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$6.6 billion committed to fight poverty in South Asia: WB

July 03, 2009 13:53 IST

The World Bank has committed a whopping $6.6 billion in fiscal year 2009 to fight poverty in South Asia, home to one of the largest concentrations of people below the poverty line in the world.

This is an increase of $1.1 billion over the previous year, the World Bank said on Thursday, adding that it invested $6.6 billion in 89 projects to promote economic growth, fight poverty and assist private businesses.

This includes nearly $2 billion in infrastructure financing, a critical sector to provide the foundation for rapid recovery from the crisis and job creation.

Much of the Bank's support focused on helping South Asian countries cope with the impact of the global economic crisis, it said.

"South Asian countries have been hard hit by a series of crises -- food, then the fuel crisis, followed by the global financial crisis," Isabel M Guerrero, World Bank vice president for South Asia, said.

"In response to the impact of these successive crises much of our work has been refocused to provide rapid financial assistance and policy advice to reverse the slowdown in growth and investment and to protect the poor and most vulnerable people," Guerrero said.

Globally, the World Bank Group committed $58.8 billion in fiscal year 2009, 54 per cent up from fiscal year 2008.

Commitments from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development-- which provides financing, risk management products, and other financial services to countries -- rose sharply in fiscal 09 to $32.9 billion for 126 operations, from $3.5 billion the previous year.

Commitments from the International Development Association, which provides interest-free loans and grants to the world's 79 poorest countries, totalled a record $14 billion in fiscal 09, up 25 per cent from $11.2 billion in fiscal 08, the World Bank said.

"Requests for assistance from the World Bank Group rose sharply this year, and we expect this to continue well into 2010, as the pace of recovery is far from certain," World Bank Group President Robert B Zoellick said.

"Millions of people are still suffering, and we must continue to help countries safeguard priority expenditures, including on essential infrastructure, investment in human capital, and social safety nets, or we will further jeopardise hard-fought gains over recent years in overcoming poverty."

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