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Transcript: David Malpass on "Face the Nation," November 14, 2021

World Bank chief stresses need for COVID vaccines in developing countries
World Bank chief stresses need for COVID vacc... 07:15

The following is a transcript of an interview with David Malpass, president of the World Bank Group, that aired Sunday, November 14, 2021, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Poor countries continue to wait on COVID shots. The head of the W.H.O. said it is a scandal in his view that six times more booster shots are administered globally than first doses are in low-income countries. An organization heavily involved in financing global vaccines and climate change commitments for developing countries is the World Bank, and its president, David Malpass, is with us this morning. Good morning to you.

PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD BANK GROUP DAVID MALPASS: Good morning, MARGARET.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you have no shortage of issues. Vaccine crisis, you have right now inflation at 30 year high in the United States, debt crisis potentially in China, potential energy issues in Europe. How shaky is this global recovery?

MALPASS: You know, it's very difficult. And for people at the bottom, for the poor, it's really an unequal situation. They're not getting vaccines. The debt burden is- is super high. And so, this is a challenge for everybody. Their growth rates are well under the growth rates in the advanced economies, and that's the opposite of what we really want. To get development, we need them to be growing faster, creating even more jobs. But the unemployment rates there are very high.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what is the first step in solving that?

MALPASS: The first step is vaccines, so we can talk about that. But then I think there has to be really a range of policies for the countries themselves. They can do more to help. And then in the advanced economies, there's just not a- there's not resources that are going worldwide. They're mostly staying in- in unequal situations in the advanced economies themselves. The people doing the best right now are the people at the top.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the top two biggest economies, the United States and China also have their issues. China has this debt crisis, potentially, that you heard the Treasury secretary say they're monitoring very closely. How concerned are you?

MALPASS: We work closely with- with China. You know, its system is different from the market-based system of the world. It's a Communist Party system. And so, there are frictions. There are- there are challenges. But from the standpoint of the World Bank, we're working well with them on marine plastics, reducing that from the- from the river systems. Also, the- also from a greenhouse gas emissions standpoint, we're working with them. So, China is engaged in the world. It's making vaccines for its own population. And so, we can look at that as well. I think we have to recognize there are these frictions on debt transparency, for example, as they- as they enter into contracts in the developing world, there's often a nondisclosure clause, which makes it very hard for people to know whether they're getting a fair deal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: China is being a predatory lender to poor people, is what you're saying.

MALPASS: You said that. And so, we're working with them hard to try to get more transparency in the contracts, and that actually helps them and the developing countries.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The World Bank has warned that because of COVID, low-income countries have an enormous debt level. Are you saying that we are at the point where we could see what we went through a few years ago with the Greek debt crisis, where a country's basically needing to be bailed out?

MALPASS: Yes. And so, we did a report a year and a half ago before the pandemic that was called four waves of debt. So, there was the Latin debt crisis. There was the Greek debt crisis and were at risk of another one. Now it would be based on the poorest low-income countries. Debt went up by 12% in 2020. Even in the pandemic, when most of the economic activity was going down, their debts were going up. We've done two big reports just in the last two months on this- this big challenge. I've been pushing for debt relief for the poorest countries. That's been hard to achieve. The world just is not set up to think about it this way of you're- you're in the middle of a pandemic, you ought to have a moratorium on the payments from those countries. But there's no mechanism to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about climate. We just saw this weekend the big conference, the U.N. conference wrap up. Rich countries have been pledging for a while that they're going to pitch in $100 billion a year to help low-income countries basically adapt here to extreme weather. Five to 10 times that might be needed. So how much did this climate change conference fall short?

MALPASS: These are huge challenges. I was glad to see them talking about specifics like coal and methane. You know, methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gas- gases, and they are looking for ways to reduce that. The leaking that's coming from- from wells and from pipelines. That's practical. The World Bank is very much on that side. We need to find projects that are impactful and then how do you fund them? And you're exactly right. The amounts of funding need to be many times what's been- what's been talked about are provided so far. The World Bank can't do it alone, but I think it's going to take the whole world effort. We don't want to punish the poor and the poor are already getting punished by inflation, as you mentioned. And you know, China and Russia are benefiting in some ways from these conditions. China because it's the core of the supply chain and Russia because it has so many energy resources. And so we have this big challenge in finding a balance in the world to pay for the climate changes that- that would actually reduce greenhouse gas. That can be practical, coal- coal is a practical one. How do you decommission old coal fired power plants? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

MALPASS: Some operating in South Africa are 55 years old. So, we're working. The World Bank is engaged in all of these issues, trying to have practical projects that are funded.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something you wrote last year. You had an op-ed with Melinda Gates talking about the recovery requiring an investment in women in particular. And you said all countries would benefit from appropriate family leave policies and quality childcare. So as an economist, are you saying paid leave is essential to a recovery?

MALPASS: Well, all countries need family leave policies. So, I don't know about paid- that's a, you know, I don't want to comment on the U.S. political issue. But for- for the world, the women in the labor force and I- I heard Secretary Yellen talking about that. This is vital because they're a key part of how countries can grow. And it's not just in the labor force. Women need to be included in inheritance rights, for example. In some countries, they can't do that. And especially girls in education is a vital need for the world. If you're going to develop, that has to be a starting point for it. And some of the world is not at that point. So, we work hard on those issues, gender equality issues and inclusion in the- in the financial system, the labor force and so on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. Making the economic argument. Not the political one. We'll be right back in a moment.

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