World Bank officials yesterday predicted at least a modest growth in the institution's subsidized loans to poor countries in 1983, after a disappointing record this year occasioned by a shortfall in funds provided by the United States.
In releasing their annual report in advance of the joint World Bank-International Monetary Fund meetings in Toronto next month, officials said that 1982 had been "a mixed year" for the bank, with its regular loans at a peak of $10.3 billion and its subsidized loans at $2.6 billion, off from the planned total of $4.1 billion.
The bank borrowed $8.5 billion in capital markets in fiscal 1982, up from $5 billion in 1981. President A.W. Clausen recently announced a major policy change that will allow the bank to borrow in the short-term money markets as well as in the traditional manner.
Munir Benjenk, the bank's vice president for external relations, told a press conference that "prospects for the coming fiscal year are somewhat better" for loans by the bank's concessional-aid affiliate, the International Development Association.
Benjenk predicted that the total will be between $3 billion and $3.5 billion because a number of other donor countries will not make a pro rata reduction, as they are entitled to do, to match the lesser percentage share put in by the United States.
The bank's report registered much the same gloomy assessment of world economic conditions that has been outlined recently in reports by the IMF, and by another bank affiliate, the private-sector-oriented International Finance Corp. But officials predicted "a strong international financial market," although some countries that do not have top credit ratings may have problems in getting commercial bank loans.
The report attempted to sound an optimistic note by citing not only lower inflation in the industrial world, but high growth rates of some countries, among them a 7.5 percent real gain for Mexico in 1981.
These were contrasted with discouraging economic performance in Latin America, the Caribbean, and especially sub-Saharan Africa.
Asked if the inclusion of Mexican economic growth as an up-beat indicator did not cast doubt on the meaning of such growth numbers, in view of the enormous financial crisis now facing Mexico, Benjenk said that the bank understands that "economic growth is not necessarily incompatible with financial difficulties."
Helen Hughes, the bank's director of economic analysis, declared that "we never just look at growth. We look at a mixture of growth and equity." But Hughes also said at another point: "Countries that follow strong growth-oriented policies do better."
She suggested that, over all, Mexico "doesn't have a bad record. It is a very rich country, rich in resources. But its economic management has not been as good as we would have liked, and that led to a liquidity crisis."
Hughes added that Mexico's growth rate will now have to come down below potential levels, but later on "they should get back to 6 to 8 percent." Hughes said that Brazil was "in a similar situation."
Benjenk said that the World Bank's current total exposure in Mexico is $4.773 billion, of which about $2.5 billion had been disbursed. Since 1949, the Bank has loaned a total of $6 billion to Mexico.