By Dornschneider, Stephanie
The World and I , Vol. 19, No. 10
Stephanie Dornschneider is a writer for The Washington Times.
The world's poorest countries are in severe danger of failing to meet ambitious economic and development goals set for the next decade, according to a new report from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The report, issued last summer, said developing countries are not getting the economic aid they need, blaming contradictory economic policies on trade and aid in the world's industrial countries.
"The report's overall assessment is a somber one," said Zia Qureshi, the lead author of the survey. "Business as usual will not do. All parties must scale up their actions significantly and swiftly."
Activists hope that the report's findings will influence deliberations when finance ministers of the Group of Seven, the world's leading industrial powers, meet in Washington on October 1, said Marie Clarke, national coordinator of Jubilee USA Network.
The United States and the other G-7 countries have the most powerful voices on the board of directors at the IMF and World Bank.
The United Nations in 2000 adopted a set of "millennium development goals" (MDGs)--eight broad benchmarks for developing countries to achieve by 2015. The goals include poverty reduction, improved health, gender equality, better education, and environmental sustainability.
Strong growth in Asia, especially in India and China, makes it likely that the target for decreasing world poverty by half will be met. However, many individual countries will miss the income target.
In sub-Saharan Africa, poverty levels rose in the past decade. Only 15 percent to 20 percent of the developing countries are on track to meet the goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds.
Access to clean water and basic sanitation also are limited, and the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in the developing countries also remains very high, the report found.
Adotei Akwei, advocacy director for Amnesty International Africa, said the detailed assessment of the recent report "exposes a bleak picture." The World Bank and IMF "are beginning to realize that remedies need to be taken," he said.
World Bank Managing Director Shengman Zhang said the report was a "landmark" in the monitoring of global progress and a centerpiece in the discussion of how to aid developing countries. The report is the first in a series of annual reports assessing the implementation of the policies and actions for achieving the MDGs, adopted in the wake of the 2000 U.N. Millennium Summit in New York.
Clarke said helping the developing countries goes beyond monitoring progress. "The World Bank and the IMF have not taken very seriously their role," she said. Many African governments, she said, spend more paying interest on past debts than they receive in development aid, new loans, or investment. This year, African countries will send about $15 billion in debt service to the World Bank, the IMF, and wealthy creditor nations.
Clarke said, "We are calling for a 100 percent debt relief, and we believe they can do that from their own resources."
As the G-7 meeting approaches, debt analysts say there is a growing recognition in the United States that it is necessary to address the debt burden faced by poor nations. "We are definitely looking at ways to have a much more sustainable level of debt relief," said Tony Fratto, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at the Treasury Department. "We think that the change should be fairly significant."
Contrary to the charges made by debt-relief activists, Fratto contended that poor countries receive more money than they pay because of a 10- year grace period on the money they receive through the World Bank. Fratto said the bank's efforts represent the largest lending facility for poor countries in the world. He said to bring money into the poor countries in the form of grants is "equally important" to relieving debts. …