Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Report Calls on New World Bank President to Change Course on Infrastructure

[Apologies for cross-posting]

Report Calls on New World Bank President to Change Course on Infrastructure
International Rivers, May 16, 2012

Infrastructure lending has once again become the World Bank's core
business. A new report by International Rivers reviews the Bank's track
record in the sector, and calls on the new Bank President to replace the
top-down approach to infrastructure with a strategy that prioritizes the
needs of the poor.

In November 2011, the World Bank and the Group of 20 prepared new
strategies for infrastructure development. They proposed concentrating
public finance on large projects with private participation that can
transform whole regions. The Bank and the G20 identified the giant Inga
hydropower scheme on the Congo River as an example of the proposed approach.

A report published by International Rivers today reviews the track
record of the infrastructure strategy that was proposed by the World
Bank and the G20. Entitled, Infrastructure for Whom?, the report finds
that the focus on large, centralized projects has benefited
energy-intensive industries, but bypassed more than a billion poor
people in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Donors spent billions of
aid dollars for dams and transmission projects at the Inga site on the
Congo River, but 94% of the population in the DRC still has no access to
electricity. The benefits of centralized mega-projects have not trickled
down to the poor.

A better approach is available. The new report finds that most rural
poor live closer to local sources of renewable energy and water than to
an electric grid and centralized irrigation systems. It argues that
decentralized projects that address the needs of poor people directly
are more effective at promoting broad-based economic growth and reducing
poverty than centralized mega-projects. Small- scale energy and water
projects can also strengthen climate resilience, reduce the social and
environmental footprint of the infrastructure sector, and strengthen
democratic control over essential public services.

Peter Bosshard, policy director at International Rivers and author of
the new report, comments: "Infrastructure includes local access roads
and bridges to nowhere, water supply for the poor and irrigation canals
for biofuels. The World Bank needs to start prioritizing projects that
directly address the needs of the poor. Decentralized approaches have a
better track record of reducing poverty than the top-down projects of
the past."

Jim Yong Kim will take office as the World Bank's new President in July.
Dr. Kim has done pioneering work in the public health sector by working
directly with poor communities. International Rivers has shared a copy
of the new report with the new Bank President, and urged him to
prioritize the needs of poor communities in his infrastructure agenda.
Copies of the report were also sent to the World Bank's management and
member governments.

The new report, Infrastructure for Whom?, is available at Hard copies can be
requested from Kate Ross at

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