WB willing to scale up operations in India: Zoellick

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New Delhi, Nov 3: World Bank President Robert B Zoellick today offered to scale up lending operations to India and favoured a bigger role for the country in governing the multilateral funding agency.

While not specifying the quantum of the scale of operations that the World Bank was willing to enhance, Mr Zoellick told a news conference the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development(IBRD) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) lending can certainly be enhanced, if India so desires. However, the hike in lending by International Development Agency (IDA) will depend upon the outcome of IDA 15 negotiations.

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"The World Bank Group will enhance its partnership with India as the government seeks to guide the country's rapidly expanding economy towards inclusionary policies that will benefit all its citizens," Mr Zoellick said.

The World Bank Chief was addressing the Press Conference at the conclusion of his visit to India. He had paid a visit to Mumbai and met a number of key leaders in Delhi.

Mr Zoellick had arrived in India after a visit to Islamabad and is flying from here to Bangladesh.

"Please understand my position. After Bangladesh I will be going to Germany seeking that it makes a larger contribution to IDA", he said.

Mr Zoellick said the voice of India and China is heard more seriously when they make a point in the Development Committee and other platforms of the Bank. This is because of the important role they play now in the global economy.

He said while larger voting rights for the two countries was a separate issue, their voices being heard by the members of the Bank was of critical importance.

He was of the view that the giants be heard more and more by the members of the World Bank Group.

While IBRD offers loans at harder rates of interest, IDA is the concessional lending window of the Bank. Most social sector projects come under IDA lending. IFC is the private sector arm of the World Bank.

The present lending by World Bank to India is of the order of 3.7 billion dollars, both IBRD and IDA, and IFC lending is nearly one billion dollars. India is among the top ten borrowers of the Bank in the world.

When asked whether the Indo- US Nuclear deal figured in his talks with government leaders, Mr Zoellick replied in the negative. "India has had striking success. Yet there remains much to be done to address rural and urban poverty and to encourage the development of a healthy, educated and skilled population that will enable India to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth as a leader of the world economy," Mr Zoellick said.

Mr Zoellick, who held a number of meetings with business leaders in Mumbai, said the city needs to become a role model of how a business and financial hub tackles problems of poverty and slums.

In Delhi, Mr Zoellick met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and Minister of State for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes.

In Mumbai, he also met Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Reserve Bank of India Governor Y V Reddy. He also visited a Bank-supported urban renewable and transport project in the city and met some civil society groups.

Mr Zoellick said in his discussions with Dr Manmohan Singh he took up the issue of rising global crude prices and the high food prices.

He said both these issues would affect the performance of the global economy and could have a bearing on India.

Mr Zoellick said the issue of baseline level of omissions of CO2 was taken up.

He praised India's recognition of the challenge of finding a path to lower carbon growth in its own self-interest and said the Bank will make efforts to respond with innovations to support this.

Mr Zoellick also encouraged India to continue to support the effort to reach a conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda in the WTO global trade negotiations.

He said the World Bank's role in future would be to remove obstacles in the way of rapid economic growth, such as bridging the infrastructure deficit, and achieving inclusiveness by giving a thrust to social sector programmes, such as health, education and skill development.

Asked about corruption in the implementation of Bank's programmes and projects, Mr Zoellick said Indian government's approach was similar to that of the Bank in eliminating it. He said corruption in such projects ultimately hits the poor more than any one else. Asked what was the nature of his discussions in Islamabad and what did he propose to do in Dhaka, Mr Zoellick said Pakistan's economy of late has been doing well and stated that he wanted to know what else the Bank can do to improve its performance.

He said he wanted to make an assessment of the changes under way in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

"India is transforming itself fast," he quipped.

Mr Zoellick said he wanted to assess as to what was the role the Bank should play in the transforming situations.

Asked whether he would want that India hike funding of IDA, Mr Zoellick said people in Europe, Japan and other countries when they see pictures of ill-clad children and mass deprivation, would want India to concentrate on eliminating poverty in the country rather than making larger contributions to eliminating global poverty.

He said in some ways the condition of the poor in India was akin to that prevailing in Sub-Saharan Africa. India is still home to about one-quarter of the world's poor which number 300 million, he said. Its future success is, therefore, of crucial importance to the achievements of global Millennium Development Goals. Supporting inclusion of India's burgeoning success is increasingly the key challenge for IDA.

Mr Zoellick said 10 to 15 years down the line, when India gets out of the poverty trap, it could enhance its funding to IDA.

In this connection, Mr Zoellick said during the recent Annual World Bank- IMF meetings in Washington, there was the issue of bailing out of Liberia which was in deep financial crisis.

He said Mr Chidambaram offered help and gave assistance to get Liberia out of its troubles.

"I found this very touching", he said.


UNI

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