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World Bank and I.M.F. Approve Debt Relief for Poor Nations

I'm Jim Tedder with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Finance ministers of one hundred eighty-four countries have accepted a plan to cancel the debts of some of the world's poorest nations. The plan forgives one hundred percent of debts owed to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank.

The policymaking committees of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund approved the plan during meetings in Washington.

Leaders of the industrial nations in the Group of Eight agreed on the plan when they met in July in Scotland. The United States is joined in the G-Eight by Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

The leaders agreed to cancel about forty thousand million dollars in debt owed by eighteen nations. Most are in Africa. Four are in Latin America. Up to twenty more countries could also be approved for debt forgiveness if they, too, meet conditions. If so, this would increase the total amount of debt cancellation to fifty-five thousand million dollars.

The boards of directors of the World Bank and I.M.F. are expected to act quickly on final approval of the plan. The two lenders first proposed in nineteen ninety-six to cancel the debts of highly indebted poor countries.

The plan will save the eighteen countries about one thousand million dollars a year in debt repayments. Officials want the countries to use the money for education and health care and to fight poverty.

Anti-poverty groups praised the agreement. But some countries said it might leave the World Bank with limited resources to provide new aid for developing nations.

To answer these concerns, G-Eight finance ministers sent a letter to World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz before the meetings. The ministers promised more money in the future to "cover the full cost" of the lost repayments.

G-Eight leaders, when they met in July, promised big increases in their development aid in the next five years.

Mister Wolfowitz says the next step now is to complete a world trade agreement that helps developing countries. Ministers of the World Trade Organization will try again to finish their negotiations when they meet in Hong Kong in December. Talks on a new trade agreement began in Qatar in two thousand one.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Our reports are on the Web at I'm Jim Tedder.