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3RD LD: Zoellick hopes for Japan's lead on developing nation food problems.

WASHINGTON, April 13 Kyodo


World Bank President Robert Zoellick expressed hope Sunday that Japan will lead discussion for international action on food problems in developing countries as host of this year's Group of Eight meetings.

Zoellick, speaking after a meeting of the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Development Committee in Washington, welcomed Japanese initiatives to take up issues linked to development and growth in Africa.

''I hope Japan will join with the other countries in adding to the contribution for the World Food Program,'' Zoellick said in reference to a U.N. agency.

During the meeting of the joint World Bank-IMF panel, the British government released a letter from Prime Minister Gordon Brown to his Japanese counterpart, Yasuo Fukuda, that is ''calling for combined international action on food,'' Zoellick said.

A crucial moment is expected to come in June, when Japan hosts the meeting of G-8 finance ministers in Osaka.

Zoellick welcomes ''the decision that high commodity prices and their impact on growth and development would be a topic'' during the meeting.

Japan's efforts are believed to help build on the World Bank's ''New Deal for Global Food Policy,'' which Zoellick said would address the immediate crisis of people facing hunger, malnutrition and starvation around the world by improving agricultural productivity.

''So there is really an opportunity for Japan to demonstrate the power of...some of the messages we've been discussing,'' he said.

Japan will host the Tokyo International Conference on African Development next month.

During its one-day meeting, the Development Committee examined the impact of recent sharp rises in oil and grain prices on developing nations as growing demand for biofuel has resulted in higher prices of corn and other foods.

''Within countries, large groups of poor people are severely affected by high food and energy prices across the developing world,'' the committee said in its statement released after the meeting.

It recommended the World Bank and IMF respond to requests from developing countries for advice on how they should manage their natural resource revenue.

Reviewing the Millennium Development Goals, the U.N. program to halve extreme poverty and hunger between 1990 and 2015, the committee hailed some progress due to growth in the world economy.

But it said ''progress has been uneven across countries and sectors,'' and that ''most Sub-Saharan African countries are off track to meet the MDGs.''

The panel called for intensified efforts to conclude the flagging Doha Round of global trade liberalization talks by the World Trade Organization, stressing it is important to deliver ''Aid for Trade'' to improve the competitiveness of low-income countries.

It also discussed the role of sovereign wealth funds in helping reduce poverty in Africa.

Zoellick has been demanding more investment in Africa from the state-backed investment entities, given their recently growing influence in global financial markets.

''The allocation of even 1 percent of the assets of sovereign wealth funds to equity investment in Africa could drop $30 billion to African development, growth and opportunity,'' he said at a news conference. ''I'm pleased we had very positive feedback on this idea.''
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:0BANK
Date:Apr 14, 2008
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