IMF, World Bank & IFI Round-Up

The World Bank on July 30 endorsed a call by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to accelerate progress toward meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals, AFP reports. Brown, in an address to the UN in New York, called for a new humanitarian alliance to help meet key world poverty reduction targets, evoking a “coalition for justice” in the spirit of the US Peace Corps. The British government said 12 world leaders, including France, Japan, Germany, Spain, India and Brazil, had signed a joint pledge for “urgent action” to help meet what Brown described as a “development emergency” in the world. World Bank President Robert Zoellick said he stands fully behind the initiative. “We will do all we can to support the program Prime Minister Brown has outlined, including through the important drive to replenish funding for the International Development Association (IDA), critical for the most impoverished countries,” Zoellick added.

In a separate piece, AFP reports that EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso voiced support for Brown’s call for urgent action to reduce poverty. Barroso supported the call for urgent action and for the mobilizing of the “political will as well as all potential parties such as the private sector, civil society organizations and others around the MDGs agenda.” He also supported Brown’s proposal of a meeting next year to review progress on reaching the MDGs and decide how to accelerate action.

The US, France and Germany are racing to draw up rules to govern the state-controlled investment funds of developing countries, spurred in part by Barclays’ use of Chinese and Singaporean money in its takeover bid for the Dutch bank ABN AMRO. The IHT reports that with no international body like the World Trade Organization (WTO) to oversee such investment, US officials are pushing the IMF and World Bank to set guidelines. Germany and France, meanwhile, are urging a joint European response. Sovereign wealth funds, which invest official currency reserves in foreign assets, control an estimated USD 2.5 trillion, more than all the world’s hedge funds combined.

African governments, especially those rich in natural resources, should do more to battle corruption and strengthen financial governance, the IMF said July 30. In an interview with Reuters in Maputo, Abdoulaye Bio-Tchane, Director of the IMF’s African department said that the world’s poorest continent needed to continue the progress it had made to make its governments more transparent and less prone to graft. Bio-Tchane said that growth for Africa as a whole would be 7 percent in 2007. The forecast for sub-Saharan Africa is still below the threshold needed to attain the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving extreme poverty by 2015, according to the IMF’s estimates.

The US and Britain are optimistic that WTO members can reach a long-sought agreement soon in the Doha round of world trade talks, the two country’s leaders said July 30. Brown said he had spoken in recent days with leaders like European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and World Trade Organization boss Pascal Lamy. India, Brazil, Europe and the United States have been among the leading players in the WTO’s Doha round, the fractious trade talks that were launched in 2001 in Qatar.

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