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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK
World Bank boss visits Afghanistan
Ruins in Kabul
Reconstruction is progressing slowly
The World Bank's president has reaffirmed his long-term commitment to the development of Afghanistan.

James Wolfensohn was speaking after opening the World Bank's new offices in Kabul.

Financial discipline cannot be allowed to waver for a moment

James Wolfensohn
"Afghans want to rebuild Afghanistan and the World Bank is here as a committed development partner," Mr Wolfensohn said.

A team of financial experts based at the new offices would "stay here until you don't need us any longer which I hope will be sooner rather than later," he said.

The Bank is providing $100m worth of grants to finance four projects before June and has committed a further $470m for the two following years.

Praise for budget

During his visit, Mr Wolfensohn met with the Chairman of the Afghanistan Interim Administration Hamid Karzai, as well as Finance Minister Hedayat Amin-Arsala.

The Bank's president also praised the country's first post-war budget, calling it a "disciplined and realistic tool for the very challenging road ahead."

James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank
Mr Wolfensohn is the first World Bank president to visit Afghanistan
But he also warned of the importance of implementing the plans: "Financial discipline cannot be allowed to waver for a moment," he said.

The World Bank's first project in the country - a $10m grant approved in April - provides international experts in financial management, aimed at helping the country to deliver on its promise to donors to build a transparent and accountable government.

"Our work must be guided and inspired by the leadership's vision for the future," he said.

He also warned that the World Bank would be keeping a close eye on developments.

"If the money is being spent to the benefit of the people in a decent partnership then it's likely to continue. If it's stolen it's unlikely that it will continue."

See also:

03 May 02 | Business
US restores Afghan trade privileges
13 May 02 | Business
Afghanistan plans gas pipeline
06 May 02 | Business
Aid donors 'failing Afghanistan'
21 Mar 02 | Business
Afghanistan's new economic start
15 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Afghanistan
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