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General News of Monday, 1 September 2008

Source: GNA

World Bank denies imposing policies on poor countries

Accra, Sept. 1, GNA - Contrary to the widely spread notion that the Breton Woods Institutions impose inimical policies on governments of poor countries as conditions for giving them aid, the World Bank (WB), on Monday denied ever imposing any policies on poor countries. Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili, WB Vice President for Africa, asked African journalists from about 20 African countries during a video press conference to turn their attention to the policy choices of their governments instead of suspecting the WB and other donors of inimical policy impositions.

"It is not our practice at the World Bank to impose policies in countries and we have never done that," she said. She noted that last year alone the WB gave out 5.4 billion US dollars as aid to poor countries and had earmarked to deliver 7.2 billions US by the close of this year, adding that none of this money came with inimical policy impositions.

"It has always been the policy of the WB to support the development programmes of the governments of the countries it supports to ensure that those governments are in the driving seat as required by the March 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness," she said. Ms Ezekwesili said the media in Africa would be failing their citizens if they continued to feed the public with the wrong information that donor nations and multilateral organisations were to blame for the woes of Africa, when in fact the blame should be put at the doorstep of the policy choices of their governments.

"The African media needs to be more analytical in their approach to monitoring the factors that determine the level of development in their countries and ask questions like why so much money has been invested in education and health for instance and yet those sectors have not been able to deliver the desired results," she said. She said the WB only offered assistance in the areas of technical and human capacity in the proper management and application of donor funds to ensure that those funds went to reduce poverty, increase growth, build capacity and ensure speedy achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Ms Ezekwesili said the World Bank had only one goal, to ensure that poverty was reduced in less developed countries, adding that when a government which was not able to balance it books well for instance pursued a policy that gave subsidies to the rich instead of to the poor, the media and civil society could not blame the bank. "Beside giving money to poor countries we have also championed lots of reforms that have improved the lot of the greater majority of the citizens of poor countries.

"For instance we championed reforms in the telecommunications industries in most African countries and today a lot of African citizens are on the GSM mobile phone networks, which was very rare about five years ago."

She noted that there existed a major capacity and infrastructural gap in Africa that made the continent less competitive, saying that donor countries and organisations could not be blamed for that gap.

"Africa needs 22 billion US dollars to bridge the infrastructural gap and additional 18 billion US dollars to maintain the needed infrastructure," she said.

Ms Ezekwesili said the media and civil society should hold their governments accountable over the proper application of national resources rather than donor funds to bridge the huge infrastructure and capacity gap needed to make them competitive in the global market place. "Granted that Africa needs a combination of aid and trade to be competitive in the world, aid could only complement what African governments do with their own national resources," she said. She noted that due to the gap in the human capacity in Africa, the continent had witnessed 5.4 per cent growth over the past decade with its resultant new emerging sectors and the employment opportunities but African citizens did not have the expertise to take advantage of those employment opportunities.

Ms. Ezekwesili lauded the government of Ghana for the prudent management of the economy over the past few years, saying that Ghana, Uganda and Burkina Faso were three of the few African countries, which "will" halve poverty by the 2015 in accordance with the MDG one. Ms. Ezekwesili is in the country to attend the Third High Level Forum (HLF3) on Aid Effectiveness, slated for September 2-4. Ahead of the conference, she also addressed a parallel forum held by 80 local and international civil society organisations (CSOs) on aid effectiveness.

Thirty of the CSO have been invited to participate in the ministerial session of the HLF3.