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World Bank Meeting Concludes in Washington - 2002-04-21

The World Bank Sunday concluded its semi-annual meeting in Washington by launching a new initiative to boost primary education in developing countries.

The Bank's development committee comprised of 24 finance ministers approved a proposal aimed at achieving universal primary education. Bank President James Wolfensohn said the plan sets out a framework for channeling money to developing countries with sound education policies. An initial group of 10 to 15 countries are expected to participate in the program.

Development Committee Chairman Trevor Manuel of South Africa said the fast-track program can not be expected to yield immediate results. "You're not going to be able to measure educational outputs at the end of 12 months," he said. "If it is education to the age of ten, then you may have to wait four or five years to see the nature of the changes. But it is putting those kinds of things in place that begins to change the inter-relationships."

World Bank President Wolfensohn said the education initiative falls within commitments made at the recent financing for development conference in Monterrey, Mexico. Mr. Wolfensohn said, "The international community is at a point where it either supports these initiatives or we fail. What we saw in Monterrey was that there is already evidence of real money coming forward. And it is in the amount of between $9 and $20 billion a year."

The education initiative is expected to cost about $1 billion dollars in its first year.

This meeting on development emphasized not only new funding but heightened accountability on how the aid money is used. South Africa's Trevor Manuel says Africa is determined to make better use of aid money and is eager to participate in the new education initiative. The action plan aims at achieving full primary education for all children by 2015. Currently 125 million children globally receive no education at all.