- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2007

World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick yesterday said the bank should focus increased attention on African and Arab countries, war-torn nations and climate change as it works toward making globalization “inclusive and sustainable.”

The steps were among several Mr. Zoellick outlined in a speech to the National Press Club to mark his first 100 days as head of the institution.

Mr. Zoellick became president of the World Bank July 1, replacing Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned in the wake of revelations he broke bank rules by arranging a generous pay package for his girlfriend.

Mr. Zoellick said the bank must focus on overcoming poverty and encouraging growth in the world’s poorest countries, especially those in Africa. While 17 African countries had average growth of 5.5 percent from 1995 to 2005, they want help to build energy and other types of infrastructure to achieve higher growth and help develop local financial markets, he said.

African leaders see potential to expand agriculture through productivity improvements, Mr. Zoellick said.

To this end, he called for a “21st Century Green Revolution,” spurred by more investment in technological research, land management and rural credit, and said more countries must open their markets to farm exports.

Mr. Zoellick said other African countries have achieved higher growth rates because of oil resources and said key development needs for them include encouraging good governance and anti-corruption policies.

Advancing development in the Arab world is an important goal, Mr. Zoellick said. He cited progress in the region, including regulatory reform in Egypt and elimination of bureaucracy in Saudi Arabia, but said the World Bank can help by improving the environment for business in the region and perhaps finance development projects or provide other assistance.

“Without broad-based growth, these countries will struggle with social tensions and a large number of young people who cannot find jobs,” he said.

Mr. Zoellick also highlighted the need to address the problems of countries emerging from war or struggling to avoid political collapse.

“Frankly, our understanding of how to deal with these devastating cases is modest at best,” he said.

The bank also must re-examine how it works with middle-income countries, where important social services and infrastructure are insufficiently funded and environmental problems continue, he said.

Other steps he called for include a greater World Bank role in regional and global issues such as climate change, AIDS, malaria and linking aid and trade.

On climate change, Mr. Zoellick said he hopes this year to outline ways the World Bank can help integrate the needs of development and the environment.

“We need to focus particularly on the interests of developing countries, so that we can meet the challenge of climate change without slowing the growth that will help overcome poverty,” he said.

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