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World Bank chief says economy back in the danger zone

The head of the World Bank said yesterday that the world had entered a new economic danger zone and that Europe, Japan and the United States all needed to make hard decisions to avoid dragging down the global economy.

"Unless Europe, Japan and the United States can also face up to responsibilities, they will drag down not only themselves but the global economy," Robert Zoellick said.

"They have procrastinated for too long on taking the difficult decisions, narrowing what choices are now left to a painful few," he added, ahead of meetings of the World Bank and IMF next week.

The meetings of global finance and development leaders in Washington will focus on Europe's debt crisis and the risk of a Greek default, which has led to growing alarm in financial markets.

Mixed signals from European leaders have escalated concerns the 17-nation eurozone may be unable to unite behind a common approach to tackle the crisis. Mr Zoellick said European countries were resisting difficult truths about their common responsibilities, Japan had held off on needed economic and social reforms, and political differences in the US were overshadowing efforts to cut record budget deficits.

Just as those very countries had called on China to be a responsible global stakeholder as a rising economic power, so too should they act responsibly to get a handle on their own economic problems, Mr Zoellick said.

"The time for muddling through is over," he added.

The World Bank chief said emerging market nations would not sit on the sidelines as advanced economies tried to right themselves.

Mr Zoellick focussed on the shifting global landscape in which emerging economies were playing a greater role in the world economy and in development.

He said developed countries had yet to fully recognise the global shifts and still operated under a "do what I say, not what I do" policy. They preached fiscal discipline but failed to rein in their own budgets, and advocated debt sustainability while their own debts were at record highs, he added.

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