World Bank 'to step up support' for India's poorest

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Wednesday the institution will funnel more development support to India's poorest states as part of its drive to end poverty globally within a generation.

Kim, on his first trip to the nation of 1.2 billion people since becoming the bank's chief last July, said India's poorest seven states are home to over 200 million who have no access to education, healthcare and other basic services.

"Achieving the World Bank Group's mission of ending global poverty will require us to step up our support for India's poorest citizens," Kim, winding up a three-day visit, told a news conference in New Delhi.

During his three-day visit, Kim held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders and said he gained a deeper understanding of the challenges India faces in it seeks faster and "more inclusive" economic growth.

The Bank said the plan to focus development resources on India's most deprived states would not mean any increase in the $3.0-5.0 billion it lends on average annually to the emerging market giant.

"But over a period of time a higher percentage of the Bank's support to India would be aimed at the seven low-income states," said World Bank spokesman Sudip Mozumder.

The seven low-income states represent half of India's estimated 400 million people living on less than $1.25 a day -- the Bank's definition of dire poverty.

They include two of its most populous states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Since assuming the job of Bank president, Kim has been seeking to recast its image to make fighting poverty a main focus and refashion the institution as "the solutions bank" that dispenses expertise and not only development loans.

He recounted that after he graduated from university in the United States he took part in a protest against the Bank's "proscriptive policies only focused on growth", but said things have changed dramatically at the institution.

At the same time, "we have to be smart about fighting poverty -- we have to have economic growth because without growth you can't lift people out of poverty", Kim said.