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World Bank:  2004 Economic Growth Lifts Millions from Poverty

The Washington-based World Bank says 2004 has been a very good year for developing countries, with their economies growing at their fastest pace in 30 years.

Developing countries will have registered 6.1 percent economic growth this year.

According to the World Bank's annual global economic prospects report, the fastest growing region is again East Asia and the Pacific, led by China, with 7.8 percent growth. South Asia, led by India, is close behind with six percent growth. The fastest growing individual countries are China (8.8 percent growth), Russia (8 percent growth) and India (6 percent).

The fast pace of growth has permitted Asian countries (particularly China) to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. China's booming economy is boosting per-capita income levels, which have been rising at an extraordinary six percent annually.

But Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are experiencing less robust growth and their per-capita income levels are rising more slowly or in some cases actually declining. Francois Bourguignon, the World Bank's chief economist, says as a result of Asia's boom Africa is becoming the region with the greatest number of poor people.

"If current trends are continuing, we may expect within 10 years the Sub-Saharan Africa region may be the area where most poverty will tend to concentrate in the world," he said. "In other words, in the span of 30 years poverty will have gone from being an Asian problem to being an African problem."

As many developing countries remain reliant on commodity exports, World Bank economist Hans Timmer says they are benefiting from the rising prices of raw materials.

"We see the almost 50 percent increase in the oil price [over the past year]," he said. "What is less well known is that metal prices have increased even more than oil prices. And also agricultural prices have increased much more than manufacturing prices."

The World Bank warns that developing country growth could be adversely affected by higher oil prices. The countries most at risk, it says, are the poorest oil importing countries and middle income debtors.

In compiling its data, the World Bank identifies most nations of the world as developing countries. Classified as high-income countries are Japan, Australia, the United States, Canada, and most of Western Europe.