Wolfensohn calls for 'implementation'

By IAN CAMPBELL, UPI Chief Economics Correspondent  |  Sept. 26, 2002 at 2:19 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn said Thursday that the time for reflection on development initiatives, which had been central to past meetings, was over, that consultation, including of civil society had been done, and that now what he wanted to see was implementation.

Wolfensohn, making remarks early in the gathering of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund with the world's finance ministers in coming days, said the "current thrust of this meeting is making effective what we're doing, and scaling up what we are doing."

A variety of issues was raised in media questions.

Wolfensohn was asked about the World Bank's current involvement in Iran and its possible involvement in a post-war Iraq.

He said that in Iran the bank was "keeping a dialogue going." It was the bank's responsibility, he said, to work for the poor wherever they are. Moreover, it was important for the bank to maintain a body of knowledge.

"When we got plunged into Afghanistan," Wolfensohn said, "we found we knew something, but not enough."

On Iraq, he said he knew no more than the man on the street about the status of a potential conflict with the country, but that the World Bank stood ready to work for reconstruction and he expected "that our expertise would be called upon."

Wolfensohn was also questioned on Afghanistan. He praised Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, saying it was astonishing what had been achieved in a year.

He supported calls made earlier by U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Secretary of State Colin Powell for urgent aid donations to Afghanistan.

Asked about the problem of corruption in Africa, Wolfensohn said, "We have tried everything that we can in ... (the) continent," but in the end it depends on "the leadership."

Wolfensohn said, that, "happily," he was elected president of the World Bank, not of any of the troubled countries of the world.

On Argentina, Wolfensohn was asked if he believed the country would default on its debt payments to the World Bank and other multilaterals.

"I have no particular reason to believe they will pay or not," he said. But he added that in 40 years of working as a banker, he had learned to "look at the optimistic side first."

This, he said, was an expression of his "general optimistic outlook on the world."

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