IMF, World Bank & IFI Round-Up

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) won final approval for a modest shift in voting rights that will give developing nations slightly more power in the organization. Under the deal, approved by 175 of the 180 nations that voted, developing nations will get 42.1 percent of the fund’s voting power, compared with 57.9 percent for richer countries, amounting to a gain of 1.6 percentage points. IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the change in voting rights marks “the beginning of the new legitimacy at the fund.” The reforms also include an additional alternate executive director for executive directors elected by a large number of members, which will benefit the two African constituencies on the Executive Board, according to the IMF.?

UN agencies and the World Bank will set up a task force on food to deal with the unprecedented rise in global food prices, the UN said on April 29. ?We consider that the dramatic escalation in food prices worldwide has evolved into an unprecedented challenge of global proportions that has become a crisis for the world’s most vulnerable, including the urban poor,? the UN said. The World Bank said in statement it was considering setting up a rapid financing facility to help poor and fragile countries in particular and provide quicker, more flexible financing for others. The Bank will double its lending for agriculture in Africa over the next year to USD 800 million, it said.

The United States on April 29 released USD 40 million in emergency aid for the World Food Program to help deal with the growing global food crisis affecting the poorest nations. The funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will be added to USD 200 million US President George W. Bush authorized on April 14, the State Department said in a statement.

Thousands of people in Africa will be paid to avoid unsafe sex, under a groundbreaking World Bank-backed experiment aimed at halting the spread of AIDS. The USD 1.8 million trial ? to be launched this year ? will counsel 3,000 men and women aged 15-30 in southern rural Tanzania over three years, paying them on condition that periodic laboratory test results prove they have not contracted sexually transmitted infections. The proposed payments of USD 45 equate to a quarter of annual income for some participants. The program, jointly funded by the World Bank, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Population Reference Bureau and the Spanish Impact Evaluation Fund, marks an important step in the fight to tackle AIDS.

The European Investment Bank (EIB), along with four European banks, have launched a EUR 125 million carbon fund which will invest exclusively in carbon emission credits to be issued after 2012, the group said on April 28. Initiator and principal investor the EIB said it is partnering with France’s Caisse des Depots, Spain’s Instituto de Credito Oficial, Germany’s KfW Bankengruppe, and Finland’s Nordic Investment Bank to purchase so-called post-Kyoto Protocol carbon credits from clean energy projects in developing countries.

Sovereign wealth funds have mushroomed 24 percent annually over the past three years to hold a total of USD 3.5 trillion in 2007, a US economic firm said April 28. Global Insight said that projected on that annual growth pace, sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) would surpass the entire current economic output of the US by 2015, and the EU by 2016. Global Insight, a Massachusetts-based company specialized in economic and financial analysis and forecasting, noted that SWFs were changing the nature of ties between developed and developing countries. China, Russia and Kuwait were the owners of the largest funds, the report said - but with others including African oil-rich countries once more associated with instability and conflict following rapidly behind.

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