A.W. Clausen - an overview of the role of the World Bank
Sometimes people regard economic conditions in the poorest of nations as hopeless. But not World Bank president A.W. Clausen. ''There must be hope,'' he said in an interview here. ''You cannot find solutions if you despair. And there's no reason to despair if you back off and look at what can happen.''Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Clausen describes the progress of the developing countries as ''rather remarkable'' over the last 20 years. Longevity, health levels, literacy, standard of living - all have risen considerably.
Right now, admits the former chief executive of the Bank of America, the developing countries are still suffering from the world recession, though this ended in the industrialized nations last year. Moreover, the sub-Saharan nations have been hit badly by a severe and extended drought; the supply of foreign aid at concessional rates for the poorest countries are ''not as forthcoming as they have been in the past;'' and commercial banks are more reluctant to lend to the developing countries.
Nonethless, he expects 1984 to be better for the poorer countries than 1983 because they will be able to sell more goods to the richer countries - if not stopped by protectionism. Moreover, commodity prices are ''inching up.''
Further, many of the developing countries have made adjustments in their domestic economies to provide greater incentives for growth and more efficient allocation of their limited resources, Mr. Clausen noted. And there has been ''progress on human resources'' - people in the developing countries are more educated, trained, and modern in their thinking.
''There are so many things that can be done, even with limited resources,'' he said.
Mr. Clausen called for more cooperation between the developing and developed nations, pointing out that economic growth in the poorer countries was of self-interest to the industrial nations. For example, the United States in 1970 sent some 29 percent of its total exports of goods and services to the developing countries. By 1980, that figure was approaching 40 percent.
When Mexico was hit by its debt crisis, US exports to that nation fell by some $10 billion. By US Treasury estimates, each loss of $1 billion in exports costs some 25,000 to 30,000 jobs in the US, the World Bank executive noted.
Mr. Clausen hopes that ''noninflationary, sustainable economic growth'' in the industrial nations will stem and reverse the increase in protectionism. But it will take a combination of growth, an open trading system, a flow of capital resources from rich to poor nations, and proper economic adjustments in the developing countries to return these nations to the rapid growth of the 1960s and 1970s, he said.
During the 1970s there was much discussion of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) involving changed relationships between the developing and industrialized countries. But this talk has greatly diminished.
One reason, Mr. Clausen figures, is that the world is now ''multipolar'' rather than ''bipolar'' - that is, in economic terms it is not just the rich North vs. the poor South.
Nowadays there are increasing South-South or even South-North economic relations, he said. You find Indians investing in Africa, and South Koreans investing in the United States.