Monday, September 04, 2006

Unveiling Ceremony of World Bank Photography Exhibition

Speech by Dr Lee Boon Yang , Minister For Information, Communications and the Arts, at the Unveiling Ceremony of World Bank “Imagine A World Without Poverty” Photography Exhibition

Mr Peter Stephens,
Regional Communications Manager,
World Bank Singapore Office
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Good evening,

1. It gives me great pleasure to join you here for the World Bank photography exhibition “Imagine a World Without Poverty”.

2. This exhibition is an inspiring and artistic prelude to the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that will take place next week in Singapore. We are of course delighted and honoured to host the distinguished delegates and friends from all over the world for the Boards of Governors of IMF and WB Group Annual Meetings.

3. The World Bank is one of the world's largest sources of development assistance. It is focused on assisting developing countries achieve stable, sustainable and equitable growth. The World Bank works to reduce poverty worldwide. Through its numerous initiatives, the World Bank has helped many of the poorest people and poorest countries.

4. While most of Asia and many developed countries are experiencing growth, progress and prosperity, not all countries are enjoying economic development and growth. For example poverty is still a serious problem in Africa. Some 300 million in Africa live on less than one dollar a day. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 17% of children die before their fifth birthday. Every 30 second, a child dies of malaria in Africa. More than a hundred million children never go to school and half of all children in South Asia are under-nourished. Worldwide, five million people die each year from contaminated water and poor sanitation. Clearly a world without poverty is still a challenge which the global community cannot ignore.

5. It was not that long ago that Singapore also faced many of the challenges faced by today’s under-developed countries. When we became independent more than 40 years ago, we had poor economic infrastructure, inadequate education, high unemployment and little foreign investments. The government quickly identified these weaknesses and set about with political will and determination to correct these deficiencies. The World Bank played a part by supporting early infrastructural projects such as a power station, expanding the telecommunication network and upgrading the National University of Singapore,

6. We appreciate the assistance from the World Bank. They had helped us to improve the life of our people and created more opportunities for Singaporeans. Today we have achieved sustainable progress and prosperity for all Singaporeans. Key social needs such as education, health care, housing and employment are met by an extensive array of government programmes and services. Singapore therefore shares in the World Bank and IMF’s vision of helping countries to develop and improve the life of their citizens. As a member of the international community, albeit a small country with limited resources, we will play our part in support of countries embarking on their economic development and where our own experience may provide useful guidance to help them overcome poverty and create opportunities.

7. The world today is now a much smaller place. Globalisation, increasing trade linkages and the ease and affordability of travel are bringing countries and regions closer together. We live in the era of the global village with instance communication. Technology such as infocomm and the internet serve to empower millions throughout the world. If we work together, it is possible that one day instead of “imagining a world without poverty” we may be able to “live in a world without poverty.”

8. I understand that this photo exhibition will be held throughout the duration of the IMF-World Bank meetings. This is indeed timely. Given that the world’s financial leaders, media and civil society organisations will gather in Singapore, this exhibition is a powerful reminder that poverty exists. This exhibition highlights to Singaporeans and visitors the seriousness of poverty and how these can impact the world.

9. In closing, I would like to thank the World Bank Singapore Office for organising this exhibition. It is a most commendable effort to reach out to Singaporeans and visitors. It will create awareness of the challenges confronting the world’s poor.

10. It is now my pleasure to declare open the World Bank exhibition entitled “Imagine A World without Poverty.”

11. Thank you.

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