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World Bank seeks to halve extreme poverty by 2020

By Anna Yukhananov

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said on Wednesday the global development lender must work to halve extreme poverty in the next seven years if it is to reach a more ambitious target set for 2030.

Kim in April set a goal to reduce the number of people around the world living on $1.25 a day to 3 percent by 2030. It is 18 percent now.

In an interview with CNN, he said that this figure would have to shrink to 9 percent by 2020 for the bank to stay on track.

"I'm prepared to take full responsibility for setting this target," said Kim, whose contract as World Bank chief expires in 2017 but could be renewed.

Global poverty has tumbled from 43 percent in 1990 as emerging countries raised the living standards of hundreds of millions of their citizens.

But more progress could be harder to achieve. Most of the success in easing poverty has been in China, while regions such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa continue to struggle.

Fragile and conflict-ridden states also remain mired in poverty and likely will be home to most of the world's poorest people in the next five years.

The World Bank has cited research that showed if developing countries continue historical growth rates for the next two decades, global poverty would only fall to 8 percent by 2030.

To achieve its goals, Kim said the bank was shaking up its operations. It plans to bring its disparate branches together around development projects that can have the greatest impact while remaining useful to middle-income countries.

In the interview with CNN, Kim said the bank would make $400 million in cuts to its administrative budget as it seeks to be more effective and nimble, a move reported by Reuters on Monday.

"Will there be some staff cutbacks? You bet. There will be," he said. "But we're not going into it with any number in mind."

Kim said the reorganization should be finished by the bank's next fiscal year, which begins in July 2014.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by James Dalgleish and Xavier Briand)

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