World Bank IMF Meeting to Focus on Trade, Debt Relief, Equal Access

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The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will hold their annual plenary sessions in Washington DC on September 24 and 25th. In a statement from the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank President, opening statement to a news conference on Thursday, said that major items on the agenda for the meetings were Debt Relief and Trade Talks, and the Bank's Africa Plan.

In response to questions from the media, Wolfowitz said he wanted to advance the deal on debt relief reached by the G8, to deliver not only a cancellation of debt for countries most in need, but also to ensure the viability of IDA – the International Development Association, the Bank's arm which gives grants and loans to the world's poorest countries, the World Bank statement said.

Wolfowitz said World Bank policy makers on the Development Committee would also focus on trade – looking ahead to the Doha Round of trade talks in Hong Kong in December.

The IMF released its twice-annual World Economic Outlook on Tuesday, in advance of the meeting, and downgraded its forecast for global growth slightly from 4.6 percent to 4.3 percent. “The expansion remains broadly on track . . . although the risks are still slanted to the downside,” the IMF said, the Canadian Press reported.

The IMF's forecasts are based on an assumption that world oil prices would average $54.23 US a barrel this year and $61.75 US a barrel in 2006, the Canadian Press reports.

Key risks according to the IMF include high energy prices and unsustainable deficits in developing countries. “Among the major industrial countries, fiscal deficits are expected to decline only modestly over the medium term (outside Canada which remains in surplus), with rising public debt ratios in Japan, Italy and Germany of particular concern,” according to the Canadian Press.

The IMF Economic Outlook said that financial market conditions were sound and emerging market conditions were favorable, but found plans to cut the U.S. budget deficit “unambitious”, according to a Reuters report.

The World Bank sounded its theme for the annual meeting with their “2006 World Development Report”, emphasizing policies that promote equity – “equal access to opportunities in society”, a USINFO report on the U.S. Department of State web site announced. In addition to domestic reforms in poorer countries, the report calls for “greater access of poorer nations to international markets for labor, goods, ideas and capital.” the UNINFO report said.

To achieve greater access, the Development Report recommends that rich countries allow greater “migration for unskilled workers from developing countries, . . allow poor countries to use generic drugs, and develop financial standards appropriate to developing countries,” USINFO reports.

Michael Walton, an author of the World Bank Development Report said that the prescriptions for the current year are “Consistent with the frameworks in the last two World Development Reports,” which focused on access to services for the poor and improving the investment climate, according to the USINFO report.

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