How to end poverty by 2030? Tackle inequality

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at the IMF headquarters in Washington.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Finance ministers from around the world came together in Washington, D.C., last week to figure out how to reach the Bank’s twin goals: end extreme poverty by 2030, and boost prosperity for the bottom 40 percent of the population in developing countries.

The strategy they discussed at the World Bank and IMF’s annual Spring Meetings was bold: to reduce the number of people earning less than $1.25 a day by 50 million each year until 2030. That’s around 1 million people every week for the next 16 years.

“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,” he emphasized. “[We need] laser-like focus on making growth more inclusive and targeting more programs to assist the poor directly if we’re going to end extreme poverty.”

If you think it sounds ambitious, you’re not alone. President Kim couldn’t stress enough that economic growth alone is insufficient to achieve these goals, with rising inequality dampening the fruits of growth.

The goals are at the heart of a reform strategy to better align staff, finances and priorities at the Bank. Kim admitted that the overhaul has created uncertainty, but said that changes are necessary to improve efficiency and make the institution more responsive.

Part of this is boosting policies that allocate more resources to the extremely poor. The Bank said that resources can be distributed by promoting more inclusive growth, or through government programs, such as cash transfers. Such steps must be matched by efforts to prevent those living on the brink from falling below the $1.25 line.

Kim underlined the importance of investing in people by improving the quality of education, expanding health coverage for lower-income people, boosting sustainable energy generation capacity and tackling high youth unemployment.  

During one event, ONE President and CEO Michael Elliott highlighted the lack of timely, quality and user-friendly data to monitor progress and the pressing need to address this shortcoming.

Big institutions like the World Bank and the IMF play a critical role in fighting extreme poverty – and that’s why their plans and goals are so important to ONE. By watching what they do, we can make sure that the interests of the world’s poorest are at the top of the agenda.