Friday, August 19, 2005

[Asia] I'm here to learn about poverty reduction: Wolfowitz

Hyderabad: World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz Thursday said here that he had come to India to learn how the country had succeeded in reducing poverty.

Addressing a news conference, he said rural development would be one of the focuses of the World Bank in India.

"I am here to learn about India and India would be important because it is not just such a big country but it is more important because it is a country that is making some remarkable progress economically in general and reducing poverty in particular," he said.

Wolfowitz is visiting the country for the first time after succeeding James Wolfensohn in March this year.

The World Bank President, who arrived here Wednesday night, spent a busy day visiting villages in neighbouring Mahabubnagar district to see for himself the progress achieved by women self-help groups in reducing poverty.

He also interacted with self-help groups in Hyderabad.

Wolfowitz, who later called on Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy to wind up his two-day visit to the state, will proceed to Delhi, where he will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

"We have a very broad programme in India and rural development is one of our focuses. I don't have a specific plan. Our staff is talking with the government here and Delhi about a range of rural development plans and I believe it is one of the areas where World Bank can contribute a lot," he added.

Wolfowitz said he would also explore how the World Bank might be helpful in the future to make sure that the poorest people of the country are helped and poverty continues to be reduced.

He denied that the World Bank imposed conditions while advancing loans to various countries, but said, "it invests only in those things which work."

"It is not about conditionalities. It is about investing in things that are going to work."

Asked to comment on the opposition from the Left parties to the World Bank's policies, the World Bank chief said there would always be criticism to what one does. He, however, said he enjoys working at the World Bank as no one argues with the mission of how to reduce the poverty.

"There has been amazing success in the last 20 years around the world, including here in India, in reducing poverty. There will always be some argument about what is the best policy, but what we have seen today is something that works," Wolfowitz said after interacting with members of women's self-help groups working in rural areas.