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World Bank committed to fight poverty

A young child in the slums of northern Dhaka assists his mother wash the clothes in the city's Togi river.
(David Swanson/IRIN)

World Bank president Robert Zoellick has assured the government of Bangladesh it will continue to help the country and its people address poverty. A Bank-supported agricultural technology project worth US$65 million is in the final stage of approval and will be replicated and continued for the next 15 years.

Almost 34 percent of Bangladesh’s 150 million people live below the poverty line, on less than $1 a day.

"We expect enhanced budgetary support from the World Bank through increased transitional credit and project financing to meet the current challenges," Bangladesh’s Finance and Planning Adviser Mirza Azizul Islam told reporters after meeting Zoellick.

"We placed our priorities before the World Bank president and urged him for faster implementation of support in the power sector the World Bank pledged earlier. The president also gave assurance in this regard but stressed the need for necessary policy reforms in the power sector," Aziz said.

''The world has gone through so many changes over the last few decades, but the World Bank has remained static since its establishment about 60 years ago.''

The World Bank is the largest single lender to Bangladesh, providing just less than 50 percent of its development loans.

However, Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel laureate for peace, criticised the World Bank for not achieving its main goal of poverty alleviation.

"The world has gone through so many changes over the last few decades, but the World Bank has remained static since its establishment about 60 years ago. It needs reforms and there should be a rethink of its policies," Yunus told reporters after meeting Zoellick at Grameen headquarters in Dhaka, the capital.

He said Zoellick told him the Bank was trying for changes, but there were institutional problems.

Yunus asked the Bank to lend more money to micro-credit activities. “The World Bank lends $20 billion a year on average and only 1 percent of the amount is given for micro-credit programmes. This should rise at least to 5 percent,” Yunus suggested.

Corruption

Zoellick defended the Bank’s policy of attaching conditions to loans because it protected funds from corruption. "We don't want our money stolen and I presume you don't want our money stolen, and you have to make sure the right policy environment is set," he told a media briefing.


Photo: Shamsuddin Ahmed/IRIN
World Bank president Robert Zoellick (middle) flanked by vice-president Praful Patel (r) and Bangladesh country director Xian Zhu (l) during a meeting in Dhaka on 3 November

"Fighting corruption openly and transparently and doing it in a way that is consistent with the rule of law and basic fairness is not only the right thing to do but is critical for sustainable growth," he insisted.

Zoellick offered Bangladesh support for a better business environment. “He said private investment should come up in a bigger way if Bangladesh wanted to become a middle-income-group country by the year 2015. He assured the World Bank’s cooperation in infrastructure and human resource development,” according to a media statement.

The Bank also offered its input into an analytical study to be developed with the government for a project on adapting to climate change and mitigating against its impact.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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