SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Massive protests in Brazil, Egypt and Turkey should jolt governments across the globe into ensuring they are providing crucial public services and opportunities to their citizens, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in an interview on Friday.
Frustration with the political establishment, a lack of opportunity and unmet expectations for better living standards have helped galvanize millions of people in those countries to march in the streets and demand change.
“These social movements are not going to go away. And in my view they’re simply going to grow,” Kim told Reuters.
“Every country in the world has to really think hard about whether or not it’s effective or not at delivering services, at whether or not people really do have a chance. Because Twitter and Facebook and social media have become incredibly powerful tools for civil society,” Kim said.
The protests that have swept Brazil in recent weeks have sent shockwaves through the country’s political establishment, prompting a flurry of promises to improve public services as well as concrete measures aimed at quelling the unrest.
In Turkey, unrest began at the end of May when police used force against campaigners opposed to plans to redevelop a central Istanbul park. The protest spiraled into broader demonstrations against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his government.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people marched across Egypt on Friday in what deposed President Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement called a “Friday of Rage” to protest against his ouster and an interim government set up to prepare for new elections.
“Our view at the World Bank Group is: look, this makes it even more important that countries get the macroeconomics right, because getting the macroeconomics right means you’re able to weather economic crisis,” Kim said.
“You’ve got to get serious about investments in human capital: health, education, social protection. These are really critical,” he said, stressing the importance of also addressing the issue of income inequality.
BRAZIL INVESTMENT MAY BE UNHURT, DEPENDING ON GOVT RESPONSE
The marches in Latin America’s largest economy have rallied Brazilians angry about a range of issues from corruption and poor public transportation to billions of dollars being spent to host the soccer World Cup next year.
“I think that depending on the government responses to those protests, we may not see a drop in investment,” Kim told Reuters during a visit to Chile.
While lauding Brazil’s efforts at social inclusion, Kim underlined large and unmet demands for equality of opportunity.
“The Brazilian people have been very focused. They’ve been very specific about what they want. They want better hospitals, they want better educational opportunities, they want better controls on prices, they want lower prices for bus rides and other things,” Kim said.
“The inflation levels in Brazil are related to the protests that we’ve (seen). It’s really hard to tell whether those numbers are going to go up or down,” he added.
Brazil’s inflation climbed at the fastest pace in 20 months in June but rose less than forecast, supporting hopes that increases in consumer prices could start to slow even after a sharp currency sell-off.
The World Bank is keeping a close watch on the situation in Egypt and is focused on the safety of its over 200 employees there, but hasn’t yet decided on the future of its programs there, Kim said.
“Things are changing moment by moment. We’re collecting as much intelligence as we can ... we hope to continue (with our program in Egypt), but we’ll know a lot more literally in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Kim said of the World Bank’s 24 projects and total commitments of over $4.5 billion there.
“We have to see how the government shapes and whether or not we can continue. It’s still up in the air we’re not sure,” Kim said. (Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by James Dalgleish, Sandra Maler, Alexandra Ulmer and Andrew Hay)