Pursuing more growth in an uncertain world

For the first time in history more than one billion people go to bed hungry each night.


Robert B Zoellick September 17, 2010

The drive to overcome extreme poverty and hunger has been at the heart of global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals since their adoption a decade ago.  Up until the food, fuel, and financial crises in the last two years, developing countries were making progress in reaching this goal, although at different paces. The food crisis of 2008 may seem to be past. But it has not gone away. For the first time in history more than one billion people go to bed hungry each night.

We must redouble efforts to target support to the poor and vulnerable.

Investments all along the food chain to increase agricultural productivity and produce will help to alleviate hunger and overcome poverty because 75 per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas in developing countries. Most depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Low-income countries need better safety net programmes to protect their poorest people while also equipping them to develop their skills so as to move out of the poverty trap and into better paying jobs.

The goal of improving nutrition can have multiple positive effects as it is linked to maternal and child mortality, education, and health. The World Bank is working with the World Food Program and Unicef to connect better nutrition with safety net programmes such as school feeding and food for work. Through partnerships we hope to tap into new knowledge about nutrition supplements and other ways to improve the diets of the poor.

The world economy’s recovery is uneven and uncertain, without the surge in jobs that people need. We must recover lost ground and step up the pace to overcome poverty. Developing countries offer abundant opportunities for investments with healthy returns that can create new sources of global demand.

Growth potential is not limited to a few emerging markets. Better policies have improved growth performance and opportunities in many low-income countries, including in sub-Saharan Africa, which recorded annual growth of six percent in the five years preceding the crisis.

In order to create new and better jobs, updating people’s skills is essential to improve their prospects. Developing and emerging countries face serious demographic challenges — from a record number of young job-seekers in Africa and the Middle East, to shrinking work forces in Eastern Europe and Central and East Asia.

An effective focus on workers – employing all of them, and employing them to their greatest productivity – is vital. Countries will need to have systems that build skills by guiding youngsters through early childhood development, emphasising nutrition, stimulation, and basic cognitive skills; that ensure that once at school, there are sufficient resources, and a solid emphasis on results and performance in the wider school system; that build relevant skills through higher education and on-the-job training; and that encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

Recovery will also depend on a private sector rebound. Businesses will invest and create jobs if they can turn a profit.  Countries will need to create a more attractive investment climate by establishing clear rules, implementing regulatory reforms to make it easier to do business, and by making financing available to small and medium firms for private investment as well as to poor people themselves.

Countries also need to strive for better governance and against the rot of corruption. Governments, working with development partners, need to move quickly to create more opportunity.  This includes expanding opportunities for girls and women as economies will not be successful if they discriminate against half their population.

As the development community takes stock of its MDG progress at the UN this week, we need to look beyond and behind the numbers to see what we can learn from them and our efforts to date. We need to invest in what works and fix what doesn’t. And as we do, we always need to keep in mind that this work is ultimately about empowering people. The human spirit can accomplish amazing things. We need to give everyone that opportunity.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2010.

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COMMENTS (11)

Isfand | 10 years ago | Reply @Anoop Totally agree with you,not only in India you have less mullah shouting :Haram. Haram,Haram everytime someone's talk abt family planning(dont they know tht Imam Al Ghazali promoted it?) but in India women literacy rate is much higher than in Pakistan which is really a key tool in birth control. Regarding to the military (and the military have really exploited the two nation theory) i think we cnt talk enough abt the damage it has done to Pakistan,India has ever been a threat to Pakistan, but the military has creted it as a threat so they can continue to prosper,as written in the book Military Inc. "every country has an army but in Pakistan an army has a country"(we could have solved the Kashmir issue in some months in 1948 after the Un resolution if the army really wanted so) Regarding to budget i agree we spend 25% of our budget on the army(too much) but when you says tht India spends only 2,5% of the budget you should be cautios because tht is not the percentage of the budget but of the gdp, which means tht India spends 2,5% of the Gdp on the army not of the budget.so it probably around 20% of the budget,the army expendiature. Regarding the population growth a disaster have already been done(350 million ppl in United India to todays 1.5 billion in pakistan,bngaldesh,india) but fortunatly in the last two years the population growth have been signifcantly reduced, i dont know abt India but by 2015 the Pakistani population will stop growing. Unfortuatly the huge step fowards have been possible only after the huge increase in price of food worldwide of the last two years. Rdarding to stability in Pakistan the only thing we need are no more coups by the army which i think wont happen again and an increase in the gdp tax ratio(one of the lowest in the world )from the current 10% to atleast 15% which will bring more financial stability to the govt and obvously the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Anoop | 10 years ago | Reply @Isfand, True. Controlling population growth is a big challenge. This can only be done by education. I think its easier in India than in Pakistan to convince people to follow Family Planning because there isn't any local mullahs issuing fatwas to people who are campaigning. Urbanization and growth will lead to lower population growth. The purest example is the South of India. The states like Karnataka, where I come from, have lower population growth than, say, states like Uttar Pradesh or BIhar and generally rest of India. There is another way. Follow the China model. But, its easier said than done. It'll lead to massive sociological problems and there will be an abrupt drop in number of youngsters which may affect the economy in long term. The biggest reason why Pakistan is growing,apart from fast population growth is, unstable political set up. How long will Pakistan continue to depend on one superpower or the other to ensure it survives?
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