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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 04:43 GMT 05:43 UK
Poverty targets 'may be missed'
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Millions in Africa still face poverty, war and disease
The World Bank and IMF have called for urgent action to enable the poorest countries to achieve targets known as the Millennium Development Goals.

Ahead of their spring meetings, they have issued a report saying many countries will fail to achieve the hoped-for levels of poverty reduction.

African nations in particular are failing to meet goals, the report says.

Rich nations should do more and poor countries must create a climate for private business to thrive, it adds.

'More aid needed'

The World Bank and IMF argue that it is possible for most countries to reduce poverty, as well as providing the primary education and improved public health that the goals embody.

Economic growth is central to the effort to achieve the goals and the IMF and bank's vision is one of expansion driven by private business.

World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz has recently been named head of the World Bank

The developing countries' governments also have a role in allowing that to happen, says the report.

"They have to ensure they have a stable macroeconomic environment. That means low levels of inflation, a currency that doesn't fluctuate in value," said Mark Plant, an IMF adviser.

"That provides the private sector a framework in which it can then begin to invest and realise the fruits of that investment in production."

Creating an environment for business is a recurrent theme in discussions between the bodies and the developing countries that seek financial assistance from them.

The role of the rich countries is likely to feature more prominently in the discussions over the rest of the week, as the two institutions prepare for meetings of finance and development ministers at the weekend.

The IMF and the Bank say in the report that the Millennium Development Goals are not likely to be achieved unless there is a sharp increase in aid, more debt relief and better access to Western markets for goods produced in the developing world.

European pledge

However, there is some good news: the aim of halving the proportion of the world's poor in extreme poverty compared to 1990 levels is likely to be achieved - East Asia has already done it, says the report.

But it adds that Sub-Saharan Africa lags far behind and some key health goals, such as halving the level of maternal and child deaths, are going to be missed in many countries on current trends.

Africa is a geo-political partner which is going to get more and more important
Louis Michel, EU commissioner

"The great majority will not [meet targets] - in part because of the international community's relatively tepid response so far, and in part because countries also need to do more," Gobind Nankani, the World Bank vice-president responsible for Africa, said.

The report says rich countries should reduce financial support for their own farmers, which undermines agriculture in the developing world, and give poorer countries better access to their markets.

On Tuesday, the European Commission adopted proposals on how the bloc could help countries meet the Millennium Development Goals.

The EU intends to focus on improving governance, building infrastructure and improving education in Africa.

"Africa is a geo-political partner which is going to get more and more important. The US and China have already understood this, which is why they are paying more attention to this part of the world," EU Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel told the European Parliament.

The targets - agreed at a United Nations summit in 2000 - are backed by more than 180 nations.

There are a total of 18 specific targets, most to be achieved by 2015.

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