Absolute poverty rising: targets doubtful

15 June 1999

New World Bank estimates suggest that 1.5bn people live in abject poverty, up from 1.3bn in 1993. The Bank’s May 1999 Poverty Update shows that China is the only major country or region where poverty has fallen significantly. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst region and the most unequal alongside Latin America. The financial crisis has affected all regions:

  • it led to a reversal of trends in the East Asian crisis countries;
  • Africa is badly affected by lower commodity prices and more competition from crisis countries with depreciated exchange rates;
  • the Brazilian crisis and adverse weather have harmed prospects for Latin America; and
  • increases in poverty are expected in Russia, the Ukraine and Romania whilst other countries in that region are expected to have zero growth in per capita national income.

The Bank warns that falling growth rates and rising inequality suggest that the International Development Targets for 2015 will not be achieved, in particular those of reducing poverty by half, infant mortality by two-thirds and achieving full primary school enrollment.

This latest report contrasts markedly with the Global Economic Prospects report published by the Bank in May 1996. This predicted average real GDP growth rates for developing countries of 5.4% over the next ten years.

World Bank Poverty Update, available at: