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Finance and Development. 1982 Jun; 19(2):16-9.During the 1970s it was World Bank policy to use its funds to raise the productivity and living standards of the poor. It has increased its lending for sector and subsectors considered to offer the most direct benefits to the poor such as rural development, population, health, and nutrition. Projects with particular emphasis on poverty have benefitted large numbers of poor people and have had good economic rates of return. Lending for rural projects increased in the 1970s from US$2.6 billion in 1969-73 to over US$13 billion in 1978-81; rural development projects audited in 1979 benfitted 660 small farmers for every US$1 million loaned compared with 47 farmers/US$1 million in other agricultural projects. Some problems are: 1) low-risk technical packages appropriate for poor farmers in semi-arid rainfed areas are not readily available; 2) the Bank's rural development strategy seeks mainly to raise the production of small farms, but other aspects need to be emphasized; 3) domestic pricing and postharvest policies often undermine the success of projects aimed at the rural poor; and 4) success in rural development often rests on sociological and cultural factors, difficult areas that deserve more attention. For urban areas the Bank has strongly endorsed providing "sites and sources" instead of structures; since 1972, 52 Bank projects centered on urban shelter involving US$1.6 billion have been undertaken. Cost recovery is established at 66-95%. About 5% of Bank lending is for education and despite the importance of population, health, and nutrition, these areas absorb less than 1% of the Bank's total lending program. Only US$400 million in population loans were made to 13 countries in the 1970s and only recently have separate health projects been started. Emphasis for the 1980s must be on rural development, urban shelter, primary education, health, education, and population.