Asian, African nations urged to fight poverty

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi urged Asian and African leaders to put tackling poverty at the top of their agendas at an international forum here on the issue.

Asian, African nations urged to fight poverty
Abdullah was addressing leaders and officials representing 16 Asian and African countries at the formal opening of the meeting, attended by controversial Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

In his speech welcoming the delegates to the Langkawi International Dialogue, Abdullah said the aim of the forum was to "re-energise the debate on poverty."

"Poverty is indeed a global problem. The population of the world's 50 poorest countries account for 20 percent of the total number of the world's people," he said.

Work cultures should be developed in a such a way that they are "imbued with strong moral and ethical values," Abdullah said, urging the delegates to spend more on human capital to develop basic skills.

"If there is any deficiency, it is because the state has inadequate capacities and the people have insufficient skills," he said.

The presence of Mugabe, one of a number of leaders at the meeting on the island resort of Langkawi -- as his own country suffers hyper-inflation and chronic food shortages -- is raising eyebrows.

But Malaysian diplomats have sought to downplay the controversy, saying the three-day forum is non-political and is meant to showcase Malaysia's phenomenal rise from a backwater nation in the 1970s to one of the region's economic miracles.

Mugabe is blamed for driving his once-model nation into economic ruin, with inflation running at more than 3,700 percent.

The octogenarian president established an independent Zimbabwe in 1979 but has since come to be regarded by many as a tyrannical dictator whose rule has been marked by intimidation, violence, fraud, and robbery.

The Malaysia forum is the brainchild of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and was launched in 1995 in an attempt to foster close economic and political relations with poor but resource-rich African countries.

Mahathir, who retired in October 2003 after 22 years in power, was an ally of Mugabe's -- both men share a love of anti-Western rhetoric stoked by a history of British colonialism in both countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said he hoped that the Malaysian experience could inspire African nations to end crushing poverty.

"We have built excellent warm relations (with the participating nations) but how much they can implement (anti-poverty programmes) is actually up to them," he stressed before the start of the event.

Other leaders taking part in the meeting include Lesotho's prime minister, the Namibian and Zambian presidents and King Mswati III of Swaziland.

A 1,200-strong police taskforce has been deployed in and around the stylish resort.

Meanwhile, state-owned oil and gas company Petronas has received an invitation from the Ugandan government to explore possible gas and oil fields in the African nation.

The official Bernama news agency said the invitation was relayed by Uganda's deputy high commissioner to Malaysia, Nimisha Madhvani, who is also attending the summit.

She said a possible "bilateral agreement" on exploration could be concluded soon, but did not give further details.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Ağustos 2007, 01:07