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World Bank contracting

Steve Hirsch’s article “Bush opposes World Bank contracting plan” (World, Wednesday) misses a number of important points about our plan to improve procurement systems in developing countries.

First, this is not about Zimbabwe, as your reporter suggests. It is about pilot programs in 10 countries with procurement systems that meet World Bank standards, and they will participate in the pilot in accordance with international best practices.

By further strengthening their capacity for quality procurement and international competitive bidding, we will improve their ability to fight corruption and overcome poverty.

At the same time, improved procurement and bidding standards will make it easier for international companies to compete, not just for contracts on World Bank-financed projects, but for a bigger slice of projects and procurement in these countries. So it will be good for business, too.

To date, we have held consultations with businesses and governments from 78 countries and are working closely with the Department of Commerce to hold additional consultations on our draft proposals in the coming weeks. We will continue to take great care to listen to the concerns of the business community and to take them into account in the pilot program.

As Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez himself pointed out, there is broad support for “increasing the capacity of borrowing countries to conduct fair and transparent procurement.” A number of developed countries with strong business communities, including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, already have recognized this and are supporting this pilot initiative.

JEFFREY GUTMAN

Vice president

Operations Policy and

Country Services

World Bank

Washington

It’s the spirit of the man

Sen. Barack Obama is attempting to distance himself from his Chicago pastor by calling the Rev. Jeremiah Wright his spiritual adviser, not a political adviser (“Obama raps preacher’s rants,” Nation, Saturday).

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