Focus on the world’s poorest: World Bank

Washington, April 10 (IANS): With close to one-third of the world’s extreme poor concentrated in India and another one-third in four more countries, a sharp focus on them will be central to ending extreme poverty, says a new World Bank paper.
The top five poorest countries – India (with 33 percent of the world’s poor), China (13 percent), Nigeria (7 percent), Bangladesh (6 percent) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5 percent) – together are home to nearly 760 million of the world’s poor.
Adding another five countries — Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya — would encompass almost 80 percent of the extreme poor.
Tackling poverty requires understanding where the greatest number of poor live, while at the same time also concentrating on where hardship is most pervasive, according to the World Bank paper “Prosperity for All”, released here Thursday.
This entails concerted efforts in countries where large numbers of the world’s 1.2 billion poor live, it says. While economic growth remains vital for reducing poverty, growth has its limits, the paper said suggesting that countries need to complement efforts to enhance growth with policies that allocate more resources to the extreme poor.
“These resources can be distributed through the growth process itself, by promoting more inclusive growth, or through government programmes, such as conditional and direct cash transfers,” it said. Citing the example of India, the report notes that in recent years, new Information Communications Technologies (ICT) applications have created opportunities to re-engineer and upgrade traditional systems and to empower beneficiaries.
“India’s ambitious new programme” to provide its citizens and residents a unique, official identity, the UID (Universal Identity) “aims to improve the delivery of government services, reduce fraud and corruption, facilitate robust voting processes, and improve security”, it noted. “However, the benefits are not automatic and our understanding of its impact is yet incomplete.”
“Economic growth has been vital for reducing extreme poverty and improving the lives of many poor people,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Yet, even if all countries grow at the same rates as over the past 20 years, and if the income distribution remains unchanged, world poverty will only fall by 10 percent by 2030, from 17.7 percent in 2010.” “This is simply not enough,” he said.