World Bank chief, SA govt talk growth


7 September 2012

Developments in South Africa’s mining sector, as well as the country’s achievements, formed part of visiting World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim’s discussions with the South African government on Thursday.

Kim was in South Africa for a day following two days in Cote d’Ivoire – his first official visit outside the US since taking up his new position in July.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Pretoria on Thursday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said that challenges facing South Africa were discussed with the World Bank leader, among them issues concerning mining.

“The sad events in Marikana and in the mining industry generally were discussed,” Gordhan said, noting that the dynamics of the country’s mining industry needed to be better understood.

“The platinum industry already is under pressure, and at the same time we must ensure that the bulk of the industry is at work. In that sense … employers and employees must find each other on work and social issues,” Gordhan said.

“The message we need to communicate to the rest of the world is that South Africa is at work and most of it is highly productive and is still available for investment.”

‘World Bank committed to SA growth’

Kim said the World Bank was committed to South Africa’s growth and that in his interactions with President Jacob Zuma, tuberculosis contraction among miners was discussed.

The two leaders agreed that social justice and inclusive growth were closely related.

Kim met with Zuma and eight ministers and deputy ministers on Thursday. He was also briefed on what the country was doing on issues including education and health, small business and science and technology.

“The World Bank is an important institution, and we have confirmed our faith in the multilateral system,” Gordhan said, saying that in order for the multilateral system to be inclusive and fully representative, transformation was necessary.

Gordhan expressed confidence in Kim’s vision for the World Bank.

“We support his stance on social justice, eradicating poverty and inclusive growth.”

However, the question around eradicating poverty and inclusive growth remained, Gordhan said. He was pleased with the World Bank leader’s endorsement of the role of middle-income countries like South Africa in coming up with lasting solutions.

A new era of knowledge

He said that it was not only the bigger or smaller economies that should attract assistance from the Bank.

“We expect the World Bank will introduce a new era to ensure knowledge and expertise, apart from money, are availed to middle income countries, in a way that ensures economies grow and that social justice is at the centre of solving poverty and inequality.”

The leaders also discussed South Africa’s infrastructure plans for the future, with high expectations for South Africa to be a laboratory for innovation.

Kim, who prior to his appointment to the World Bank had worked in countries like Lesotho, said he held South Africa in high regard.

“I have enormous respect for this country and its people. South Africa’s success is important for the region and the world,” he said.

He said gender equality and good jobs for the youth were important.

“Discussions with the ministers were impressive, I was impressed with the level of analysis,” he said of the talks, which he described as “frank” in nature.

Sharing expertise in policy

Though good policies were in place in South Africa, implementation remained a challenge for all countries, said Kim, noting that the Bank had a contingency of practitioners that were available to assist countries.

“For us, being engaged with South Africa is not focused on our ability to bring expertise but we’re also here to learn, many innovations have happened here. We want to learn from the innovations and achievements,” said Kim.

“I was honoured to meet President Zuma. We spoke of the importance of implementation. I think we can bring experiences from other countries that might be helpful to SA.”

The two also discussed how the World Bank can best support African countries to achieve higher levels of – and more inclusive – economic growth, as well as enhance Africa’s infrastructure programme.

Zuma also raised the issue of the democratisation of the World Bank.

“I discussed with Dr Kim, among other issues, the role that the World Bank Group can play in support of the integration of African economies,” Zuma said. “We have already done much work to highlight the vital importance of regional trade corridors that connect countries through roads, railways, and provide access to ports and airports.

“The World Bank Group can play a vital role as a catalyst for the development and financing of infrastructure, especially because private sector investors will draw comfort from the anchor role that a financier like the World Bank Group can play.”