Rob Katz

World Bank Seminar of Private Sector Development – More of the Same?

UPDATE: Michael Jarvis has posted notes from another meeting, this one called Business Reaching the Poor. Based on his post, it sounds like the second seminar was more focused and less rhetorical than the first (although that’s not saying much.

WB Annual MeetingThanks to PSD Blogger Michael Jarvis, we have a short update from the World Bank–International Monetary Fund annual meeting, currently being held in Singapore. Jarvis attended a seminar entitled “Raising the Stakes: New Frontiers for the Private Sector in Development”, and has this report:

Prahalad called for consumption-led, not investment-led, development, with business providing greater choices to the poor and helping reduce the poverty penalty where the poor pay more for the same goods than the wealthy. [He] argued that boardroom debate no longer focuses on the “why” of reaching out to 5 billion poor consumers – it just makes sense – but on the ?how?. Innovation is required in marketing, pricing and across company operations.

[Full disclosure–C.K. Prahalad is a Director of World Resources Institute, my employer]

Innovation is required in marketing, pricing, and across company operations? We’ve heard it before–so was anything new or interesting said at this seminar?Judging by the rest of Jarvis? notes, my instinct is probably not. He reports of “strong call[s] for corporate social responsibility” by the German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development. No surprise there–other than that her comments took place in a private sector seminar (keep CSR out of it, please).

Finally, Jarvis tells readers that both Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani and Vice Minister for Finance in China, Yong Li, gauge the private sector’s contributions to development in terms of job growth. I agree with that statement, but it’s just an obvious observation. Overall–based on Jarvis? report–this seminar seems pretty disappointing to me. Was anyone else there? Am I totally off-base?