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World Bank: China's Belt and Road Can Speed Development, Needs Transparency

FILE - A woman checks her phone next to a poster promoting a project of the Belt and Road in Colombo, Sri Lanka at China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing, China, May 28, 2019.

China's massive Belt and Road infrastructure drive could speed up economic development and reduce poverty for dozens of developing countries, the World Bank said on Tuesday in a new report that called for deep policy reforms and more transparency for the initiative.

The long-delayed report said that the Belt and Road, a string of ports, railways, roads and bridges and other investments connecting China to Europe via central and southern Asia, could lift 32 million people out of moderate poverty conditions if implemented fully.

Still, the initiative comes with "significant risks" given a lack of transparency and institutional issues in some of the participating economies, the World Bank said.

"Achieving the ambitions of the Belt and Road Initiative will require equally ambitious reforms from participating countries," Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, World Bank vice president for equitable growth, said in a statement.

"Improvements in data reporting and transparency — especially around debt — open government procurement, and adherence to the highest social and environmental standards will help significantly," she added.

The World Bank's new president, David Malpass, skipped the Belt and Road summit in April and was a critic of the initiative when he was an official at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.