World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Thursday he is "extremely concerned" about the widespread creation of offshore companies by wealthy people around the world to evade taxes, saying it takes large sums away from governments who need the money to fight poverty.
Kim told a news conference in Washington he was distressed by the scope of the offshore accounts as disclosed in the Panama Papers, a recent report by investigative journalists based on a massive leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca that for decades has helped create the companies across the globe.
"If you're taking assets out of a country, it's very damaging to fighting poverty," Kim said. "We want to track down these illicit assets."
Kim added, "Everyone of us has to tackle this issue."
He called for more transparent tax systems around the world, because, he said, "There are systems where the rich don't pay and the poor do."
Kim touched on several other global issues.
World Bank Concerned About Weak Global Growth, Low Oil Prices and Tax Evasion
He decried the push in Europe to curb migration to the continent and the proposals by U.S. Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to erect barriers along the U.S. southern border with Mexico to halt the flow of illegal migration, although he did not specifically name the candidates.
Noting that he was a migrant, from South Korea in 1964, Kim said, "Many, many countries are going to need to encourage migration" to supply their labor markets, especially in cases where their own workers do not want to do the jobs that need to be filled.
"Smart leaders are going to need migrants, not only because it's the right thing to do, but because they're going to need workers," he said.
Kim said he is very worried about the recession in Russia, whose economy has been hobbled by declining oil revenues and Western sanctions aimed at Moscow for its 2014 takeover of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
He said negative growth in Russia is "one of the major drags on growth in the developing world," as Russia's investments diminish.
Kim estimated that it will cost from $150 billion to $180 billion to rebuild war-torn Syria. He said the World Bank needs "to play a major role in rebuilding" the conflict zones there and in other Middle East countries that have seen years of war.