2. Address poverty's root causes
Although economic growth (in terms of increased productivity or GDP) has reduced the headcount of those in poverty, it has done little for those who face social and cultural barriers to opportunity, such as religious discrimination and racial oppression. Social change, of course, is a topic approached with caution by the World Bank, given the wide variety of societies in which it operates.
One problem is that, in countries such as Ethiopia and Yemen, the bank works through central governments that often perpetuate and ultimately benefit from structural inequality. Yet reducing poverty for the most vulnerable and marginalized will be impossible without confronting topics such as gender parity in the Middle East, the caste system in India and Bangladesh, and the plight of those with physical and mental disabilities the world over.
To its credit, the bank is implementing policies aimed at "social development, gender, and inclusion." At the same time, to get an idea of the level of priority the bank gives such initiatives, we need look no further than its budgetary allotments: In 2011, its investment in financial and private sector development was nine times its investment in social inclusion, and in 2010 the ratio was more than 18:1. To improve life outcomes for the poor, it's high time the bank bring issues of oppression and structural racism out of the dark and into the limelight.
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