JEFFREY BROWN:Finally tonight: ending extreme poverty around the world by 2030. That's the ambitious goal announced by World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, as his organization and the International Monetary Fund begin their annual spring meetings with delegates from around the globe.
The World Bank has come under strong criticism at various times since its founding in 1944, including, as it happens, by Kim himself. An American born in South Korea, Kim is a doctor, a leading global health advocate and winner of a so-called MacArthur genius grant. In the late 1980s, he demonstrated against World Bank policies, even calling for its end.
Last year, picked by President Obama, he became the bank's chief, after serving as president of Dartmouth College since 2009.
I talked with Dr. Kim at World Bank headquarters in Washington this morning and began by asking what's new in his goal of attacking poverty.
JIM YONG KIM, World Bank Group: We feel the fact that there's still 1.2 billion people living in absolute poverty, which is less than $1.25 a day, is a stain on our collective conscience.
JEFFREY BROWN:A stain?
JIM YONG KIM:A stain.
And, you know, over the past 25 years, we have made a lot of progress. We have gone from 43 percent of the people living in absolute poverty to 21 percent today. But most of that was because China grew so rapidly. They lifted 600 million people out of poverty. It's never been done before in human history.
But now the tough work remains. What we're seeing is a one-percent-a-year drop in global poverty, but what's going to happen is that that curve is going to flatten out, and flatten out pretty dramatically. And what we're saying is, we now need to bend that arc downwards and really end poverty. And it's going to take a lot of effort to reach this target.
JEFFREY BROWN:What kind of effort? I mean, give me a concrete example in a specific place even of what you would now do differently.
JIM YONG KIM:So what would you do in India differently if you're committed to ending poverty?
Well, India, I visited a state called Uttar Pradesh. And this is a state in India that has over 200 million people.
JEFFREY BROWN:Huge population.
JIM YONG KIM:Eight percent of the people living in absolute poverty in the world live in Uttar Pradesh.
And so in our plan for India, we're going to focus much more of our effort in those poorest states where the poor people live.
JEFFREY BROWN:Is there an implied or even explicit critique of practices of the World Bank and other institutions of the past? I mean, you yourself were once one of those who demonstrated against or protested against the World Bank.
JIM YONG KIM:Absolutely.
JIM YONG KIM:Absolutely.
JEFFREY BROWN:Now here you are heading it.
JIM YONG KIM:Here I am heading it.
Well, and I think it's an indication of how much things have changed.
Back then, I was part of a mutual called 50 Years Is Enough, where we thought, on the 50th anniversary, you should just shut down the World Bank.
JEFFREY BROWN:Who needs it anymore?
JIM YONG KIM:But things have changed.
Fifteen years ago, we were not at the forefront of tackling climate change. We were not at the forefront of insisting on gender equality in development programs. We are through there now. It's a different organization. And we are united around this goal of ending poverty.
JEFFREY BROWN:Could you have ever imagined yourself 15 years ago heading this organization?
JIM YONG KIM:Certainly not 15 years ago.
JEFFREY BROWN:One of the critiques I have seen from some in the development country after you announced this plan is that you're still focusing on growth as a way to bring everybody up, and not enough on the inequalities that exist within many societies, including many of the more developed societies.
JIM YONG KIM:Well, the second part of the target, which is boosting shared prosperity, this is actually completely new for the World Bank Group.
What we're saying is every year we are going to let countries know the extent to which the bottom 40 percent of income earners are participating in economic growth. In other words, we are going to measure inequality. We are going to measure the extent to which growth is inclusive. That's new and that's very powerful.
JEFFREY BROWN:You're going to tell how much they're behind—the bottom is behind the top?
JIM YONG KIM:How much ...