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Tyler Cowen

For the World Bank, Public Health Should Be the Priority

Ajay Banga, Biden’s nominee to head the bank, should focus on improving public health and taking more risks. 

Ajay Banga has a tough job ahead of him.

Ajay Banga has a tough job ahead of him.

Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

Ajay Banga, the former head of Mastercard Inc. who is President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the World Bank, will be getting a lot of advice over the next few months as the nomination process unfolds. As the president himself says, the bank is at a “critical moment.” Here are my thoughts on how to restructure the institution for the better.

First, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, the World Bank should not make climate change more of a priority. Climate-change issues are more closely associated with rich and middle-income countries than with the poorest countries. The very poorest countries, because they have small economies, do not as a rule emit much carbon. Indoor air pollution, such as burning wood or fuel for heat or cooking, is usually more of a problem. Those emissions can be toxic, and the World Bank should try to help reduce them. But that won’t do much to cut carbon emissions.