World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim recently announced ambitious goals to end poverty and boost shared prosperity, with a target to reduce the percentage of absolute poor – those living on or less than $1.25 a day (in 2005 PPP) – to 3 percent by 2030. The Bank, he said, will also focus on expanding opportunities for those living at the bottom 40 percent of the income or consumption distribution in each country.
This post is part of the Q&A Series with the Data Ambassadors from DataDive2013. You can also read an interview with the poverty data ambassadors, a recap of Data Dive 2013, and watch the presentations from the weekend.
Data Ambassadors posing at the end of DataDive 2013. Photo Credit: Carlos Teodoro Linares Carvalho.
During DataDive 2013, each project had an assigned data ambassador, a leader to guide and direct the research and efforts of the teams. In the days following the DataDive, we spoke with four of the data ambassadors from the poverty projects to learn more about their experiences. Read their responses below and join the conversation in our comments section.
- Monique Williams is an independent consultant and a statistician at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. She led and represented the UNDP Resource Allocation team.
- Nick McClellan is the web production editor for the New America Foundation and he represented the Night Illumination team.
- Max Richman is an independent consultant who provides research and technology services to non-profits, foundations and governments focused on international development. He led the Website Scraping team.
- Tom Levine works in data analysis and he represented the Arabic Tweets project.
Donor countries are routinely confronted with the problem of how to allocate the aid budget. The debate on aid allocation has called for various types of indicators including institutional capacities and governance but in the practice of aid allocation a multitude of factors, such as strategic geopolitical interests, budget constraints and internal political considerations, still play an important role in most countries. However, if we focus on welfare indicators and on current practices of aid allocation, there are two monetary indicators that have gained prominence over the last few decades: GDP per capita and the poverty rate. GDP per capita is a natural choice of an indicator that is well understood and widely available. The poverty rate is a more recent choice explained by the new status that poverty acquired as a development objective. For a combination of events such as the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the publication of the World Development Report on poverty in 1990 and the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, multilateral organizations have increasingly adopted poverty reduction as the overarching development goal. This new focus on poverty and the increased availability of expenditure surveys worldwide have also enabled the use of poverty measures to rank countries and allocate aid.
Speaking ahead of the upcoming World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings, Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called on the international community to seize the historic opportunity presented by favorable economic conditions in developing countries and end extreme poverty by 2030. This is an exciting goal, and success in achieving it has become possible. Kim pointed to the International Development Association, or IDA, the Bank’s fund for the poorest, as central to the tremendous effort needed to make this happen.
Every three years, development funders and borrowing country representatives meet to deliberate and agree on IDA’s strategic direction, financing, and allocation rules, and we just kicked off this process for the 17th “replenishment” of IDA (which provides development financing for the period July 1, 2014-June 30, 2017).
Two days of open discussion in Paris on March 20-21 with both investors and borrowers covered the complex development agenda faced by IDA countries, as well as the fund’s strategic approach to dealing with these issues. We worked to chart a way forward for IDA to most effectively improve the lives of the roughly 1 billion people in IDA countries still living on less than $1.25 a day.
Poverty is indisputably central to the World Bank as we sharpen our mission, but inequality matters too, and we underplay or ignore it at our peril. When this message comes from eminent economist and Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz, Bank staff and the general public tend to sit up and take notice.
If you want an overview of the current debates on inequality, read Kevin Watkins’ magisterial Ryszard Kapuściński lecture. Kevin, who will shortly take over as the new head of the Overseas Development Institute, argues that ‘getting to zero’ on poverty means putting inequality at the heart of the development debate and the post2015 agreement (he doesn’t share my scepticism on that one). As a taster, here are two powerful graphs, showing how poverty will fall globally and in India, with predicted growth rates, in a low/high/current inequality variants. QED, really.
The last few months have been a busy time for inequality. And over the last few days the poor thing got busier still. Inequality is now dancing on two stages. It must be really quite dizzy.
We need an inequality goal. No we don’t. Yes we do
One of the two stages is the post-2015 development goals. At some point, someone seems to have decided that reducing inequality needs to be an explicit commitment in the post-2105 goals. The UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda wrote a report on inequality and argued that “addressing inequalities is in everyone’s best interest.” Another report by Claire Melamed of Britain’s Overseas Development Institute argued that “equity, or inequality, needs to be somehow integrated into any new framework.” Last week a group of 90 academics wrote an open letter to the High Level Panel on the Post 2015 Development Agenda demanding that inequality be put at the heart of any new framework.
The world has become relatively less poor in the last few decades. People under conditions of extreme poverty -- that is, living on less than $1.25 per day -- have declined as a proportion of the world population, from 52 percent in 1981 to 22 percent in 2008. Thirty years ago almost 75 percent of the developing world lived with $2 a day or less, this number is down to 43 percent today.