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Rich are full of empty talk: World Bank

T V Sreeram in Dubai | September 23, 2003 18:14 IST

Stressing that actions of rich nations have not matched commitments, World Bank President James D Wolfensohn on Tuesday asked the developed world to live up to their word to meet the millennium development goals including cutting global poverty by 2015.

Addressing the World Bank- IMF annual meetings in Dubai, Wolfensohn called on both rich and poor governments to fulfill their responsibilities and help bring an equitable global economic system.

"We need a new global equilibrium, a new balance in the relationship between rich and poor nations," he said in his opening speech to the delegates from 184 countries who are attending the 2003 World Bank - IMF meetings.

"This is essential not just for poverty reduction and prosperity but for security and peace."

He said this month's World Trade Organisation meeting in Cancun had been a wakeup call because poor nations representing some 3 billion people had refused to accept the trade proposals from the rich countries.

"They signalled that there must be greater balance between the rich and powerful and the poor and the numerous. They signalled that for there to be global development and peace on our planet there must be a different set of priorities."

In his speech Wolfensohn described the "forces of imbalance" in the world: where one billion people own 80 per cent of the GDP and another billion by contrast struggle to survive on one dollar a day.

About two billion people will be added to the global population over the next 25 years, he said, adding, 95 per cent of them will be in the poor countries living a dismal life. Stating that aid levels are the lowest in 40 years at $56 billion, Wolfensohn said rich countries spend $300 billion on agriculture subsidies and $600 billion on defence.

"This is a world out of balance."

He urged the developed countries to convince their electorate about the importance of trade and aid and the developing countries to move aggressively to fight corruption, improve governance and spur reform.

Taking a cue from the World Bank President, the Governor of the Fund for Germany Ernst Welteke said he found it "inappropriate" that industrial countries spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year to protect their own products, spending an amount that far exceeded development aid.

"It would be extremely unfortunate if the failure of the Cancun negotiations would lead to trade conflicts... well targeted financial aid to developing countries can only be successful if combined with good governance and sound institutions" he said.

He opposed the demand by some countries for higher voting shares saying the proper functioning of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund required that a strong link is maintained between member countries quota shares and their economic weight as reflected in their financial contribution to the world bodies.

"However I believe there is certainly some justificatiton for an increase in basic votes," he said.

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