LIMA - World Bank President Ajay Banga wants the lender to focus on more "scalable, replicable" projects across Latin America and elsewhere for transport and infrastructure and digitization of government and financial services to speed development.
Banga, on his first foreign trip since taking office, told Reuters on Monday that he wanted the bank to prioritize its work and "pick a few things and push them really hard, so that in my lifetime, I can measure the impact."
While that may mean fewer projects in some countries, it will focus more resources on those that promise bigger improvements in people's lives, incomes and productivity.
Bank staff have developed and implemented many successful projects, but often do not standardize them and apply the lessons learned to other countries, Banga said.
"I'm trying to get away from bespoke stuff to scalable, replicable things," Banga said, adding that standardization can help draw more private-sector capital into development by making it easier to securitize groups of loans.
Banga has been tasked with transforming the World Bank to vastly expand its lending capacity and revamp its business model to fight climate change, pandemics, food insecurity and other crises, in addition to its traditional anti-poverty mission.
Projects that should be replicated in other crowded cities include Lima's Metropolitano Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, Banga said after touring a World Bank-financed expansion line.
The system opened in 2010 using bus-only lanes and raised-platform stations to cut to 30 minutes a traffic-choked two-hour commute, ensuring access to jobs in the city center for more residents.
The bank has given a $93-million loan for a 10-km (six-mile) extension into some of Lima's poorest areas.
World Bank officials say the total project cost is about $10 million per km, far lower than the $182 million per km cost of an underground metro rail line now being built in Lima.
"We should be building the BRT in 20 cities in Latin America," Banga said, adding that only three similar projects had been launched in the region in 13 years.
Other infrastructure projects that can be standardized and replicated are those concerned with water supply, sanitation, roads, bridges, hospitals, and education, he said.
Banga also visited one of dozens of free government legal aid offices, partly financed by the World Bank, that are aimed largely at women.
The project has benefited from a parallel effort to provide digital access to Peru's justice system, allowing the most vulnerable to secure court filings and proceedings.
Such efforts also can also be standardized and scaled up, Banga added, because they reduce poverty and increase inclusion of the poor.
But there will still be room to accommodate differences among countries and projects that meet their specific needs, he said.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)