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WB launches $55b fund

WASHINGTON, Apr 25 – The World Bank on Saturday launched a $55 billion infrastructure investment program as part of efforts to help developing countries weather the worst global slump in decades.

It said two vehicles were being set up — its own Infrastructure Recovery and Assets (INFRA) and an Infrastructure Crisis Facility (ICF) run by the International Finance Corp, the World Bank\’s private sector arm.

"As developing countries are facing the trials of the global economic crisis, it is vitally important that economic stimulus packages in the developed world are accompanied by support to those that cannot afford multi-billion (dollar) bailouts," World Bank president Robert Zoellick said.

"A decline in infrastructure leaves weaker foundations for long-term economic growth that hits the poorest the hardest," Zoellick said in a statement.

Many developing countries have complained that while they did not cause the global financial crisis, they are among the worst hit and least able to fight the impact on their vulnerable economies.

On Saturday, Tanzania\’s finance minister, Mustafa Mkulo, said "the crisis is now threatening to wipe out all the (development) gains we have in the last 10 years," sentiments echoed by many others in Africa.

The INFRA and ICF programs will run for three years and mobilize 55 billion dollars to put into developing country infrastructure projects.

The World Bank said France would provide one billion euros (1.3 billion dollars) for the ICF and Germany 500 million euros.

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