Oxfam reaction to World Bank President Kim's Speech on "Boosting Shared Prosperity"

Published: 1st October 2014

In response to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s speech today at Howard University, Oxfam spokesperson Nicolas Mombrial said:           

On inequality 

"In a world where eighty-five people alone possess as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people, Jim Kim is correct to put reducing inequality as the goal for his institution. We won't be able to end poverty if we do not reduce inequality.

"Jim Kim is trying to move the Bank away from an over-emphasis on growth toward focusing more on the poorest people and their access to essential services like health, education, and water. This is the kind of leadership we expect from him. 

"While we welcome the World Bank's focus on the poorest forty percent, tackling extreme income inequality means addressing issues related to both the have-nots but also the haves - including the top 10 percent. The disparity between the two groups is a large part of the problem that cannot be overlooked. The World Bank will miss a big part of the problem if it ignores that.

"It is not an issue of envy. The well-being and opportunities of the poorest are directly affected by how much wealth is concentrated in the top end of the distribution. Inequality distorts the political process that redistributes power and opportunities. It allows the privileged to hoard opportunities, while limiting chances for those at the bottom." 

On Ebola 

“Jim Kim rightly presents Ebola as a problem of inequality. If Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea had health systems like those in rich countries, the epidemic would have been contained. Beyond it promising emergency solutions, the World Bank must also play a role in addressing the structural realities that make it more difficult for those living in developing countries to access basic health care.

"Without universal public health systems in place, the private sector will only develop solutions that make profits, leaving those in developing countries more vulnerable to the spread of viruses like this one. We must urgently contain Ebola now, but if we want to prevent epidemics in the future, we must face structural inequalities as well. 

"It is crucial that donors learn the lesson and make long-term financial commitments to support these countries to build free public health services that can cope with disasters such as Ebola."

Contact information

Patricia Brooks, with Oxfam International in Washington, DC:  + 202-351-1757,  patricia@matchmapmedia.com