Sergei Blagov | Correspondent | Thursday, October 20, 2005
Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked the World Bank's chief for "very productive" cooperation and told Wolfowitz that the countries of the former Soviet Union still need "special attention" from the international community.
"I really hope with your arrival, the positive dynamics of relations with the World Bank we have seen in recent years will not lose any of its momentum," Putin said in televised remarks.
Putin also made reference to the World Bank's programs to help poor countries. "I would like to draw your attention to efforts undertaken by Russia to support the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which also need special attention from the international community," he said.
This was Wolfowitz's first trip to Russia since he took over as head of the Washington-based bank in June. He last came to Moscow as President Bush's deputy defense secretary. The Kremlin, a vocal opponent of the war against Saddam Hussein, appeared willing to forget its past disagreements with Wolfowitz.
He urged Russia to push ahead with institutional reforms and to fight corruption. Wolfowitz also said he intended to help Russia prepare for the next meeting of the Group of Eight industrial nations.
The summit will be held next summer in St. Petersburg and will be the first time the G-8 will meet in Russia. "I am particularly interested right now in discussing what we can do to help make sure that the St. Petersburg summit is a big success not only for Russia, but also a big success for the developing world and the poorest people in the world, which is where our constituencies are," Wolfowitz said.
A key focus of Wolfowitz's talks with Russian officials is the country's role in the global economy. Russia's cooperation with the World Bank on ecological and health service projects is on the agenda, as is the desire to broaden the number of regional programs aimed at the improving infrastructure in Russian cities.
Talks between Wolfowitz and Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref on Wednesday were focused on judicial reforms, as well as on financial assistance.
"There are huge challenges, especially in the areas of administrative reform, judicial reform and combating corruption," Wolfowitz said after meeting with Gref. "We had a very good discussion about a lot of challenges that Russia faces. It is doing much better now than I feared would be the case 10 years ago," Wolfowitz told reporters.
Gref praised the Bank for providing expertise on enforcing transparency and accountability. "We are exceptionally grateful to the bank for the most effective cooperation ... in helping the Russian government to conduct reforms," he said.
Russia expected to receive two $50 million loans from the World Bank to carry out court reforms and to set up special economic zones from 2006 to 2012, Gref said. If the loans are disbursed, he added, the government will allocate $50 million in order to finance the projects on a parity basis.
"The court reform project is one of the most important for Russia and is aimed at raising the efficiency of the court system," Gref said.
The Russian Federation joined the World Bank in 1992. Wolfowitz had a first-hand opportunity to see the challenges facing the education sector with a visit to a rural school and medical facility 50 kilometers southwest of the capital.
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