G7 meeting to focus on Ukraine aid: World Bank

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 28 2022 08:42 AM

Mothers fleeing with their children from Ukraine stand at Nyugati station, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Budapest, Hungary, February 27, 2022. Marton Monus, Reuters
Mothers fleeing with their children from Ukraine stand at Nyugati station, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Budapest, Hungary, February 27, 2022. Marton Monus, Reuters

WASHINGTON - Finance ministers of the Group of Seven most developed nations will meet Tuesday to discuss urgent aid for Ukraine, World Bank president David Malpass said.

In an interview with CBS he called the recent Russian invasion a "tragedy" not just for Ukraine and its neighbors but also for Russia, where per capita income has fallen below that of China.

And he said the prospect of spiking oil and food prices caused by the conflict was a "big concern."

Malpass said the financial sanctions imposed by Western countries on Russia -- notably excluding some Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank platform that facilitates trade with other countries -- "hits the banks in Russia but apparently not the oil and gas industry."

But Malpass added that "if they're able to stop the central bank of Russia from operating, that would really have an effect on Russia and (its) people."

He played down concerns that Russia could bypass SWIFT through a "mirror system" created by China, saying, "I'm not sure this will go very far." 

A former US under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs, Malpass said he did not see China as a natural partner for Russia.

"The arc of history is for Russia to be closer to Europe," he said. 

Malpass said the World Bank was "in a good position" to support the Ukrainian government as soon as "the next few days," and could also expedite additional aid to countries like Romania and Moldova as they deal with an influx of refugees.

The G7 ministers, Malpass added, could play a decisive role in securing aid for Ukraine. 

"They're in the central banks of the G7," he said, "and they can decide a lot of how much aid goes into Ukraine."

But vulnerable global economies could be badly rattled by spiking food and oil prices, Malpass said.

"It was already at a point of fragility, because inflation really hits the poor, and this is going to drive up energy and food."

Russia is a major exporter of energy products, but Malpass said there are alternatives in the marketplace.

"The US can supply a lot more if it puts its mind to it," he told CBS.

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