Can’t we just grow out of our poverty problems? Truth be told, a large part of the reduction in poverty observed in the last decade is attributed to growth. And the correlation between growth and income growth of poor is very high: According to a recent paper by David Dollar and co-authors, incomes of the poor increase on average at a similar rate as incomes of the whole population. For many years the mantra has been that economies should grow, and with that poverty will fall. Look at China, fast growth and voila – dramatic and sustained poverty reduction. Look at Chile – many years of sustained growth have led to an extreme poverty rate in the single digits.
Can countries tackle climate change and still grow? Yes, say the leaders of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund – and the need to do so is urgent.
Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde weighed in on development and climate change in their first public discourse together on the topic, ahead of Annual Meetings with finance and development leaders this week.
A recent regional study that focused on Roma and non-Roma in nearby communities from five Eastern European countries finds between 28 and 45 percent of Roma children attend preschool in four of the five study countries. However, the Roma preschool rate jumps to 76 percent in Hungary, where targeted policies have been in place; and this is about the average for non-Roma preschool rates across the five countries. Hungary’s experience offers promise because surveys show that preschool matters greatly to completing secondary school and staying off social assistance.
The message draped across the World Bank’s Washington headquarters proclaims a noble goal – End Poverty. But how can the world achieve it? Later this week, finance and development ministers from 188 countries will weigh in on the World Bank Group’s plan to reorganize and modernize in pursuit of the goal. A new strategy paper describes how data, knowledge, financing, and talent will be leveraged to help end extreme poverty by 2030 and to ensure prosperity is more widely shared throughout society. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Chief Economist Kaushik Basu, and many other speakers will have more to say on these topics at events this week. See a schedule.
What tools and tactics should development partners use in the global effort to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity? President Jim Yong Kim has noted that for the World Bank Group, the next frontier will likely include a strong focus on consistent delivery, ensuring that goods and services reach their intended beneficiaries even in the most challenging settings. How might we fix the delivery bottlenecks that contribute to high and rising global inequality?
Like in other industries, consistent delivery in development requires equipping leaders on the front lines with the best available knowledge about what works, while also holding them accountable for generating performance data, and then using these data to adapt their approach to local complexities.
We have a deep understanding of how to generate evidence about what works from field experiments and randomized control trials, tools inspired by clinical trials in medicine. However, there is far less consensus about how to achieve what Dr. Kim calls a readiness to make "constant adjustments, a willingness to take smart risks, and a relentless focus on the details of implementation."
A while back, I visited a village in a country whose economy has been grown rapidly over the past decade. The country has been moving quickly from its lower income status to become classified as a lower-middle income economy. The village I visited was only some 50 kilometers from a bustling provincial capital on the border, but it might as well have been 500 kilometers away. The village took four hours to reach because we had to traverse three rivers or streams, and the roads were riddled with potholes the size of lunar craters. The shoulders of the road sometimes reached up to the top of the car windows.
There was no internet, no phone, and most definitely no technology superhighway and ‘push-one-button solution’ to development. As we went from house to house, it seemed as though everyone in the village was sick. Children were running a high fever. In one household we visited, I asked the mother who was cradling her ill son whether she had been to see a doctor. She said yes. She had managed to borrow money from her neighbor and taken three van rides to the closest health clinic with her son. One month later, however, the child had not recovered and was still running a high fever. He could no longer go to school, and the mother was having difficulty tending her fields because she had to care for her son. I asked her if she was considering taking her son back to the clinic, and she said that even if she had the money, she would not go back. The health staff had treated her and her son badly, talking down to them and belittling them because they were poor ethnic minorities. She and her son only felt worse after the visit, and vowed not to return, no matter how sick the child became.
Variants of this story of marginalization and social exclusion abound. In other countries, it may be the single female head of household who is stigmatized because of her lowly status, or the internally displaced person who falls through the cracks of national safety nets and household surveys, or the ethnic minority villager who cannot speak the official language and consequently is unable or ashamed to speak up at community meetings.
The global economy, climate change, and a new World Bank Group strategy to tackle extreme poverty will be hot topics next week. That’s when nearly 10,000 delegates, journalists and civil society representatives gather at the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. But you don’t have to be in Washington to take in 38 World Bank Group events that will be webcast Oct. 8-12. Several will be live-blogged or live-tweeted in multiple languages. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter with #wblive and other hashtags connected to events. We’ve compiled a sampling of events and hashtags below. Check out the full schedule or download the first-ever Annual Meetings app for Apple devices and Android smartphones.
Happy International Day of Older Persons! The United Nations established this day of observance in 1990 as a way to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly and to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society. If we are not there already, we will all eventually be joining the growing global population of elders. According to the World Health Organization, the proportion of the global population aged 60 and up will double from 11 percent in 2006 to 22 percent by 2050.
The World Bank Social Develpment department’s upcoming report. Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, details the impacts of social exclusion on people’s well-being and on society overall. Unfortunately, aging is typically viewed as decline, and our elders are often marginalized both socially and physically (in nursing homes or other institutions).
My own eyes were opened to this about a year ago, when I met Emi Kiyota, founder and president of Ibasho, an NGO that develops simple and low-cost solutions to integrate elders into their communities. Having worked on disasters and resilience for some time, I have always advocated for empowering women and marginalized groups to drive their recovery process. But I had to admit that I still listed older people as a “vulnerable group” to be cared for. After learning about Ibasho’s work, I invited Emi to share her experience with World Bank staff. She provided a beautiful example of the benefits of providing opportunities for older people to actively take part in disaster recovery and community development.
When it comes to climate change, there has been a lot of talk the past few days about percentages (scientists who point to human causes), pauses (has warming slowed), and what it all means for policy and politics.
But, let’s be clear.
The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provides conclusive new scientific evidence that human activities are causing unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate.
It buries the hatchet on “is it real” – the scientists say that it is extremely likely (95% probability) that most of the warming since 1950 has been due to human influence.
It pushes back on the skeptics’ claims that global warming stopped in 1998, and, most of important of all, it confirms that human activity, left unchecked, will further warm the Earth, with dramatic effects on weather, sea-levels and the Arctic.
This major international assessment of climate change, adopted Friday by the world’s governments, paints a blunt, clear picture of the scale of the problem before us.