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The BBC's Rob Watson
"These campaigners against global capitalism mean business"
 real 28k

Thursday, 13 April, 2000, 06:15 GMT 07:15 UK
The World Bank defends itself
James Wolfensohn
James Wolfensohn says the World Bank's policies are helping the poor
By Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker in Washington.

The charges levied against the World Bank and IMF are that globalisation is bad for the poor and that the organisations have encouraged a process that harms the people they say they most want to help.

The opponents of the financial institutions say they are mobilising for social justice.

The leading witness for the defence has been James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank - the IMF doesn't have a permanent boss until next month.

Social justice

Mr Wolfensohn said it is a bit demoralising to hear that there is a mobilisation for social justice when he thought that is what the Bank is doing every day.

He said the Bank is ready to consult anybody on any issue at any time. He said he regrets that the debate is forestalled because of an attempt to close down the meetings.


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Had it not been for the prospect of large demonstrations these would probably have been rather low key meetings, with no major decisions in prospect.

In the event, the routine press conferences ahead of the formal business have produced a response from the two institutions that is partly combative and partly conciliatory.

The opportunities of globalisation

They are unapologetic about the principle of globalisation. The IMF's twice yearly report, the World Economic Outlook, says that is not the problem.

It is an indispensable part of the solution, because it creates new opportunities.

But equally, there is a widespread recognition that more should be done to ensure that the developing countries are in a position to take advantage of those opportunities. The fact that many can't was described by a senior IMF economist, Fleming Larsen as one of the great failures of the 20th century.

At the meetings the senior staff of the two institutions will be pressing their message that the poor countries need to have the right policies to encourage economic growth. But the rich countries have a role too - providing more aid and opening their markets to imports from the poor countries.

The people on the streets over the coming days would no doubt agree with some of that. But they will not be persuaded that globalisation is anything other than a tool for multinational business.

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See also:

14 Mar 00 | Business
World Bank: Listen to poor
16 Mar 00 | Business
Plutocrat for the poor
23 Mar 00 | Business
New IMF chief pledges reform
10 Apr 00 | Business
World Bank under siege
12 Apr 00 | Business
Koehler: a 'tough pragmatist'
12 Apr 00 | Business
IMF hails world recovery
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