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Energy, environment on the table at economic conference


WASHINGTON (AP) - World economic policy-makers are turning their attention to ways wealthy nations can help developing countries meet their energy needs while protecting the environment.
They are also assessing a report examining how the international development community can reinforce good government practices and fight corruption.
These matters topped the agenda of the World Bank's steering committee, whose meeting on Sunday winds up the spring sessions of the bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund. Finance ministers of the world's seven major industrialized countries also held talks Friday.
The head of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, said the bank's Development Committee will discuss "options for increasing investments to help developing countries meet their energy needs while leaving a smaller environmental footprint."
Wolfowitz, an architect of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, said there was an enormous need for energy in the developing world, where nearly 1.6 billion people do not have access to electricity.
Since taking over as bank president a year ago after serving as U.S. deputy defense secretary, Wolfowitz has emphasized the need to fight corruption and has held up bank loans to several countries until they become more accountable.
Treasury Secretary John Snow praised Wolfowitz for his efforts to combat corruption.
"Good governance and fighting corruption -- including sound public financial management and the rule of law -- are fundamental to the process of achieving sustained economic growth," Snow said in remarks prepared for the committee meeting.
China's vice minister, Li Yong, said expanding energy supplies to meet global development needs should be a top priority
"To reduce poverty, we need growth," Li said. "And to advance growth we need adequate and reliable energy supply."
Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany's minister for economic cooperation and development,promoting access to clean and reliable energy should be a priority for the bank,
"The lack of access to modern, efficient and sustainable energy services will not only hamper economic growth but impede human development in terms of health and mortality," she said.
On the world economy, the bank was expected to join in the assessment of the IMF and the Group of Seven industrialized countries that economic policy-makers need to remain vigilant against inflation and risks posed by rising oil prices, skewed trade and investment and a possible bird flu epidemic.
Britain's finance minister, Gordon Brown, who heads the IMF steering committee, said Saturday that while the global economy is expanding, "this is a time of profound change as a result of globalization. It is also a time of risk , particularly from high and volatile oil prices and the dangers of protectionism."
He declared that members of the committee decided that 2006 with be a year of reform, starting with the IMF.
"We resolved to make the IMF more fit for purpose in the global economy and more able to address challenges that are quite different from those of 1945 when the IMF was created," Brown said at a news conference.
The finance ministers and central bank governments gave the IMF, the world's financial watchdog the green light to remake the 184-nation institution so it can better prevent and cope with crises.
"Specifically, we agreed the IMF must focus more on crisis prevention as well as crisis resolution," Brown said.
The IMF's chief, Rodrigo Rato, who wants to sharpen the fund's focus, was pleased with the finance officials' endorsement. One suggested change would mean stronger policing of countries' exchange-rate practices and expanding the IMF's monitoring to emerging powers such as Asia.
That is of keen importance to the United States, which has a record US$202 billion (euro164 billion) trade deficit with China. The administration of George W. Bush long has prodded Beijing to let its currency float more freely with market forces.

Expert opinion

Halter Marek


Halter Marek
Le College de France
Olivier Giscard dEstaing


Olivier Giscard dEstaing
COPAM, France
Mika Ohbayashi


Mika Ohbayashi
Institute for Sustainable Energy Poliy
Bill Pace


Bill Pace
World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
Peter I. Hajnal


Peter I. Hajnal
Toronto University, G8 Research Group

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