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World Bank President Praises Reforms In Zambia, Underscores Need For Continued Improvements In Policy And Governance

World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick today praised Zambia’s efforts to reform its economy and encouraged its continued efforts to promote inclusive economic growth, especially to create opportunities for rural populations to overcome poverty.

Leaving after his two day visit, Zoellick noted that Zambia was among the top 10 global reformers in the World Bank’s Doing Business report this year.

During meetings with Zambian President Rupiah Banda and cabinet members, Zoellick observed that sound economic management had resulted in growth of more than six percent a year over the past three years and helped the country to cope with the global food, fuel and financial crises.

“Broader-based, more inclusive economic growth is key for Zambia to achieve its goal of becoming a prosperous middle-income economy,” Zoellick said.  “Zambia has great potential to increase productivity in the agriculture sector, where poverty is concentrated, and become more regionally competitive by reducing the costs of exporting local produce and expanding access to energy.”

He pledged continued World Bank support to Zambia as the country expands irrigation infrastructure to boost agricultural productivity and enhance food security; explores ways of tapping its hydroelectric potential; and it improves transportation and strengthens regional integration to help overcome the disadvantages of being land-locked.

The World Bank has just concluded a successful 16th replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA), its main funding window for low-income countries.  Zambia’s allocation under IDA 15 was about $90 million per year. Assuming a 20 percent increase, this would imply an IDA 16 allocation of slightly over $100 million annually for the next three years.

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors is scheduled in March 2011 to examine US$115 million in financing for water infrastructure such as dams and irrigation canals, expected to benefit some 70,000 Zambian smallholder producers. The Bank’s private sector arm, IFC, is investing US$56 million to enhance diversification and employment creation in Zambia’s agribusinesses.

During his visit, Zoellick was shown the Zambeef Novatek Feed Mill in Lusaka, partially funded by the World Bank Group, which produces, edible oils, meat and dairy products and stock feeds.

Zoellick also signed an agreement to provide an additional $30 million to an existing $20 million program to help Zambia overcome malaria. “The partnership between the government of Zambia, the World Bank and other partners in battling malaria has helped reduce child mortality by 29 percent, saving 75,000 lives over the six years up to 2008,” he said.

At meetings with members of parliament, development partners and stakeholders in the mining sector, the discussion focused on the importance of a well designed system of oversight institutions with internal and external checks and balances was stressed.  “To achieve its goal of middle income status, Zambia would benefit from developing strong institutions of accountability to ensure that scare resources are utilized effectively,” Mr. Zoellick said.

Zambia risks suffering US$4.3 billion in lost GDP over the next decade due to climate variability. In June this year, Zambia became the first country worldwide to begin implementing the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, making it eligible for a US$110 million fund to develop climate resilient infrastructure.

Zoellick pointed out that Zambia will benefit from sustaining prudent economic policies and improving public financial management and oversight, especially in light of the country’s vulnerability to the boom-and-bust cycles of international copper prices. Creating an environment that allows for active involvement of a strong civil society will improve systems of governance and oversight and help achieve development results.