Summers advises developing nations


NEW YORK - Developing nations need to focus their economic development programs on increasing trade and improving health and education, U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said yesterday.

"Successful national economic development depends above all on the promotion of markets, and the institutions and policies that are needed for markets to function well," Summers said in a speech to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, where a three-day conference on information technology is being held.

Countries need to focus in particular on fighting the spread of AIDS, which has ravaged African nations, he said.

Summers also said the International Monetary Fund and other global lending instituations should focus more of their efforts on providing capital where private lenders are afraid to go.

"In the public as in the private sector, questions of pricing in finance will be central in the years ahead: central to assuring that finance is properly used, and central to mobilizing the kind of resources that will be necessary if truly concessional needs are to be met," Summers said.

Those needs include granting debt relief to struggling countries, providing more financial assistance to such nations and making technological and medical gains accessible to all nations, he said.

After his speech, Summers told reporters that the U.S. economic expansion is buoyed by "sound" prospects, federal budget surpluses and business investment.

"As always, there will be fluctuations from quarter to quarter in rates of economic growth and, as always, it's important to avoid complacency, but we believe that there is every prospect for continued strong economic expansion in the United States," Summers said.

Summers, who along with his Group of 7 colleagues will meet this weekend with Russian economic officials, said there has been a "clear, substantial improvement in Russia's economic performance over the last few months." The Treasury secretary said the "challenge going forward" for Russian officials will be to ensure "that this growth is sustained." Most important to that, he said, will be the establishment of an effective rule of law including secure property rights.

In Japan, he said, the outlook for the economy rests on spurring consumer demand there, a policy being pursued by the Japanese government.

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