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The poor suffer

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When times are tough, the poor get hit the hardest.

That could happen to the poorest people in developing countries during this tough economic period, said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim last Thursday in Tokyo, where the bank’s shareholders met.

“Our major concern is making sure all the gains that we’ve seen from the growth over the last five to 10 years are not wiped out by the crisis,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “We need to protect the developing countries from the impact of a recession.”

Mr. Kim, a physician and anthropologist, is the first World Bank president who has not been involved in finance or politics. The Journal referred to him as a “poverty-fighting evangelist.”

Having worked on development projects in Siberian prisons, at Peruvian settlements and in Haiti, Mr. Kim seeks to focus attention on developing countries as the world economy worsens, the Journal reported. Encouraging private-sector investment to stimulate economic development in troubled times can have an impact for decades, he said.

“This is not about charity. This is a commitment to the global economy of the future,” he noted.

The World Bank has extended loans and guidance to developing nations. Former clients Brazil and China have emerged as economic success stories that now need the bank’s advice more than its money.

Mr. Kim, who became the bank’s president in July, is advancing the idea that his institution should be a “solutions bank” that collects the world’s insight on development and shares what it knows with needy countries.

Some 22 percent of the world’s 7 billion people live in poverty, defined as people making $1.25 a day or less. Mr. Kim has asked top officials to set goals to eradicate poverty, which is dropping by one percentage point per year — not fast enough, he said.

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