Bangladesh's Yunus criticises World Bank for failure to cut poverty

DHAKA (AFP) — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus told the head of the World Bank on Sunday that its failure to modernise anti-poverty lending programmes and include more local input has made its work ineffective.

The "World Bank was created nearly 60 years ago. In this 60 years the world has changed a lot, but the World Bank has not changed its style," Yunus said after meeting new World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who is visiting Bangladesh to review lending programmes.

"It was created to eradicate poverty. It cannot achieve the objectives for which it was created," Yunus said. "I've told them that you've forgotten the people. If you cannot involve the people in your work, poverty won't be reduced."

Yunus was honoured with the Nobel last October for his Grameen Bank which specialises in lifting people out of extreme poverty by giving them small loans, a formula that has been replicated around the world.

Yunus told Zoellick, who was on a two-day visit to the impoverished country, that the World Bank should carry out wide-ranging reforms including giving more freedom to local administrators of its programmes.

"Its country offices sit like a post office. They wait for the orders from" the headquarters.

"I've said they could be given independence or be made a fully self-governed body."

The World Bank in Dhaka said it has pledged to spend as much as three billion dollars in loans and other funds for anti-poverty programmes in Bangladesh between 2006 and 2009.

Zoellick, who took the helm of the Bank in July after a scandal forced his predecessor, Paul Wolfowitz, to resign, also held talks with the head of the country's emergency government and its finance minister.

Bangladesh's military-backed government has sought increased assistance from the development lender to for post-flood rehabilitation propgrammes and other projects like power plants.

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