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World Bank ups Mena aid

Commits $3.8b to help region recover from global financial crisis

Gulf News

Dubai: The global financial crisis prompted the World Bank Group to double its commitment to a record $3.8 billion (Dh13 billion) in fiscal year 2010 (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010), to support the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), the World Bank said.

"The World Bank's fin-ancial assistance in the region more than doubled from $1.7 billion in FY09 to $3.8 billion in FY10, with more than $3.6 billion in commitments from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)," the bank said in a statement.

This is part of the $72 billion committed by the World Bank in fiscal year 2010 worldwide, which it referred to as "an unprecedented level of assistance for developing countries as the world faces a fragile and uneven recovery".

An estimated 875 projects around the world were designed to promote econ-omic growth, overcome poverty, and encourage private enterprise, it said.

"As the global economy stabilises and revives further, the outlook for the region will continue to brighten," Shamshad Akhtar, Regional Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement. "Our strategy to support the region continues to focus on generating growth and jobs as well as improving social protection for those people most in need."

The six GCC countries, which have felt the impact of the global financial crisis in varied degrees, are not known for receiving financial assistance. They are instead large contributors and donors.

The UAE has contributed more than Dh163 billion in foreign aid in 39 years since its independence.


However, the financial crisis has necessitated support for the private sector organisations, analysts say.

"What the World Bank needs to do is increase support for the private sector so that they can carry on with regular business and projects. I'm not sure that's what is happening," said a UAE-based economist requesting anonymity.

Annual investments by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group's private sector arm, in MENA increased to $1.6 billion for 59 projects in 13 countries in fiscal year 2010.

"This is very insignificant compared to the needs," the economist said.

Despite the severity of the global crisis, the downturn did not result in an emerging market sovereign debt crisis of the type seen in the 1990s and 2000s, thanks mainly to prudent macro-economic management and debt management on the part of developing countries.

"There is a significant number of new entrants coming into the labour force every year," said Michael Essex, IFC Director for the Middle East and North Africa.