World Bank should reconsider

For decades, leaders of the World Bank have recognized one of the surest ways to reduce poverty in developing countries is to help their residents obtain reasonably priced electricity. That farsighted philosophy appears to have been scrapped.

If the World Bank pursues the new strategy espoused by its president, American Jim Yong Kim, tens of millions of people in poor countries will suffer. It is not stretching the point to predict grinding poverty, of the type low-priced electricity can alleviate, will kill some of them unnecessarily.

Kim has convinced World Bank directors to cut back severely on funding for coal-fired power plants in developing countries. But the new World Bank policy will have devastating effects.

Coal-fired power plants are the most economical means of providing electricity. Many of the countries seeking help funding them do not have access to fuels such as natural gas. They cannot afford so-called “alternatives” such as solar and wind power.

And without World Bank help, these countries will not be able to build nearly as many coal-fired power plants.

That will mean millions, perhaps tens of millions, of poor people all over the globe will be denied access to reasonably priced power.

Modern power plants of the type the World Bank had funded during the past few years are efficient, with very low emissions. Members of Congress should be looking into what, if anything, they can do to alter the World Bank’s course. For some people in poor countries, that may be a matter of life or death.