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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Singapore rapped over protest ban
Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank president
Mr Wolfowitz believes it is important to hear the views of activists
World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz has criticised Singapore for banning accredited activists from its annual general meeting in the country.

Singapore authorities have blocked the 19 civil society representatives from attending the event amid claims that they pose a security risk.

Mr Wolfowitz told BBC World he hoped Singapore would reconsider its stance.

On the agenda for next week's meeting are plans to tackle corruption and reform of the bank's voting structure.

In an interview with BBC World Business Report, Mr Wolfowitz said Singapore had made a "bad" decision when it blocked activists that had been invited to the event.

"I hope Singapore's authorities will change their minds and allow the people in that we have accredited as originally agreed," he added.

He added that was important for the organisation to hold a "strong dialogue" with such groups.

"We may not always agree with what they have to say, but it is very important to have that discussion," Mr Wolfowitz said.

Protest ban

The comments followed Singapore's refusal to lift a ban on public protests.

Following the ban, pressure groups and non-governmental organisations decided they would demonstrate on Batam Island instead - an Indonesian island located close to Singapore by boat.

But now Indonesian police have decided to ban international NGOs from protesting there as well, saying the demonstrations could become violent and act as a deterrent to tourists.

The local organisers of protests - the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) - have said they will continue their Indonesia-based protests regardless, despite receiving a letter from the police asking them not to.

During the next week's talks the Bank and member nations plan to push on with developing new plans to help poor countries tackle corruption, as part of a wider initiative to address corruption and improve governance.

Mr Wolfowitz has argued that fighting corruption is a key step for developing countries to perform well economically.

Controversial plans

However, some countries are worried that tackling corruption may slow down the speed at which aid is delivered.

There had been fears that some World Bank schemes might be cut off suddenly at Mr Wolfowitz's behest however he now seems to have assuaged many concerns.

One World Bank official said Mr Wolfowitz had "come far since the beginning of the year, when he went forward on his own and got into a big fight with the board".

At a World Bank meeting in April Mr Wolfowitz stressed his concerns about corruption, saying that the bank would reinforce its governance and anti-corruption measures on all bank projects including loans, grants, research and technical assistance.

The bank recently announced an amnesty to those who had committed corruption in the past by defrauding the bank, if they admit their wrongdoing and declared a commitment to rules in future.

In announcing the Voluntary Disclosure Program in August Mr Wolfowitz said it would "prevent and deter corruption".

Other issues to be discussed at the World Bank and IMF's annual meeting in Singapore will include the structure of both organisations, voting reform and the role played by developing nations


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