Leader Profile: Giovanna Prennushi, Lead Economist, World Bank

    The World Bank’s annual World Development Report (WDR) is a guide to the economic, social and environmental state of the world today. Giovanna Prennushi was part of the core team that prepared the 2006 report.

    Every year the World Bank publishes its WDR, each one focusing on a particular aspect of analysis. Past reports have included topics such as the role of the state, transition economies, labor, infrastructure, health, the environment, and poverty. The 2006 WDR, “Equity and Development”, concentrates on inequality of opportunity, both within and among nations, as a situation that sustains extreme deprivation, wastes human potential and often weakens prospects for overall prosperity and economic growth. “The theme of equity has been discussed for a long time. We wanted to take a broader view and widen the perspective of the World Bank generally”, Giovanna explained, “Equity is not the same as equality of income, and it is hard to measure if people have the same opportunities. We looked at a range of indicators across countries and within countries, such as infant mortality rates. Equity is equality of opportunity and avoidance of extreme depravation”.

    The WDR 2006 advocate more equitable access by the poor to health care, education, jobs, capital, and more secure land rights, among others, and calls for greater equality of access to political freedoms and political power. “Societies which are more equitable have a higher chance of succeeding than less equitable ones”. Giovanna asserted, “We should care about equity because if favors development. We make this argument based on two main factors: (1) imperfect markets generate inefficiencies, and (2) power and influence concentrated in the elite is bad for development. We do believe that public policy can expand opportunities”. The WDR 2006 recommends actions to break down stereotyping and discrimination, and improve access by the poor to justice systems and infrastructure.

    An Italian national, Giovanna joined the World Bank in 1993. Before joining the WDR 2006 team, she was Lead Economist in the Poverty Reduction Group, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network; she previously worked as a country economist in the South Asia region. Giovanna has a Bachelors degree in Economic and Social Sciences from University of Bocconi in Milan, Italy and gained a PhD in Political Economy from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

    Giovanna asserted that the WDR is basically a think piece and its impact on development in the future will depend greatly to how much it influences thinking and the way development is carried out in practice by the people who work in development in the Bank and outside the Bank. “There is work that is done to operationalize the document but in this case it will focus much more on within country activities. On the governance of international institutions, what we can hope for is that this is yet another voice that says the system as it is now is not defensible”. She said.

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