Washington: The World Bank gathered the might of the international community on Saturday behind its audacious plan to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation.
“This is it. This is the global target to end poverty,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, visibly pleased after the International Monetary Fund and the Bank endorsed the poverty offensive.
“For the first time in history, we have committed to setting a target to end poverty. We are no longer dreaming of a world free of poverty,” Kim said at a news conference.
“We have set an expiration date for extreme poverty. With commitment, cooperation, and the vision of leaders from around the world, we have great faith that we can make it happen.”
Kim, a US physician and global health activist who became head of the Bank last July, announced only two weeks ago the plan to eradicate extreme poverty — defined as living on less than $1.25 a day — to 3.0 per cent or less of the world’s population by 2030.
The plan also aims at raising the incomes of the poorest 40 per cent in each country, so that prosperity is more fairly shared.
“This will be hard work. The target of 2030 is closer than you think — just 17 years away,” Kim warned.
To reach the 2030 goal, the international community must halve global poverty once, then halve it again, and then nearly halve it a third time, Kim has explained.
According to World Bank data released this week, there are still 1.2 billion people, or one-fifth of the world’s population, living in extreme poverty, despite significant strides in poverty reduction, in part due to China’s economic growth.
Over 25 years, the rate of extreme poverty has fallen from 42 pe rcent to 21 per cent in 2010.
Kim said the World Bank every year would report, country by country, on the rate of extreme poverty and the changes in the income of the bottom 40 percent.
“We will learn every year where we are making progress and where we are not.”
Calling the initiative a “historic opportunity” to make a difference, the Development Committee, representing the IMF and the Bank on development issues, announced its endorsement.
But the 25-member committee of finance and development leaders said the goals must be achieved without jeopardising the environment, increasing economic debt or excluding vulnerable people.
Kim welcomed the endorsement as “an important step.”
“I have no doubt that the world can end extreme poverty within a generation. But it’s not a given and we cannot do it alone. It requires focus, innovation and commitments from everyone,” he said.
Kim had made adoption of the poverty agenda his top priority for the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
He had pledged that if it won endorsement, the Bank would present, for the first time in its 66-year history, an integrated strategic plan for the group.
The Development Committee, in its statement, said that achieving the goal would take strong growth across the developing world, and an unprecedented translation of growth into poverty reduction in many low-income countries.
The panel also noted institutional and governance challenges would have to be overcome and investments in infrastructure and agricultural productivity would be needed.
“Ministers unequivocally supported Dr. Kim’s vision and stated that we can count on the World Bank Group as a partner in the endeavour of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity,” Marek Belka, the chairman of the Development Committee and head of Poland’s central bank, said in the statement.