World Bank and IDB presidents to visit Jamaica this week

Jamaica and Peru are the first countries being visited by new World Bank President Ajay Banga on a months-long global tour starting this week, which is being described as a new playbook for the 78-year-old institution.

Jamaica’s Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, in an opinion piece on Page 14 of today’s Sunday Observer, states that Banga will be the first World Bank president to visit Jamaica and his presence here will be significant as, “among other things it speaks volumes about the opportunities for development that Jamaica has earned for herself”.

Clarke added that this will be a historic moment for another reason, as Kingston will also host, at the same time, the new president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Ilan Goldfajn.

The World Bank said that between now and December 2023, Banga, who assumed the presidency on June 2, will visit multiple countries in every region where the World Bank Group operates.

“During the impact-focused tour, Banga will work to reimagine strategic partnerships with other multilateral banks and development organisations, work to identify barriers for private sector investment, deepen the relationships between the World Bank Group and the countries it serves, and identify opportunities to maximise impact through knowledge, financing, and technical assistance,” the bank said.

“These intensive visits come at an important time for the World Bank Group and the global community. Intertwined challenges — poverty, climate, pandemics, conflict, and fragility — have made development more difficult, eroding a decade of progress in a matter of months,” the bank added.

It said it is being asked to evolve and lead global efforts to lift up lower income countries while improving quality of life in middle income countries. “At the same time, the institution must confront the climate crisis, debt, food insecurity, pandemics, and fragility; and accelerate access to clean air, water, and energy.”

Noting that Banga will be joined on the tour by the IDB’s Goldfajn, the World Bank said the two leaders will explore opportunities for greater collaboration and coordination to maximise both institutions’ joint impact for people.

Banga began his first day at the helm of the World Bank Group as it grapples with questions about its future direction.

“We are at a critical moment in the arc of humanity and the planet,” Banga wrote in an e-mail to staff obtained by AFP, calling on the bank to “evolve” to meet the challenges it now faces.

An Indian-born, naturalised US citizen, Banga was nominated to the position by US President Joe Biden after a successful business career which included a long stretch running the payments company Mastercard.

Banga, 63, has taken over from David Malpass as the bank’s 14th president on a pledge to expand the role of the private sector in addressing the world’s development needs.

“The World Bank’s challenge is clear: It must pursue both climate adaptation and mitigation, it must reach out to lower income countries without turning its back on middle income countries, it must think globally but recognise national and regional needs, it must embrace risk but do so prudently,” he said in his e-mail.

“Change is appropriate for the World Bank. It isn’t a symptom of failure or drift or irrelevance, it is a symptom of opportunity, life, and importance,” he added.