PARIS: World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has decided to suspend several loans and block debt forgiveness to Congo-Brazzaville, an internet report, quoting La Tribune of France, said. Kleptocrats better watch out, the daily warns.
Wolfowitz, who became head of the World Bank in June, is in the process of making the fight against corruption one of the priorities of his mandate, as corruption undermines the growth and thwarts the efforts of poverty reduction -- the heart of the World Bank's mandate.
But Congo is not an isolated case. Chad, Kenya, Bangladesh, India and Argentina recently witnessed themselves refused loans due to problems of corruption or the non-observance of commitments they entered into.
Meanwhile, the World Bank President has succeeded in enlarging his new crusade. Last week, during a meeting in Washington, the African, Asian, Inter-American, European development banks, as well as the World Bank, agreed to reinforce their practices in the fight against corruption, notably through the exchange of information.
A Radio France Internationale (RFI) broadcast further reported that during a meeting of the World Bank's Board of Directors in Washington last Thursday, Paul Wolfowitz said that Congo's debt could not be cancelled without major changes by the government in terms of transparency. Wolfowitz said that debt relief for Congo could not be granted on the basis of promises, but on the basis of facts, good governance, and transparency.
"I think we are basically on the right figures that have to be reached. There are basically three: the implementation of a new procurement code that promotes transparency and competition; reforms in the national oil company marketing practices that bring them in line with best international practice; and completion and implementation of a national governance and anti-corruption plan," Wolfowitz said.
The head of the global development lender stressed that a central issue was to get "real performance, the kind of performance that makes sure that debt relief goes to benefit the poor people of Congo."
Wolfowitz noted that 70 per cent of the country's population was living on less than a dollar a day, even though the country has more than $2.0 billion, the oil revenues of the country are more than $2.0 billion annually.
RFI adds that the decision of the World Bank President fully satisfies non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Global Witness, which belongs to the Publish What You Pay initiative. Sarah White of Global Witness stated that, "We, as a member of PWYP, are very happy with the decision the World Bank has taken. In the case of Congo, there are clear proofs of bad management of oil revenues and even embezzlement. In these circumstances, we think neither the World Bank nor the IMF should cancel Congo's debt."
La Croix (France) meanwhile writes that the government of Congo-Brazzaville "took note" of Wolfowitz's desire to link debt forgiveness to country performance in the fight against corruption.
"This desire is not at all in contradiction with what our country tries to do in the field of transparency and good governance," stated a spokesperson for the Congolese government.
Another report by Eric Green of Washington File from Washington adds: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced it will work with other international banks located in Africa, Asia, and Europe to address the global problem of fraud and corruption.
In a February 21 statement, the IDB said the international financial institutions had established a task force that will develop what is called a "Framework for Preventing and Combating Fraud and Corruption." The task force was formed by the international banks at a February 18 meeting in Washington.
Besides the IDB, the other institutions involved in the task force are the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The task force plans to identify opportunities for collaboration among the institutions on helping countries strengthen their own capacity to fight corruption and on improving cooperation with other groups, including civil society group, to enhance transparency and accountability.
The banks will seek to complete a joint accord in time for the September 2006 annual meeting of the World Bank and the IMF boards of governors. The accord would increase information sharing, standardise definitions of corruption, improve the consistency of investigative rules and procedures and ensure mutual support for compliance and enforcement of actions taken by any one of the international banks to combat fraud and corruption.
The IDB said corruption is "one of the most significant obstacles" to the success of a nation's development. With this in mind, the IDB is planning its first anti-corruption conference for the Americas, at a date and venue still to be decided. Regional public financial institutions and civil society will be invited to help prepare the conference, said the IDB.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) says nothing does more to alienate citizens from their political leaders and institutions and to undermine stability and economic development than endemic corruption.
Adolfo Franco, USAID's assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, says consolidation of democracy cannot be achieved without attacking corruption, which he describes as one of the most fundamental problems that undermines a democratic system. (See related article.)
According to the US State Department's publication, Transparency in Government -- How American Citizens Influence Public Policy, democratic governance depends upon the ability of ordinary citizens to hold government officials accountable for their actions.