It is possible to achieve sustained poverty reduction

World Bank Global Director Poverty and Equity Global Practice Dr. Luis Felipe

The World Bank Global Director, Poverty & Equity Global Practice, Dr. Luis Felipe expressed his belief on the possibility of poverty reduction globally given the implementation  of the interventions that the World Bank  2022 fiscal report  analysed and reported. He called for unity and a paradigm shift  on how governments acknowledge and  distribute resources.

Dr. Luis Felipe revealed this when he addressed students and other think tanks among the audience in a public lecture at the University of Nairobi, on ‘Poverty and Shared Prosperity: Correcting Course 2022.’ On Friday, Feb 16, 2023.  Those in attendance included representatives from the World Bank, UoN staff and students, Kenyatta University, Technical University of Kenya, the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research & Analysis (KIPPRA) and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA)

The World Bank Global Director elaborated the  World Bank's 2022 fiscal report, influenced by the world-wide economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations’ Framework for the Immediate Socio-Economic Response to the COVID-19 Crisis warns that it was and is more than a health crisis as it has affected societies and economies at their core. Although the pandemic’s impact varies from country to country, it is common knowledge that undeveloped and developing countries were the worst hit, with increased poverty rates and inequalities witnessed among them. Similarly, the focus of this lecture was on the link between the rising poverty rates and inequalities, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya being one of the affected countries.

According to the report, the 2022 poverty line is at 6.85 US Dollars affecting 47% of the world population. This means that almost half of the world population is living under 2.15 US Dollars, roughly 270 Kenya Shillings per day. With these figures in mind, would it not be safe to say that almost half the world is poor? This is in comparison to the 2019 poverty line which was at 1.90 US Dollars, roughly Ksh 240 which clearly shows the increased high costs of living as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenya, like many other developing countries, has a record of historically disadvantaged regions and communities, for example the people and children living in Mandera, Kwale and Lamu, that are most likely to experience inequalities during this immense economic decline despite the Kenyan government’s efforts to eradicate poverty. This indirectly increases inequality rates in the country as there is no evidence to show the work being done.

In consideration of such situations, The World Bank’s goal of achieving its 3% poverty rate goal by 2030, as quoted by Dr. Luis Felipe, is geared towards executing evidence-based fiscal approaches, which include investing in child health and education. Despite progress, gaps in access to quality education and health care services between different income groups in the population remain in many countries.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is a sister organisation to the World Bank, providing tertiary education to more children actually increases their success rates economically and that closing that inequality gap in basic health care could raise life expectancy by an average of 1.3 years in developing countries. This approach is quite relatable with the University of Nairobi, being a learning institution.

Through understanding the capacity of the poor to contribute to the economy, governments are able to involve them in the poverty eradication agenda and in achieving equality. This is by empowering them with means of livelihood and other complimentary means such as health and education as mentioned above.

Despite the audience’s scepticism on the effectiveness of the recommendations as per the World Bank’s report, Dr. Luis Felipe maintained his optimism on a brighter future, quoting success stories of the policies’ implementations in countries such as South Africa.  We hope to somehow witness a Kenya that is poverty and inequality free for the wellbeing of our citizens.

Watch the Public Lecture here