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Poverty

Global crisis hits home in emerging Europe and Central Asia

Angie Gentile's picture

Young Roma man in Biala Slatina, Bulgaria. Photo: Scott Wallace / World Bank The global economic crisis has reversed the impressive economic growth of recent years in emerging Europe and Central Asia, hitting families hard with higher unemployment and lost wages.

Growth has plummeted from a fast clip of 7.6 percent in 2007 to 4.7 percent in 2008, and is projected at negative 5.6 percent in 2009, the World Bank said at an Annual Meetings press briefing yesterday.

“The global financial and economic crisis has literally hit home in many parts of Emerging Europe and Central Asia,” said Philippe Le Houérou, World Bank Vice-President for Europe and Central Asia.

“What started as a financial crisis has become a social and human crisis. Just as banks were under stress, families are now the ones under severe stress as they see breadwinners lose their jobs and have trouble paying their bills.”

 

 

Archbishop Ndungane: ‘We should be intentional about what CSOs are saying’

Angie Gentile's picture

Archbishop Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane, World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, Istanbul. Photo credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World BankYesterday I caught up with the stately Archbishop Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane, who is attending the Civil Society Forum here in Istanbul. The Archbishop carved out some time to meet before heading off to head a CSO Townhall meeting featuring Bank President Zoellick and IMF Chief Strauss-Kahn.

Archbishop Ndungane is the founder and president of African Monitor, an independent pan-African nonprofit whose main objective is to monitor aid flows, what African governments do with the money, and what impact it has.

 African Monitor holds poverty hearings through which they seek to magnify voices. “We pride ourselves in having the confidence of people on the ground—the voice of people—and taking those voices to the corridors of power,” the Archbishop told me.

Archbishop Ndungane talked about linking up the creative and innovative minds of CSOs with the World Bank on today’s key issues—hunger, climate change, financial crisis. He emphasized the need to develop mechanisms for translating ideas into action.

Zoellick: Protection for most vulnerable must be permanent part of financial architecture

Angie Gentile's picture

World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick. 2009 Annual Meetings, Istanbul, Turkey. Photo credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World BankBank President Robert Zoellick told an overflowing room of journalists this morning that these annual meetings come at an important time for the work of the Bank Group and its members.

“The G-20 summit last week provided clear markers for the work of the World Bank. But more than 160 countries were not at the G-20 table,” he said. “These meetings can therefore ensure that the voices of the poorest are heard and recognized. This is the G-186.”

Zoellick began his remarks by expressing his sympathy for the people of Indonesia, the Philippines, Samoa and Tonga and others in the region, who have been battered by a series of cataclysmic natural disasters.

The Bank’s President told reporters that developing countries are still suffering from the global economic crisis, and it is important for the G20 to scale up support. He said the meetings offer a platform to follow up on the proposal for a crisis facility for low-income countries—critical to ensuring that protection for the most vulnerable becomes a permanent part of the world’s financial architecture.

Latin American performed better than other regions in crisis

Augusto de la Torre's picture

In the lead-up to the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, the Latin America and Caribbean Region VPU of the World Bank is co-hosting and attending the Americas Conference.

The Latin American region is exiting financial crisis on a strong footing.

After the Crisis—World Bank President lays out vision for new global system

Angie Gentile's picture

Zoellick SAIS speech, After the CrisisOn the eve of the 2009 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, Bank President Robert Zoellick called on world leaders to reshape the multilateral system and forge a “responsible globalization”—one that would encourage balanced global growth and financial stability, embrace global efforts to counter climate change, and advance opportunity for the poorest.

“Coming out of this crisis, we have an opportunity to reshape our policies, architecture, and institutions,” Zoellick said, speaking at the DC-based Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University.

“As agreed in Pittsburgh last week, the G-20 should become the premier forum for international economic cooperation among the advanced industrialized countries and rising powers. But it cannot be a stand-alone committee,” the Bank’s president noted.

In a speech laden with historical references, he spoke of the legacy of institutions established to deal with the global economy some 60 years ago and how the economic crisis is contributing to a changing multilateral global architecture.

"Bretton Woods is being overhauled before our eyes," Zoellick said.

The crisis has underscored the growing importance of the large emerging economies. “The current assumption is that the post-crisis political economy will reflect the rising influence of China, probably of India, and of other large emerging economies,” Zoellick said. “[T]he Greenback’s fortunes will depend heavily on U.S. choices.”

African ministers address financial crisis

Sameer Vasta's picture

At a recent press conference, three African finance chiefs chastised international credit rating agencies for failing to forecast the global financial crisis and challenged international financial institutions to do a better job of monitoring the global economy and of holding rich and developing countries accountable in the same way.

The Ministers from Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania spoke about the crisis and its effect on Africa. Mustafa Mkulo, Tanzania’s Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, said:

"This crisis has come when African governments have taken broad based measures to reform their economies, followed by significant achievements. It is now threatening to wipe out our gains of the past ten years and disrupt all our plans for further progress."

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Improving capacity building in post-conflict and fragile settings

Nina Vucenik's picture

Young children in school. Ghana. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World BankThree African ministers shared their experience with Bank officials on Thursday when they met to discuss ways to develop capacity in post-conflict countries.

 “We are here to listen—tell us how we can better assist you. And please, be frank,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Africa Region Vice President.

Ezekwesili asked the ministers from Liberia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to discuss capacity development efforts in their countries, and to identify what has and has not worked, and how donors can provide more effective support for human development, infrastructure, and public sector reforms.

Several common themes emerged from the ministers’ interventions, including:

  • Donors prioritizing support for primary and secondary education, and not higher education
  • Donors pressing a “one size fits all” approach on countries, trying to replicate programs that were successful elsewhere
  • The failure by expatriate advisors in civil service posts to transfer their knowledge and skills to local counterparts
  • Tension among returning members of the Diaspora and local populations that stayed behind, partly around incentive structures for civil service
  • An urgent need to deliver skills-training and create job opportunities for young ex-combatants
     

South Africa. Photo: Trevor Samson / World BankAugustine Ngafaun, Minister of Finance for Liberia, outlined the enormity of the challenges facing his country, which has “75 percent of the educational facilities destroyed” combined with a “massive brain drain” as a result of professionals fleeing during Liberia’s recent conflict.

“We have very few doctors, teachers and hardly any engineers,” said Ngafaun, Liberia's Minister of Finance.

He also noted that, despite the importance of the mining sector for Liberia’s growth, there are not even five geologists in the entire country.

Rwanda’s Finance Minister James Musoni noted that even though the reconstruction challenges were daunting, his country has made significant progress since the 1994 genocide. He said it is crucial for the donor community to understand the context in which each country operates, as in some cases the political leadership may not be ready.

Ezekwesili stressed the need to build confidence in all sectors, pointing out that “development solutions work only to the extent that the capacities of the nation-state, the private sector, and civil society are strong.”

“The lack of capacity is magnified by the stress of the post conflict environment,” Ezekwesili said. 

Story: Improving Capacity Building in Post-conflict and Fragile Settings—African Ministers Share their Experience

Youth Unemployment in Africa

Nina Vucenik's picture


Laborer working on an irrigation project. Tanzania. Photo: Scott Wallace / World BankExperts on youth and employment from Ghana, Kenya, Mali, and Colombia met on Saturday as the Spring Meetings got underway to discuss the growing problem of youth unemployment in Africa. The high-level panel, chaired by Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, agreed that there are no easy solutions to the problem.


“Youth in urban areas are looking for jobs alongside thousands of others from the same schools, while rural youth are flooding into the cities looking for work,” said Sanoussi Toure, the Minister of Finance of Mali. “This is a tragedy. Our policies favor investment in education and training, but this investment has not led to job creation.”

Key points that came out of the meeting included:

  • There are no easy solutions to the problem of youth unemployment. 
  • Youth employment has to be part of the growth strategy of every African country.
  • Employment policies need to favor investment in education and training.

 

Portrait of woman. Kenya. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank The panel also included Mauricio Cárdenas, former Colombian Minister of Transport and Economic Planning. Cárdenas talked about the outcomes of two youth programs Colombia put in place during his country's economic crisis in the late 1990s, when external shocks drove unemployment from 10 to 20 percent, and youth unemployment to 30 percent.

It is clear that youth unemployment in Africa needs to be addressed from many entry points, Ezekwesili said in her concluding remarks.

“The profile of unemployed youth has to enter the way we think, just as gender has. Youth need to be effectively targeted in everything we do, so that they will have a stake in the future,” Ezekwesili said.

Story: Youth Unemployment a Major Challenge for African Countries

World Bank Group and development partners team up on infrastructure investment

Angie Gentile's picture

Flanked by the finance and development ministers of France and Germany, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick launched two initiatives today that together are expected to mobilize more than $55 billion in financing for infrastructure projects over the next three years.

The multibillion dollar initiatives—the Infrastructure Recovery and Assets (INFRA) platform and Infrastructure Crisis Facility—were created to address the falloff in funding for the construction of roads, water systems, power generation and distribution, and other critical infrastructure.

There is no doubt infrastructure plays a huge role in economic growth and development, Zoellick said.

“In this crisis, we will need more and more to identify creative ways to mobilize additional financing. This facility sends an important market signal,” encouraging the private sector to continue infrastructure investment and development.

April 25, 2009 - Washington DC. World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings 2009. (l-r) Christine Lagarde, Minister of Finance, France; Roger Morier, World Bank; Robert B. Zoellick, World Bank President; Hannfried von Hindenburg, IFC; Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Development Minister, Germany. Credit: Simone McCourtie, World Bank

France and Germany became the first to sign on to the Infrastructure Crisis Facility with commitments of about $660 million through German development bank KfW and roughly $1.3 billion through French development bank Proparco.

INFRA is designed to help countries offset the negative effects of the financial crisis on their infrastructure services and investment programs, with up to $45 billion available over the next three years. Assistance will be global, but Africa is expected to see a large share of the funding.

The Infrastructure Crisis Facility, administered by IFC, a private sector branch of the Bank Group, is expected to attract more than $10 billion to help bridge the infrastructure financing gap.

At today’s signing, German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul appealed to industrialized countries to support the initiative and take into account the situation in developingFrench Finance Minister Christine Lagarde countries. “They’re not responsible for the crisis. We have a special responsibility to be at their side.”

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde added: This is a time “when we can put our money where our mouth is and commit to deliver…I think the World Bank has done an outstanding job dealing with issues that are difficult. This is a good illustration of how projects should be conducted. They should be focused where they can actually make a difference.”

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On a related note, I caught up earlier today with the Bank’s director for energy, transport and water, Jamal Saghir, who said the Bank’s Board has approved $9 billion in infrastructure projects already this fiscal year. That puts the Bank 47 percent ahead of the amount of infrastructure funding approved this time last year.

Saghir gave a shout-out to staff, who he credited with working hard to speed up project implementation to respond to the crisis.

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Global Monitoring Report 2009 Released

Sameer Vasta's picture

Global Monitoring Report 2009 Press Briefing. Justin Lin, WB Chief Economist. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

Yesterday, the IMF and the World Bank released the 2009 Global Monitoring Report, saying that the global financial crisis is imperiling attainment of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and creating an emergency for development.

Justin Lin, World Bank Chief Economist, spoke about the crisis at the launch of the report:

"Worldwide, we have an enormous loss of wealth and financial stability. Millions more people will lose their jobs in 2009, and urgent funding must be provided for social safety nets, infrastructure, and small businesses in poor countries, for a sustainable recovery."

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