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The final push to end extreme poverty

China Daily by Jim Yong Kim, May 6, 2015 Adjust font size:

First, the world economy needs to grow faster, and grow more sustainably. It needs to grow in a way that ensures that the poor receive a greater share of the benefits of that growth. We can reach the end of extreme poverty only if we mark a path toward a more robust and inclusive growth that is unparalleled in modern times.

The World Bank Group will continue to support governments and make investments in a broad variety of areas in the fight against extreme poverty. In most of the developing world, though, efforts to end extreme poverty will require us to focus on boosting agricultural productivity.

Helping farmers improve yields requires increasing access to better seeds, water, electricity and markets. According to one study in Bangladesh, six years after constructing 3,000 kilometers of roads to connect communities to markets, household incomes increased by an average of 74 percent.

That's the growth part of the strategy. The second part of the strategy is to invest - and by that, I mean investing in people, especially through education and health. The opportunity to get children off to the right start happens just once. Investments made in children early in life bring far greater returns than those made later on. Poor nutrition and disease can have life-long implications for mental and physical health, educational achievement, and adult earnings.

The final part of the strategy is to insure. This means that governments must provide social safety nets as well as build systems to protect against disasters and the rapid spread of disease.

Ebola revealed the shortcomings of international and national systems to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. Ebola also taught us that the poor are likely to suffer the most from pandemics.

The World Bank Group has been working with partners on a new concept that would provide much needed rapid response financing in the face of an outbreak, where countries would receive rapid disbursements of funding, which would, in turn, help contain outbreaks, save lives, and protect economies.

We know that ending extreme poverty will be extraordinarily difficult - in fact, the closer we get to our goal, the more difficult it will be.

Governments of the world must seize this moment. Our private sector partners must step up. The World Bank Group, our multilateral development bank partners and our new partners on the horizon must all seize this moment. We must now collaborate with real conviction and distinguish our generation as the one that ended poverty.

We are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty. This is our great challenge, and our great opportunity. The final push must begin right now.

The author is president of the World Bank Group.

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