Global economic crisis: A development emergency

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Last week I attended the launch of the World Bank’s Global Monitoring Report 2009 in Brussels. The report’s subtitle is ‘A Development Emergency’. A couple of key facts coming out of the report which, although not necessarily new statistics, serve to highlight the ‘development emergency’ as the World Bank calls it:

  • In 2009, growth in developing countries will be 1.7%, just a quarter of pre-crisis levels; in sub-Saharan Africa it will be 1.6%
  • The number of poor people will rise in over half of developing countries and in three quarters of countries in sub-Saharan Africa
  • At the global level, access to sanitation is the most off-track Millennium Development Goal (MDG) after MDG1 on hunger

The report picks out 6 priorities for action: 1) adequate fiscal response 2) improve climate for private investment 3) redouble efforts on human development goals 4) scale up aid 5) open trade system 6) ensure multilateral system has the mandate, resources, and instruments to respond adequately.
Within the report’s main findings, infrastructure investment is presented as a win-win-win, in the sense that it has the highest multiplier effect, it removes bottlenecks to future growth, and contributes to a green recovery.

However, the report states that the infrastructure financing gap for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is $40bn annually. The World Bank contends that this amount could be reduced by 45% through improved management, efficiency and cost.

In March of this year, ONE undertook some research with ODI and NIESR to show the positive impact that investing $50bn in SSA could have on the world economy- invested in the right way, that development aid could ‘pay for itself’ within 16 years given the positive impact it would have on the global economy.

There was time for some discussion after the presentation of the report during which someone from the UN made a very interesting point. He said that just like with global warming, we need a kind of ‘polluter pays’ principle for this economic crisis. I don’t think we’ve had anything like this kind of ‘speculating countries pay’ idea muted before. The general debate that followed the report underlined the urgency of the whole situation much more. It was suggested that the civil society push is too weak, especially considering we know that there will be 200m more people pushed into poverty (that’s equivalent to around half the population of Europe) and that at least 200,000 children will die per year up to 2015 (that’s 1.2million lives in total). The figures are almost too much to comprehend, statistics which struggle to convey the human suffering they mask. It’s averting those crises that spurs us all on as campaigners.

You can check out the full report here.

-Eloise Todd

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