Wednesday, April 19, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Curbs on WB loans may go

WASHINGTON, April 18 (PTI) — The World Bank has assured India that it will consider lifting of post-Pokhran nuclear tests sanctions against development loans to it.The assurance was given by the bank President, Mr James Wolfensohn, during a meeting here yesterday with the Union Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha.

Sinha later told newsmen that he had a bilateral meeting with Mr Wolfenshohn during which the bank President assured him that the projects which were pending for almost two years as a result of the sanctions by the G-8 countries would now be brought before the board for consideration.

Mr Sinha said he was confident that this process would begin soon and that it would be possible for India to get the board’s approval for the pending projects.

“The point that India has made to the World Bank management and the World Bank President is that in a developing country, it is very difficult to make an artificial distinction between basic human needs and others... we are happy that finally our point of view is being seen and that is the reason why these projects are now being brought back,” he said.

Bank sources said the latest stand of the multilateral body is the result of a possible US initiative towards lifting of these sanctions against India.

“When the USA and its allies oppose a project, the bank management does not place it before the executive board because it will be defeated,” they said, adding that since the case was now being put before the board it implied US approval and a favourable result.

He, however, said he did not raise the issue of lifting of sanctions during his discussions with US officials.

In reply to a question, he said the World Bank’s decision to postpone consideration of these projects was in itself unfortunate. It was the reflection of the geo-political considerations globally than the policy that the bank followed, he added.

The Minister said India had explained to the World Bank and its President the difficulty in making an ‘’artificial distinction’’ between basic human needs-projects and others in a developing country. If employment was a basic human need then roads and electricity projects which generate such a potential too should come in the definition of basic human needs, he said.

“We are happy that finally our point of view is being seen and understood and that is the reason that these issues (projects) are now being brought back (before the World Bank board),’’ he added.

India on an average gets loans up to 2 $ billion a year from the World Bank for its development projects but its funding was cut to half after the nuclear tests.

Mr Sinha, who led the Indian delegation to the spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF, was happy at the statements that the two institutions had issued at the end of their deliberations yesterday.

He appeared particularly happy that the IMF had taken note of the higher growth path that India acquired recently though he said he did not crave for certificates from the lending institution. According to the IMF, the growth in 1999 was 6.57 per cent and is expected be higher next year.

He said the IMF’s acting Managing Director complimented him for the performance of India’s economy and progress of its reform process, but he also voiced concern at the fiscal deficit. India was conscious of the phenomenon and was taking steps to control it, Mr Sinha added.

On President Bill Clinton’s visit to India last month, Mr Sinha said it opened a new chapter in Indo-US relations.

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