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World Bank urges rich nations to speed up aid to poor

WASHINGTON – The World Bank on Sunday urged donor nations to speed up delivery of the money they’ve already pledged – and open their wallets wider – to help poor countries reeling from recessions rooted in rich nations.

The economic nosedive is turning into a human and development “calamity,” which already has driven more than 50 million people into extreme poverty this year, the World Bank’s policy steering committee said in a communique issued at the close of its spring meeting.

“There is widespread recognition that the world faces an unprecedented economic crisis, poor people could suffer the most and that we must continue to act in real time to prevent a human catastrophe,” World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said.

Poor countries have watched as the recession has dried up investment capital, sharply reduced exports and commodity prices and slowed the flow of cash sent home by their citizens working abroad. Finance ministers at the meeting said impoverished nations need a hand up that doesn’t burden them with debt or add to the ranks of those earning just a few dollars a day.

The World Bank has pledged to provide poor countries with more than $55 billion for public works projects left in limbo when the recession hit. That follows a tripling in lending, to $12 billion, to support health, education and other safety net programs in poor countries. The International Monetary Fund is doubling the borrowing limits for 78 of the poorest countries.

The economic crisis is “advancing like a silent tsunami, with those who contributed least to the crisis suffering most from its impact,” said German development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said multilateral development banks, led by the World Bank, are at the forefront of international efforts to lift more people out of poverty.

Geithner said, “We meet at an unprecedented time when a severe global economic slowdown threatens to reverse major progress in poverty reduction.”

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