Transcript of the Development Committee Press Briefing by Agustín Carstens, Chairman, Development Committee; Robert B. Zoellick, President, World Bank Group; and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director, IMF
April 14, 2008April 13, 2008
|Webcast of the press briefing|
MR. HANLON: Good afternoon, and welcome. Thank you very much for joining us for this news conference marking the conclusion of today's Development Committee meeting. You will be hearing from Minister Carstens, Chairman of the Committee, first; and then President Zoellick; followed by Managing Director Strauss-Kahn. Of course, then, we'll be taking your question. Without further ado, Chairman Carstens, please.
MR. CARSTENS: Well, thank you very much, and let me give you a brief review of the main points that were addressed today at the Development Committee's meeting. It was recognized that we met today at the time of great challenges for efforts to promote development and attack poverty. Our discussions were directed at confronting the challenges candidly, while looking for ways to exploit opportunities to make progress. I basically will highlight five key points. The Communiqué is available, so you will have there the whole scope of the discussion.
So, of these five key points, let me start by saying that it was recognized that this is the mid-point year for the Millennium Development Goals, the Committee's important achievements. Thanks to strong global growth over recent years, the world as a whole is on track to meet the ambitious goal of cutting poverty in half by 2015. But there are major challenges, too. We have fallen behind on crucial human development MDGs, such as improving maternal and child health; and many individual countries are not on track for the poverty MDG, most notable in much of Africa. The sustainability of growth and development is also a major challenge. Both developing countries and the international community need to redouble our efforts. Many recipient countries have improved effectiveness with which they utilize ODA, and we have seen a very welcome increase in resources for the World Bank's IDA facility, which helps the poorest countries; but we need to see all donors reach into their pockets to meet the commitments they have themselves made to step up levels of aid to countries as efforts to develop economically and to meet the MDGs.
Second, as we know, the balance of risks to the global economic outlook has become more negative. So far, though, emerging and developing economies have seemed less affected by the financial market developments. The current high price of energy, food, and other commodities create opportunities for those countries that are net producers, opportunities they will need to manage with care. But these prices also create pressures on net importing countries and for great many poor people around the world who are net consumers of food and energy. We have encouraged the World Bank and the IMF to be ready to provide the analytical support to countries in both categories, and financial support to those countries that are suffering from shocks from import prices.
Third, in this connection, we specifically welcomed the recent call by President Zoellick to the world community for a New Deal for Global Food Policy, combining immediate assistance with medium- and long-term efforts to boost agricultural productivity in developing countries. We urge donors to provide the needed assistance to the World Food Program to enable immediate support for countries most affected by the high food prices, and we encourage the World Bank to strengthen its engagement in the agricultural sector.
Fourth, an open world economy remains crucial to global economic progress and prosperity; we therefore express our strong support for intensified and decisive efforts to agree on an ambitious development Doha Round that improves access to markets.
Fifth, and finally, we address the issue of the voice and participation of developing and transition countries in World Bank Group decision making. We welcomed the Managing Director's Report on the reform of IMF quota and voice. We encourage the Bank to advance work on our aspects of voice and participation, keeping in mind the distinct nature of the Bank's development mandate and the importance of enhancing voice and participation for all developing and transition countries in the World Bank Group.
We look forward to inclusive consultations among shareholders and to receiving concrete options for the Bank's Board by our next meeting, with a view to reaching consensus on a comprehensive package by the 2009 Spring Meeting. Thank you.
MR. HANLON: Thank you very much, Minister Carstens.
President Zoellick, please.
MR. ZOELLICK: Thank you, Carl. We have had a good series of meetings, and Minister Carstens has highlighted the main points of the Development Committee, so let me just emphasize a couple of issues.
This morning, we discussed Adaptation to Climate Change at the Bali Breakfast. This is a crucial issue for developing countries. As I noted at the start of these meetings, the drive to address climate change won't work if it's seen as a rich man's club. It is very important to have developed and developing country Ministers at the table so that the developing country voices can be heard.
The Bali Breakfast builds on an initiative taken by Indonesia at the time of the UN meetings on climate change there. I hope this will be a regular meeting of the Development and Finance Ministers at our Annual and Spring Meetings to discuss climate-change issues. We will be following up with developing countries to integrate adaptation and mitigation strategies into their development plans.
Before these meetings, I outlined priorities that I believe can help meet immediate needs while also paving the way towards a more inclusive and sustainable globalization. One of these was how we can help countries manage and transform their natural resource wealth into long-term economic growth that spreads the benefits more fairly among their people. So, I'm very pleased that yesterday we launched the EITI++ initiative, and that Guinea and Mauritania have asked for our assistance in piloting this approach. I'm encouraged by the early support of African institutions and some NGOs that have a strong record in this area. This initiative is an important step towards reversing the resource curse.
I also outlined a 1 per cent Solution to build equity investment in Africa so that it can become a complementary pole of growth in 10 to 15 years, just as China and India and others are a complementary pole today. The allocation of even 1 percent of the assets of Sovereign Wealth Funds to equity investment in Africa could draw $30 billion to African development, growth, and opportunity. I'm pleased that we have had some very positive feedback on this idea, and we are following up in discussions with Sovereign Wealth Funds. The International Finance Corporation, IFC, our private sector arm, is discussing a number of possible approaches: investing alongside IFC in its projects, investing in multi-country funds, or in joint ventures.
Let me now turn to the food crisis.
I came into these meetings underscoring the vital importance of launching a New Deal for Global Food Policy. Part of that New Deal is meeting the immediate crisis and the needs of those who are now facing huger, malnutrition, and even starvation across the world. Throughout the weekend, we have heard again and again from Ministers in developing countries and emerging economies that this is a priority issue.
As we assembled, Prime Minister Brown of the United Kingdom released a letter that he sent to Prime Minister Fukuda, the host of this year's G-8 summit, calling for combined international action on food. This weekend, President Yudhoyono of Indonesia sent the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and me a letter pressing for the same.
So, I'm very pleased, as Minister Carstens mentioned, that the Development Committee Members and Ministers have endorsed the New Deal, and that they have called on donors to fill the $500 million feeding gap identified by the World Food Program.
I also welcomed the decision that the high commodity price and their impact on growth and development will be a topic for the G-8 Finance Ministers in Japan in June. This is important, and it can help build on that New Deal. But, frankly speaking, that G-8 meeting of Finance Ministers is in June, and we cannot afford to wait. We have to put our money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths. It's as stark as that.
Just yesterday, we saw that the Government of Haiti fell. While I know that President Preval is committed to continuity and stability and will maintain his focus on economic and social development, this event just underscores the importance of quick international action. We at the World Bank are granting an additional $10 million to Haiti for feeding programs, and I understand that others are looking to help.
We are also responding to a number of other countries with conditional cash transfer programs, food for work, planting for a new season; and we are looking at how we can step up that support as part of short-term and medium-term actions. The World Food Program has asked countries to respond to its appeal for $500 million by May 1, and we have double-checked and had just received indications of commitments for almost half of the money that it requires. But that's not enough. It's critical that governments confirm their commitments as soon as possible and that others begin to commit. Prices have only risen further since the WFP issued that appeal, so it remains urgent that governments step up. But it's also critical that we push ahead with more medium-term actions to make agriculture a priority.
Based on a very rough analysis, we estimate that a doubling of food prices over the last three years could potentially push 100 million people in low-income countries deeper into poverty. This is not just a question of short-term needs, as important as those are; this is ensuring that future generations don't pay a price, too.
Hunger, malnutrition and food policy have formed a recurrent theme at this weekend's meetings, and I believe we have made some progress, but it will be important to continue to retain this focus as we leave Washington.
I would like to thank personally Chairman Carstens for his leadership and support, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn for being an excellent partner as we seek to overhaul these institutions but yet at a time of international economic challenge. And I would also like to thank the many hard-working individuals of the World Bank Group for their excellent efforts not only for these meetings but for their contributions every day. Thank you.
MR. HANLON: Thank you, sir. Managing Director Strauss-Kahn, please.
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: Well, thank you. It's the first time that I am attending this Development Committee meeting in this capacity, and I first want to pay tribute to Chairman Carstens for his leadership and to President Bob Zoellick for really the fantastic work not only during the Committee but preparing the Committee in the past months.
I don't have so many comments to add. I would like just to focus on food prices. As Bob has just said, we have been told again and again during these two days from Ministers, Governors, how the crisis was a deep crisis You may be surprised that the Managing Director from the IMF would be so much concerned about food prices as this could be seen as something which has less to do with the IMF. In fact, it's not. It's not because we have been working on development for years, spending a lot of resources in training, in technical assistance. We are trying to provide low-income countries with an economic, macroeconomic and macro-financial environment which makes development possible; and during the last maybe six, seven years, some reserves that appear, namely, in Africa. Several months ago I was in West Africa, and the reserves with the different countries in West Africa are really amazing.
Now, all that has been done could be destroyed very rapidly by the crisis coming through the increase in food prices, not only because of inflation—of course, but because it may cause a disruption in the macroeconomic environment, especially through trade balances. I have provided a few days ago a map of the world where we see that many countries, especially in Africa, are likely to have a deficit coming from the increase in food prices that is more than 1 percent of the GDP. One percent of GDP in deficit in trade balances is a huge deficit; and coming from this huge deficit, which translates immediately, of course, into current account balances; you have the traditional concern of the Fund as far as currency is concerned.
But you have to take it a step further, and those kind of situations, because of the humanitarian consequences, could have a lot of demographic consequences. And as Bob just said, already some governments are suffering from the understandable criticism from people in the industry, even if the governments are not responsible for the rise in prices. So, what is at stake is, of course, people starving—that's the first problem—maybe the biggest one—but then it's also all that has been done trying to help development in the last decade. And what is even more at stake is the political stability of a lot of countries.
So, we are facing a huge problem—a problem for the World Bank, and a problem for the Fund, and you shouldn't be surprised that we are going to devote a lot of time to this point.
What we can do in the Fund is, of course, provide some advice, political policy advice, on how to cope with the problem. It's totally understandable that the government has to do something for the most fragile part of the population, but it can be done in different ways: solving the problem in the short run but creating a new problem for the medium term, for the long term, because a change in the nature of the tax system, for instance, or the customs system. And we are favoring a solution which goes through direct subsidies to the poor—the poorest part of the population.
But there are also other kinds of advice that can be given. Our teams are already working with a long list of African governments and some Latin American governments on what kind of policy can be undertaken to just cope in the short run with what is going on.
And then we have the long-term problem, which is obviously to increase supply in food, and it can't be done overnight, but it shouldn't take that long either. And to have a good example, I can quote the example of Malawi, where in two years crops have been multiplied by more than two. So, it shows that it's possible to do, and it's absolutely necessary now to reconsider the way the different low-income countries are producing food or in the last years turning away from producing food, which is part of the problem today.
So, it's a big concern for the Fund, and we are going to devote a lot of resources, time, experts, but also financial resources to that, and that will be done in the coming weeks by reviewing our financial tools which are not totally adapted to this kind of crisis. So, for instance, the Exogenous Shocks Facility, which is supposed to address this kind of question, has obviously to be changed a little to really be useful for the countries, and that's going to be done in the coming weeks. Thank you.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. My question is, anybody, a lot of times at these meetings or at the United Nations, a lot of talks goes on but not much action. Now many people or countries are getting more and more poorer, and many countries are getting more and more richer. And most of the time the money goes from here going to the dictators but not to the people. Now I think time has come that money should go to the people and for their welfare, and I understand you are having a meeting tomorrow going to present this report to the United Nations.
What do you think about this rising oil prices and many countries are making billions of dollars from the poor? So, what action are you going to take as far as your rise in oil prices? And, finally, any message for the President of the United States, President Bush, what he can do or what collectively you can do together to lift up the poor?
MR. ZOELLICK: Well, I take your point about—
MR. ZOELLICK: —the need to take this momentum that we are building, particularly on the food price issue, and I put my emphasis first on the emergency needs of the World Food Program, which I underscored today, and I'm pleased they have gotten about half of the commitments, and I hope coming out of this meeting they can get more and nail those down. So, I hope that will be something that will be real and substantive.
As I also emphasized, we need to work at measures all across the chain of value for food policy, so I have also mentioned in real-time we are working with countries about the school feeding programs, food-for-work programs, others. Bangladesh is another country that's under stress. We are in the process of working right now on two IDA loans, which are the concessionary grants or loans of about $320 million from Bangladesh that would go a long way towards filling the fiscal gap that both food and oil prices have created. We have got some projects in Yemen, which has also been hard-hit, in terms of trying to scale up agricultural productivity, about 20 million for livestock, 85 million for irrigation which we are looking to scale up, 25 million for fisheries, 40 million for rural access. I mentioned the additional 10 million that we are putting forward to Haiti, and this actually requires some gymnastics because a lot of our money is allocated by special categories and formulas.
Since you're from India, I will emphasize that, when I sat down with Minister Chidambaram yesterday, he put as his number one priority agriculture. And so, as we focus on our programs within IDA and non-IDA programs, we will be guided by him.
So, I also, frankly, feel that some of the attention that we have drawn to this issue in the lead-up has gotten quick resonance from developed and developing country leaders. I was very pleased, if you look at the letter that Gordon Brown sent, very similar to the outline that I tried to put forward in the speech, Minister Sri Mulyiani of Indonesia delivered the letter to me from President Yudhoyono. And so I hope we could use the coming months to get more attention and more results on those issues because I share your sense of imminence.
As for President Bush and the United States, there are U.S. representatives in these meetings. They were some of the strongest supporters about calling for the closing of the Doha agenda. That's another issue that, frankly, the critical issues will be coming forward in the next months. I don't have the exact numbers, but I think they are one of the significant contributors to the World Food Program effort.
And, in general, they have also stated their support in these meetings for the full range of policies we talked about, including a statement today—a very proper one—in that IFC, our private sector arm, is really helping on a lot of these issues for the poorest and post-conflict States—in addition, I mentioned the Sovereign Wealth Fund equity proposal—and the United States sometimes has been more cautious in the budget increases, but they said they are very convinced by these processes. So, obviously, it's their role to give you the greater detail of their position, whether it be on HIV/AIDS as a Millennium Development Goal or other topics.
But I have a sense—and I think you heard this from Agustin and Dominique—that coming out of these meetings there is a greater sense of intensity and focus on these topics; and now, as you properly say, we have to keep pushing and translating it into real action.
MR. HANLON: Mr. Carstens or Mr. Strauss-Kahn, anything you want to add?
MR. CARSTENS: Let me touch on something very briefly. These meetings, basically what they are is an opportunity for member countries organized around these committees to provide guidance to the work of the World Bank and the Fund. As you know, formally, the Board are the decision-making body. I mean, that is no small thing for Ministers and Governors to provide guidance. But the real action takes time, once these programs get elaborated and they get implemented. And as you can see, we have—and as a matter of fact, this is something also that was consensus—we have a President that is very proactive, very dynamic. He has quoted many programs underway, and he has raised very important issues and put them on the table. The same we heard from Managing Director Strauss-Kahn. They're not improvising. They have to really think about the issues, they have provided us with some good suggestions, and basically Ministers gave them the go-ahead.
Now, this also doesn't take away the fact that other countries—many countries, I would say—are contributing to the solution of these problems through other means. This is one instance where all the governments get together and where we can address problems in a more multilateral way, but there are other many actions at a level that are taking place to address these very pressing issues that you just mentioned.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Mr. Zoellick, with regards to the food prices or the food crisis, as you mentioned, Japan will be hosting the next G-8 summit in July, the next G-8 Finance Ministers, I believe, in Osaka in June. What do you think the Japanese Government can do, as the host of these meetings, to address this very important issue?
MR. ZOELLICK: Well, I think the starting point was one that the Japanese Government agreed coming out of the G-7 Finance Ministers' meeting, which was that Minister Darling of the U.K. emphasized that he thought that this was an important issue to take up at the Finance Ministers' meeting, and Japan agreed to do that in this June meeting.
Second, I hope Japan will join with the other countries in adding to the contributions for the World Food Program. I believe there are some under consideration. I don't know exactly where they stand in specificity.
And as long as I'm mentioning that, I should say, just as Agustin mentioned, you have some developing countries helping with this. Brazil, I understand, has added a contribution to the World Food Program. They have done a special contribution for Haiti where they also are leading the UN Security Mission.
Back in Japan, this is obviously for Prime Minister Fukuda and his colleague to decide; but given the call by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to focus on this issue, and given Japan's decision to already invite some developing countries around the meeting, I think that will give an opportunity to further try to use this as a schedule point, as a milestone, to try to further integrate the work of FAO World Food Program, other UN agencies, World Bank, IMF, and so we will certainly be ready and willing to support that.
In addition, there is double opportunity for Japan this year, which is that Japan is hosting a meeting called TICAD, which is a special program African development that they host every four or five years. That, as I recall, will be in Yokohama, and I believe that's in May. So, there is really an opportunity for Japan to demonstrate the follow-through on some of the messages we have been discussing today, which is not only meeting the emergencies but putting the policies in place for growth and development heading forward. And that's partly with its own resources but partly in its role as a catalyst for action of other countries.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Mr. Zoellick, you mentioned that you had spent this morning discussing climate change and strategies there and that subsequently the big theme, in a sense, of the rest of the day was the food crisis.
Now, as you know, many people have drawn connections between efforts to promote biofuels on the one had and price increases in fuel, and I believe your own Food Options Paper last week recognized that the biofuels strategy was contributing at least in part to the increase in food prices. So, I would like to invite you to connect those dots and say to what extent does the rise from food prices and the stress it's putting on the developing world requires to rethink our approach to climate change, and specifically the role of biofuels and the implementation of biofuel policy within that?
MR. ZOELLICK: Well, first, the morning session of the Bali Breakfast was focused on adaptation, but one of the issues that we drew attention to in adaptation was there are some issues that are related to the overlap between mitigation and adaptation of particular interest to developing countries that might also affect agricultural issues related to forestry and deforestation and the planting of different types of crops.
More specifically, however, a number of Ministers did raise this issue; and, as you know, Krishna, it covers the full range of biofuels to the linkages of financial and commodity markets, both energy and finance. And because—and one of the questions that people have today is you have short-term illiquidity, you have still long-term liquidity in the market. Some of that people believe is going into some of the commodity markets for both food and energy, and the structure of those markets tends to be biased towards upward prices for reasons I could explain, if you like.
But as for the particulars of biofuels, what was good about these discussions is people talked about different elements. So, you know, there is sugar-based biofuels in Brazil; and Brazil—at least most of the studies show that there are additional efficiencies to that and also there are more benefits in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
There is a second stage of biofuels that is under development with cellulosic materials, and a number of people highlighted that because it may be a way of avoiding some of the energy costs but without using current food production. But as our work shows and other work shows, there clearly is an issue linked here with some of the food-based biofuels that has got to be part of the puzzle and part of the issues Gordon Brown and others asked to looked at. You have programs in Europe; you have programs in the United States. There are often good reasons for these programs related to energy security, but I have mentioned at least there is some incongruity between having subsidy programs at the same time you have tariffs as you do have in the United States.
And then, in addition, if countries decide those are important for their energy security or other aspects of their development—and I hope those countries look particularly closely when we have emergency calls, as we do now, by that of the World Food Program.
There are multiple dimensions for energy prices. I mean, the biofuels are clearly linked to what's going on in the underlying energy market more generally, you also have changing diets. You have the higher energy price affect the ability to produce food, and that was one of the other findings.
So, you have got multiple dimensions here, but there was an active discussion about this topic, and my own sense is that you are going to see more work on it up through these meetings that we talked about this summer.
MR. HANLON: I believe Mr. Strauss-Kahn would like to add something.
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: Just a little point just to underscore part of what Bob just said, which is the difference in biofuel between what comes from food crops and nonfood crops. Of course, we can argue that there are a lot of good reasons that climate change is a huge problem, good reasons to try to push countries to substitute some kind of a biofuel to oil. The problem is that's totally different when you do it from different kind of crops which are not food crops or come from food. And then, I think, really we need to have more work on that because we are talking about raising money just in the short run to help the different countries get through the situation they are in. But money is not enough because you don't need money; you need to have something to buy. And to raise money just to buy sufficient foodstuff doesn't solve the problem at all.
So, the real problem we are facing is a problem which probably for a long time—I won't say decades but at least years—we have a deficit in foodstuffs. So, in this case, the international community has to think about what is the biggest risk in the short run and to make a correct balance between production of biofuel from food stuffs and biofuel coming from nonfood stuffs.
And have I listened to some Ministers during these two days who are very, very strongly against this kind of thing, talking about crime against humanity using foodstuff to produce biofuels. It's part of an informal conversation, but nevertheless it shows how strong this concern is, and I think that we absolutely need to work on that, and very rapidly.
QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. Gentlemen, how will the world financial crisis affect Ukraine this year, please? To Robert Zoellick and to Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Thanks a lot.
MR. ZOELLICK: Well, that sounds more like a macroeconomic question to me, first. I think Strauss-Kahn ought to go to that one.
MR. STRAUSS-KAHN: Well, I have argued for weeks that there is no part of the world immune from the financial crisis, and that's true for Ukraine and true for other parts. In fact, for a country like Ukraine and this part of the world, the main problem is not whether or not banks ought to have in their balance sheets a lot of American dollar-denominated paper, which makes a problem that we dare not expose. The real problem is: will the slowdown and the rise in risk aversion induce even an incidence at least a sharp decrease in flow of capital. Most of the Central European countries in the E.U. or out of the E.U. did benefit from a large inflow of capitals in the last years, and so the question is the inflows are at least decreasing, how big would be the influence on financial stability. That's a real concern.
So, that's the main channel besides the channel of trade which will affect everybody, but that's a main channel which concerns a country like Ukraine.
MR. ZOELLICK: I will just add two thoughts that. One is, Ukraine historically was the bread basket of Europe, and so there is an opportunity here with Ukrainian agriculture to meet some of the needs that we have talked about.
And, second, I believe Ukraine has worked very hard on its WTO accession, and completing that will also send the right signals about stability in the rules-based system that will help deal with some of these investment issues that Dominique mentioned.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. For President Zoellick, going back to climate change again, can you expand a little bit more on the Bali Breakfast, how many Ministers attended. And also what progress ultimately do you think was made this morning, also the Development Committee with food prices taking such a central place in the discussions, how much of a focus do you think that there was on climate change at these meetings, and again what progress do you see?
MR. ZOELLICK: Well, let me give you a little bit of the context. The Bali Breakfast was trying to, as I said in my opening remarks, build on an initiative of the Indonesian Government at the time of the Bali meetings for the UN negotiations, and I think it had two important elements that I thought it was useful that we maintain and give further energy to. One is that it was excellent for this to be an initiative from a developing country because I don't believe you will be able to deal with the challenges of climate change unless you have got developing and developed countries work together. Second, it was a meeting of Finance and Development Ministers, so you had the development and financial and economic perspective.
I had talked with Sri Mulyiani, the Finance Minister of Indonesia, who hosted that meeting—a good friend—but also chairs of the troika, the next countries that will be hosting the UN meetings, so this includes Denmark and Poland; and also Yvo De Boer, the head of the UNFCCC process. We thought it would be useful to experiment with having a session, and we had primarily the same Ministers or countries that we had at the Development Committee plus a few others, including some from the UN system. We had all the troika there. So, it was roughly the same number and about.
But the idea was to, as opposed to some meetings where you go around and you just talk about a range of topics, I gave a presentation about adaptation and tried to outline how one might think about this and the critical need to address it from the perspective of developing countries in some sense of how one might address it, some of the trade-offs, some of the implications for Finance and Development Ministers, some post-2012 considerations, and some of the questions.
And just to give you one small example of this, the work on mitigation and climate change recognizes that climate change is the classic global public goods issue. It's a question of global greenhouse gases and how you deal with global emissions. Adaptation is a highly local issue, so I put in a chart about the effects of rising sea levels on Bangladesh, just to drive home the point on the territory, on the population. And, frankly, the information that we have about the local effects is quite modest around the world, compared to that that you have in—for the mitigation, for the global emissions issues.
It's also striking, since we were just talking about agriculture, I put in a map to shows at least some of the forecasts, the effects on agriculture from raising temperatures. If it's Canada, if it's Russia, parts of northern Europe, U.S., not so bad; that could be good. If you're in the developing world, it's very frightening about the effects.
So, we are trying to think of everything from risk-insurance tools—we have used some of these with some countries to help them deal with some of the risks of climactic and other events—to financing methods, to think how to think about build—and even there was some information about investment in meteorological data and information that helps in the benefits in terms of reducing costs.
So, the purpose was to dig into a topic, help inform people, help frame further work on this topic and, in a way, to be substantive support for the larger UN effort. And you could talk to the Ministers, but afterwards they seemed to think it was a beneficial exchange.
Now, in the Development Committee meeting itself, we were trying to focus, first off, on the problems of the poorest countries and the post-conflict States, which are two of the two strategic themes that we mentioned, but we also focused on the food and energy prices and a little bit on the EITI++ initiative related to natural resources. But I wouldn't want you to have the sense that there wasn't a strong and keen interest on the part of the Ministers in climate change; there very much is. And in fact, if anything, many of them were drawing the linkages here of the effects of climate change on agriculture production and some of the risks for farmers.
MR. HANLON: Thank you very much, gentlemen. I'm afraid we are out of time. Thanks to all for joining us here today.