IMF, World Bank & IFI Round-Up

The World Bank unveiled a new multi-donor trust fund that allows for the exchange of knowledge and expertise among developing countries in fighting poverty. “In their quest to accelerate growth and improve living standards, policy makers in the developing world are constantly in search of innovative ideas,” said the bank’s president, Robert Zoellick. “They see the experiences of their counterparts in emerging economies as increasingly relevant.” The fund seeks to raise some USD 10 billion over a three-year period.

Latin America and Caribbean nations affected by the ongoing financial crisis will be able to access supplementary funding from the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Finance Corporation. The IFC will provide USD500 million in loans to small and medium-sized enterprises. “We are increasing the availability of trade finance and putting in place funding packages,” said Atul Mehta, IFC’s Latin America department chief.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is creating a taskforce to monitor the effects of the financial crisis, following its call for a meeting next month to examine its impact on trade finance. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy told the body’s policy-making General Council that the Nov. 12 meeting would look for ways to alleviate the situation if it turned out the crisis was choking off trade finance. “One third of the world economy, mainly in emerging countries, still has a big growth potential and we must try and make sure that this engine can work through trade,” Lamy said. Around 90 percent of the USD 14 trillion of world trade is financed by trade credits, which according to Lamy are the origin of banking.

UK Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander, with the support of European and developing nations, led the reform to open the top post at the World Bank to candidates from any country. “The agreement provides the opportunity for candidates to be nominated regardless of nationality,” said Alexander, as cited by The Guardian. “It will ensure that the best-qualified candidate is selected.” Currently, the US has the power to appoint the bank’s president while Europe selects the managing director for the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Asian Development Bank will release an additional USD 71 million to cover the cost over-runs of a water project in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. Contract award delays, Indian rupee appreciation and price hikes caused project costs to climb. “Without the additional funding, the project in its original scope cannot be completed, and the integrity of the urban infrastructure system for water supply, sewerage, and waste disposal will be severely undermined,” said ADB Economist Hiroyuki Ikemoto, as cited by AFP.

The Japanese government will donate USD 150 million over a five-year period to a World Bank trust fund designed to boost agricultural productivity and disaster prevention in the developing world. Some USD100 million will be utilized to develop new rice varieties, improve fertilizer use and train agricultural researchers. The rest of the sum will be used for climate change mitigation schemes.

Cash-strapped Pakistan will receive USD 1.4 billion from the World Bank this year to speed up investment projects and budgetary lending for the country. Of the amount, USD 600 million will be allocated to investments while the rest will be used for budget support and the country’s macroeconomic stabilization program. The UK Department for International Development also doubled its economic aid to more than USD 1 billion for Pakistan.

The World Bank, Nike Foundation and several European governments unveiled a USD 20 million program to enhance the job skills of young women in developing nations. The program, dubbed as the Adolescent Girls Initiative, is being implemented first in Liberia and will be expanded in 2009 to Afghanistan, Nepal, Rwanda, South Sudan and a sixth country that is yet to be determined. “Investing in young women is one way to break the intergenerational pattern of poverty,” said World Bank President Robert Zoellick.

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