Representatives of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries expressed their desire March 11 for the World Bank to alleviate debt levels in the region and establish an assistance program for Haiti. At the opening of the 15-member CARICOM summit, host Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he hoped that World Bank President Robert Zoellick would present measures to help the region. “We must say that so far, we have been getting tremendous support and co-operation from the president of the World Bank and we look forward to forging, for the want of a better word, an alliance with the World Bank to seek to advance the issues which confront CARICOM,” Skerrit said, as cited by The Jamaica Observer. Amid the ongoing global economic and financial crisis that has adversely affected the entire 15-nation grouping, officials are also hopeful that the talks with Zoellick will result in the identification of new and viable approaches to the treatment of economic matters.

The World Bank raised its 2010 growth and inflation forecasts for China and recommended a tighter monetary policy as well as a stronger exchange rate to restrain inflation expectations and asset bubbles, Reuters reports. The bank revised its projection of gross domestic product growth this year to 9.5 percent from 8.7 percent in its previous China Quarterly Update in November and 9.0 percent in a regional report released in January. For 2011 the bank penciled in GDP growth of 8.7 percent – exactly the same rate China enjoyed in 2009 as the economy responded to massive monetary and fiscal stimulus. “In China the economy has held up very well during the global crisis and growth prospects for this year and next year remain quite good,” Louis Kuijs, senior economist in the bank’s Beijing office, told a news conference on Wednesday to issue the report.

World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific James Adams said March 15 that Asian economies will soon start to expand at a sharp pace again and play an important role in leading the global economy’s recovery. “We see the region in much better economic health today,” Adams said. The rapid recoveries were realized thanks to governments’ extraordinary stimulus and so the region’s key challenge now is how and when to exit from these measures, he said In related news, Reuters writes that the World Bank on March 15 raised its 2010 economic growth forecast for the Philippines to 3.5 percent from 3.1 percent due to a recovering global economy and increased private consumption and public spending. The World Bank forecast growth of 3.8 percent in 2011 in its Philippines Quarterly Update. In a separate article, Dow Jones adds that growth in private consumption is projected to hold up well in 2010, World Bank Senior Economist Eric le Borgne, who led the team that prepared the update, said in a statement. The rising precautionary savings that dampened spending in 2009 will likely diminish as consumer expectations gradually improve over the next twelve months.

Women face a litany of government-imposed restrictions across the globe that limit their ability to work or start a business, the World Bank said in its first annual report on laws and regulations over gender equality. It found that just 20 of 128 economies surveyed have equal working rights for men and women, and warned that limiting work for half the population was hampering growth in many developing countries. “Women’s economic empowerment is not only the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do from an economic perspective,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said at the report’s unveiling, noting that worldwide women were also more likely to lose their jobs during the recent global recession. The vast majority of the 20 countries with equal work rights were industrial nations. None were in Eastern Europe, South Asia or the Middle East. Just one country, Botswana, scored top marks in Africa. The restrictions on women getting jobs range from barring access to specific industries, to owning a company or - as in the Democratic Republic of Congo - requiring a husband’s approval before signing a work contract.

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