World Bank should retain its core focus on poor: India

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World Bank
Washington, April 17: Seeking efforts aimed at increasing additional investment flows to developing countries, India has said the need to positively impact the lives of the poor should be the mantra that should permeate the thinking of the World Bank.

"Be it sectoral or regional strategies; be it design of new instruments or products; be it modernisation or governance reform; the goal should, at all times be, ensuring that all these changes improve the lives and prospects of the poor, wherever they may be," R Gopalan, Secretary at Department of Economic Affairs, said in his address to the Development Committee meeting of the World Bank.

Gopalan said while development challenges remain in large pockets, some countries are facing prospects of reduced Bank flows due to investment limits.

"Several measures are required to sustain Bank investment flows in such cases. We feel that, apart from short and medium term measures, efforts should also aim at increasing 'additional investment flows' through the Bank in these countries," he said.

The current spike in prices has serious ramifications coming as happened in the immediate aftermath of two earlier crises from which the world is yet to fully recover, making it much more difficult to garner resources to reduce its effects, Gopalan said.

"On the other hand, we have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge on which to base our responses. Price volatility appears to be on the way to becoming a long-term phenomenon. We need to look closely at disaggregated

statistics on the contribution of different factors to food price volatility in order to understand and respond through policy reform," he said.

While linking farms to markets is a thematic area of the World Bank's policy - rather than working in thematic silos, it would be important to integrate programmes across sectors.

"We are yet to see this happening in a big way. The Food Crisis Response Programme has been effective in producing some short term results," Gopalan said.

"However, agricultural investment by the Bank remains small in relative terms and needs to be scaled up if we want to see longer term results on the ground," he said.

The Bank would need to partner with think tanks, research institutions, other multilateral institutions with greater experience in the area and institutions within countries themselves which have done major work in the field to pool
available knowledge and to design effective strategies, Gopalan said.

Referring to the situation in the Middle East, the Indian official said that this has brought with it certain concerns not only for the countries facing unrest but for the world as a whole.

"The prospect of inflation is looming over these countries and elsewhere. Fiscal deficits are expected to grow. Oil production is projected to decline. The international community needs to help during the period of transition. Mandates and capacities need to be strengthened and widened by building up greater transparency and accountability. The World Bank Group can play a role with its vast experience in managing transitions," he said.

PTI

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