Czechs change from World Bank borrowers to contributors

The Czech Republic has become the first ex-communist country in Central and Eastern Europe to move from being a recipient of World Bank aid to a contributor country. Bank President Paul Wolfowitz announced the transition at a joint news conference with Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. The Czech Finance Ministry said that the improved rating from the World Bank will be noted by foreign investors and world financial markets.

World Bank Press Review, 1 March 2006

Russian government holding up donations to NPOs

Russian authorities are holding up millions of dollars in Western aid to Russian human rights and democracy-building organizations, according to diplomats and charity workers. The government has virtually stopped registering certain categories of foreign grants to Russian NGOs, effectively paralysing the work of a number of grassroots organizations. USAID has had several of its Russian programmes blocked, and European Union grants have also been affected. A Russian government official denied programmes are being deliberately held up, noting that approvals regularly take several months to complete. On the other side, NGO representatives said the delays are unprecedented and appear to be aimed at groups doing human rights or other potentially political work, while less sensitive technical projects seem to be going ahead smoothly. Many see the delay as part of the mounting state pressure on the NGO sector of which the new NGO Law, expanding state control over the country’s non-profit sector, is the clearest expression.

Wall Street Journal, 3 April 2006

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