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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
IMF forum meets in Washington

By Andrew Walker
BBC correspondent in Washington

Finance officials are gathering in Washington for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

IMF headquarters in Washington
The IMF needs to appoint a new managing director
The proceedings start with the release of the IMF's economic forecasts on Wednesday, culminating with a series of ministers' meetings at the weekend.

One of the issues hanging over these events is the choice of a new managing director for the IMF following the recent resignation of Horst Koehler.

Meanwhile, ahead of the meeting, the World Economic Forum says in a new report that the world is failing to reach its own modest goals to tackle health, hunger, poverty and the environment.

More effort needed

The meetings of finance and development officials will be discussing progress towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a set of agreed targets for tackling poverty-related problems by specific dates.

The report from the World Economic Forum concludes that governments and others are making only a third of the effort needed to achieve the goals.

A Ghanaian woman draws water from a well
Hunger is on the rise in some countries, a report says
It also identifies what it calls some disturbing trends: the proportion of people who are hungry is likely to increase in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

It says 96 countries are not on track to reach the objective of primary education for all children by 2015.

It also says there is little evidence of a serious effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions which are thought to cause global warming.

The report notes progress in some areas, with China, for example, making significant strides in reducing poverty.

But it also says that making progress in other areas will require the rich countries to match their verbal commitments with action and resources.

The report from the independent World Economic Forum comes a few days ahead of the World Bank's own assessment of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

The selection of the new IMF head will also dominate the meeting.

The selection process of the head of has aggravated some old grievances among IMF members.

Spanish favourite

Under an informal deal from the early days of the IMF, a European always heads the organisation, while the World Bank is run by an American.

Now, many IMF member countries regard this arrangement as anachronistic and objectionable.

Rodrigo Rato
Mr Rato has widespread support
The feeling is shared by developing countries and by rich nations left out of the arrangement.

Two groups of countries have called for the job to go to the best candidate, regardless of nationality.

But the chances are increasing that the new IMF boss will once again be a European, chosen in the first instance by the European Union.

The former Finance Minister of Spain, Rodrigo Rato, now has the backing of the EU.

He is also thought to have the support of the US and many Latin American nations.

Other candidates

There have been other nominations, three tabled by the Egyptian member of the IMF board.

One of those nominees is Egyptian, one a naturalised American and the third British.

The Bulgarian finance minister has also been nominated.

But with so much support now apparently behind Mr Rato, he will be a difficult candidate to beat.

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