World Bank delivers record aid to poorest countries

The World Bank said on Tuesday it had delivered record aid to the poorest countries in the past year, half of it to Africa, despite a difficult global economy.

Commitments for the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank arm that provides interest-free loans and grants to the world's poorest countries, reached an all-time high of $16.3 billion in the 2013 fiscal year that ended June 30, the institution said in a statement.

That marked an almost 11 percent jump from a year earlier. About 50 percent of the IDA lending went to Africa, followed by South Asia with a roughly 25 percent share.

The entire World Bank Group delivered $52.6 billion in loans, grants and other assistance in the 2013 fiscal year, down from $53.4 billion the prior year as demand for aid in middle-income countries fell.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the 188-nation Bank was on track in its mission to promote economic growth and shared prosperity and to fight extreme poverty in developing countries.

"The Bank's performance has been strong during my first year as president, and we are well positioned to address the economic challenges developing countries face during these still uncertain times," Kim said in the statement.

Kim said the Washington institution was restructuring to deliver on the two new goals adopted in April: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity.

More than a billion people, or around 20 percent of the world's population, live in deep poverty, defined as living on less than $1.25 a day. The goal is to decrease the percentage to no more than three percent of the world's population

To promote shared prosperity, the Bank is working to spur income growth for the bottom 40 percent of the population in every developing country.

"We are realigning all of the Bank's efforts to achieve these goals," Kim said.

The World Bank said it had supported about 1,956 operations last year to promote opportunity and get needed services to the poor, such as investing in nutrition and building infrastructure, "despite the slowly recovering global economy."

It projects developing countries' economies will grow 5.1 percent in 2013 and growth will pick up in coming years.

The World Bank said its arm that focuses exclusively on the private sector to spur development -- the International Finance Corporation -- also delivered a record amount of aid last year.

The IFC provided $18.3 billion in funds, a 19 percent increase from 2012 that did not include nearly $6.5 billion in funds mobilized from other investors.

The only branch to show a decline in commitments was the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which focuses on middle-income countries.

Its aid fell to $15.2 billion from $20.6 billion in 2012 as demand levels declined in countries continuing to recover from the 2008-2009 financial crisis that sank the world into recession. But the level was still above pre-crisis levels, the Bank said.

New World Bank assistance to agriculture and related sectors totaled $8 billion, in line with the Bank's 2013-2015 plan.