Rich Countries Must Open Their Markets, Says World-Bank Official

Interview with Vice President Jean-François Rischard

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ROME, JUNE 10, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Rich countries must open their markets to correct the negative consequences of globalization, the World Bank´s first-ever vice president for Europe says.

Jean-François Rischard, in Rome to attend the World Food Summit, began this interview with an observation: «Developing countries lose around $50 billion a year because of the limitations of access to markets, imposed by the industrialized world.»

Q: In recent times, both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been accused of having further impoverished poor countries instead of favoring them. Do you agree?

Rischard: Sadly, some projects have been ineffective, not, of course, because of the fault of international organizations, but rather because of the fault of local bureaucratic elites.

For example, the solution we found to cancel the debt of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) proved to be an opportune measure; therefore, we have decided to have the cancellation depend on an increase in spending in social and health endeavors.

This plan is already in operation in Uganda. If all countries followed this path, the creation of wealth from the North to the South of the world would be more transparent and also more effective.

Q: The World Bank has called on industrialized countries to redouble their aid to developing countries, from $50 billion to $100 billion a year. How have they responded?

Rischard: Today, industrialized countries allocate barely 0.22% of their gross national product to underdeveloped countries, reaching the figure of $53 billion. Our objective would be to convince them to increase this contribution first to 0.45% and then to recover the 1970 level, namely, 0.7%.

It would be a good objective. For example, Europe recently decided to increase the contribution by $7 billion, while the United States will increase it by $5 billion, increasing the contribution from the present $10 billion to $15 billion. This is already something.

Q: During the last G8 summit, the Italian government launched the «good government» project, namely, the introduction and use of new technologies as elements of control and rigor in the public administration of poor countries, in order to avoid humanitarian aid being used to finance wars or enrich the pocket of corrupt leaders.

Rischard: The project started by Italy will shorten the distance that separates the industrialized world from the developing one. The World Bank looks with great attention at these new forms of cooperation. For example, through Internet, children could exchange opinions and experiences, although compared with the need for food and health care, this might seem a marginal fact.

Also, for at least seven years, the World Bank has been committed to projects linked to the new technologies in developing countries. As regards information technology, especially the use of the computer, we have spent close to $1 billion and, all together, the resources dedicated to new technologies reach $18 billion.

As for the rest, the new technologies constitute a fundamental key for development. For example, a digital civil and property register in a country would enable governments to organize an efficient tax system; however, we could give many more examples.

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