24 September 2003

Kenya: World Bank Predicts Increased Poverty

Nairobi — The World Bank has warned that Kenya is one of the developing countries whose already impoverished sections of the population are likely to sink deeper into poverty.

Chief Economist of the World Bank's Human Development Network, Shanta Devarajan, said Kenya like other developing countries must pursue improved pro-poor policies by ensuring poor people access basic services, in quantity and quality.

He said governments had often miserably failed to deliver key services to the poor hence frustrating their realisation of a set of development targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals call for halving of the global incidence of poverty and broad improvement in human development by 2015.

He referred to personal accounts from poor people in Kenya, which had complained of poor quality delivery, particularly of police and electricity services. Devarajan quoted a section of the people who had complained that in the country you could no longer carry much money because there were too many policemen on the streets.

He said though increased presence of police would have otherwise meant additional security the complaint was a clear demonstration of lack of quality policing.

Devarajan was speaking during the launch of World Bank Development Report 2004: Making Services for Poor People at a Nairobi hotel yesterday. Also present was World Bank Country Director, Makhtar Diop.

The report warns that broad improvements in human welfare will not occur unless poor people receive wider access to affordable, better quality services in health, education, water, sanitation and electricity. "Without such improvement in services, freedom from illness and illiteracy, two of the most important ways poor people can escape poverty will remain elusive to many," it said.

The report comes at a time when rich countries have pledged to increase foreign aid and poor countries have pledged to improve their policies and institutions to try to reach the goals.

The report indicates, however, that there were countries where services do work, showing how governments and citizens could do better to improve the situation of the poor.

According to the bank, the main difference between success and failure in the degree to which the poor were themselves involved in determining the quality and the quantity of the services they receive at any one time.

The report points to several success stories, saying Indonesia used its oil windfall to build new schools and hire more teachers, doubling primary enrolment to 90 per cent in 1986.

The report, however, also warned against large-scale privatisation of essential services, saying it would be wrong to conclude that Government should give up and leave everything to the private sector.

"If individuals are left to their own devices, they will not provide levels of education and health that they collectively want. Not only is this true in theory, but in practice no country has achieved significant improvement in child mortality and primary education without government involvement," the bank said.

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