Greece, Portugal Turn to World Bank for Technical Advice

Greece and Portugal, two countries engulfed by the European debt crisis, have turned to the World Bank for technical assistance, seeking advice from an institution focused on reducing global poverty, the lender’s president said.

The two governments have officially asked for the paid advice, though details are still being sorted out, Jim Yong Kim told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meetings in Mexico City. The bank’s expertise that could be useful includes improving the business environment and public expenditures, he said.

“We’re now in the middle of intense discussions to figure out just what we’re going to do,” said Kim, who is attending his first G-20 meeting of finance officials as World Bank president. “We’ve worked in so many different countries that have gone through these kinds of problems that we’re simply going to very humbly offer up our experience of what other places have done.”

While the advice comes with no loan attached, it is still a new avenue for the Washington-based World Bank, which usually provides money and assistance to developing and middle-income countries. By offering help to Greece on his first work day in July, Kim distinguished himself from his predecessor, Robert Zoellick, who had said he tried to keep some distance from the country that’s now receiving a second bailout package.

The bank was created at the end of World War II to help rebuild Europe. Now focused on developing countries, it lends for everything from building roads to supporting education policies, and has expanded its scope to taking stakes in companies and guaranteeing investments.

Kim compared the advice to the two European nations to the expertise given to South Korea in the late 1990s.

“We simply have a range of experiences as a global bank that we think might be helpful and we’re happy to see that Greece and Portugal also think it might be helpful,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Mexico City at srastello@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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