World Bank Executive Dr. Sundaran Annamalai delivered a lecture, “Investments of the World Bank in Agriculture and Rural Development in Southeast Asia,” Tuesday night in the Alice Peters Auditorium.
According to Annamalai, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty and 870 million are undernourished. One of the major challenges facing the world today is that 75 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, he said.
The World Bank was established in 1944, is headquartered in Washington D.C. and has more than 10,000 employees in more than 120 offices worldwide. It is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world and works to reduce poverty and support development through low-interest loans, interest-free credits and grants to developing countries.
The funds support a wide array of investments in areas such as education, health, public administration, infrastructure, financial and private sector development, agriculture and environmental and natural resource management.
Annamalai, of Malaysia, represents 11 member countries (out of 188 member countries) that include Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga and Vietnam.
Annamalai said the World Bank has set two goals for the world to reach by 2030. The first goal is to end extreme poverty by decreasing the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day to no more than 3 percent globally. The second goal is to promote shared prosperity by fostering income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population in every country.
Annamalai presented students and faculty with work the World Bank did with Nepal and Lao in 2008. Much of the work focused on agriculture, irrigation and infrastructure development in telecommunication, highway, power, water supply and sanitation.
The discussion went on to explain the factors that are considered by World Bank when selecting a country to help.
The process begins with systemic diagnostics of a selected country to see where the country is at the time of assessment and where the country is headed. Then a selective three-step approach is used. World Bank compares the advantages of helping the country, the country’s priorities and the alignment of the country’s goals in relation to the goals of World Bank.
Annamalai said much of the funding goes toward investments in agriculture and trying to end poverty and hunger. Latin America and the Caribbean receive the most funding.
From 1998 to 2008, World Bank focused on agricultural growth and productivity, Annamalai said. During this time, the company provided $23.7 billion in financing for agriculture and agribusiness in 108 countries (roughly 8 percent of total World Bank financing), spanning areas from irrigation and marketing to research and extension
He said that 76 percent, or $18.1 billion, of this support came from the World Bank and 24 percent, or $5.6 billion, from International Financial Corporation.
After the lecture, Annamalai did a quick Q&A.
“I really love to see students,” Annamalai said. “I’m very happy to share with the students the kind of work they do. [World Bank] has incredibly good people — highly motivated. I thought I could share the Bank as an option to do something good in the world.”
Anil Shrestha, a Fresno State plant science professor and friend of Annamalai, invited Annamalai to speak before students and faculty.
“I invited him to speak in my graduate seminar class on international agriculture,” Shrestha said. “I thought it was important for my students to learn about the role of donor-lending agencies in international agriculture development.
“Agriculture is a global issue, and it is important for our students to learn about agriculture on a global scale.”
Shrestha was glad his students had the opportunity to hear from one of the executive directors of World Bank.
“It is not very often our students get an opportunity to hear about such issues from people who hold high offices in agencies such as the World Bank,” Shrestha said.