World Bank pledges record US$3.5 bn new to aid poor nations

WASHINGTON, Sept 27, 2007 (AFP) – The World Bank on Thursday pledged a record 3.5 billion dollars to aid the world’s poorest countries as it cut the interest rate on loans to big developing countries.

The roughly quarter-point lowering of loan rates was a concession by the World Bank as it stepped up efforts to get some of its bigger borrowers such as China and Brazil to contribute themselves to poverty-fighting programs around the world.

The compromise marks a major coup for the new president of the troubled bank, Robert Zoellick, a former US trade chief who took office in July after the ouster of Paul Wolfowitz over a favoritism scandal.

Known as a sharp negotiator, Zoellick, who left the Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs to join the World Bank, apparently managed to quickly strike a win-win deal to find more money for poor countries and ease borrowing for middle-income clients.

The bank said Thursday it was seeking to contribute more than double the 1.5 billion dollars it had pledged two years ago to the International Development Association (IDA), its arm which provides interest-free loans and grants to the poorest countries.

“By boosting its IDA pledge by over 100