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World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting Opens in Washington

The World Bank and the IMF are holding their annual meetings here in Washington, DC. For a closer look at what’s on the agenda this week, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke with Marwan Muasher, the World Bank’s senior vice-president for external affairs. He says World Bank President Robert Zoellick has set a number of priorities.

“He’s talking about six strategic themes and this will be one of the main topics that will be discussed at the annual meeting – the strategy of the bank, where are we heading in the next few years. Another issue which is very important for us is the replenishment of our funds for the poorest countries, what we call IDA (International Development Association). We are in the last stretch of obtaining from donor countries funds for the poorest countries. And the president will make a strong pitch to urge donor counties to meet their commitments to this program. A third issue of increasing importance is climate change,” he says.

Muasher says Zoellick’s goal is what he calls “inclusive and sustainable globalization.” He says, “For globalization to work around the world it has to mean something both for the developed and the developing countries; and meaning that all areas and all issues need to be included within that overall theme. As such, the bank is talking about how to deal with the poorest countries of the world, how to deal with middle income countries, how to be more responsive to post conflict states, how to deal with an important region of the world that the bank feels is under-served, which is the Arab world. But also how to deal with global public good, such as climate change.”

Can the World Bank manage to find a consensus on the controversial issue of climate change? The bank vice president says, “That’s really the challenge of addressing climate change in a way that would get a buy-in not just from developed countries, but also from developing countries. A lot of developing countries feel that the issue of climate change might come at their expense, at the expense of their growth, at the expense of funds that they need in order to grow at a healthy pace.”

Globalization is also a hot topic, with many developing nations saying they are not benefiting, such as in global trade talks. Can they get a fair deal? Muasher says, “That’s exactly what the theme of inclusive globalization is all about. We want to work towards developing policies that address the developing countries’ needs in a way where they feel that globalization is working for them.”