The global economy is growing, but a bout of New Year anxiety has taken hold, posing challenges to our global mission: boosting the prosperity of the bottom 40%, ending extreme poverty by 2030, and avoiding a climate meltdown.
Can the world end extreme poverty by 2030? Will it be able to avert the worst effects of climate change or stop Ebola? These challenges are among the biggest we face today. In 2014, the World Bank Group tapped its knowledge, finance, and influence to confront global problems.
1) Taking on economic growth
In the wake of the financial crisis, developing countries were the engine of the global economy. In 2014, they faced new risks: lower growth, less financing, and lower prices for their commodities. In January and again in June, the World Bank urged developing countries to get their houses in order. Countries need blueprints to maintain the kind of growth that helped cut extreme poverty nearly in half globally in the last couple of decades. With the financial crisis fading, now is the time for developing countries to strengthen their economies so they can keep reducing poverty, according to the twice-yearly Global Economic Prospects.
When I got that quote by the French philosopher tattooed on my arm, I wasn’t thinking about world poverty. I wasn’t thinking about the environment or peace or conflict or starvation or social justice. In fact, aside from puzzling over which recycling bin my coffee cup goes in, I didn’t think about much outside of my own world. Like so many others, I have plenty of my own problems to worry about, let alone ending world poverty. It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives. That daily crush of details — getting to work on time or paying the bills — can swallow up years. But if everyone only focused on what’s happening in their own world, then nothing would ever get better.
As we mark World Food Day, here’s a sobering thought: Too many people are hungry.
One in nine people suffer from chronic hunger, more than 1 billion people are undernourished, and 3.1 million children die every year due to hunger and malnutrition. This is a huge drain on development--when people are hungry and malnourished, they are less able to improve their livelihoods; adequately care for their families; live full and healthy lives and lift themselves out of poverty.
The problem is set to intensify in the future, as the population grows, climate change affects how we produce our food and the natural resources that help feed the world are stretched even further. We aren’t feeding the world as well as we should be in 2014. How can we do better in the future, when the world will need to feed and nourish 9 billion people in 2050?
The idea of “Inclusive growth” and how to achieve it was talked about a lot in the days ahead of the 2014 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. Among the solutions on the table was a new initiative that could help unlock billions of dollars for infrastructure and improve the lives of many.
About 1.2 billion people live without electricity and 2.5 billion people don’t have toilets. Some 748 million people lack access to safe drinking water. The Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) announced by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim this week hopes to lower these numbers by developing a pipeline of economically viable and sustainable infrastructure projects that can attract financing.
A major World Bank Group report this week found that growth is stagnating in developing countries. It’s projected to be below 5 percent for the third straight year. That’s too modest to create the kind of jobs we need to improve the lives of the poorest people around the world.
If this trend continues, it will have long-term negative implications on developing countries, including the loss of an historic opportunity to end extreme poverty in the next generation. Millions of people around the world have been able to escape poverty over the last few decades largely because of high economic growth in developing countries.
Laura Tuck, Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region of the World Bank, discusses her recent trip to Albania, during which she had broad ranging discussions with the government and other partners on the country's growth and development.
Companies that include women among their executives and employees and do business with female entrepreneurs gain in terms of profitability, creativity, and sustainability, speakers said at the World Bank Group’s Gender and the Economy event this week in Washington, D.C.
A convincing business case for gender inclusion was made by H.E. Sheikh Abdullah al Thani, chairman of Ooredoo Group; Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women; and Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief Marketing Officer at General Electric.
“Women are bringing new insights and experiences to workplaces and markets that were previously male-dominated,” said Comstock “Diversity breeds innovation."
Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the Bank Group's managing director and chief operating officer, said closing the economic gender gap and increasing opportunities for both women and men in the private sector are key to ending extreme poverty and boosting prosperity in developing countries.
Laura Tuck, Vice President for the World Bank's Europe and Central Asia region, discusses her trip to Poland, its economy, progress in boosting shared prosperity, and the World Bank's partnership with the country.
We know that numbers are useful. We rely on them to analyze global economic trends, but also to count calories, create passwords, manage schedules and track our spending. Numbers give order to the chaos of our lives. And that means we can use numbers to reflect, learn, and re-discover ourselves.
We’ve launched a new YouTube series called ‘My Favorite Number,’ that shows how a single digit can give us unique insight into global development and humanity. A number can have a profound effect on human lives.