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UN: Romanian Central Banker Sees 'Historic' Turning Point In Monterrey

Mugur Isarescu, the governor of Romania's central bank, the National Bank of Romania, says he expects the UN development conference in Monterrey, Mexico, to mark a turning point in the way development aid flows to poorer countries. Isarescu spoke in an interview with RFE/RL correspondent Robert McMahon after chairing a roundtable discussion between finance ministers from rich and poor states, business leaders and civil society representatives.

Monterrey, Mexico; 20 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- With new commitments of development aid from both the United States and European Union, some government officials believe the UN conference on financing for development is gaining momentum as a rallying point for poverty eradication.

That is the view of Romania's central bank governor, Mugur Isarescu, who yesterday chaired a roundtable discussion on development partnerships.

Isarescu told RFE/RL that the conference marks a "historic" convergence of the forces needed to help improve development assistance in the world: "I have seen on [the part of both] the host and donor countries a clear commitment. On [the part of] the host countries, to consider seriously the improvement of the [investment] environment, and to make the official development assistance more effective, and to create the business environment for doing this. And on the [part of the] donor countries, a clear commitment to increase official development."

Isarescu's roundtable included trade and finance officials from nearly 40 countries in the developed and developing world, business executives and officials from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. It was one of four such events involving top participants in the UN conference.

After summit-level meetings at the end of this week, the conference is to formally adopt the "Monterrey consensus" aimed at committing more resources to help improve the conditions of hundreds of millions of people living in poverty.

Isarescu said if countries follow through on the spirit he's seen so far in Monterrey, it would open the way for more crucial foreign direct investment: "I am convinced [Monterrey] will be a turning point, because -- with the higher official development, plus a better environment, plus more effectiveness of official development flows -- it's clear that, with this as a catalyst, then we will have also high private investment."

Isarescu said a number of promising ideas emerged from his roundtable discussion, including a proposal to create a forum for business entities from North and South to share ideas. Another recommendation was to create a permanent consultative forum for rich and poor countries on financial and debt issues.

The central bank governor said speakers yesterday acknowledged there is not a single approach to ending poverty: "It's not a blueprint. It's clear that we have no blueprint. But on the other side, it's clear that it's necessary to have a comprehensive and broad approach to the eradication [of poverty]."

Romania itself is trying to prepare for European Union membership by the end of this decade. It has been left out of the EU's anticipated 2004 expansion due to its failure to achieve required economic and institutional reforms. At a news conference late yesterday, Isarescu discussed his own country's continuing struggles.

"I come from a country which is faced -- at least partially, regionally -- with poverty, and I also have seen that foreign direct investment is crucial for the rapid development of my country," Isarescu said.

Isarescu stressed that developing countries need to do their "homework" to attract this aid -- through good governance, sound macroeconomic policies, and putting laws in place that encourage investors.