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China's experiences helpful for WB to reduce poverty
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The development experience of China will help the World Bank "shore up" its leading role in global poverty reduction, the bank's new chief economist and senior vice president Justin Yifu Lin said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Tuesday.

World Bank president Robert B. Zoellick on Monday announced the appointment of the Beijing University professor as chief economist and senior vice president for development economics.

"The World Bank can only consolidate its role as a leader in the global anti-poverty movement by coming up with effective measures," said Lin. "In this regard, China can provide useful experience."

Lin is the first economist from a developing country to hold the post in the World Bank. He succeeds France's Francois Bourguignon, who served at the bank from 2003 to October 2007.

Lin's posts in China include vice chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce. A professor at Beijing University since 1993, he is known for work on economic and agricultural reforms as well as rural modernization.

"This appointment is a high honor, and it's a historic decision for the World Bank," said Lin. "By picking a candidate from China, the World Bank will be able to better serve developing countries.

"More developing countries are becoming emerging economies. They are not short of loans, but the wealth gap in these countries is widening."

Lin believed the dependence of developing countries on the World Bank was declining because the need for financial assistance was becoming less vital.

"The World Bank can help developing countries reduce poverty by offering expertise. This is what makes it different from other financial institutions," Lin said.

The bank could not solve all the problems in developing nations, but it could focus on exploring successful models that private financial institutions could follow.

As the world's largest development agency, the World Bank needed a thorough understanding of the needs and constraints of developing countries, Lin said. "This is the significance of the election of a chief economist from a developing country.

"The World Bank has a clear and lofty objective of poverty alleviation, but without adequate understanding of the practical problems, the good intentions may go awry," he said.

"Africa has the most pressing need for outside help in reducing poverty and it is the World Bank's primary concern in poverty alleviation."

He hoped the World Bank could help African countries find a successful development path.

"I will work with the other 700 economists of the World Bank to select research directions and topics, understand their long-term restraints, challenges and opportunities. Then we'll explore a theoretical framework to address the problems," Lin said.

"I will promote cooperation between the World Bank and China, for example, in creating a mechanism in which China and the World Bank can play greater roles in the issues of African development."

Lin planned to officially assume office at the end of May after teaching spring courses at Beijing University and completing work at the China Center for Economic Research (CCER).

Zoellick said in a statement on Monday, "As our first chief economist from a developing country, and an expert on economic development and particularly agriculture, Justin Lin brings a unique set of skills and experience to the World Bank Group."

Poverty alleviation is a key objective for the World Bank."Globalization must not leave the bottom billion behind," said Zoellick in October last year. "The World Bank Group faces the challenge of helping to overcome poverty and spur sustainable growth in the poorest countries."

Previous chief economists include Stanley Fischer, Lawrence Summers and Joseph Stiglitz.

The 56-year-old Lin is China's most prominent economist and director of CCER, a top government think tank based at the elite Beijing University. Many of his proposals on rural issues, state-owned enterprise reform and income distribution have been adopted by the central government.

Because of his international record in development economics, Lin is considered the leading Chinese contender for the Nobel prize in economics.

"Poverty in developing countries is not predestined. If [these countries] can find a suitable development model, they will release enormous potential," Lin said.

Likening China's experience to "crossing the river while touching the stones", Lin said that China had taken a gradual approach to making the complete transition from a planned economy to a market economy.

"That is, always study the new problems and try different solutions step by step," he said. "These are the reform strategies of emancipating the mind, seeking truth from facts and advancing with the times."

Lin, born in Taiwan, studied at Beijing University before obtaining a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago. Last November, he became the first Chinese scholar to speak at the world-renowned biennial Marshall Lectures at Cambridge University.

In the speech, Lin pointed out that although some of the policies of China and Vietnam were not in line with market economy practices, these countries still achieved lasting, rapid growth. In contrast, Eastern Europe and Latin America, while liberalizing faster, fell behind the development of China and Vietnam.

So, he said, he believed that gradual reform and transition could achieve fast growth while maintaining social stability.
(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2008)

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