Basic services key to easing poverty: WB

Tokyo, May 29 :

Over one billion of the world’s poorest people still lack basic energy, water and sanitation services and cannot rely on private firms alone to meet their needs, World Bank (WB) president Paul Wolfowitz said today.

Among the 6.3 billion people in the world today, 1.6 billion do not have access to basic energy services, 500 million of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, and about 2.6 billion people lack access to water and sanitation. “The global supply of infrastructure is not able to answer the needs of today,” Wolfowitz told the World Bank’s annual conference on development economics in Tokyo, “We have moved away from a paradigm which once expected the private sector to play the dominant role in infrastructure.”

Private sector investment in infrastructure in developing countries pea-ked at about $128 billion in 1997 but by 2003 had more than halved to $58 billion, according to World Bank figures. “It is apparent that the capacity or willingness of the private sector to respond to all the infrastructure needs is limited,” said Wolfowitz.

Africans lose 40 billion productive working hours each year just carrying water, time that could be spent in education, earning an income or starting new businesses. In the next 25 years, another two billion people will be born in developing countries.