The World Bank’s Definition of Middle Income Countries

In Global by AHF

World Bank Protest and DC Press Conference Mon. Sept. 21st

PRESS CONFERENCE at 11:00 AM, Lombardy Hotel, International Room (2019 Pennsylvania Ave.) followed by PROTEST—12noon to 1pm—in front of World Bank (1818 H St., one block from hotel).

WASHINGTON (September 20, 2015) A coalition of over 310 organizations and advocates from 30 countries recently launched a global campaign and online petition drive urging Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank, to reconsider the way the Bank defines and classifies Middle Income Countries (MICs). The lower limit income the World Bank currently sets for Middle Income Country designation is $2.86 per day—the price of a cup of coffee in many countries—and barely above the International Poverty Line of $1.25 per day. Advocates are increasingly concerned about such faulty MIC designations by the Bank as they adversely affect pricing and costs of a wide assortment of goods and services, including triggering far higher prices for lifesaving HIV/AIDS and other medicines in the countries.     

As part of the campaign, advocates will host a PRESS CONFERENCE followed by a PROTEST in front of the World Bank in Washington, DC on Monday, September 21 starting with an 11:00 am press conference at the Lombardy Hotel.  Advocates are pressing the World Bank to set the lower limit of the MIC category at, or above $3,650 of GNI per capita – equivalent to about $10 per day. AHF, which is spearheading the ‘Raise the MIC’ campaign will also unveil a new related DC transit shelter ad campaign.

WHAT: PRESS CONFERENCE: Advocates to press World Bank to reconsider and update faulty Middle Income Country (MIC) designations.

WHEN: MONDAY, Sept. 21st 201511:30 am ET

WHERE: Lombardy Hotel, International Room

2019 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | Washington, DC 20006


  • Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President
  • José M. Zuniga, PhD, MPH, President/CEO International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC)
  • Jorge Saavedra, M.D., Global Ambassador for AHF and former Director of Mexico’s national AIDS program
  • Terri Ford, Chief of Global Policy & Advocacy or AIDS Healthcare Foundation
  • Other speakers TBD


  • Teleconference dial in: +1.877.411.9748 participant code #7134323

  • International Teleconf. dial in: +1.636.651.3128 participant code #7134323


1818 H Street, (one block from Lombardy Hotel & across from Murrow Park)

B-ROLL: 100 advocates with placards, whistles & banners, 3ft world globe balloons

CONTACT: Ged Kenslea, AHF Communications Director (323) 791-5526 cell

“Today, seventy-five percent of the world’s poor—and the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS—reside in countries which the World Bank currently classifies as some bracket of Middle Income,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “The International Poverty Line is $1.25 per day, while the lower limit of the current MIC bracket is only $2.86 per day. However, $2.86 per day is simply not a Middle-Income wage. It’s unconscionable to say that a person making just $1.61 per day more than the International Poverty Line lives in a Middle Income Country. We strongly urge the World Bank to revise its income classification methodology so that it is more closely aligned with the economic realities of the people in the developing world. The perceived meaning of the MIC label needs to correspond to an income threshold that is sufficiently high to meet a person’s basic necessities and put him or her firmly above the poverty line. Specifically, we propose that the World Bank set the lower limit of the MIC category at, or above $3,650 of GNI per capita – equivalent to approximately $10 a day.”

Unfortunately, the usage of these classifications has extended well beyond the World Bank, and as a consequence of their MIC designation, countries with weak economies are now facing reductions in foreign aid, fewer concessionary development loans and higher prices for essential medicines—including for lifesaving antiretroviral therapies for HIV/AIDS.

“Over the past fifteen years, the World Bank has reclassified twenty-eight countries from designations of Low Income to Middle Income,” said José M. Zuniga, PhD, MPH, President/CEO International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC). “These countries undoubtedly deserve praise for their economic growth, but the World Bank income classification scale sends a global message that distorts the reality and does not accurately reflect the income levels of the majority of people living in these countries. The fact is these classifications condemn citizens of countries erroneously classified as Middle Income to lack access to interventions reserved for Low Income Countries—whether or not that is the World Bank’s intent. It also bears mentioning that within a very fragile five-year timeframe to translate earlier ART initiation into effective HIV epidemic control, we cannot hamstring truly Low Income countries through a classification mechanism in need reform.”

“A common interpretation of ‘Middle Income’ classification is that people in this bracket should have sufficient income to satisfy the basic necessities of life such as adequate housing, food, clothing and access to health care,” said Jorge Saavedra, M.D., Global Public Health Ambassador for AHF and former Director of Mexico’s national AIDS program. “In my country, Mexico, which is currently classified as Upper Middle Income, the number of people living in poverty rose from 45.5% to 46.2% from 2012 through 2014, according to the National Council for Social Development Policy Evaluation—so nearly half our population lives in poverty. Yet an antiretroviral HIV/AIDS drug regimen that may cost as little as $200 per patient per year in Low Income Countries costs several thousand dollars in Mexico—a prime example of how the World Bank classification system hampers access to lifesaving treatment by making drugs unaffordable to both individual patients and government programs.”

“The mission of the World Bank is to end extreme poverty within a generation and boost shared prosperity. This goal cannot be accomplished by renaming developing countries into MICs; the underlying problems associate with global poverty will remain in place until we face up to reality and start calling things for what they are, said Terri Ford, Chief of Global Policy & Advocacy for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “In a recent letter to Dr. Kim, we respectfully requested a meeting between representatives of the NGO coalition supporting this appeal with World Bank leadership—including Dr. Kim—to further discuss possible solutions to the challenges regarding the country income classification scale. We are heartened that Kaushik Basu, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President for Development Economics for the World Bank responded and is willing to arrange such a meeting in late October; however, this is a critical issue that impedes many people from affording and accessing medications that could keep them alive. This is why we are proceeding today with our press conference and protest at the World Bank.”

In his September 4th response, the World Bank’s Basu noted, “Our classification of economies is intended only for analytical purposes such as comparison and aggregation, but as you highlight, it is clear that its usage has extended beyond that.”

AHF also Launches ‘Raise the MIC’ Ad Campaign in DC

In addition to spearheading the global coalition and online petition drive, AHF is also unveiling an advertising campaign in Washington to bring awareness to the Middle Income Country issue. Starting in mid-September, a ‘Raise the MIC’ ad was posted at a series of ten bus shelters around the White House and World Bank, and the ad is running in the current issue of the Washington Blade. The ad features an iconic white paper coffee cup complete with cardboard sleeve—however, the sleeve features the World Bank’s logo instead of a coffee vendor’s. The ad headline simply reads, “$2.86/day is NOT middle income,” and has the ‘’ URL beneath the cup.

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