The World Bank and International Monetary Fund Monday said more aid and faster growth in poor countries are needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty by half over the next decade.

The two Washington-based financial institutions say global anti-poverty measures have had mixed results with Asia making significant progress and Africa lagging far behind. At the current pace of economic growth, their joint report says, Africa will not achieve the goal of reducing poverty by half within 10 years. The goal to reduce poverty was first set at the UN Millennium Summit five years ago.

IMF official Andrew Berg says economic growth rates in Africa need to reach seven percent annually in order to have any chance of meeting the goals set at the UN summit. "Real income per person has been stagnant in Africa - on average-since the mid-1970s. Since 1990s, growth has picked up and growth is at an eight year high. Still, only seven countries with a population of less than a quarter of all of sub-Saharan Africa, will achieve the income-poverty goals [based] on current trends," he said.

In his speech to the conference, Paulo Gomes, a World Bank executive director from Guinea-Bissau, said he is pessimistic. He said even if bi-lateral aid to Africa were to increase by ten billion dollars, to around $30 billion a year, it would still be grossly inadequate. "It took Germany $150 billion a year for the last 15 years to upgrade East Germany," he said. "Why should we take $10 billion to upgrade an entire continent? How is that possible?"

Mr. Gomes is also pessimistic that the rich countries will dismantle the trade distorting agricultural subsidies that benefit their farmer but adversely affect African farmers.

Zia Qureshi, a World Bank adviser who prepared the monitoring report, is more optimistic. He says he believes the rich countries will boost their official development assistance [ODA]. "A doubling of ODA is eminently affordable. It represents only about zero point two percent of high income countries' gross national income and less than one tenth of what they devote to military spending," he said.

Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals has been made a central agenda item of this year's summit of leaders of the major industrial democracies and Russia. That meeting, hosted by the British prime minister, takes place in early July.