The US deputy defence secretary said he wanted his
legacy to be "real success in reducing poverty especially in
Africa, the continent which most desperately needs it".
"I am prepared to listen and prepared to be an
international civil servant," he said.
Mr Wolfowitz, 61, who will take over at the World
Bank from June 1, 2005, denied that he would use his position to push
broader US foreign policy objectives such as spreading democracy and
"The fact is that when it comes to poverty
reduction, it is not a question of British foreign policy, or US
foreign policy or South African foreign policy. It [poverty reduction]
is a unifying goal and it is one that I believe in deeply."
"Each organisation has to focus on its main
mission and its core competence and the World Bank's is poverty
Despite early opposition to his nomination, the
directors of the Bank, representing 184 countries, unanimously
approved Mr Wolfowitz as the organisation's 10th president.
JAPANESE BUSINESS LESS CONFIDENT
Business confidence among Japanese companies has
fallen sharply over the past quarter as the economy's recovery
stuttered, according to new data.
The Bank of Japan's influential tankan report
showed a decline in optimism among firms in March on concerns about
weaker exports and high oil prices.
Analysts said the figures were worrying but pointed
to the fact that firms think capital investment will rise.
Japan suffered a mild recession in the middle of
Despite seeing two successive quarters of negative
growth in 2004, the Japanese government insists that its economy —
which stagnated for much of the 1990s — is gradually recovering.
The quarterly tankan report adds up the number of
firms seeing favourable compared to unfavourable trading conditions.
In March, the headline index for large
manufacturers slipped to plus 14 from plus 22 in December.
Experts had been forecasting a rise in the index to
"It's very bad," said Azusa Kato, an
economist with BNP Paribas.
"We had thought that the inventory adjustment
in the electronics sector was nearly finished but perhaps conditions
are worse than we expected."
A slew of poor data in recent weeks has raised
questions about the sustainability of the Japanese economic recovery.
Unemployment rose unexpectedly in March while
retail sales and household spending fell.
Despite the latest figures, ministers said there
was no reason to panic.
"The economy on the whole is in
consolidation," said economic minister Heizo Takenaka. "The
figures generally underscore a recovery trend."
ECONOMY FOCUS FOR UK ELECTION BATTLE
Britain's economic future will be at the heart of
Labour's poll campaign, Chancellor Gordon Brown has said.
He was speaking after Cabinet members held their
last meeting at No 10 before the expected election announcement.
He said voters would recognise that Labour had
brought stability and growth, and would continue to do so.
Meanwhile, the Tories outlined their plans to
tackle "yob culture" and the Lib Dems gave more details
about their proposals to replace council tax.
Earlier the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to all
three parties urging them not to fight the election by exploiting
In an open letter, he called on them not to turn
the election into a competition about who can most effectively
frighten voters about terrorism, asylum, and crime.
BRAZIL QUITS LOAN ACCORD WITH IMF
Brazil has announced it will not renew a $41.75bn
(£22bn) loan accord with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Brazil's improved fiscal performance had reduced
its vulnerability to shocks on global markets, reducing its need for
IMF support, the government said.
The IMF backed the move, and called on Brazil to
use high interest rates and spending cuts to stabilize its economy.
Brazil approached the IMF in 1998, shortly before a
currency devaluation caused the country's debt load to soar.
Brazil's current loan accord with the IMF expires
at the end of March.
The decision not to renew the loan accord was the
Brazil's commitment to spending cuts and orthodox
fiscal policies, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said.
SMALL SHOPS BRACED FOR RATE RISES
Small retailers in England could face an uphill
struggle to cope with dramatic increases in business rates, a business
organisation has said.
More than 1.5 million companies are set to receive
their business rate bills in the next few days.
But the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is
warning that all companies will face sharp rises this year, with an
average increase of 15.7%.
It says shop owners in the south-east of England
will be hardest hit.
Business rates are the second or third highest item
of expenditure for most small firms. Rateable valuations take place
every five or six years.
Currently rates are five times more expensive as a
proportion of turnover than they are for large companies, according to
EU PROPOSES 15% DUTY ON US GOODS
The European Commission has proposed sanctions on a
range of US goods as punishment for the US failure to repeal the Byrd
Amendment anti-dumping law.
The Byrd Amendment permits US firms to benefit from
anti-dumping fees gained from foreign companies considered to be
selling items too cheaply.
The World Trade Organisation ruled it illegal more
than a year ago.
The Commission said US paper, farm goods, textiles
and machinery would face an extra 15% duty from May 1.
The Commission has acted in concert with seven
other countries which have also protested to the WTO about the Byrd
Amendment. It said it was expecting Japan, South Korea and Brazil to
impose similar penalties soon.
WORLD BANK BACKS LAOS DAM PROJECT
The World Bank has agreed to back a controversial
hydroelectric dam project in Laos, one of the poorest countries in
South East Asia.
At its board meeting in Washington, the bank said
it would provide loans and guarantees for the $1.2bn project.
The decision comes after nearly 10 years of
discussions with the Laos government.
But critics say the environmental and social costs
of the dam, called Nam Theun 2, are far too high.
Laos is a poor, landlocked country which has few
viable industries. But it does have plenty of mountains and rivers,
and that is why it is pinning its hopes for the future on
Nam Theun 2 is the country's largest dam project,
on a tributary of the mighty Mekong.
MERCEDES RECALLS 1.3 MILLION CARS
German luxury carmaker Mercedes has recalled 1.3m
vehicles as part of what it says is a bid to improve quality.
Analysts said the move is likely to cost many
millions of euros, and the firm already has warned that efforts to
improve its product would hit profits.
The company will look to fix problems with
batteries, alternators and brakes on a number of models made since
A slump in profitability at Mercedes has been
acting as a drag on earnings at US-German parent DaimlerChrysler.
GERMAN UNEMPLOYMENT KEEPS RISING
German unemployment hit a post-war high in March
after cold weather deterred many firms from hiring workers.
The number of people out of work increased by
92,000 to 4.97 million, according to seasonally adjusted figures from
the Federal Labour Office.
That pushed Germany's jobless rate to 12%, compared
with about 5% in the UK and the US.
The non-seasonally adjusted figure stayed above the
5 million level, falling by 41,000 to 5.176 million.
CHINA BANKS TOLD TO ACT ON FRAUD
Regulators have told Chinese banks to improve their
management and tighten internal controls to combat the growing cases
of fraud and mismanagement.
A former Bank of China employee was arrested
recently in connection with the alleged embezzlement of $6m, one in a
series of recent incidents.
Zhai Changping, who worked as a bank clerk in the
city of Dalian, was seized in the north-east of the country.
China's banking sector has been beset by cases of
fraud in recent times. Regulators have told firms to tighten their
INTERNET LINKS LIFT CHINA TELECOM
China's largest fixed line phone operator has
reported forecast-beating full year profits after almost doubling its
broadband subscriber numbers.
China Telecom posted 2004 net profits of 28.02bn
yuan ($3.39bn; £1.80bn), compared with a restated 13.88bn yuan in the
Revenues were 161.21bn yuan, up from 151.55bn yuan
Internet services contributed 14.11bn yuan to
revenues, and the firm expects broadband to add to profits in 2005.
POOR RAINFALL HURTS INDIAN GROWTH
India has reported its slowest economic growth for
six quarters after poor monsoon rains hurt agriculture, one of its
The country's economy grew 6.2% in the three months
to the end of December 2004, compared with a rise of 6.6% in the
Farming accounts for 22% of India's economy and the
second lowest rainfall for 17 years damaged harvests.
LATAMS RALLY WTO IN EU TARIFF ROW
Latin American banana producers are calling on the
World Trade Organisation (WTO) to intervene in a long-running row over
The producers are vehemently against plans by the
European Union (EU) to replace the current quota system.
At the moment, Latin American exports to the EU are
limited but the duty per tonne never exceeds 75 euros.
TELEFONICA WINS CZECH TENDER BID
Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica has
outbid its rivals to win a tender for a controlling 51% stake in Czech
phone firm Cesky Telecom.
Telefonica successfully offered 82.62bn koruna
($3.57bn; £1.9bn) for Cesky, which is being privatised by the Czech
HOUSE PRICE DIP 'WORST IN DECADE'
House prices have experienced their biggest monthly
fall in almost 10 years, the Nationwide has said.
Prices fell 0.6% in March, the biggest drop since
As a result annual house price growth dipped to
7.9% — the first time the yearly growth rate has fallen below 10%
The building society said that, despite the drop,
the figures confirmed its view that the UK housing market "is
experiencing a soft landing".
It forecast mortgage approvals would "bounce
back" to about 84,000, indicating a pick-up in activity, after
slipping to 798,000 in January from 82,000 in December.
INDIA TRADERS PROTEST AT VAT PLAN
Shops and businesses across India have shut down
last week as traders begin a protest against a new value-added tax.
The VAT system begins on 1 April and aims to widen
the tax net to help to cover India's spending shortfall.
The goal is to simplify the present system for
manufacturers, traders and consumers, getting rid of a wide variety of
add on tariffs. But traders say it will increased their paperwork
while forcing them to pay more taxes.
Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel plans to spend
eight months talking to creditors about its £6.2bn ($11.6bn) debt,
following a Paris board meeting.
ABN AMRO UNVEILS ITALIAN BANK BID
Dutch bank ABN Amro is to launch a 6.3bn euro
($8.1bn; £4.3bn) bid for Italian counterpart Banca Antonveneta.
The takeover offer comes hot on the heels of
Spanish bank BBVA's 6.4bn euro bid for Italian firm Banca Nazionale
del Lavoro, announced last Tuesday.
Both takeover approaches will challenge Italy's
longstanding desire to keep control of banks in domestic hands.
If approved by regulators and shareholders, the
Antonveneta deal will create Europe's ninth largest bank.
US CONSUMER CONFIDENCE DOWN AGAIN
Consumer confidence in the US has fallen for the
second month in a row, the latest figures show.
The consumer confidence index for March dropped two
points to 102.4, down from a revised 104.4 in February, said the New
York-based Conference Board.
The decline in confidence was blamed on increases
to gasoline (petrol) prices.
Analysts had been expecting a reading of 103, but
Lynn Franco, director of the organisation's consumer research centre,
said consumers remained upbeat.
UK SPENDING SLOWDOWN HITS RETAILERS
UK retail sales fell at their fastest pace for six
months in March as bad weather and jitters ahead of the recent Budget
hit trading, the CBI says.
In its latest distributive trades survey 31% of
retailers said sales volumes were up in March, while 40% said they
were down on the year.
The balance of -9% is a sharp reversal from the +2%
balance seen last month.
Despite forecasts for a modest rebound, the CBI
said sales for the time of year were their worst since November 1992.