WASHINGTON D.C. - Newly installed World Bank Group president David Malpass said on Thursday that the development lender is preparing to become "deeply involved" in Venezuela, "but the situation is still troublesome on the ground".
Speaking at a press conference on the opening day of the joint World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) spring meetings, Malpass said that Venezuela is a "deep concern" for the World Bank, but that any decision to intervene in the country or recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's president would be left to the World Bank's stakeholders.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde also said Thursday during a press conference that it is up the fund's members "to indicate which authority they are recognizing diplomatically".
Venezuela is in the throes of a prolonged and worsening economic crisis that has led to severe shortages of food, life-saving medicines and electricity.
More than 50 nations including the United States have thrown their support behind the country's self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guaido. Russia, China, Turkey and Cuba support President Nicolas Maduro, who has vowed to remain in power.
Focus on poverty, trade and inequality
Malpass, who took up his new post at the World Bank on Tuesday, used the opening day of the IMF and World Bank meetings to say that the global economic slowdown affecting developed and emerging economies could elevate the risks of vulnerable people slipping into poverty.
He placed particular emphasis on Africa, noting that while extreme poverty is declining globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty is on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa.
The World Bank chief said climate change is one issue hitting the continent especially hard.
Speaking after Malpass, IMF chief Christine Lagarde used the opening day of the joint meetings to debut her 2019 Global Policy Agenda (GPA), and emphasized the need for international cooperation to effectively tackle global economic challenges including slowing growth and rising debt.
"We spoke about 'synchronized growth' a year ago," said Lagarde. "It is now a synchronized slowdown."
Billed as a "blueprint for multilateral action", the GPA that Lagarde outlined has three pillars: building more resilient and inclusive economies, upgrading global cooperation and working together on broader challenges.
"The concept of a new multilateralism hinges on three complementary and reinforcing areas of policy action," she said.
Lagarde noted that while financial integration, technological progress and global trade have delivered enormous benefits, not all rewards have been distributed equally.
The IMF chief also continued to urge cooperation on trade. "The key is to avoid the wrong policies," she said. "We need to better address fair-trade practices, including some WTO reform."
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has come under greater scrutiny amid the ongoing US-China trade dispute and US President Donald Trump's rhetoric around global trade.