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World Bank Head Calls for Business-like Effort on Health, Education

World Bank Head Calls for Business-Like Focus on Health, Education
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World Bank Head Calls for Business-Like Focus on Health, Education

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The fight against poverty needs to work aggressively on improving the health and education of young people and the defenseless.

That was the opinion of non-government organization and development officials who spoke at the Milken Institute Global Conference. The meeting took place earlier this month in Los Angeles, California.

One speaker was World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. He said that social unrest will spread without increasing attention to basic human needs. He said dealing with humanitarian causes should be businesslike.

His comments come at a time when China is becoming more active in international development and the World Bank is preparing a rating of nations to show their investments in people.

One in 10 people worldwide lives in extreme poverty. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as earning less than $1.90 a day. Nearly 6 million children under the age of 5 die every year. Many of those deaths are from preventable diseases, like pneumonia, diarrhea or malaria.

Poor nutrition, undersized growth, and cognitive impairment affect more than 150 million young children around the world. They live mainly in South Asia and African countries south of the Sahara Desert. The World Bank president said that failure to deal with these problems leaves citizens unprepared for the automated economy of the future.

In Afghanistan, half of all young children develop at a slower rate than other children. And in Indonesia, one in three children are underdeveloped.

Jim Young Kim told the conference that the numbers are improving, but not fast enough.

“Many, many, many people will find themselves undereducated and without the skills to be able to compete in the economy of the future and so many countries are going to go down the path of fragility, conflict, violence, and then of course, extremism and migration. That's going to happen if we don't change the mindset.”

Kim said the thinking has to change. Too often, he said, national leaders and finance ministers want investments in “roads and railways and industrial parks.” Kim said they often ignore studies that show links among health, education and productivity.

The World Bank plans to release a nation-by-nation rating measuring health and education in October. Kim said the report will push world leaders to consider social investments more seriously.

Rajiv Shah is president of the Rockefeller Foundation, a private group. He told the conference that some countries have had great success in fighting disease and improving child education.

“When you look at countries like Rwanda, they’ve achieved a 70 percent reduction in child mortality in just one decade. So, we know that nations can be successful. What it takes, though, is more political will, more focus on science and technology.”

Shah said improvements in health and education produce measurable economic results. “A dollar invested in community health generates $7 to $10 dollars in economic value,” he said. He added that improving the health of children and reducing child deaths results in families having fewer children and investing more in their education.

In recent years, China has joined the United States as a major development lender and donor. China has provided loans and aid to 140 countries. Experts estimate that China has given more than $350 billion over a 14-year period.

In March, China announced creation of a new aid agency, called the International Development Cooperation Agency. Its purpose is to direct the country’s overseas development efforts.

Critics say the Chinese loans and aid come with fewer restrictions than those required by Western agencies. They note that Western countries are more concerned about corruption, governance and human rights.

Another goal of the agency is to work in support of China’s Belt and Road project. The aim is to improve roads and other infrastructure in neighboring countries as a way to expand trade and extend Chinese influence in the area.

Last year, the World Bank provided nearly $59 billion to transportation and energy projects, refugee resettlement and basic needs like health and education.

Kim said all are important, and directing more attention on people is good for business.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Michael O’Sullivan reported this story for Jonathan Evans adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

achieve – v. to get or reach something by working hard

automated – n. run or operated by using machines, computers, etc., instead of people to do the work

cognitive impairment – n. a state in which a person has trouble

remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life

focus – n. a subject that is being discussed or studied : the subject on which people's attention is focused

fragility – n. the manner in which something is easily broken or destroyed

generate – v. to produce something or cause something to be produced

malnutrition – n. the unhealthy condition that results from not eating enough food or not eating enough healthy food; poor nutrition

mortality – n. the quality or state of being a person or thing that is alive and therefore certain to die; the quality or state of being mortal