President of the World Bank (WB) Jim Yong Kim said Friday "economic growth is the most powerful tool we have to end poverty," but this growth would "never take off" without infrastructure in electricity, water, and roads.
"It will take the commitment of all of us to help low- and middle-income countries bridge the massive infrastructure divide," Kim said in the opening plenary annual meeting of the WB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington.
Kim, explaining the infrastructure gap, said sub-Saharan Africa region generated as much power in a year as Spain.
"While building infrastructure will help us promote growth in the long run, ending poverty by 2030 (WB's ultimate goal), its required of us to be vigilant against threats to the growth of the global economy," like natural disasters, conflicts, financial shocks and epidemics "that are becoming more frequent and destructive," warned Kim.
Kim assured that the WB was fully engaged in fighting Ebola epidemic and climate change. "We are running out of time to find solutions to both," he warned.
The WB chief said Ebola "poses one of the most complex and difficult challenges that I've seen in all my years as an infectious disease physician, because of the poverty in the three (West African) most affected countries, it exceeds the capacity of their emergency, health and fiscal resources." For her part, IMF's Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that there has been a "staggering" rise in inequality in the world today, coupled with a "painful jobs crisis" as 200 million people around the world are looking for work today and if the unemployed formed their own country, it would be the fifth largest in the world.
Lagarde added that the ecological carnage that comes with a rapidly warming planet led to the increase of weather-related disasters by three folds since the 1960s. By 2030, she said, "almost half the world's population will live in regions of high water stress or the shortage of it.
"Fiscal policy must be customized to country circumstances - and we must not give up the gains that have accrued in recent years and at the same time, fiscal policy must be as growth and jobs-friendly as possible," she said.
"We need movement across many dimensions from opening up cozy monopolies in service industries, boosting infrastructure investment, improving educational opportunities, financial inclusion, and the business environment, especially in many emerging markets and low-income countries," Lagarde stressed.
"We must aim higher, try harder, and work better together to achieve higher growth outcomes," she said.
Talking about stability and fragility of the world economies, Lagarde said "if financial markets are more challenging, then policies must be more powerful, and regulators and supervisors must be better equipped ... we must complete the financial sector reform agenda, and we must continue to update it." She said the international community needed to make it difficult for shifting of taxes from one country to another simply for profit which hurts low-income countries as they strive to mobilize badly-needed revenue.
Lagrade called for boosting of what she described as "new multilateralism" in which a rapid rise of a more diverse network of global stakeholders: NGOs, cities, and citizen activists who have proven their abilities to force policy change.