mo" Evans, Washington Wizards. Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank
Safety nets are needed more than ever to stave off malnutrition, illiteracy and disease in an increasingly uncertain world, but many of the most vulnerable people still lack coverage.
That was the main message of an April 18 live event, Close the Gap: Safety Nets Work, held at the World Bank in Washington in the lead-up to the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. The event, which was webcast and live-blogged in English, French, Spanish and Arabic, followed the release of a new World Bank Social Protection and Labor strategy calling on countries to invest in stronger social protection and labor systems.
An online audience sent feedback and questions to a panel including World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, ONE President and CEO Michael Elliott, high-ranking officials from Brazil and the Philippines, and two basketball stars. They were flanked by banners urging people to “act equal,” “create jobs,” and “protect the vulnerable with safety nets.”
As a child, I loved fire engines.
In this, of course, I wasn’t any different from millions of other young boys across the world. I loved the bright red machines of my Calcutta youth – which sped to the scene of a fire, with shiny bells clanging, firemen quickly unrolling the long hoses, connecting them to the water hydrant at the roadside, and then spraying down the conflagration with great jets of cooling water.
So what does this have to do with social safety nets?
The stories of two families in a new video produced for the Spring Meetings illustrate how safety nets can change lives.
Speaking at a news conference this morning ahead of the start of the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, Bank President Robert B. Zoellick hit on the need to address the second and third waves of economic fallout being felt in developing countries.
“First and foremost we need to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. When financial crises hit Latin America in the 1980s and in Asia in the 1990s…basic health, nutrition and education budgets were cut back severely. This time we must ensure that governments can protect targeted social expenditures and finance effective safety nets,” Zoellick said.
Nor can infrastructure be neglected, he said, citing the long-term negative consequences of slashing infrastructure investment during past crises. To help promote investment in roads, electricity, telecommunications, etc.--as a means of creating jobs and spurring economic growth--Zoellick said the Bank is planning a massive infrastructure initiative, to be formally launched on Saturday.
Zoellick also highlighted the Bank’s plans to boost support for agriculture—increasing lending from $4 billion in 2008 to $12 billion over the next two years to help ensure food security.
- Statement: Investments in safety nets, infrastructure needed to support poor in crisis
- Release: Bank to Invest $45bn in Infrastructure
- Story: Food Crisis Not Over for Many Poor People
- Webcast: IMF Webcast of Press Conference
Watch President Zoellick's opening remarks at the news conference below:
You can listen to the interview using the player below: