Developing countries closer to tackling extreme poverty: World Bank

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Two-thirds of developing countries are on track or close to meeting key targets for tackling extreme poverty and hunger, but more work remains to be done, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund said Friday.

Among developing countries that are falling short on the Millennium Development Goals, half are close to becoming on-track. With improved policies and faster growth, these countries can still achieve the targets in 2015 or soon after, according to the two Washington based international institutions' Global Monitoring Report 2011: Improving the Odds of Achieving the MDGs, which was released during the ongoing IMF and World Bank spring meetings.

"Reaching the MDGs is a significant achievement for developing countries. But there still is much to do in reducing poverty and improving health outcomes even in the successful countries," said Hans Timmer, director of development prospects at the World Bank. "Donors should build on this success and help countries make the next step through investments in effective service delivery."

The report showed that on the whole, the fight against poverty is progressing well. Based on current economic projections, the world remains on track to reduce by half the number of people living in extreme poverty.

The number of people living on less than 1.25 dollars a day is projected to be 883 million in 2015, compared with 1.4 billion in 2005 and 1.8 billion in 1990.

The report noted that much of this progress reflects rapid growth in China and India, while many African countries are lagging behind: 17 countries are far from halving extreme poverty, even as the aggregate goals will be reached.

Developing countries will also likely achieve the MDGs for gender parity in primary and secondary education and for access to safe drinking water, and will be very close on hunger and on primary education completion.

But progress is slow and targets may be missed on others. Among developing countries, 45 percent are far from meeting the target on access to sanitation; 39 percent and 38 percent are far from the maternal and child mortality targets, respectively.

"Good macroeconomic policies remain crucial to progress toward the MDGs," said Hugh Bredenkamp, deputy director of the IMF's Strategy, Policy, and Review Department. "The challenge in low income countries is to sustain and accelerate growth through better policies that will create jobs and greater opportunities for the private sector."

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