There is much to be accomplished during these meetings, and we will all need to work together if we are to make tangible progress. I come from a region where we fully recognize that we need to cooperate with our neighbors to address issues of common concern and to strengthen and deepen relationships. The Sultanate of Oman has developed rapidly during the past 30 years by achieving the stability that comes from the collective cooperation of our people and from working together with our regional neighbors and key trading partners.
Managing global integration
There is now more than ever a need to strengthen international cooperation to guide global integration and the pursuit of our common goals—the fight against poverty, the sustained development of our economies, and the prevention of financial crises. No institutions are better equipped than the IMF and the World Bank to facilitate such cooperation and to ensure that all our voices are heard. It is also critical that each country demonstrate the political will and commitment to follow appropriate policies, create the necessary institutions, and establish an environment conducive to economic growth based on good governance and the rule of law.
The global economic outlook is improving slowly, but the recovery has yet to take firm hold, and the downside risks have increased. The recent volatility in equity markets and new concerns in corporate governance clearly indicate that the risks and vulnerabilities arising from industrial countries are as significant as those in emerging market and developing countries, if not more so. In this regard, I welcome the prompt action taken by the U.S. authorities to strengthen regulation and enforcement in the financial sector.
A major risk to the economies in my region, but also to the global economy, is the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East. I urgently call for greater efforts by the international community and all parties involved to seek a peaceful resolution to this and all other conflicts. Political turmoil, civil unrest, and conflict all severely hold back progress in tackling poverty and achieving economic prosperity.
The greatest challenge we face today is to eliminate poverty. It is our responsibility to ensure that the world’s poorest also benefit from the increasing integration of the world economy. An unprecedented degree of agreement about what is required to overcome poverty and promote global development was reached in Monterrey. The Monterrey Consensus reaffirmed the importance of sound policies and good governance to ensure the effectiveness of official development assistance. Oman and other Arab donor countries have demonstrated our longstanding commitment to international cooperation by contributing substantial concessional assistance and aid to developing countries. Indeed, we have consistently exceeded the target of 0.7 percent of GNP for official development assistance set for the industrial countries.
The recent UN world summit in Johannesburg reaffirmed the primacy of sustainable development as a central element of the international agenda. It concluded with significant commitments in water and sanitation, energy, health, agriculture, biodiversity, and ecosystem management. The challenge now is to implement these commitments.
The Bank and the IMF have also made substantial progress in approving debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries through the HIPC Initiative. It has allowed these countries to increase their spending in such critical areas as health, education, and basic infrastructure. We hope that additional countries will soon be receiving debt relief under this program.
International trade has a vital role to play in fostering economic development and reducing poverty. Enhanced market access for developing countries and their effective participation in the Doha Development Agenda are essential to ensure that the benefits of further trade liberalization are shared by all. It is regrettable that the trade policies of many industrial countries continue to restrict access to the exports of developing countries, particularly textiles and agricultural products. I call upon the industrial countries to commit to opening their markets. Developing countries should also push ahead with their own liberalization efforts.
Financial sector issues
Globalization of the financial markets has created new opportunities for both industrial and developing countries. It has also underscored that, in today’s global financial system, characterized by vast and volatile cross-border capital flows, strong financial sectors are necessary to promote savings, investment, and growth. I welcome the IMF’s efforts to identify vulnerabilities better and provide timely advice and support for preventing future crises. The IMF and the Bank also play an important role in safeguarding the stability and the integrity of the international financial system through their efforts to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. These issues are of critical importance to countries at all stages of development.
In conclusion, I believe that our institutions are now stronger and ever more committed to ensuring that the opportunities and benefits brought about by globalization are made available to, and shared equitably by, all members, particularly the less fortunate. I am certain that the synergies of our working together will help achieve much more than the sum of our individual efforts.