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Switzerland pledges further SFr50 million to help fight world poverty

The economics minister, Pascal Couchepin (pictured), has pledged an increase of SFr50 million to Switzerland's contribution in the fight against poverty in developing countries.

The economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has pledged an increase of SFr50 million to Switzerland's contribution in the fight against poverty in developing countries. He was speaking at the development committee at the spring summit of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington.

The SFr50 million is to be put into the trust fund of the initiative for Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), to which Switzerland already contributes SFr40 million. Switzerland agreed to take part in the initiative last year, which is aimed cutting debt to sustainable levels for countries which have a sound economic record over a six year period.

Switzerland has also given another SFr70 million for commercial debt reduction, in addition to its contributions to the International Monetary Fund.

Couchepin said, however, that the burden of contribution should be shared by more countries and urged the seven top industrialised countries of the world to be more active in mobilising resources. He stressed the need for "a renewed deal between developing and industrialised countries, in particular in the areas of liberalised and fair trade, debt relief, economic co-operation and good governance."

In his address to the development committee, he also focused on the urgent need to combat AIDS, emphasising the danger it poses to efforts to eradicate poverty, and called for greater trade liberalisation, so that poorer countries could take advantage of trade opportunities.

Couchepin cast doubt, however, on the World Bank's ability to set standards and evaluate the economic situation in developing countries, and called for the bank to make a report on its progress at the annual meeting. He called for the Bank and the IMF to clarify their roles in providing technical assistance in building economic capacity. He also criticised the World Bank for not clarifying its role in the event of future financial crises, and stressed the need for long-term instead of short-term strategies.

swissinfo with agencies

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