World Bank treating Chad unfairly, president says

PARIS Thu Dec 6, 2012 12:14pm EST

PARIS Dec 6 (Reuters) - Chad's President Idriss Deby slammed the World Bank on Thursday, saying it was treating the central African nation unfairly by not providing it with the support other impoverished nations were receiving.

The former French colony, one of the poorest nations in the world, has been rocked by humanitarian crises over the last decade including conflicts in the east and south, drought in the arid Sahel region, and flooding.

Relations with the World Bank have been strained since the multilateral lender pulled the plug on an oil pipeline agreement in 2008 after a dispute with the government over its failed promises to spend oil revenues on anti-poverty programmes.

"We have a difficult relationship with the World Bank. We are the only African country that has not had access to programmes for extremely poor and indebted nations," Deby told reporters in Paris. "It's an injustice that is imposed on Chad."

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank set up the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) programme in 1996 to help those nations reduce poverty through reforms. Chad has never been included in the initiative.

Speaking after meeting leaders of more than 50 French firms to try to drum up investment interest, Deby said the World Bank was punishing his country because it did not approve of the way he was handling its development.

The World Bank withdrew from a loan accord in 2008 backing the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, one of its biggest investments in Africa and billed as a test of how the continent's oil wealth could benefit the poor if spent properly.

It said at the time Deby's government had failed to comply with agreed commitments to set aside a chunk of its oil revenues for local communities, health and education.

"I am happy to cooperate, but I don't want anything imposed on us," he said accusing certain institutions of wasting 90 percent of project resources on studies and forums before leaving the country even more indebted and with nothing.

"When you oppose that, you are branded as bad," he said.

The pipeline project was heavily criticized by aid agencies which warned that Chad was marred by corruption, political instability and human rights abuses.

Deby seized power in a 1990 military coup and has since won a series of elections whose fairness has been questioned by international observers.

He defended his track record on development, saying that despite constraints he had built roads, schools, hospitals and increased the number of children going to school from 7 percent to 90 percent.

"The World Bank can't say we haven't done anything," he said. "They say President Deby speaks too much, is too direct and he needs to be punished, but its the Chadian people that are being punished."