Beijing –12 December 2008-- With new figures highlighting the growth-reducing effects of the financial crisis on East Asia's economies, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick leaves for China today for discussions with senior Chinese officials on the impacts of the crisis on the country's growth and development plans.
Before the talks in Beijing, Mr Zoellick will visit Sichuan province – a central site of May's devastating earthquake which resulted in the deaths of more than 69,000 people, with 18,000 still missing.
On December 18, Mr Zoellick will meet in Singapore with senior government officials to discuss the financial crisis and Singapore's achievements in urban development. He will also participate in a university discussion on multilateralism and the financial crisis.
“China's growth has helped fuel global growth, but China is not immune from the global financial crisis,” Mr Zoellick said. “The Government's recent stimulus package announcement was a welcome and major step. I look forward to discussing with Chinese leaders their plans to keep China growing, along with China's growing investment, trade, and finance role with other developing countries.”
Earlier this week, the World Bank released its half-yearly assessment of the economic health of East Asia and Pacific economies. The East Asia & Pacific Update forecasts that real GDP growth in developing East Asia is likely to slow to 6.7 percent in 2009 from 8.5 percent in 2008 and a record 10.5 percent in 2007. While facing a slowdown now, because the region’s growth rate has been high, East Asian countries will continue to outpace other developing countries around the world. Much of that growth however, is driven by China's projected 7.5 percent growth (off levels of 11.9 percent in 2007 and 9.4 percent this year). In 2009, countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand are expected to grow by less than the average for developing countries.
“The May 2008 earthquake that devastated Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi left a terrible scar on China's landscape and the psyche of the Chinese people. The rebuilding and healing process continues, and I hope to better understand what can be done to help the people of Sichuan recover,” Mr Zoellick said. “China's rebuilding efforts offer many lessons the World Bank Group can share with our global clients who are also at risk from natural disasters.”
The World Bank Group has been supporting the Government's earthquake reconstruction efforts in a number of ways, including through its global expertise in natural disaster recovery, a planned loan for rebuilding urban infrastructure and health and education facilities, and, through equity to assist local enterprises to get back on their feet.
In Beijing, Mr Zoellick is scheduled to meet senior leaders and ministers of the Chinese Government. Mr Zoellick will also meet with members of the private sector and students and faculty at Peking University.
“As a regional hub and major international city, Singapore plays a key role in Asia's growth. My discussions in Singapore will focus on the kinds of policy responses Asian countries can take to grow through the financial crisis, and what the World Bank Group can do to help,” Mr Zoellick said.
In Singapore, Mr Zoellick is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, and Foreign Minister George Yeo. He will also participate in a discussion at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on “A New Approach to Multilateralism in the Financial Crisis.”