West Must Walk The Talk, Says World Bank President

Dubai, September 23: | Updated: Sep 24 2003, 05:30am hrs
Stressing that actions have not matched commitments, World Bank president James D Wolfensohn has asked the developed world to live up to their word to meet the millennium development goals including halving global poverty by 2015.

Addressing the World Bank-International Monetary Fund (Bank-IMF) annual meetings in Dubai on Tuesday, the Bank president called on both the rich and poor governments to fulfill their responsibilities and help to bring an equitable global economic system.

We need a new global equilibrium, a new balance in the relationship between the rich and poor countries, Mr Wolfensohn said in his opening speech to the delegates from 184 countries who are attending the 2003 World Bank-International Monetary Fund meetings.

This is essential not just for poverty reduction and prosperity but for security and peace, the Bank president stressed.

Mr Wolfensohn said the recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial held in Cancun, Mexico, which collapsed due to the tough posturing by the West in regard to farm subsidy and the Singapore issues and the resultant stiff opposition from the poorer countries is a wake-up call because the poor nations representing some three billion people 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, the Bank president said. (PTI)

Dubai Jottings

Collective Actions, Politically
One of the memorable quotes of the Fund-Bank meetings surfaced at a press conference of the Group of 24 when a journalist from a leading wire agency asked the outgoing chairman and Lebonese finance minister Fuad Siniora as to what he thought of collective action clauses used in sovereign debt negotiations: Why do you feel the need to expand it Why isn’t there more use of it and so on

But Mr Siniora had no clue as what this was all about! He bravely went on to say: “We should be really encouraging collective action in terms of addressing political problems like in Iraq. Instead of unilateral approaches, there is the need for encouraging collective approaches to this problem like with the United Nations” !

Football in Dubai
An extremely interesting session at the meetings was the townhall session with civil society organisations. In recent years, many NGOs have been invited to participate from the inside rather than outside and there was a free for all in the question answer session. A lady from Pakistan, Fauzia Saeed got up and stated that she was from a country “that has been played around with like a football by international players, and used and abused many times as they will. The government has initiated a process of decentralisation and civil society organisations have been demanding that for several years but the World Bank has been undermining that again and again”.

Bank’s president James Wolfensohn was taken aback and sputtered a reply later: “I don’t know that Pakistan’s been played around with any worse by people outside Pakistan than by the Pakistanis themselves who seem to have done a pretty good job!”

What’s Amiss
On Monday, a rumour swilled among members of the Indian media delegation that the country had fared badly in the meetings, though the exact factor was not clear. Was it on official development assistance Were its proposals on raising the voice of developing countries to participate in the Fund-Bank shot down Accosting members of the Indian delegation leaving the Development Committee meeting to visit the toilet elicited no response either.

Still the feeling was rife that the delegation was downcast and not replying to media calls in its hotels either. But that didn’t prevent members from shopping expeditions! “Definitely, there is something” was the persistent feeling, even though finance secretary DC Gupta’s note to the Committee gave no clue as what was amiss. Maybe the mystery will clear when the meetings are over.

Yuan Song
Journos seeking a soundbyte from the Chinese representatives at the meeting often drew a blank. Given the US pressure to make its yuan more flexible, one would have thought that they would be only too willing to respond through the media. But that didn’t happen. The Chinese deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, however, chose a platform far from the summit venue to lash out at such pressures. That was at annual conference of the International Institute of Finance held at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

But catching any of them at the summit venue was a vain undertaking. Journos had to contend themselves with quotes from Nobel Laureate in economics Robert Mundell on who was in Dubai for some other purpose on the futility of applying pressure on China to let its currency float upwards.