World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick
March 30, 2012
New Delhi, India
MR. ZOELLICK: Well I’d like to begin by thanking the Government and people of India for their very warm welcome and hospitality for my colleagues and me during this visit.
I especially want to thank Finance Minister Mukherjee, and ministers Ramesh and Chidambaram for our discussions over the past couple of days.
My prime reason for coming to India this time is to thank my colleagues and the government for their strong co-operation and support during my tenure as President of the World Bank since I’ll be stepping down at the end of June.
India and the World Bank Group have been exceptionally good partners during a time of financial turmoil and economic uncertainty.
But I also wanted to hear about India’s priorities going forward – the challenges and opportunities lying ahead – so as to ensure the momentum of the Bank’s successful engagement with India continues.
I’ve had meetings with the government as well as with private sector representatives, economists, civil society, and academics on topics as diverse as the economic outlook to strengthening India’s national markets, and India’s role in the region.
And I also met this morning with a group of business executives who are interested in our Global Tiger Initiative with the assistance of the Confederation of Indian Industry and the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
A clear message that I’ve heard over the past few days is that India would very much want the World Bank Group to remain decisively engaged in the country – at the Union level, at the state level and also with the cities.
During my time as Bank President, I’ve sought to put countries’ first. They’re our clients and I also firmly believe while it’s important for the Bank as a development institution to focus on the world’s poorest countries, that we’d leave a huge hole in development and a modernized multilateralism if we were not to support middle income countries.
Some two thirds of the people living under $2 a day are in so-called middle income countries. And an effective international system requires the World Bank Group to stay deeply engaged with countries such as India, because our value is not just money, but access to knowledge and our international reach and our ability to use those to leverage private financing.
Fast growing and influential countries such as India will in turn contribute to a stronger, better informed and more effective World Bank Group because India is a global player.
The World Bank Group will seek to offer India additional financing support as it embarks on its 12th Five Year Plan.
India is the largest client for the arm of the Bank which lends to middle income countries – that’s the IBRD. We’ve already moved to leverage additional support for India through the IBRD and we’re looking at making the case to support countries such as India in the transition of funding from IDA, the International Development Association, which is our fund for the poorest.
Today if you take the IBRD and IDA lending together, the World Bank has about $38.5 billion of credits to India. IFC, our private sector arm, has an additional $3.5 billion of investments – so in total that’s $42 billion.
We are also looking at leveraging additional funding through the private sector to help India meet its development needs, especially in the area of infrastructure. And public private partnerships can help India meet some of its huge needs.
As I mentioned, IFC our private sector arm has been very active. We forecast it’ll invest about $1 billion this year in India and our IFC team has built up their advisory services, particularly with India’s low income states where we’re trying to help design effective public private partnerships.
So the World Bank Group stands ready to support India as it strives for sustained growth, that’s inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
On Wednesday, I had an opportunity to visit Odisha and saw how the Bank is supporting India’s efforts to protect its environment and provide sustainable livelihoods for people through and integrated coastal management project. And IFC also provides advisory services in Odisha for public private partnerships.
I’m also pleased the Bank has been able, in past years, to partner with India in some of the transformational programs that have been launched – for example, from roads to freight corridors to cleaning up the Ganga River- which I saw on my last visit - and importantly to improve the lives of millions of rural women through the National Rural Livelihoods program.
On this visit, when I was in Odisha, I had an opportunity to meet more women who’ve benefitted from the rural livelihoods program. And that stop reminded me that just as important as the money that was received was the opportunities that they felt were now possible. One of the women told me that the greatest benefit of this program was opening her eyes to the world. Economic empowerment offers dignity and respect and those gains reach far beyond numbers. Later today, I’ll also meet with some women from SEWA – the Self Employed Women’s Association - where we – through the Bank and IFC have built a very strong partnership trying to finance some of their efforts.
So I close where I began – with thanks to India. The World Bank - through its financing and technology – can help India meet the challenges ahead and open up new opportunities for tens of millions of people. That is a fantastic opportunity.
But if you’ll permit me, I’ll also want to end with a note close to my colleague Roberto Zagha who’ll be leaving India later this year as our Country Director. He has done a fantastic job and his colleague Tom Davenport from IFC is also – with the strength of our Bank and IFC staff – has left a lot to be proud of here. They’ve really done a superb job. And yesterday I had a chance when in Chennai to thank Sunil Kumar and the some 400 support staff that we have brought together in Chennai because they keep us at the top of our game worldwide, whether it be with financial information technology or support operations. So thank you. I’m please to take your questions.