Friday, June 01, 2007

The World Bank Beijing

Our first day in Beijing started off with a visit to the World Bank where we met with David Dollar, director for the World Bank in China. Last year on this trip we also met with Mr. Dollar isbut the return trip seemed more satisfying and informative, at least to me.

A few tidbits from our meeting:

  • The poverty line in China right now is about $115 US per year. 10% of the population lives below the poverty line, but that is a monstrous improvement over 25 years ago when 60% of the population lived below the line. Dollar called this a “historically unprecedented poverty reduction.”
  • Much of the water in China is polluted. Overall, they enjoy 1/9th of the average world availability of water.
  • The rural/urban income gap is widening at a rapid rate as wages for the urban population grows at about 10-12% per year, but wages for the rural population grows at about 5-6% per year.
  • Two other big gaps between rural and urban areas deal with education and health care. These functions are primarily funded at the local (county) level and therefore the poor rural areas have little money to spend on these important items but the larger cities and populous counties have good revenue streams to fund these initiatives.
  • Within a year or two, China will be the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.
  • There are construction cranes everywhere you look, but it is estimated that ½ of the buildings that will be in existence in China in 2015 haven’t been built yet.
  • The Chinese stock market is currently looking like a big bubble ready to burst at any time. Many ordinary Chinese people have now invested in the stock market and stand to lose nearly everything if the bubble bursts.

BTW, it was pretty easy to get around the great firewall using TOR (The Onion Router). It takes longer, sort of like being on dial-up instead of broadband, but that is far better than being completely blocked while in China.

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