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Zoellick urges G20 leaders not to forget the poor
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09:32, April 01, 2009

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Leaders from the Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging economies should not forget the world's poor population when they meet in London later this week, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Tuesday.

"In London, Washington and Paris people talk of bonuses or no bonuses. In parts of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, the struggle is for food or no food," Zoellick said in a speech ahead of the G20 summit, which was released in London.

The World Bank warned that in the wake of the financial crisis, there would be a sharp slowdown in economic growth in the developing world this year, putting more poor people at risk,

It was estimated that economic growth in developing countries would slow sharply to 2.1 percent in 2009, a more than three percentage point decline from last year, while the world economy would contract by 1.7 percent this year compared to growth of 1.9 percent in 2008, the first global decline since the Second World War.

Growth would actually decline in Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

About 53 million more people would be trapped in poverty this year, subsisting on less than 1.25 U.S. dollars a day, because of the crisis.

Zoellick said world leaders should learn from previous economic crises in Latin America in the 1980s and Asia in the 1990s and not repeat the mistake of ignoring the plight of the most vulnerable. Developing countries needed to be part of the global solution to the global crisis.

"Isn't it time to institutionalize support for the most vulnerable during crises, especially those not of their own making?" said Zoellick, who has proposed that developed countries allocate 0.7 percent of the stimulus packages to a fund for developing countries.

"A commitment to put in place structures to support and fund safety nets for those most at risk would go a long way to show that this G-group will not endorse a two tier world, with summits for financial systems, and silence for the poor." he added, calling for market economies with a human face.

As global trade in goods and services was predicted to fall six percent this year, the largest decline in 80 years, Zoellick in particular called on G20 leaders to back a new 50-billion-dollar fund for trade support.

The fund will combine a 1-billion-dollar investment from the World Bank with financing from governments and regional development banks. These public contributions can be leveraged by a risk-sharing arrangement with major private sector partners.

"G20 backing will help us gain more momentum, thereby increasing support," Zoellick said.

The World Bank chief said many of the immediate challenges of the crisis could be addressed if the G20 reformed and empowered existing international institutions to help resist protectionism, evaluate the effectiveness of stimulus packages and monitor banking reforms.

"If leaders are serious about creating new global responsibilities or governance, let them start by modernizing multilateralism to empower the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to monitor national policies," Zoellick said.

"Bringing sunlight to national decision-making would contribute to transparency, accountability, and consistency across national policies," he added.


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