Jordan's King Abdullah Creates G-11 Group of Lower-Middle Income Nations

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said the international community ought to reward rather than penalize countries such as his for their economic growth and reform.

International assistance was needed to "transmit our economic gains to the people of Pakistan," Musharraf said Wednesday. Instead, he said, the European Union had curtailed its assistance to Pakistan because more needy states deserve its assistance.

"We need to demand access to the transfer of technology. Pakistan is an agrarian society and needs financial assistance to switch from agriculture and textile to engineering sector. If this happens, we can sustain this economic growth," the Pakistani leader said.

Musharraf was speaking at a meeting of 11 countries known as Lower-Middle Income Countries at which Jordan's King Abdullah II officially launched an initiative to create a forum for cooperation and knowledge-sharing to promote their shared interests.

A communique by the grouping, known as the G-11, said its aim was to mobilize global recognition and international support. It held its first meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly ministerial meetings.

In addition to Jordan and Pakistan, its members include Sri Lanka, Morocco, Tunisia, Georgia, Croatia, Honduras, Paraguay, Ecuador and Indonesia.

Four of the countries were represented Wednesday by their heads of state and others by their foreign ministers or their envoys to the United Nations. Tunisia did not attend the meeting.

In his opening address, King Abdullah also spoke of a robust economic growth and poverty reduction in the members of the group and warned that these achievements could be reversed if international help does not arrive.

"We have all taken steps to build accountability and transparency, reinforce the rule of law, and give people, especially young people, a stake in a prospering, peaceful future," Abdullah said.

However, he said serious challenges remain, including poverty and unemployment, energy price rises and regional instability, as well as debt burdens that drain national budgets of funds need for infrastructure and development.

Abdullah said while he applauded the commitment of the international community to help the extremely poor countries, especially in Africa, assistance was also "vital for lower-middle income countries — countries that are in a position to create sustained advances through economic management and reform."

He said member states should adopt a common goal: to make foreign aid responsive to local needs; shift from loans to grants to keep countries from re-accumulating debt; lobby wealthy countries to open their markets to developing country production, especially in the agricultural sector; and channel savings from debt relief into strengthening education and public health sectors.

"More than a quarter of the world's population today live in lower-middle income countries, many of which are ready to graduate to higher income brackets through prudent economic management and enabling the engines of growth," a communique issued at the end of the meeting said.

"But for that, we need targeted help and results-oriented assistance to accelerate growth, lift millions from poverty, and hasten delivery of the fruits of reform to larger segments of populations."

King Abdullah called for the creation of the post of a secretary general, appointed on a one-year rotating basis. He offered his country to chair that post for the first year.

The group will reconvene on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum next May.