Washington, D.C., April 17, 2005
MR. WOLFENSOHN: Well, first of all, let me welcome you to this breakfast and thank you all very much for coming. My colleagues and I are really thrilled to be with you and I think you know that we have the French Minister of Cooperation, Xavier Arcos. Hilde Johnson is to my right whom I am sure is well known to you. Carin Jamtin is here from Sweden, as you know, the Minister for International Development. Suma Chakrabarti, who is the Permanent Secretary of UK's DFID. And Rasheda Chowdhury who is from the Global Campaign for Education. The purpose of this morning's breakfast is to allow particularly my colleagues to have a chance to interface with you on this Fast Track Initiative which is something we started some time ago with a little bit of turbulence, but which has, I think, managed to focus some attention on a very simple proposition. The proposition was that if we're ever going to do anything about development, and if there is ever a time to bring together the Millennium Development Goals and the sources of funding, we thought here that the place to test it was in education because we thought let's remove all the questions, whether they're good or bad. Everybody will agree that education is at the core of development.
The one non-controversial subject we thought was that primary education and bringing girls and boys into school was something that was irresistible to everybody on the basis, first, of what's right, what brings about growth, what it is that will lead to better opportunities for young people, for jobs, for health, fighting AIDS, for population control, for just about anything that you can think of, education by every test and every study has been determined to be at the core of development paradigm.
So we figured if we could deal with at least one part of our promises on the Millennium Development Goals, the one to start with was education. And there was a certain amount of turbulence which Hilde will remember at the beginning in terms of how many countries and how we should do it. You were too young at that stage.
But I'm sure that Sweden, by the way, is very, very supportive. We started with a number of countries, and now we're at 13 that are part of the Fast Track Initiative. We added Ethiopia. Before that it was 12 and we have another 25 countries which are virtually ready and waiting to come in, and when I say to come in, the idea is let's only deal with those countries which have an integrated program of development along the lines but not necessarily as a poverty reduction strategy but some integrated approach to development and where the education program itself is not just approved by us, but which is locally approved. The important yardstick is that the people locally believe this to be an effective education program.
So we're getting away from those programs which are fly by night to those that are central and those that are integrated. The problem then came that we found it difficult to raise money because this is where the tire hit the road. Here's a great set of things to do. Now, let's get the cash and let's make sure that it gets there to fill the gap in the education needs.
And that in filling the gaps it's not just the single check but that the countries themselves can anticipate there is some continuity because you can't get kids into school and then next year throw them out. The important thing about education is that you have continuity and so we were thinking, for at least primary school education, you need an eight year continuity but we're also conscious of the fact that when you throw the doors open for primary education, very happily it creates a need for secondary education and it also creates a need for tertiary education or teaching college education to train the teachers. So just letting the kids into school is a fantastic image, but if you want to have quality and if you want to have continuity, it has to be more than just for five minutes you have to do it.
The results have been that with the support of the people at this table plus our friends in the Netherlands and Canada, we have got to a situation where we've essentially got $350 million focused specifically on these first 12, 13 countries. We need another 250 in terms of continuity and then to get the next 25, we need another 2 billion. And these are not phantom figures. So here we are today really to present to you the fact that we have a program going, that it is launched, that it is the cutting edge of where funding is supposed to meet a need, and where we as a group I think want to focus you all on the fact that there is an active program going and we've had results. We're up to 95 percent of primary school kids in Africa in school, a huge jump, 12 percent in the last four years. But we still have 40 million kids, I think, out of school in Africa, and 35 million in Asia, up to a total of something over 100 million kids not in school. And we as a group, the people you see before you, are the people that are trying to tell you that we need help from the press; we need help from everybody to try and make sure that the pressure continues.
And I think that is the introduction that I was asked to give. If it isn't, I've given it anyway. So perhaps I can call on some of my colleagues and I don't know the order, but Carin, since you're sitting next to me, would you like to say a few words?
MS. JAMTIN: Yes. Thank you. I would like to actually start off to thank you, Jim, for your personal involvement in this, but especially maybe the FTI Secretariat for their excellent work. Sweden is currently co-chairing the FTI Initiative together with DFID from Britain, and in the fall of last year, we co-chaired together with the United States.
It's been a very inspiring year with, as was pointed out here, education is key to so many things and getting children to go to school is a basic precondition for development around the world. What we have been trying to put focus on in this year is to get girls to school, as there is a vast gap or at least a gap between the percentage of boys going to school as compared to the percentage of girls.
And this means working with all kinds of different tools, school fees, incentives of different kinds, and using different methods in different countries, but pointing to that it's obviously unfortunately more difficult to get the families to send their girls to schools. What has been also encouraging is that the model as such can be used in other areas, in other sectors, in other parts of development. It could be in health or other social sectors, but also others, to mobilize resources to achieve development. When we discussed harmonization, one can see that there is a clear gap between vertical initiatives which this can be called and the budget support or another kind of approach, but what FTI has clearly provided us with is a map.
This is the needs; this is what you have to live up to from the developed world in financing, which is very good working method. And that is maybe one of the main leanings to other sectors. It's very important job and we will continue to take part of this in an even more intense way.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: Thank you very much. The other co chair is Suma Chakrabarti from DFID.
MR. CHAKRABARTI: Thanks, Jim. Thanks, Carin. First of all, I think what I'd like to stress is leadership is really important in this area and Jim is having to suffer perhaps a lot of people saying thanks to him over this weekend, but I think without his leadership frankly on this FTI, I don't think we would have got as far as we have. Good leaders can make a difference and thank you, Jim, for this on this initiative in particular. From the British point of view, I won't stress all the statistics again, but we remain fully committed to meeting the education and gender MDGs and we have the FTI as absolutely pivotal to achievement of those MDGs, so we plan to use our role as co chair with Sweden in 2005 to strengthen the FTI partnership and scale up the impact.
This is very central to Britain's view of development policy, and the Commission for Africa also happily stressed this as well. In January, Gordon Brown and Hillary Benn launched a new strategy on education, and that set up plans to spend 1.4 billion pounds on education over the next three years. That's a huge increase, and we'll focus it on Africa and in those countries that have the largest numbers of out-of-school kids that Jim mentioned. It's very important to have this long-term commitment. Education isn't one of those things you should really turn off and on.
And so we're making a long-term commitment for that reason. Perhaps more surprisingly, we're also committed to expansion of the FTI to up to 40 countries by 2006-7. A lot of additional monies are going to be required for that. Some estimates put it at over $2 billion a year. Everyone around this table and this side of the table shares that goal of increasing support in funding for basic education, and we'll use our G8 presidency to push for that very hard. Of course, the IFF will be good way in our view to raise the extra resources needed.
Finally, I think I would just like to stress the importance of the FTI in improving aid effectiveness. It's not just all about raising extra sums of money. That's very important. It's also about spending about it better. And frankly, I think, the FTI has some lessons for other global initiatives and getting behind country-based strategies and making those long-term commitments that we talked about: how to get more kids to school for each dollar spent.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: We have with us the French Minister of Development who was also Ministry of Education, so we're very happy indeed to have you, Mr. Darcos.
MR. DARCOS: Thank you, Jim. First, I would like to thank you, Mr. Wolfensohn and also Mr. Sarbib who is just behind you, and the teams for their commitment in support of basic education. The Bank played a key role in the launch of the Fast Track Initiative which is essential for reaching the universal primary education MDG. France fully supports this initiative which relies on the mutual commitment, additional resources for education policy reforms. Thus, the Fast Track Initiative is powerful tool to accelerate reforms but also to reinforce ODA harmonization.
In the past four years, France has deeply reformed its own education cooperation policy putting basic education on the center of our policy but also developing sector budget support for assistance with budgets 2.3 million euros in Nicaragua, 7 million in Mauritania, 10 million in Niger, and 25 million in Burkina Faso.
We also changed our technical assistance. Now more and more involved in multi-donor clusters. I listened to you, Jim, when you called for resources more predictable and more sustainable to finance the current costs on long-term basis. It's a challenge that France wants to address with the proposal of an international contribution, for example, based on airplane tickets.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Minister. And now Hilde Johnson.
MS. JOHNSON: Thanks very much. I'll be brief since I'm the last in line to say I think what is key is that the FTI combines doing much more, meaning scaling up but doing it right, meaning doing it in a coordinated fashion. And I think we should look to Jim to thank him also for that extremely brilliant idea in actually combining the two because we cannot scale up properly if we don't do it right, and the FTI does it right, and we've seen several examples, and I think the French Minister just mentioned how that has also implied change in several donors own programs and how they work in the field.
Second point is this is a test case. It's a test case of countries that they are able and willing to make coherent education programs. It is a test case of donors that we are willing to work together rather than work individually and it is a test case of funding, and I would in particular like to appeal to the G8 or G7 in this case, because this started as a result of a G8 initiative on education, but the money never came to the table. I think this was what Jim politely alluded to. We are now still faced with the situation where a bunch of usual suspects are funding most of this.
And in the long run, it won't deliver. So I would use this opportunity to appeal to the G7 to put it again on the agenda and to actually deliver the funds necessary to pass the test of giving those kids 100 million out of school the possibility to go to school, and just finally, it is possible--this is my final message--it is possible, and let me just give you one example--there are numerous, but let me give you one. Tanzania has now a figure of 91 percent attendance to school--no, 95--sorry, 95 percent attendance. It has been increased from 58 just four years back and it's possible for a poor country like that with the right policies and the donors doing it right, combining those resources and delivering Education for All.
They will achieve the gender parity goal of 2005 and they are on track in achieving the Education for All goal for 2015. So this poor country is achieving the first goal with gender parity and will achieve if we're not doing a lot of stupid things in 2015 Education for All. Actually they are presuming that they will deliver it much earlier.
I think it is possible, and on that account, it is actually up to us to deliver, to make that happen in much more countries. Thank you.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: Can we have now Rasheda who is at the center of all this and we're very grateful that you're here, Rasheda?
MS. CHOWDHURY: Thank you so much, Mr. President, and everybody that's present around the table, particularly our countries that are involved in FTI funding, as well as the civil society representative. I don't know whether I can really make this point, but after flying 22 hours, I don't know whether I could really make that point. But it's important and thanks to all your team who have been working with the FTI Secretariat, who are trying to make a difference. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Global Campaign for Education that is working in more than 100 countries with teachers' organizations and civil society organizations, but it is important for us not to shift the goalposts anymore. In 1990, we promised to all the children that we'll be achieving universal primary education in the year 2000.
In the year 2000, we said, fine, thank you, we have not done our job. We are shifting the goalposts to 2015. Goodness. We have to think again that we don't want to shift the goalposts again to something like 2050, and we may not be there, but our next generation will be blaming us, Mr. President, that we have to think about.
Well, the good news, I know that there are commitments still there, and many more money will be coming in. There is a positive attitude amongst donors, leadership from World Bank and, Mr. Wolfensohn, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank you very much for providing that kind of leadership, and the FTI is expanding, we know, and the civil society is moving. This is all good news. But not so good news. There is still a financing gap of 5.5 billion a year. I, as a development worker, I don't want to believe it, how much we are spending for military, and this is a just a few days of military spending that could bring each and every child to school all over the world, and we are failing. Goodness. This is a shame on us.
The other not so good news is gender parity. Some 70 plus countries will be missing the gender parity goal and what are we doing? And we are not bringing in money, and the other thing that is so important is talking about this universal primary completion which Hilde has so pointedly pointed out, that we have to have each and every child not only in school but it's not access issue, it's completion.
And if there is after the end of day staying in five years, and then the children, they don't learn anything, what are we talking about quality? That's why I suppose even the financing gap exists in terms of quality. Spending for quality of education. How much the third world governments are spending? They are spending something like 90 percent of their annual budget for paying for teachers, not for software, not for quality of education, and that's where I support all the donors.
Most of the developed countries, they can't expect developing countries to deliver quality education with spending. I could talk about South Asia. From $US30 to $US50 per year per child while the developed countries are spending something like $US3000 per year. So ladies and gentlemen, quality costs money and where is this money coming from? We have to have these kind of things in place, this kind of attitude, this kind of values, and we know, as Hilde has been talking about, it is possible to make a difference.
In Bangladesh, despite being--I could talk about my country. Despite being so-called poor, illiterate population, we have achieved gender parity in Bangladesh. So because what Carin has been talking about, favorable policies, and with all these frameworks in place like FTI, we could really make a difference. Mr. President, we can wait. The donors can wait. But the children can't wait, children of the world.
We have already lost three generations and we don't want to lose anymore. And there is this school report that Global Campaign has produced. You can see how the G7 has been failing to fulfill their commitments.
Thank you very much. We want your pledges and the money on the table as Mr. Wolfensohn has said. Thank you so much.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: Well, thank you so much, Rasheda, and maybe now we could have some discussion and questions to the panel. We're delighted. Madam.
QUESTION: Thanks. Celia [?] New York Times. I want to ask a question of Hilde Johnson and Mr. Wolfensohn and anybody else who wanted to comment. You mentioned that the usual suspects are funding this. Who are the laggards and where does the United States fit into this picture in terms of funding? I want to hear it from you, not just from Oxfam.
MS. JOHNSON: Three points. One is as one of the three usual suspects, I think I just owe you to at least give some figures from our side, which is that we have doubled our support to basic education from $US110 million to 220 in 2005. And we in 2005 will double our support to the Fast Track Initiative from 150 million Norwegian kroners to 300. So that's our own figures.
Now, as you all hear, compare the Norwegian numbers with what is missing. If I quadrupled what I was doing, the Norwegian money wouldn't match and that is exactly the point that without large economies chipping in significant resources, we won't be able to reach our targets. How many times we would double and quadruple and we also have other priorities that we have to take care of. That's the first point.
Second point I was a bit sorry to see that the Finance Ministers Communique from the G7 yesterday did not have anything on social sectors and the importance of investing in education, so I think we actually need to re-energize and refocus and make sure that this issue is retained as a head on key issue for development. There is a move in the direction of infrastructure that is also needed in many countries for development, but we have to start managing, not doing either/or all the time. Let us have two thoughts in the mind at the same time: both social services and infrastructure.
It seems like we're like a pendulum swinging. It seems that, you know, when we focus one thing, we stop thinking about the other, and then we refocus again, and then we drop the other. We cannot afford that now.
Thirdly, answering the question, I'm not in a position to name and shame countries. But when I've said that there are some usual suspects and there are some that have chipped in and been key supporters of this initiative, indeed, I've also appealed to the G7 and I don't think you need to be an expert in math to do the deduction. Thank you very much.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: We have the chair of the G7 here in Suma Chakrabarti.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: The rest of them are trying to get elected in England. And then perhaps we can ask the French Minister who I understand is also in the G7. So, Suma, why don't we ask you.
MR. CHAKRABARTI: Well, obviously there are two members of the G7 here, and so both France and the UK are strongly committed in this area. And we have, frankly we've got a lot of reports from the past, but we've actually got a recent one which is the Commission of Africa report which stresses this area as an area we clearly need to scale up in and that will be going to all the G8 members to be discussed at Glen Eagles.
So I think you can expect both France and the UK to push quite hard for scaling up in this area and to meet some of the other Commission for Africa targets. So I think we clearly recognize--
QUESTION: It's not zero.
MR. CHAKRABARTI: No, no, we're clearly not a laggard. Otherwise, I just announced huge numbers. Nor is France. But I think the other countries do need to step up to the plate, and we will push them very hard in the G8 context to do that.
MR. DARCOS: I want to add something about this problem. You know education is a typical example of difficulties that aid budgets face. 1.6 euros for educating a kid in primary school. And additional six years for secondary education. Aid budgets cannot make commitments over 20 years because they are voted on an annual basis. This is why the stable resources is our intentions. Our proposal of an international lever addresses that. For instance, as James Wolfensohn often said, $2 contribution on each plane ticket will be enough for universal primary education in all poor countries in the world. That we have to do.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: We have an American observer here in Gene Sperling. I don't know whether you know the figures by any chance, Gene.
MR. SPERLING: With U.S. funding there has been some progress, but what's been unfortunate is that there has been very little contribution, virtually nil contribution to the Fast Track Initiative and one of the things--actually I say I am Director for the Center for Universal Education at the Council on Foreign Relations, and I am the head of the United States chapter on the Global Campaign for Education.
One of the things the report does is it tries to ask if you were meeting this goal, which has been defined from anywhere from $5.6 billion to truthfully, seven, eight, nine billion, if you were trying to get basic education, what is the percentage that a country is doing? The United States was off a very low base so it has come up some in the last couple of years. But as a percentage of what is needed, it ends up being quite small. In fact, in fairness, none of the major G8 countries, G7 countries as a percentage of what is needed are--I think the report card shows that--are anywhere near what we need for universal basic education. So the United States probably had about 175 billion in child labor and basic education a few years ago, and it has gone up to over 300 billion. However, again, I think what the ministers are saying is that when one looks at what Sweden, Netherlands are doing as a percentage of GDP, as a percentage of the contribution, the United States ends up being far, far short. United States would be almost adding another zero being much more in the two, $2.5 billion range if this was fully scaled up, which is not to say it could be fully scaled up tomorrow.
I would say that the UK and the G8 has put the focus on Africa and the Africa Commission and I do think it is worth noting that this is the year where you will see that if you look at the countries coming in, Ethiopia as President Wolfensohn mentioned, just came in. In addition, you have Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. So this is the critical year, the critical year as to whether the Fast Track Initiative will end up working for Africa.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: Oxfam has had quite a lot to do with all this, so Bearnice Romero, will never forgive me if I don't give her a chance.
MS. ROMERO: Yes. I mean I don't have a lot to add. I think the main point that the Global Campaign on Education was trying to make with the report was that there's a lot to be done and that some of the bigger countries, the USA being principal among them, haven't met their fair share, and that if we really want to meet our commitment, commitments that these same governments made by the way and agreed to in years past, we have to really step up to the plate, and we want to send that strong message that it's time to do something if we really want to meet the commitments.
I mean being in development and aid, you're always talking about performance and accountability, and it's usually the donors talking to poor countries about their needs to perform and their need to be accountable. And I think it's time for us to turn that on the donors a bit and say that they also need to be accountable to the commitments that they've made.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: Any more questions. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Thank you. Julie Ziegler with Bloomberg News. What I have trouble understanding is it seems that everyone agrees that education is a good thing. So why is there such difficulty in getting other major donors to scale up? Is it--I must there must be some kind of reason behind it? Is it other priorities, a competition for priorities? Is it the fact that there is parliamentary intransigents like I'm wondering if Gene could also expand on why the U.S. hasn't contributed? What's the rationale behind that?
MR. SPERLING: I think the world was greatly affected by the 2000 Campaign for the Millennium Debt Relief, and then I think the United States was greatly affected by 9/11, and I think that that has created a far more bipartisan support for increased development assistance than you saw in the 1990s where the Congress generally looked at foreign development as a place to cut instead of a place to add so I do think overall development assistance since starting with the debt relief in 2000 and particularly with the president's AIDS Initiative, you've seen great development assistance.
I would say two things. I think that education is probably a bit where AIDS was in 1998. In other words, the world is just starting to realize how large the gap is. It is the silent crisis of the developing world. You never see a child dying because of lack of education. But children die because of lack of education, because their mothers do not have education, because of lack of AIDS prevention. Children die from lack of education all the time, but I think this goes to, when you see the increases, when you're giving 150 million, and you go to 300 million, you see all the G8 countries doing somewhat more.
This is just the way AIDS funding was in the 1990s. People were increasing it. It wasn't until people realized how great the gap was, how great the need was, that people realized that you need an order of magnitude more, and I think in the United States now one of the reasons for this, for the Fast Track Initiative for the estimates is to make people recognize that simply doubling off a very low base is nothing. What matters is what are the G8 countries doing as a percentage of their share?
I do think one of the big issues you are seeing now though is in development assistance, and this is what President Wolfensohn said, is that for awhile people could just fund schools. They could just do textbooks. They could do one shot spending. The greatest cost in expanding education is teachers. It is a recurrent cost and so the question is going to be, as President Wolfensohn said, will there be long-term sustainable funding that encourages these countries to do the major expansions, and what's so important about the Fast Track Initiative is that in 1990, as my colleague said, when they did-Jomtien, Thailand--there was a commitment, but then there was no structure. There was no way to do it. There was no place for people to go. Everybody went home, as happens sometimes with United Nations goals.
What the Fast Track Initiative did is put a structure for a global compact, so that we now have a place that you can come and talk about the financing gaps and go forward, and I think that will lead to great progress.
MR. HAY: Thanks, Gene. I know Hilde Johnson wanted to add something to that, and I think, Jim, if we can make Larry Elliott from the Guardian our last question quickly.
MS. JOHNSON: Just very quickly. To add on what Gene said, I think the U.S. has been involved in the FTI all along. They had a chairmanship after we had it two, one-and-a-half years back. But the scaling up, there is a problem in terms of delivery, sufficient delivery. Now, my view is that there is actually a lot to be learned by the last two years. Because in all fairness, much more aid has been put on the table by the administration than ever before, both from the Millennium Challenge Account as well as with PETFAR. And the fact that Congress even went above what PETFAR asked for in the last appropriations bill, I think shows--there's 15 billion more to be put on the table on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. And I think this shows that it's possible to mobilize also strong U.S. support and the administration can put a lot more money on the table if we actually manage to get the message out, and if we can do the right thing in mobilization of the world community and the U.S. audience. I think there is a merit that can be learned in terms of how that has been done, and I think it can also be done on education, and I think what Gene said, that actually education or lack of education can kill kids, I think is one of the things that needs to be acknowledged so that the urgency is understood.
MR. HAY: Larry has the last question.
QUESTION: Larry Elliott with the Guardian. I just wondered if Mr. Wolfensohn can tell us how he thinks the discussions are going on development assistance at this meeting because looking at it from the outside, it looks as though actually there's not much progress being made. In some respects, things have moved backwards since the G7 meeting in London where there was some hope there would be a deal here on setting IMF goals for debt relief and that there would be a bit more progress on IFF and it seems looking at the G7 Communiqué and the IMFC Communiqué that there is still a great gap between some of the big players. The Americans want to go it alone, and certainly some of the European countries want to do it as a multilateral process. And I just wondered are things really moving as fast as you would like?
MR. WOLFENSOHN: Well, I think honestly that this year is a year of meetings on development and I never expected frankly that everything would be sorted out at this meeting. I regard this meeting as a sort of overture to an opera. You have a lot of the themes coming out of in the overture, but the arias are going to be sung by the stars who are the leaders of the countries, and they'll have two acts to do that in. One is at Glen Eagles and the other one is in the Millennium Assembly.
And so I figure that what we're doing is playing away with the themes and you'll hear the arias when you get to act two and act three which is Glen Eagles and the Millennium Assembly. I think what you're hearing here is the greater recognition now that financial support as distinct from diffused support which looks like aid is coming to be recognized as being essential. If you analyze the aid statistics, and it's not my analysis--it's Dace's analysis--Development Assistance Committee analysis. Only 25 or 30 percent gets to these countries in cash. The rest gets there in consultants and emergency payments and all sorts of other things, and if you look at the DAC report, you'll find it very easily. And I think that realization is there.
I think the second realization is that the scale that we're operating in is all together too low. And I think just about everybody now realizes that we're 50 billion off the mark, and it might take two, three years to absorb that, but at the least you need to get 18 billion in cash coming through which is promised and that the target is the 50 billion and I think there are some very constructive things that are happening at this meeting, because more and more countries, and I talk about the G7, I talk about the other countries, are saying we will get to 0.56 or 0.7 by such and such a date. This is something that we haven't had before.
And my guess is that there will be concrete decisions announced by the leaders at various times in recognition that it's not a numbers game. It's actually cash which we're talking about, and it's cash that has to be spent effectively and well with responsibilities also on the developing countries not to waste it and to have decent governance and to fight corruption.
This is not just a money question or a debt question. This is both sides have to do something, and you're not going to solve development unless developing countries as well as rich countries do their job, and I think that is coming out also, and I certainly will be bringing it out at the Development Committee today.
On the actual methodologies of financing, you have both the easiest way which is to increase the percentage and then you have additional ways in which you can supplement or advance which is the FFI and which is the French proposal on a form of taxation, and both of those I think were approved for pilot explorations in the course of the next months and that's another positive thing that's come out here.
So my sense of it is, and you know I've been a critic for some time, my sense of it is that actually things are moving at this meeting, but that it's below the pay grade of the finance ministers to deal with it. I mean above the pay grade. I think this is head of state stuff, and I think what we're preparing are arias for the performance.
Now what would be incredibly disappointing would be if in Glen Eagles and in New York, there is no aria or they say they're sick or have got a bad throat or something. You certainly--we have to hold the leaders accountable at these next two meetings, but I must say that I'm encouraged, which I rarely am, I'm encouraged by the way in which people are now saying this is important and as Rasheda said, the fact that we're spending $1000 billion a year on military expenditures and 300 billion on agricultural subsidies and some number that's 40, 50, 60 billion on development makes you realize that it's absurd, and I keep repeating this, and everyone keeps, on our side of the table, keeps repeating it, and I think finally the penny is dropping.
I mean the simple truth is that unless it's picked up this year, we can kiss good-bye to both the Millennium Goals and any serious attempt at development. And I think what you're seeing today from the group at this table is really the cutting edge issue which is education, and let me just add in parenthesis, we're talking primary education. But the issue of preschool education is also incredibly important because if you don't deal with preschool education, you get damaged kids at school, and every study shows that the first few years of life is when you not only stimulate the kid, but the issue also of nutrition is fundamental.
And it's great getting kids into school, but if 25 percent of them are mentally or physically damaged by the time they get there, you're in deep trouble. So I'm very happy that we're doing Fast Track, but I just want to serve notice that preschool education is the next challenge, and it's not a trivial challenge. This is something which all of you know about your kids and yourselves and which also is necessary in developing countries.
So my bottom line is that this meeting is not the aria but I do think it's a decent overture. And my sense of it is that the ministers are taking it very seriously. And last night, I should tell you also, we had a dinner with Koki Anna of finance and development ministers, all joined together, which itself was a unique case. So I'm seeing that finance ministers are now coming together with development ministers, and having Koki here also terrific because it means we're working also with the UN. So you do get a sense that things are moving, but I would like to ask you to continue the pressure because without it, none of this is going to happen.
Well, I have to leave you, but if you want to finish--I think we all have to leave. We've got the Development Committee so thank you all very much for coming.
[Whereupon, at 9:00 a.m., the press breakfast was concluded.]