Thursday, May 29, 2008

WB and Friends Circle Poor with Promise of Loans and Grants

Liberia: World Bank Pledges Us $10 Million to Country At TICAD
The Analyst (Monrovia)
29 May 2008 Posted to the web 29 May 2008


World Bank Boosts Aid To Fight Hunger
By VOA News
29 May 2008

The World Bank says it is boosting its efforts to fight the global food crisis by providing an extra $1.2 billion in grants and loans.

Thursday's announcement says the aid includes $200 million in grants to help vulnerable people in the poorest nations.

The poverty-fighting agency also says it is raising its support for agriculture and food aid next year by $2 billion, to a total of $6 billion.

The increase means agricultural lending in Africa will almost double to $800 million, and Latin America will also get a major boost.

Earlier, a report from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization said high food prices may continue for years.

The report says grain and other food costs may move downward from recent record-highs, but are not likely to reach their previous low levels any time soon.

The report, which was jointly published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation, says 862 million people already suffer from hunger, and high prices make the situation worse.

The report urges food-producing nations to stop limiting exports, and says developed countries should reexamine policies that shift food crops to biofuel production.

The FAO says farmers in poor nations need help getting seeds, fertilizer, animal feed, and other materials. It also urges more investment in agriculture and rural infrastructure to stimulate productivity.

The report was released ahead of a global conference on food problems scheduled for next week in Rome.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

The World Bank has announced that it will provide US $10 million dollars to assist Liberia in tackling the sharp increases in the price of food.

The funds, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said, would be used to support agriculture production in the country. World Bank Board Executives, he said, are meeting this week to work out the details.

The Bank's announcement, an Executive Mansion dispatch says, came Thursday during high level panel discussions on the challenges and opportunities of high food prices.

World Bank President Zoellick was responding to an intervention by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for speedy action by financial institutions and the international community to tackle the food crisis.

Timing, the Liberian leader pleaded, is of essence, as she warned that any delays by the international community to respond quickly to the food crisis could have adverse consequences on countries, particularly post-conflict nations like Liberia.

The discussions are part of deliberations at the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development currently convening in Yokohama, Japan. The conference ends Friday, with a pledge by Japan to train one hundred thousand local medical workers over the next five years in Africa.

Tokyo will also aim to double the production of rice in Africa to 28 million tons over the next 10 years to help stabilize food supplies. Measures will include building irrigation facilities, improving rice varieties and training agricultural instructors, Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda revealed Wednesday.

Mr. Zoellick said the assistance being provided Liberia is intended to help boost agricultural production in the country, by providing farmers all the requisite support they need to grow more food. Haiti, the World Bank President announced, will also receive similar support.

Mr. Zoellick disclosed that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other international institutions are drawing up a comprehensive program to determine an efficient and effective approach in dealing with the situation.

At Thursday's discussions, panelists agreed that an immediate robust and comprehensive approach is crucial in tackling the food crisis. Executives of the WFP, the Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the African Development Bank (ADB) have spoken of medium and long term initiatives to mitigate the impact of high food prices.

Saudi Arabia has meanwhile been lauded for a contribution of US $500 million dollars to the WFP. The Program's Executive Director, Ms. Josette Sheeran, described the contribution as significant. The amount, she said, represents the single largest contribution to the WFP and will fill in a spending gap created as a result of the sharp rise in the price of food.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fakuda, who also participated in the high level panel discussions, said the issue will be taken up at the G-8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit in July. Mr. Fukuda said the international community needs to unite its efforts to address the threat the sharp food price increases poses.

In another development, the European Union Commission has announced that a decision has been reached by the Commission to provide 25 million Euros (US $35 million) to support Liberia's County Development Projects.

Making the disclosure Thursday during a meeting with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, European Union Commissioner Louis Michel informed the President that the Commission is also working out programs to support the development of the country's infrastructure, including roads, electricity as well as the health sector.

The Commission, Mr. Michel said, is working out plans to open a local office in Monrovia to facilitate its activities. "We need to show the peace dividend now so that the venerable young population does not fall back into problems anymore," Mr. Michel assured the President. The EC, he said, will also provide support for the General Auditing Commission (GAC).

President Johnson Sirleaf has meanwhile held discussions with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. During Thursday's meeting, both leaders shared post-conflict experiences of national development in their respective countries.

The leaders expressed hope for a systematic and coordinated approach in tackling the food crisis. Like Rwanda, Liberia experienced a devastating civil conflict which ended over five years ago.


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