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WB Chief Says China Has 150 Million People in Acute Poverty
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World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said Tuesday China has 150 million people living in acute poverty despite its impressive economic growth in the past two decades, and the bank need to work with China for the benefit of the poor of many countries.


Speaking at a press conference after his six day visit to China, the president said the whole condition of China has improved enormously, particularly the condition of the poor in China since his first visit to China in February 1983 in a bleak winter week, 22 years ago.


During his first official visit as the president of the World Bank, Wolfowitz said he intended to use this visit to understand more about what has worked in China and what has not. "I also wanted to see where we can be useful going forward. On both counts, I think the visit has been a success."


"I have seen some of the poorest areas of the country, and talked with people of all levels of society, from poor women in villages in Gansu to senior officials, including the Premier and the President, here in Beijing, China has certainly come a long way in those 22 years and the World Bank is proud to have been part of that story."


He described the relationship with China as very important to the World Bank and the bank intends to stay engaged for China's poverty-reduction, for international exchange of the experiences of China's success story, and its inspiration to other developing countries.


He explained that China still has work to do to help the roughly 150 million people who still live in acute poverty. "We can help with money, although we no longer lend on concessional terms; but more important, we can help with ideas and experience."


He said "China has a lot to teach the rest of the world. There are lessons of experience-such as the Loess Plateau project that I saw-that are relevant probably to other parts of the world. We can too learn and share those lessons."


On reason why the bank is still involved with China as it sent astronauts into space last week and has hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign exchange reserves, the president said he put the question the other way around: "how could the World Bank not be working with the most populace country in the world, and the country that still has the second-largest number of poor people in any country in the world."


"As China changes, our relationship with China is changing. But it continues to be a strong and productive relationship, and going forward it will benefit China, the World Bank, and millions of poor people in China and other countries around the world."


Citing his observation in the past 22 years, he said the contrasts in China are striking. Beijing is a modern capital city, transformed from when I saw it 22 years. But Lanzhou is one of the most polluted cities in the world. In Juihuagou, they have reclaimed land that was arid and eroded, and it now is lush and terraced.


"Not so far away, in Heping village in Gansu province, some people just recently moved out of caves. There is an amazing span in this country of income, of living standards, of environment, of ethnic groupings, of religions. I'm still surprised that it's all in one time zone."


The World Bank president left Beijing Tuesday afternoon following his eight-day visit to China, which took him to northwest China's Gansu Province, one of the country's poorest regions, Beijing and nearly Hebei Province for Group 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.



(Xinhua News Agency October 19, 2005)
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