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World Bank President Concludes Rwanda Leg of African Tour


Paul Wolfowitz (l) meets Rwanda's President Paul Kagame
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz left Rwanda Friday following consultations with the Rwandan government and others as part of his week-long tour of Africa.

The secretary-general and secretary of the treasury in Rwanda's Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Claver Gatete, tells VOA he and his colleagues were happy that the World Bank president selected Rwanda as one of the countries on his first African tour.

Mr. Gatete says the visit was meant to brief Mr. Wolfowitz on Rwanda's economic progress, government structures, peace and reconciliation issues arising from the country's 1994 genocide, and the challenges Rwanda still faces.

"It is also important that he had to see for himself where the country is coming from," said Mr. Gatete. "He witnessed what happened during the genocide; he was told the story. He saw what has been done during the reconstruction phase, and what efforts have been put to make sure that the country goes back on track. So I think for us it was an opportunity to chat with him [about] the future intervention of the bank."

During his two days in Rwanda, Mr. Wolfowitz met with officials from the Rwandan government, the business community, health care workers, and others.

Mr. Gatete says discussions did not involve promises from the bank on specific present and future projects, but a general direction of collaboration between the two on priorities such as building roads and railways and improving trade conditions.

"So we raised the issues of the bank's involvement in terms of understanding the challenge of the developed world to reduce their subsidies so that we can have a [level] playing field in terms of export. Second as we said we cannot really do much without the infrastructure," he explained.

Mr. Gatete says there were indications that the World Bank would work with the government to develop roads and other infrastructure, look for new sources of economic growth, ensure the creation of an enabling environment for business, and boost the country's export promotion and agricultural productivity.

The World Bank delegation could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Wolfowitz, who is the former U.S. deputy defense secretary, assumed the World Bank presidency on June 1.

On his African tour, from June 12 to 18, he will visit Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, and South Africa to get ideas of how to reduce poverty on the continent.

The World Bank, based in the United Sates, provides loans and advice to more than 100 developing countries. In Rwanda, the bank provides millions of dollars to finance agriculture, education, health and other projects.

Critics accuse the World Bank of perpetuating poverty because of the conditions it attaches to its loans. They say policies are skewed in favor of business at the expense of social development.