It was the tenth anniversary of the German World Bank Forum this year, held in Frankfurt on November 20. But no one was really in the mood to celebrate. The agenda was overshadowed by talks of the financial crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel with World Bank President Robert Zoellick at the German World Bank Forum in Frankfurt.
Six weeks are a long time in these days of financial crisis. When the invites for the 10th German World Bank Forum were sent out back in mid-October, the title was “The Asian Century -- Challenges and Chances.” At the event itself, there was no more talk of chances. The heading had become: “The Asian Century -- Challenges in the Economic Crisis”.
Attending the conference, German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul pointed out that before the finance crisis hit, developing countries had already been suffering from critical food and energy crises. 100 million people had already been plunged into poverty, she said. And she said that every time the world economy fell by one percentage point, 20 million more people crossed the poverty line.
Increase developmental aid
“In the face of this triple crisis, we need a global New Deal for a fair global finance, trade and economic system. We need to make great efforts to fight poverty,’’ said Wieczorek-Zeul. Wieczorek-Zeul insisted Germany would increase development aid as promised.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick also said that more has to be done in order to avert a human crisis. ``At 100 billion a year, the amount being spent on overseas aid is a drop in the ocean compared to the trillions of dollars that are now being spent on financial rescues in the developed world.”
He added that it was in the interest of industrialised nations to step up their development aid.
”Developing countries provide an alternative pole of growth that can help support demand. China's 580 billion dollar stimulus package was well timed and shows leadership,” said Zoellick.
Asian economies to play a greater role
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrapped up the forum with a speech, in which she stressed the importance of Asia’s emerging economies. ``This is what we saw at the finance summit in Washington. We saw an extremely constructive role on the part of China, India and Indonesia -- to name but a few,” Merkel said.
Merkel warned against favouring protectionism in view of the financial crisis, pointing out that Germany, the world’s export champion, had benefitted from free trade. She said Asia and Europe faced similar challenges -- especially regarding their raw material and energy needs -- and could work together.
The German World Bank Forum takes place every year in a different German city, drawing politicians, NGO representatives and business people from all over the world.