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WASHINGTON: Half of the world’s 75 poorest countries are experiencing a widening income gap with the wealthiest economies for the first time this century in a historical reversal of development, the World Bank said in a report on Monday.

The differential between per capita income growth in the poorest countries and the richest has widened over the past five years, according to the report.

“For the first time, we see there is no convergence. They’re getting poorer,” Ayhan Kose, deputy chief economist for the World Bank and one of the report’s authors, told Reuters.

“We see a very serious structural regression, a reversal in the world ... that’s why we are ringing the alarm bells here,” he said.

The report said the 75 countries eligible for grants and zero-interest loans from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) risk a lost decade of development without ambitious policy shifts and significant international aid.

Kose said growth in many IDA countries had already begun to taper off in these countries before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it would be just 3.4% in 2020-2024, the weakest half-decade of growth since the early 1990s. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change, increases in violence and conflict also weighed heavily on their prospects.

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