Our very existence is in question warns World Bank chief

The president of the World Bank has said humanity faces a set of challenges the like it has never faced before with its very existence on the line.

Ajay Banga was speaking as the bank ended its 2023 Annual Meeting in Morocco, and warned the world needed to unite if it was to face the risks that threaten its future.

“Those of us in this room are fortunate. We are custodians of an institution with a tremendous responsibility at a time of uncertainty and great consequence,” he said. “The world is fraught with profound forces and rapid changes.

“We face declining progress in our fight against poverty, an existential climate crisis, food insecurity, fragility, a fledgling pandemic recovery, and are feeling the effects of conflicts beyond the front.

“A perfect storm of intertwined challenges and geopolitical complexity that taken together exacerbate inequality. Economic growth in much of the developing world is retreating.  Falling from 6 percent to 5 percent in two decades, and on track for just 4 percent over the next 7 years.

“With each lost percent, 100 million people are pulled into poverty and another 50 million people are pushed into extreme poverty.

“Dig deeper and you’ll find people struggling to provide for themselves and their families as incomes have stagnated. In Sub-Saharan Africa per capita income is the same as it was 14 years ago.”

Banga continued: “We are living in a world with alarming challenges but at a time of intensifying polarization and extremes. Beneath the surface, a growing mistrust is pulling the Global North and South apart, complicating the prospect of progress.

“The Global South’s frustration is understandable. In many ways they are paying the price for the prosperity of others.

“When they should be ascendant, they’re concerned promised resources will never manifest, they feel energy rules aren’t applied universally, and they’re worried a burgeoning generation will be locked into a prison of poverty.

“But the truth is: We cannot endure another period of emission heavy growth.

“We must find a way to finance a different world where our climate is protected, pandemics are manageable – if not preventable – food is abundant, and fragility and poverty are defeated. Our task is great.”

He warned the world could not underestimate the challenges it faced.

“Every generation believes that the set of challenges laid before them are the most difficult, consequential, and intractable.

“But never has humanity stared down a set of problems so complex and severe – that our very existence is in question.

“However, as the leader of an institution founded on the principals of peace and cooperation, I wanted the first time I spoke with you to be with a message of impact and optimism.

“There is nothing that gives me more hope than our capacity to work together in common purpose. But too often we look to the ground and fail to lift our gaze.

“But if one thing is clear today, it should be that the eyes of the World Bank are fixed on the horizon.

“We have inherited decades of knowledge and benefitted from the generosity of every nation, now we are being called upon to lead, and we have never been better positioned to deliver the progress that is demanded.

“Our financing is an attractive resource but not more than the World Bank’s devotion, creativity, people, and innovation.

“Those are the attributes that will carry us forward on this journey.”