WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rich and emerging market nations agreed to put up $49.3 billion (31.5 billion pounds) to top up a World Bank fund to aid the world’s poorest countries, digging deeper to find more money despite strained budgets at home.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Wednesday the commitments marked an 18 percent increase from the last time that the International Development Association, or IDA, was replenished in 2007 and said it was possible in part because some major developing countries stepped up with pledges.
China was expected to contribute more, especially since it has gained more voting power within the World Bank, but Zoellick would not say how much any individual country was putting up. He said it was up to the 51 donor countries themselves to make that information public.
In 2007 when nearly $42 billion was raised for IDA, Britain overtook the United States as the biggest single contributor. Zoellick would not confirm whether that was still the case.
IDA is the world’s largest fund for the poorest countries, many of them in Africa. It offers grants and interest-free loans for such basic purposes as providing clean water, improved sanitation, education and better infant and maternal care to the world’s neediest.
It is replenished with new money or pledges of money at three-year intervals.
Donors met in Brussels at the start of this week to make their pledges and Zoellick expressed gratitude for their willingness to contribute at a time when domestic budgets are under pressure and much of the world is still struggling to recover from the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
“Many have stretched at a time of economic pain at home,” the World Bank chief said, but he added it was in their interest to do so.
“This is not charity,” he said. “It’s an investment in peace and progress and it’s making a difference.”
Zoellick said that over the past decade as many as 13 million lives likely were saved because of the aid that poor nations received through IDA. Another 200 million may benefit as a result of the latest infusion of funds, he said.
The World Bank intends to ensure that “a robust results framework” is in place to track the effective of IDA funding, a key element of ensuring donors that their money is being used in ways that do positively affect prospects of poorer nations, Zoellick said.
In response to questions, Zoellick said the need to show results for funding “is something that comes through loud and clear in terms of making the case to taxpayers and governments” about the importance of IDA funding.
Reporting by Glenn Somerville