‘World bank can now refocus on poverty in South Asia’

By Arun Kumar


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Washington : The resignation of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz would help the institution battered by a crisis of governance to resume the battle against poverty in South Asia, according to a senior bank official.

"The World Bank is an institution committed to helping developing countries in the battle against poverty," Praful Patel, Vice President, South Asia Region said Friday.

"For over a month – while our work has continued strongly – the institution has been battered by a crisis of governance. The decision that has been reached to make space for new Bank leadership allows us to draw a deep breath and return our full attention to continuing the development work at hand," he stated.

Never before have the countries of South Asia had such a great opportunity to end mass poverty, he said. Reforms have resulted in over a decade of sustained growth which in turn has opened new pathways for South Asia to accelerate growth to new highs of 8 to 10 percent.

"Reducing poverty on this scale is a huge challenge which will also require deep progress in human development; it will require that all South Asian citizens have a chance to improve their lives irrespective of gender or caste or religion," Patel said.

"It will require massive investments in infrastructure and improvements in the investment climate. And as the World Bank itself has experienced these past painful weeks, it will require a vigilance over the systems of governance that we all have in place, whether we be institutions like the Bank or nation states," he said.

"The Bank's governance system has allowed us to reach a resolution to the crisis we faced but it has also challenged us to make improvements. The system has been stress tested and we now know we can do better," Patel said.

Similarly in countries, the systems that are put in place to govern expenditures, to ensure transparent human resources policies, to manage power in ways which do not give favour to some and exclude others, are all questions of good governance, Patel said.

"While government partners welcome our advice on how to manage procurement well, on how to ensure sound financial checks and balances, there are sometimes sensitivities. We hope that by sharing global good practices we can demonstrate the advantages of transparent government."

"The messy nature of our own governance crisis these past weeks has humbled us by how difficult it is to always get this right; and it has convinced us how necessary it is to try," he said.

As a development partner the Bank engaged the countries of South Asia on issues key to their development agendas. And as a global institution it also bring shared experience on challenges like HIV/Aids, on avian flu, on finding ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.

"We have heard much recently from both critics and supporters of the Bank and its development work. We welcome both for this is not a simple business with easy solutions," Patel said.

"We are a small player, along with many partners, in the face of enormous global challenges and in the aftermath of our own governance crisis, we recommit ourselves to the work of South Asia and the wider world," the official said.