WASHINGTON D.C, July 1, 2011 - Economic opportunities, quality job prospects and a cushion from the worst impacts of food price increases and the global recession were provided to millions of Latin American families in 2011 as a result of strong World Bank support for the region, the institution said in its end-of-year lending report.
Altogether, the World Bank Group committed US$14.7 billion in 2011 to support the region's sustainable economic recovery with most of those resources finding their way to social, public administration and clean transportation programs, among the areas receiving most funding. Mexico (US$2.7 billion) and Brazil (US$2.5 billion) were the largest borrowers in the region.
Bank initiatives spurred opportunities for all through programs that increase productivity, create new good-quality jobs, and assist those most in need, particularly through conditional cash transfers, which were pioneered in the region.
Social services that provide health, education and nutrition services to the poor became the backbone of the Bank's support to Latin American and the Caribbean in 2011 with more than US$3 billion devoted to programs and advice. Recently hailed as critical to reduce poverty by the Independent Evaluation Group, social safety nets covered 120 million people in 18 countries in LAC, becoming the most far-reaching and effective set of social programs, said Bank expert Helena Ribe.
"These programs have had the ability to prevent people from falling into extreme poverty following the recent economic crisis and the impacts of food price increases around the globe," said Ribe who heads the Bank's social protection division for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ribe also noted that conditional cash transfer programs are showing positive results in reducing malnutrition and child labor and improving school attendance "by at least two years" in markets like Mexico -where 'Oportunidades' covers 5 million families or 20 percent of the country's population. Other large CCT programs such as Colombia's 'Familias en Acción' and Brazil's 'Bolsa Familia' have brought tangible benefits for over 15 million families. She noted, however, that there is still a lot to be done to improve on the social arena, such as pension reform, unemployment insurance, and skills training.
Public administration and transportation also received top funding with US$1.9 billion and US$1.1 billion respectively. Transparency in public administration is key to the region's development agenda and without support for it economic growth and the wellbeing of citizens could be jeopardized said World Bank vice president of operations for Latin America and the Caribbean Joachim von Amsberg.
"The whole question of better governance, effective and accountable institutions have become central to development thinking and central to the agenda promoted by agencies such as the World Bank", said von Amsberg who is in Buenos Aires attending a conference on accountability.
Support to the private sector has also remained strong in 2011. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank's private sector lending arm, committed a record US$5.1 billion to projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Worldwide the World Bank Group support to developing countries came in at US$57.4 billion in 2011, still above pre-crisis levels, with total commitments of $189 billion since the financial crisis took hold in 2008.
Latin America and the Caribbean experienced one of the strongest periods of growth in a century between 2002 and 2010, due to strong macro-economic policies and boom in commodity prices. As a result, more than 50 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2002 and 2010, and for the first time inroads were made against persistent inequality. Solid growth of 4–5 percent is projected for 2011.