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World Bank mulls different approach as prospects for global growth darken

At a time when weaker global growth prospects are a cause for concern, and even impacting the World Bank's goals to alleviate poverty, President Jim Yong Kim is taking a different tact to confront the challenge.

"(What) we're really focusing on, is there's a whole other set of investments that can be made that will prepare countries for five, 10, 15 years into the future, especially investments into human capital," Kim told CNBC at the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Chengdu, China on Saturday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, he cited a World Bank study that showed people in the 80th to 90th percentile of income had benefited the least from globalization, and this being largely the middle class in high-income countries.


Economy of the future

Whether its artificial intelligence or a more automated workforce, Kim believes that preparing for the economy of the future will go a long way in eliminating poverty.

In April 2013, the World Bank set a new, ambitious goal to end extreme poverty in a generation. The target was that by 2030, no more than 3 percent of the world's population will be living on just $1.25 a day.

When asked if the slower growth and an extended period of uncertainty in the global economy could extend that goal, Kim said that growth is not the only factor.

'Knowledge bank'

Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President
Mark Wilson | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President

"If we wait for growth to pick up, then we'll know we'll never get there. So in other words, as the economic model changes, who knows what the next drivers of global economic growth will be. But what we need to make sure of is that the poor countries and the poor people are better prepared to take advantage of whatever new drivers appear in the future."

The recent appointment of New York University Professor Paul Romer as the World Bank's new chief economist is very much in line with Kim's plans to transform the institution into a "knowledge bank".

"The thing that's really important about Paul's contribution for the World Bank Group is that he developed this endogenous theory of growth and the notion is that you really have got to invest internally including in your people, skills and education to really come up with some of the technological innovations that will drive growth," Kim added.

He reiterated that investing in "grey matter infrastructure" is the best investment a country can make.