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Press Conference with James D. Wolfensohn


September 19, 2003
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

PROCEEDINGS

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, ladies and gentlemen, let me welcome you to this press conference.  And for those of you that are regulars at the Bank and Fund meetings, you will know that this conference is called to--can I just get rid of these cameras?  Thank you.  It's very difficult with flashes going in my eyes.  Thank you very much.  I think that's enough, guys.  Thank you so much.  And I'd be grateful if you didn't have that flash.  Right.  Thank you very much.

For those of you that have been to World Bank meetings before, you will know that I have the opportunity of talking to the press at this time and then again at the end of the meetings, and I generally try to give a very brief outline of what it is that we're planning to do.

Most of you who are regulars will know that this is a meeting of 184 countries and that we have a series of meetings with regional groups, and two particular meetings, one the Development Committee meeting and the other the IMFC meeting, which are prior to the Annual Meeting itself.

My colleague, Horst Kohler, whom you'll be seeing shortly, will be addressing the IMFC meetings.  I normally would address what are the issues that will be before us at the Development Committee in those meetings, and then we move on to the Annual Meeting, at which more general statements are made and a speech is given by Horst Kohler, and myself and by the Chairman of the meetings.

This year, of course, is a very special year for us because we're meeting for the very first time in the Middle East.  This was a decision that was taken in 1999, and I have to say right at the outset how privileged we feel to be here and what an extraordinary job the authorities in Dubai have done.  I think that these facilities are quite remarkable.  I think the time in which they were done, the care and attention has been superb, and it augers well for a very good set of meetings that we very much look forward to being part of.

I think the special reason that we are keen to have the meetings here this year is that, although there is a huge interest in the region because of crises, because of the Iraq situation, because of Gaza and West Bank, because of various other actions that have brought the headlines, our purpose in being here is additional.  It is to look at the whole question of development, and in particular the development of this region will be the subject of many discussions, both in the seminars that we will hold, and I am certain both int meetings and in bilateral discussions.

Our objective in these meetings will be to focus on the more positive aspects of development in the area on the human strengths in the area, on the wealth of the area, and on the possible steps that are taken in some countries, and the actual steps in others, to bring about an engagement in commerce, and in industry, and in the improvement of the lives of people.

Certainly, looking around this city, one is aware of what can be done in terms of creating a financial center, and it's this sort of thing, plus issues of agriculture and issues of human development that we will seek to address.

I think that you may know that we put out four publications--one on employment, one on trade, one on governance and one on gender--in the Middle East, which are intended not as prescriptive documents, but documents that might assist in the discussion of these issues within the Middle East and where these basic documents can be of value in the debate.

I would refer you to the Info Shop that we have here so that you can get a sense of the type of publications that we put out in the World Bank Group, and you will see there that this type of publication is by no means abnormal.  We've done this sort of analysis in many parts of the world and felt that it would be a good idea to take the risk of putting them out here, of working with our Arab colleagues in the preparation of the documents.  And so they are out for your general discussion, and I hope you'll have a chance to look at them, as you will have a chance, I hope, to come to some of the seminars.

To the Development Committee meeting itself, we have an agenda which has been published.  The first item on the agenda and central is going to be the question of the policies, and the adequacy, and the appropriateness of financing for development.

The second item will be the question of enhancing voice and participation of developing countries, an issue that was current for the last year, and an issue which, by the way, I think will be especially current in view of the developments in Cancun, which is the third subject that we'll discuss, the report on the progress of trade.

And then there are some written reports, in addition to that, on monitoring the achievement of the Millennial Goals, on the progress on poverty reduction strategies, on HIPC, and on the World Bank's renewed moves in infrastructure in the Action Plan that we have published and the work that we're doing.

So this gives you an overall framework of the meetings, and then we go into the general session, when there will be the introductory speeches and speeches made on behalf of the delegates at those meetings.

So we're looking forward to a fruitful set of encounters.  I think you know that the private sector and civil society are represented here.  They form a very important part of these meetings because they permit an interchange of ideas in the corridors and at meetings.  These are more than just a social event.  I understand we've got 17,000 people registered, which makes for the possibility that you'll find someone here that's interesting, that you can talk to, but there are real opportunities for engagement.

It is more than just a jamboree; it's a chance to try and address very important issues on economics and development, and I'll be very happy to answer your questions now.

Yes, sir?  If you could give your name and your affiliation, it would be helpful.  And there are microphones that will go around the room.

QUESTION:  Mr. Wolfensohn, James Quadahy (ph) from Bloomberg News.

Whilst you're here, the Iraqi Ministers will be coming here.  You'll be meeting them.  What kind of detailed discussions will you be having with them?

And then when you go to the Donors' Conference in Madrid next month, how will you encourage countries there to be generous with their donations towards Iraq and towards the reconstruction of Iraq?

Thank you.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  We're very glad that representatives of the Council will be here and that Ministers themselves will be here.  This will be my first chance to meet the Ministers.  When I was in Baghdad at the end of July, they were not yet appointed.  So my first pleasure will be to talk to them about what it is that they feel about their various ministries and, in particular, of course, finance and development.

I think you probably all know that the Bank, the Fund and the U.N. have prepared some 14 separate studies on the needs for reconstruction in Iraq, and they're in the course of completion now.  The drafts are submitted.  I've read the drafts, and they will be discussed quite particularly with the Ministers that are here and probably also, subsequently, in Baghdad.

We will also have meetings here with the representatives of the Authority so that we can get the views and different perspectives of the people that are active in Iraq, so that when we come up with a document, it's not out of left field, it's not something that has not been prediscussed and shaped with the input of everyone concerned.

The most important intervention will be from the Iraqis because it's their country, and we are going to try and see if we can help them.

We will then come up with a set of suggestions and the scaling of the needs.  And after a series of interim meetings, we'll turn up on the 23rd and 24th of October in Madrid.  We will do a presentation there of what the needs are.

I don't know that we can enter very effectively the political debate about putting monies up for Iraq.  Our task is to scale what is needed and to say that if you want to do both the budget requirements and the scaling of the needs of Iraq, then you need this amount of money over this time frame.

We will be looking to help our Iraqi friends try and raise the money, but this is a level of politics that I need hardly explain to you at the moment that we in the Bank probably don't have a lot to contribute.  Our task is the technical task.  It is a task subsequently of implementation.  So asking me how I will convince them is a question that I don't need to answer.  It's not something I'll be very good at.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION:  Fernando Dantes.  I am with the Estado do Sao Paolo Brazil Newspaper.  What is the degree of responsibility of the rich countries in the fiasco, in the failure of Cancun, in your opinion, if any?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  I think you probably need--you will probably get several answers.  You will get one from the rich countries.  You would get one from the less rich countries.  I am not really making a judgment.  I am not in a position to.  But it seems to me that what happened in Cancun was that there was a fundamental discussion that has been going on for a long time on agriculture and the agriculture discussions, and some others, have not moved at a pace that countries, including your own, saw to be adequate.

In fact, the leadership of the group that was resistant to these ideas was your country, China, India and South Africa.  What I think you saw in Cancun was a positioning on behalf of the developing countries, that their views should be taken more seriously and that they were not prepared to accept the views that have been promoted for them by the so-called rich countries.

I don't think there is any blame to be attached to either side of this.  I think this is in the midst of an attempt to get a new equilibrium between rich countries and the more numerous countries.  After all, the countries that were not ready to go along represented 4 billion people of the 6 billion people on the planet.

On the other hand, they are a lot less rich than the rich countries.  So I think what you are seeing happening is a coming of a different sort of equilibrium between the rich and the poor countries.  But I don't think that it is appropriate to apply blame, which is the question you are asking.  I think blame is not the issue here.  I think it is coming together on something which, hopefully, will lead to a balanced solution and that will be in the interests of the poor in the world.

Yes, sir?  If we could get the microphone and then we will go to the ladies on your right.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon.  My name is Fernando Canzien (ph).  I am also from Brazil, Folie (ph) do Sao Paolo.  I would like to have your opinion about the new set of reforms that Latin America, and especially Brazil, are trying to do now and the consequences of the reforms that were made during the '90s, as the World Bank is publishing some articles today outside and the situation of the poverty in Latin America didn't improve during the 90s.  I would like to have your comments on that, please.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, I think the more important--I mean, I am happy to comment on that.  I think it varied by country whether the situation in poverty improved or not.  There were some very positive developments in Latin America during the 90s including in terms of governance, in terms of financial management and even in some countries in terms of advances in human development, that it was not uniform throughout the area.

I think what is happening now with President Lula is probably the most important experiment going on in the region and where he has said, basically, let's take another look at the whole question of equity and let's look at the priorities in terms of poverty and let's try and put food on the table and let's all do it; that is, the government, private sector and civil society.

And he did this not in a revolutionary way but with an election getting well more than 50 percent of the votes.  So I think that the eyes of the world are on Brazil.  I think that what President Lula and his team are doing is extraordinarily important and I have great confidence, I must say, in the way in which they are going about it.

Yes, madame?

QUESTION:  I am Celia Naisteps from the Glaremia Specter of Argentina (ph).  I want to know what lesson has learned the World Bank about my country?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, I have learned that it is a great country, that it is a strong country and it is a country which needs, at this moment, a financial composition with its creditors and help to move forward.  I have learned that they are good negotiators and I have learned that we have come up under the leadership of the Monetary Fund with what I think is a doable plan in which the Bank is cooperating. I may have learned more in another three or four years but, at the moment, I am looking optimistically at the conclusion.

It seems that we have got a heavy weighting to Latin America.  Is this the Latin American--is there anyone from the region that I can get?  Yes, sir?  Please.

QUESTION:  My name is Jemal Al Majeta from Saudia (ph) Newspaper.  Both the Israelis and Palestinians welcome to the conference.  Do you have any agenda or any proposals to help both sides to get closer to work together to solve the ridiculous problems in the Palestinian territories.  Thank you very much.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, I met this morning with the Palestinian Finance Minister, Mr. Fayyad, and we have a very long history, as you probably know, in the region.  We have been there for ten years and I have been there, I would say, countless times working on what we can do which is the issue of giving economic and social hope to the Palestinian people.

So we continue to work on social programs.  And we continue to work in as constructive a way as we can to assist the Palestinian authorities in building governance and in building management.  I must say that the work that has been done by the Finance Minister is quite extraordinary in the last months and we are ready to support him in every way we can. I will also, I believe, be meeting with the Israeli delegation.

But one of the things I have learned in ten years is to try not to get involved in the middle of the discussions, not because I don't have all sorts of personal solutions to the problem but because we don't have that task.  What we try to do, in order to maintain openness, is to stick to issues of social development and of finance.  We leave the question of political solution to others.

But I think what we are doing contributes because, if we can help on questions of employment, on questions of economic hope and questions of trying to improve the lot of the Palestinian people, it takes some of the heat out of the current discussions and the current situation.  But, sadly, the situation is not good at the moment and we do not have a role in the peacemaking.  We will keep our role to social and economic support which, I think, we have established a very good rapport with the Palestinians.

QUESTION:  Hasam Karier (ph) from Dubai Business Channel.  Sir, today arrives to Iraq the former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, and he was invited by the Americans so he can help in the reforming of Iraq's economy, and Gaidar is very well known.  He was blamed for so many grievances in the Russian economy and society.  How do you think such help will just--I mean how would you react to this?  Will this be helpful to your program in Iraq or will it be an obstacle?  Thank you.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, I have actually very high regard for Mr. Gaidar.  He is a reformer, as you probably know.  In Russia, just about everybody is blamed for the problems of Russia, and Mr. Gaidar does a lot of blaming himself of others.  So I'm not quite sure where Mr. Gaidar fits in the blame tree, but he's a man of intellect and experience, and I was not part of inviting him--I think someone else invited him; I didn't even know he was coming--but he's certainly someone whose views you should take into account.  I don't think anybody has the absolute solution to the Iraq future other than the Iraqis.

But if you were to put together a group of people that you'd like to consult, even to learn the stakes, I think having Mr. Gaidar would be a good matter.  I think he's a very intelligent person.

At the back there, yes?

QUESTION:  I am Ashi Faleci (ph) from Middle Eastern News Agency.  I would like to ask about the relationship between Egypt and the World Bank and what is your situation about--evaluation about the Egyptian economic situation now?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, we have I think a very good working relationship now with the current government, and I've met many times with President Mubarak.  The help that we give your government has principally been on what we call knowledge transfer, giving our experience, because you have a reluctance to add debt, which I can understand, and you have other sources of funding which are preferable.

So our relationship is good.  We are working intensively with the government on economic matters, but our relationship is one of knowledge transfer rather than of lending at this moment, though that could change in the near term.  We have an office in Cairo, and so far as I know the relationships are good and constructive. 

There's a lady in the middle in the green dress.

QUESTION:  Heidi Erdepre (ph), World Vision.  This is in respect with respect to the future of financing for development.  Considering some of the large rich countries are now in heavy debt due to conflicts and the current situation in the world, what's your thoughts on the future for financing for development such as more money toward big debt relief and programs to relieve poverty, et cetera, et cetera?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, I think that's a very good question.  I think the question of resources for debt relief or for increased development assistance, even trade, are all the same issue.  It is the question of to what extent is the developed world ready to provide funding for the developing world?  The developed world has 80 percent of the income and one billion people.  The developing world has five billion people and 20 percent of the income.

And in the future, the developing world will grow the next 25 years by two billion people.  So it is the growth area.  And the rich world will not grow or very little.  So the debate on how much money for debt relief and how much money for development assistance and what are the terms of the trade agreement are all centered around the single issue of how is this equilibrium going to move forward.  It's in disequilibrium now.  Many people would say it's an unfair world now with half the world--your own organization says this--with three billion people living under $2 a day.

So the question is to what extent will for debt relief or for ODA or for trade will there be a transfer of funds and opportunities to developing countries in return for opportunities for the rich world to go to those countries and to build trade and to build economics and also to establish a basis for peace?

Now, I cannot answer your question as to how much money will come for debt relief.  I can answer your question by saying that I think as a consequence of Cancun where the line was drawn on trade and the way I sense the debate is going now, maturing to a much greater level of looking at things globally, I think we're likely to see some movement forward.

The first 16 billion was announced about a year ago of additional funding over the next three years.  I think it's probable that that's not enough funding, and I think that at these Dubai meetings and at near-term other meetings, we're going to have to come very squarely to look at this question.  So I don't have a number, but I do say to you that it's not just debt relief.  It's really all the same question: it is how much is this equilibrium going to change?  And certainly we in the Bank believe that if you want peace, the equilibrium does have to change.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  Parasuram, Press Trust of India Media.  How important is it for India and Pakistan to defuse the situation in Asia for economic prosperity in the region?  Thank you.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, I think the situation between India and Pakistan is one that knowing both countries well, I would hope and pray that a peaceful solution can be found so that the two countries can work more effectively together economically.  That will lead to social benefits in both countries.  It will mean that people don't get killed, and I would say that it would have a very profound effect on the rest of Asia given the size of those two countries.  So I think it's a very important issue and one that I expect the leadership of both countries understand.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  Martin Kamengezer (ph) La Nacion Newspaper Argentina.  Forgive me to come back about Latin American issues.  But Undersecretary of the Treasury John Taylor said the other day that the World Bank will be able to help Argentina in the renegotiation of the public company contracts.  I want to know how and I want to know also your opinion about the recent agreement between the country and the IMF?  Thank you.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, on the country and the IMF, it seems to me that it was a good agreement and we're supportive of it and as you know we're part of the agreement in that we have agreed to continue to put up significant funding, and so far as I know, we're not participating in the negotiations of the public company debt.  I think that's actually going on right now by the Argentine government itself which had put up three proposals, as I understand it,  I just heard today for the refinancing.

But unless someone in my organization is doing it without my knowing, which is possible, I am not aware that we're participating in those negotiations.  If we are, I'll send you a subsequent response, but I'm not aware of it.

Let's move to the back.  There's a gentleman in a yellow tie.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Allan Beattie from the Financial Times.  Mr. Wolfensohn, given what happened in Cancun and given the proposals to add voice to developing countries in the World Bank haven't really gotten anywhere as yet, do you think developing countries can be forgiven if they lose faith in multilateral institutions?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, as I would expect, that's a loaded question from you, but the facts are these.  I think that the issue of voice is a serious issue, and it is an issue for our shareholders to decide in terms of voting.  In terms of effective representation and support for the representatives of developing countries, I think significant steps have been taken in the last 12 months, but again I would say that it's all part of the same rebalancing that I spoke of.

I think that it would not be surprising to me if there was increased negotiation on the part of voice and on the part of voting rights.  It seems to me that that would be coherent with the stand in Cancun, but I don't believe that the conclusion which you suggest, that they should lose faith in international organizations, is the conclusion.  I think the conclusion is that they may want a greater stake in the voting rights of those organizations, but to my knowledge developing countries value the international organizations and certainly I don't get attacked on that question at all.

There's go to the back.  There's a gentleman there in the back.

QUESTION:  The World Bank is somehow happy with the finance minister in Palestine, Mr. Salam Fayyad because of his work on corruption in the Palestinian Authority.  First, I'm from Beirut.  What's your opinion about the Arabian governments' efforts regarding war on corruption and transparency in the Arab world?  Thank you.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Which governments?

QUESTION:  The Arabian governments in the Arab world.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  All the governments?

QUESTION:  Yes, we have lack of transparency, lack of--this is something in common, I think.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, I think that the issue of transparency and the issue of corruption is a pervasive issue around the world and I think that it's an issue that needs to be addressed in this area as well.  That's not my view.  That appears to be the view of citizens of this area.  But our experience has been that if you're looking for a single reason that you do not have equitable development, and that you do not have investment, the single most important reason is corruption.  And we have demonstrated that in all parts of the world. So it is for that reason that we would support any efforts for transparency.

I might tell you that we at the Bank are about to introduce at these meetings a new form of transparency of our own.  I happen to have with me a little credit card which is a card that will be given to all our clients, and it will have a code number on it and they will be able to come in and access every piece of information on the country that we're working on, on every project, the same as we have.  So we're taking ourselves very seriously in terms of giving total access to transparency.  It will be like having a normal bank credit card with your own information available to you.

So we believe that you get much more efficient and much more effective project implementation, everyone knows where they are if you have transparency and if you have knowledge.  And to the extent that that does not exist in countries I think it's something that they should look at.  But ultimately, it's a decision that is not taken by us.  It's a decision taken by the countries.  And the citizens of countries seem to want it, and when they want it enough they usually get it.  If they don't want it, very often they don't get it.  But it's not something which we politically can interfere with.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION:  I'm from China's Xinhua New Agency.  We notice on these days China's exchange rate has been the focus of the press.  Some Chinese financial experts believe that gradual steps must be taken to move Chinese RMB to a free-floating currency, and right now the appreciation of the RMB is over-exaggerated.  So what's your comment on that?  Thanks.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, fortunately I don't have a comment on it because it's not something that is within my mandate.  But I am very interested in reading the press.  In the meantime, what we're concerned with in China, as you probably know, is the issue of several hundred million people that are living in poverty.  So our focus is on development inside your country.  It is not on the question of the exchange rate.  But I suggest you ask that question of Mr. Kohler, who is coming in a few minutes, and I'm sure he'll give you a highly intelligent answer to the question.  He seems to have views on the subject and I've even read them.

Yes?

QUESTION:  Yes, hello, my name is Edmund O'Sullivan.  I'm editor chief of Mead.  My question is about the region and about gender, one of the topics in your conference.  An interview with Mead which appears on Sunday, Liz Cheney, who's the deputy assistant secretary of State and one of the leaders of the Middle East Partnership Initiative, as well as being the daughter of the Vice President Dick Cheney, she said--she told me that women need to have an equal opportunity at success.  Countries that oppress 50 percent of their population are not going to be able to advance economically, politically, or educationally.

Would you agree with Ms. Cheney, and if you do, what are you in the World Bank going to do about it?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, if you read the report on gender it would support in general that proposition.  Certainly the Bank is deeply committed to gender equity.  It is a subject on which we've done a lot.  It was the first subject that I confronted when I came to the Bank at the Beijing Conference, my first overseas trip, or my second overseas trip.  And if I had not during my life been interested in the gender issue, I can assure you after that conference I would have been.

And so all our research and all our experience shows that enfranchisement of women is crucial to development, it's crucial to education.  Many people have said that if you educate a man, you educate a man.  If you educate a woman, you educate a family.  That is true.  That if you deal with the questions of family, and population, if you deal with questions of peace, education and opportunities for women are central.  So while I perhaps wouldn't put it as clearly as Liz Cheney, all our research would lead us to that conclusion.

But it is then for the countries to decide.  And there are countries in the region where there are advances on the role of women.  There are countries where they're moving more slowly.  But it is for the countries to decide, not for us.  But I think objectively, the proposition that she is putting is correct.

There's another--yes, sir, please.

QUESTION:  I am ? Arabic Daily Newspaper in Dubai.  My question about the World Bank and IMF, as you maybe know, both organization have--doesn't have good impression in the Arab world, and many of the people think that the IMF is responsible of the many problems in the Arab world like Jordan and Egypt and many countries in the area.  Who's responsible of this bad impression for the World Bank and the IMF in the area?  And are you have any plans to promote you, the World Bank or the IMF in the area?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, let me speak about the IMF--about the World Bank, and you can have Horst Kohler talk to you about the IMF.  I think that's more likely to be productive.  I certainly believe that we've done quite a lot of work in the area.  Our first loan was in 1950 and it was actually to Iraq for control of the river of the Tigris and Euphrates.  And we've done several billions dollars worth of work in the area financially since, and we have done quite a lot of work, much, much more work on knowledge transfer in the area.

There are some people I think that would think well of us.  I have no doubt there are those that would think badly of us.  But we've done what we've done and we've certainly done it with the best will, and certainly in some areas in this region I find that we are well-received.  I don't think it's all uniform that generally in the Arab world the Bank is badly perceived.

But to the extent that we are, and I'm sure there are critics, what we're trying to do now is to work more closely with the governments and the people in the countries.  We have put, for example, the information that we generally put out now on an Arabic web site.  That is a step that we've taken in order to be able to reach the region in its own language.  That is a significant step forward.

We have two representatives of the Arab world on our board in a group of 24.  Actually, it's three representatives out of 24 on our board.  There's much more consultation than I think there ever was.  So to the extent that we can, we are trying to help.  And on specific issues, in the case of Iraq and in the case for 10 years of Gaza-West Bank, I think we have demonstrated significant commitment.  I would be surprised if our Palestinian friends would say they have a better friend in the region than the World Bank, and I know that because they've told me many, many times.

So I think a characterization of us as having a terrible reputation is probably not right.  But to the extent that it is bad, we're trying to fix it by reaching out and this recent putting our web site up in Arabic I hope will help.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION:  Hiro (?) from Nikkei Newspaper.

Let me go back to the issue of Iraq reconstruction, the cost of Iraq reconstruction.  I think the U.S. administration has already announced that $50- to $75 billion will be necessary for the cost of Iraq reconstruction.  So could you please tell us whether there was a difference between your assessment on the U.S. Government's estimation and, if so, could you please tell us how big it is?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Yes.  The answer is, sadly, I don't know.  I will know in probably two weeks' time.  I have read all of the 14 reports that have been done, and there are two issues which I'm not clear on; one is how much is going to be the annual budget requirement and the gap that you would have in the annual budget requirement.  And the other is the amount that is available for investment.

And I think what Secretary Taylor was talking about was the investment budget for the $50- to $75 billion, not the other budget.  And what I'm trying to do now is to separate the needs for the ongoing activities of the government and the investment budget.  But taking a look at the sort of very rough numbers which are coming out, it's hard for me to say whether Taylor's numbers are right or wrong.

If they are wrong, I don't think they are wildly wrong, but it is simply too early for me to tell because the other issue is what would the Iraqis like?  That seems to me to be pretty central.  And we have not had final discussions with our Iraqi colleagues on what they think are the requirements and what is the pace at which they could do their investment.

So, until that, it would be really, really wrong of me to comment on the--to respond to your question.  It's not that I'm trying to avoid it, but honestly I don't know the answer.  I don't think it's $500 billion, but whether it's $50- to $75 billion, we'll know in about two or three weeks' time.  And it's a question then of over how many years.  I think that the Taylor suggestion was over three years, and I simply can't tell you the phasing either.  That's why we're having these discussions coming up.

The gentleman in the front row here?

QUESTION:  I'll speak in Arabic.

(Translated from Arabic)My name is Hussein Abdul Qatr from the Ittihad Emirates Newspaper.

My first question is about surveillance by the World Bank over the financing to some developing countries.  Is there a mechanism for surveillance, especially that we know that there are some aspects of corruption in those countries which reflects negatively on the projects of the World Bank.

The second question is about employment of women in the region.  In this region, we suffer from many problems--unemployment, poverty, many problems that should take priority--and this should help solve the problem of employment of women in the region also.

Thank you.

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  On the question of surveillance of corruption, we have come up with very many approaches to how one can make public expenditures and get transparency in terms of project implementation.  As an example, a very simple example, I was recently in a country where we were doing something as simple as in our education projects putting up on the walls of schools the amount of money that was going to those schools under the budget, and we discovered that the effectiveness of the use of those funds accrued by a multiple four or five times because the parents made sure that the money that was going to the schools was properly spent.

I could give you--that is a very simple example, but was very noticeable to me outside the headmistress's office, so the question of transparency and techniques.  Another thing we've done is we've gone to countries and asked business people what are the best jobs that you can have and how much does it cost to get a customs license or would you like to be a judge?  Some countries, the highest paid people are judges.  They're not the highest paid, but they're the richest.

So there are many things that you can do by just publishing information, and we're doing quite a lot of that sort of work, but we're working now in 100 countries on the question of corruption.  And what we find is that the people in the countries are very keen in many cases to work with us and to provide information, but in the end, it's the countries which have to change, and in terms of our own projects, of course, we try to have the most effective supervision.

On the question of employment of women, I am very well aware of the very difficult questions of employment in the region of men, and I have heard quite often the suggestion that we should deal with the men first and then you can, when that's all fixed, you can deal with the women.

Our experience would lead us to say that you need to study it yourself; that hiring women doesn't have a one-to-one impact on hiring of men, and that in fact it can stimulate economic activity.  And our experience in other parts of the world is that if you bring women into the work force, they make different contributions, quite often do different work, and that it's not just a one-to-one balance. So my own judgment is that it's an issue you need to study, but I would not start with the presumption that if you bring women into the work force that it loses jobs for men.  Quite often it creates a better economic climate in which everybody does better.

There was a lady in the second row I think, but since she's a lady, she's now not going to ask me the difficult question because I gave such a good answer.

(Laughter.)

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  There's a gentleman over there in the yellow jacket or the gentleman behind you.

QUESTION:  Gary Duncan from the Times, Mr. Wolfensohn, in London.

There's an effort being made to include a call for the reopening of the WTO talks in the G-7 communique, which Mr. Brown, among others, are taking forward.  What message, as someone with a big interest in the development side of things, should the G-7 attempt to send to the G-21 countries through that communique to encourage progress on trade liberalization?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, I don't know what message Chancellor Brown wants to send.  I can only say that the position of our institution would be that we would very much hope that the parties would come together within a multinational or multilateral context to try and address the questions of trade.  The view of our institution is very clear, which is that trying to sort it out bilaterally is a step that would be not advantageous in the long run or even in the medium term, and our real hope would be that they would continue to work within a multilateral context.

I think if you get back to this question of equilibrium I was talking about earlier, the way to deal with it is multilaterally and to get some general lines of approach.  It's not by a series of bilateral understandings. And as Mr. Supachai said in a recent article, I think he believes that unless it gets back, the poor of the world will be the losers, and I would agree with him.

And there's a gentleman behind you.

QUESTION:  Webster Madido (ph) from Zambia.  Apart from the huge levels of poverty that are in Africa, HIV-AIDS is actually a major problem at the moment, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.  I am aware that there is a Global Fund for AIDS under the World Bank.  I would just like to find out how much the Bank has done so far in terms of disbursing those funds and which countries so far have benefitted?

MR. WOLFENSOHN:  Well, the Bank is the custodian of those funds and the decisions on the Global Fund for AIDS are being made by the management of the Global Fund for AIDS.  What we are doing, ourselves, in the Bank is that we have put more than $1.5 billion out for AIDS programs.  $150 million has gone to the Caribbean and the rest, significantly, has gone to Africa.

We have what we call a MAP Problem, a sort of region program, in terms of AIDS.  We regard that as being the single most important issue at the moment in Africa because of the devastating effect that it has had throughout the Continent, and it is not something that is deferrable to discussions of economic or other issues.

It intrudes itself on every issue; on education, on growth, on really everything.  So the answer is that we are doing as much as we can.  I have told governments in Africa that we will make sure that no project goes unfunded, whether it comes from us or from others.  We are really trying to relieve the burden of the funding and address the question of delivery and the question of will. 

But it needs a partnership, as you probably know.  We need leadership of African governments also to give it a priority and we need leadership of non-African governments, particular now in countries in Asia and in the emerging countries of Eastern Europe to give it prominence.

This is a global issue in which money, at the moment, is one part of the problem but, in my judgment, the least part of the problem.  The problem is implementation and leadership and we are doing everything we can to try and push this thing forward.

I hope that, at some point, money is the problem.  But money, at the moment, is not the problem.  The problem is implementation and leadership.

We have time, I'm told, for one more question.  Yes, sir?

Mr. Kohler is so anxious to come in and see you all that I think--is that right?  It is time for no more questions.  I'm sorry.  But, if you wait, you will get the best act in about another five minutes, or whenever it is  Mr. Kohler comes.

Thank you all very much.

(Whereupon, at 5:27 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)

 

 

 




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