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Friday, October 24, 1997 Published at 13:08 GMT

Despatches: South Asia

PUBLISHED AT 15:16 GMT Wednesday, October 22, 1997 : PHIL GOODWIN
Phil Goodwin
From Islamabad

The president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, has praised Pakistan's government for what he called its remarkable efforts to stabilize the financial systems in the country. Addressing a news conference in the capital Islamabad at the end of a four-day official visit, his first since taking office in 1995, Mr Wolfensohn said the World Bank strongly felt that now was the time to increase its commitments to Pakistan to give support to what he called a government trying to make a difference. However he said there were problems which needed urgent attention. From Islamabad, Phil Goodwin reports:

"The emphasis by the president of the World Bank was on congratulation for the government of Nawaz Sharif, which came to power in February. Mr Wolfensohn gave his most lavish praise for what he called the dramatic, necessary and commendable actions to strengthen the banking sector, and he also praised the government's efforts towards trade reforms and its fiscal and monetary problems. But Mr Wolfensohn did not comment in detail on policies or on the level of key financial indicators. He said he had been given assurances by the government that it would narrow the considerable gap between its spending and its income. In a country where there has never been a smooth transfer of power, the international lending community has become used to issuing supportive statements to new governments. Most governments in the past have failed to keep the economy on track. Mr Wolfensohn said the World Bank saw the challenge for Pakistan's current government was to sustain its economic efforts in the coming months and years. He did however express concern about the state power sector, giving one example that the World Bank estimated that up to forty percent of electricity generated is stolen or not paid for because officials are bribed. Nevertheless, Pakistan's government regards the visit of the World Bank president as a great success in being publicly praised for going in the right direction."

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