World Bank’s Andras Horvai delivers a public lecture on development at SPP

March 13, 2019

Bangladeshis using small solar panels to charge cellphones, the Human Capital Index, global value chains, a platform app for tractor-sharing, the elephant curve of economic growth and quality of education in Brasil. These and many more development topics were addressed by World Bank’s Country Director András Horvai in his public lecture on Wednesday March 6, 2019, at CEU’s School of Public Policy.

“Development is about more than economic growth,” Horvai asserted in his lecture. “It’s about equitable and sustainable economic growth:  access to services, equality of opportunity, and social, environmental and fiscal stability.” According to Horvai, lot of progress has been made since the World Bank gave out its first loan to France in 1947: the share of world’s population living under the poverty line dropped from 35 to 10 percent, meaning that 1.1 billion people escaped poverty over the last decades.

However, the picture of the current state of the world Horvai painted is far from pleasant. The list of severe problems in the world was too long to read out. “One can’t do a presentation about development without talking about Africa,” according to Horvai. Although Sub-Saharan Africa is developing quickly, it is still lagging behind, facing a considerable number of modern-day challenges.

Technology can be both a blessing and a curse for development. On the one hand, it takes away low-skilled jobs, jobs a lot of people in developing countries depend on. On the other hand, it helps create creative solutions for development problem, such as an organization that delivers blood for medical emergencies to remote locations using drones and the aforementioned platform app for tractor-sharing, making it possible for small-scale farmers to share machines and increase productivity.

To circumvent the problems technology brings, it is important to invest in human capital. Horvai discussed World Banks’ Human Capital Index, which predicts how much human capital a child born today will attain by age 18, measuring the productivity of the next generation of workers, compared to a benchmark of complete standard education and full health. “In this day and age, 56% of the children live in a country with a human capital index value below 50% of their full potential,” Horvai reported.

To make sure all children are in school receiving quality education and to reach the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, the world needs approximately three trillion dollars a year. However, the official development aid, money from multilateral organizations and current private funding barely amount to 200-250 billion dollars a year. “Private financing is essential in overcoming this gap. Some things are not suitable for private finance, like roads, but many things are. It is crucial to involve the private sector more,” asserted Horvai.

“András Horvai reminded us of the sense of urgency of the heaps of developmental problems the world is facing, as well as of their complexity. But his lecture also radiated a sense of hope, showing several examples of good practices for social, economic and environmental progress in many parts of the world,” concluded Martin Kahanec, the Head of the School of Public Policy, who chaired the lecture.

Andras Horvai is the World Bank’s Country Director and Resident Representative in the Russian Federation. Before his current assignment, he managed the World Bank Group's Office in Vienna and the portfolio of World Bank-financed projects in the countries of Southeast Europe. Since joining the World Bank in 1993, Horvai has worked extensively on Europe and Central Asia, including the countries of Southeast Europe, Turkey, Poland and Russia, as well as South Asia. He also served as the World Bank's Country Manager for Croatia. Prior to his World Bank career, Horvai held senior positions at the National Bank of Hungary, including General Manager, Director for International Development Institutions. He also served briefly as Alternate Executive Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development right after its inception. András Horvai is a graduate of the University of Economics, Budapest.