Meeting with Modi 'inspiring': World Bank chief

Praises PM’s hands-on approach and emphasis on new people-centric ideas

GN Bureau | August 14, 2014



World Bank president Dr Jim Yong Kim has described his meeting with prime minister Narendra Modi last month as “one of the most inspiring meetings I have had as the president of the World Bank group”.

In a letter to the prime minister’s office (PMO) following his meeting on July 23 that was initially scheduled for 15 minutes but extended to 45 minutes, Kim showered fulsome praise on Modi for his hands-on approach and referred to the prime minister’s tweet about developing the World Bank as “information bank”. “In turn, I tweeted to pledge our support to the prime minister’s agenda for economic growth,” said Kim while apprising his staff about his India visit.

Kim’s appreciation for Modi comes at a time when India’s emphasis on developing infrastructure, particularly 100 smart cities, would require enormous funds. Extending India's logic of opening world economies for workforces, Modi urged the World Bank president to develop a roadmap to identify the global demand for skills. Modi’s emphasis was intended to turn India’s population numbers to its advantage by supplying workforce internationally.
What is significant is the manner in which Modi politely conveyed India’s longstanding anguish to the developed world over their clammed-up approach on allowing international movement of workforce. Time and again, this anguish has been conveyed in multilateral forums, such as WTO where discussions are centred on free transfer of goods and services.

In his comments to the World Bank staff, Kim pointed out, “The prime minister stressed that he wants three things: skills, scale and speed. He asked for a range of different kinds of assistance, including in the areas of public-private partnership and job training.” Modi’s approach was clearly indicative of the fact that instead of availing the tailor-made assistance from the World Bank, he wanted greater association with the bank on human resource development in a manner that would benefit India’s burgeoning youth population.

Another significant aspect of the discussion which the World Bank chief took seriously was the prime minister’s preference for “production by masses” to “mass production”. Modi asked if the World Bank could devise and come up with ideas on how to focus more on involving masses in upscaling production rather than concentrating on “mass production”. This once again clearly implied that the World Bank’s assistance would need to be tailored according to the needs of India.

The World Bank president’s eulogy for Modi is particularly important as it comes after the formation of the New Development Bank by BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as an instrument to spur growth in these nations. The move was considered to be an attempt to develop a parallel to the World Bank at a smaller scale, and was seen with a degree of suspicion by the US and others in the developed world. However, Modi’s interaction with Kim clearly delineated India’s priorities which are well understood by the World Bank.

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