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World Bank CEO Talks Global Poverty Reduction at IOP

By Lucas Ward, Crimson Staff Writer

Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank Kristalina I. Georgieva outlined the causes of rising poverty in some areas of the world and methods to reduce it in an address at the Institute of Politic’s JFK Jr. Forum Tuesday evening.

Georgieva’s address revolved around the World Bank’s mission to reduce global poverty and assist the growth of developing countries. She highlighted the dramatic decline in poverty in recent decades, but also emphasized that the progress has not been shared equally.

“Poverty has shrunk so significantly to 800 million people out of our 7.3 billion population,” Georgieva said, “But behind the averages, we ought to recognize a very ugly trend in far too many places, and it is where extreme poverty is not only not shrinking, it is actually growing.”

Georgieva was a Bulgarian politician before she became CEO of the World Bank in early 2017. Before that, she served as Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources in the European Union. She has held numerous positions in the World Bank Group and been involved in international affairs since the early 1990s.

Former Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, who is currently director of the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, introduced the lecture in honor of another former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who served as the first World Bank President.

Georgieva ran through what she viewed as the most impactful causes of rising poverty in some locations. She cited wars, gender inequality, climate change, and bad governance as being among the heaviest hitters, and especially lamented the effect of armed conflict on poverty levels. She described, for example, how the war in Syria brought the poverty level of the formerly middle-income country to as high as 60 percent.

Audience members had the chance to ask questions ranging from the history of the World Bank’s involvement in healthcare to their involvement in funding a dam on the Nile.

“I thought her answer was very informative because I’ve been learning a lot in my classes about the 20th century and how the World Bank played a role there, but it’s interesting to see going forward how their role in healthcare is changing and how the funding messes have been changing,” Sanika Mahajan ’21 said.

Georgieva talked about possible solutions to the problems she introduced, but concluded by speaking more broadly about the importance of “collective action” and working together.

“Here are our choice: there are two. One is realistic and the other one is fantastic. The realistic choice is extraterrestrials would come from space and make us work together, and the fantastic is we would do it ourselves. So we see it as our mission at the Bank to actually swap the places of those two,” she said.

—Staff writer Lucas Ward can be reached at Follow him on twitter at @LucaspfWard.

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