There is currently no Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for Iran. The last Interim Assistance Strategy which covered the period 2002-2003 was extended through 2005. No new World Bank loans to Iran have been approved since 2005 and all projects have closed.
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Across the Middle East and North Africa, countries are being forced to face up to a harsh reality—that, left as they are now, their economies won’t create anything like enough jobs for the hundreds of... Show More + thousands of people entering their job markets each year. Popular discontent will continue alongside widespread economic inactivity. What can they do to change this?Official data, made available only since the Arab Spring in 2011, has given World Bank researchers the opportunity to compare the region’s job performance and the policies that shape them, and examine what’s going wrong. Their conclusions are contained in a new report, Jobs or Privileges: Unleashing the Employment Potential of the Middle East and North Africa.The “privileges” referred to in the report are the many old policies that continue to protect the business interests of entrenched elites. The report shows the extent to which these policies—designed to prevent or deter competitors while allowing elites to make easy money or “to earn rents”—distort the natural workings of economies in which businesses either grow and become more productive, or exit the market. In this environment, political connections are more important for success than innovative spirit.The newly available census data unearthed for the report reveals how firms linked to former regimes in Tunisia and Egypt were given undue privileges, or business advantages: in Egypt, for example, 71 percent of politically connected but only 4 percent of unconnected firms sell products protected by at least three import barriers; while in Tunisia, 64 percent of connected firms but only 36 percent of non-connected firms operate in sectors in which Foreign Direct Investment is restricted.Privileged insiders also have outsized influence over such sectors: one of the best-known cases is that of the American fast food giant, McDonalds, which never managed to enter the Tunisian market because it rejected an exclusive offer from a franchisee with ties to the regime of the country’s former leader, Ben Ali.Privileges like this put local entrepreneurs without political connections at a disadvantage, stunting domestic investment. Uncertainty over which economic policies a government might adopt—and whether they will be implemented evenly—deters foreign investors. Show Less -
Water loss, and its operational and financial consequences, is a major concern for urban water utilities in the Mediterranean region. Losses, both physical and commercial, are due to leakages and the ... Show More +failure to bill customers for the full amount of water they use. A combination of these two factors puts the financial viability of water utilities at risk.In countries already coping with water scarcity, the burden of water loss often leads to rationing and intermittent supply. As climate change exacerbates the problem—threatening the supply of renewable water and increasing the cost of new water resources—reducing losses from leaky pipes and under-billing, is becoming a priority for water utilities in the Mediterranean and throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.Malta, situated at the very center of the Mediterranean, provides a remarkable illustration of how major water resources challenges can be successfully overcome. The island has one of the lowest rates of renewable water supplies in the MENA region, at 100 m3 per capita per year. It also stands in the top ten countries with the highest population density, alongside Gaza, Bahrain, Hong Kong and Singapore.Several decades ago, Malta became one of the first countries in the region to invest in desalination plants but, in the 1990s, as new plants were being built to meet increasing demand, it became clear that demand for water was fast outstripping its supply.The Water Services Corporation (WSC), Malta’s national water utility, turned its attention to water loss instead, initiating an aggressive program that achieved significant results. In addition to state-of-the-art concepts and technology for monitoring and reducing leakages, the WSC also put in place a program to optimize energy consumption at its desalination plants, reducing average energy consumption from 6-7 to 4.5 kWh/m3. Show Less -
ARADO is the training arm of the Arab League, and the Network of Experts is tapping into it to facilitate a regional training program that builds on existing resources in the various countries, addres... Show More +ses common challenges, and capitalizes on existing strengths.“When it comes to the effectiveness of public procurement,” said MENA Regional Procurement Manager, Yolanda Tayler, “it is striking how similar many of the challenges that MENA countries face are, and how little has been done in the past to take advantage of cross-border training programs.”Capacity building programs often have problems in common. These include a lack of sufficient funding, the lack of an assessment of existing skills and competencies—and gaps—and the frequent exodus of highly-qualified staff to other government positions or to private companies offering higher pay.Many countries have taken a highly fragmented approach to capacity building, and have not yet been able to build a body of knowledge within the country. Other shared challenges include the lack of qualified trainers and specialized training institutes, the quality and coverage of the training programs, and the limited knowledge or dissemination of modern procurement tools like e-procurement.The Network of Experts’ regional capacity building program seeks to address some of these shared challenges, following the model of the Sharjah event on SMEs. Trainers from nine MENA countries attended it—Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Djibouti, Egypt, Yemen, and the Palestinian Territories.A regional capacity building strategy for public procurement will be developed for training materials in Arabic and French for the ‘training of trainers’ programs, and for building partnerships with training institutions. Subsequent country-level training sessions will leverage each country’s existing institutions, infrastructure and expertise, while putting World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s science of delivery methodology to good use to make sure that everyone knows how to implement the training programs. In the longer term, there could be a regional certification program for procurement professionals. Some countries have already made ground-breaking advances in terms of the coordination between their public procurement departments. Collaboration allows stakeholders to learn from the successes of others in the region. At the regional level, countries could coordinate to create economies of scale, taking advantage first of the resources and knowledge that already exist on the ground. Show Less -
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the most water scarce region in the world, and its water stress is likely to worsen. In 1950, per capita renewable water resources were four times greater th... Show More +an they are today. By 2050, there are indications indicate that natural water resources in MENA will drop even further, to 11 times less than the global average.Droughts hit the region with punishing regularity, bringing significant water shortages, economic losses, and adverse social consequences. Between 2008 and 2011, drought in Djibouti caused a yearly economic contraction of approximately 3.9 percent of GDP.Droughts are the third most prevalent hazard in MENA after earthquakes, but despite the alarming levels of water scarcity, the opposite, floods, also pose significant danger in MENA too.The 2008 floods in Yemen caused damages totaling US$1.6 billion, or six percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The 2009 floods in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, brought losses of US$1.4 billion. The 2004 floods in Djibouti led to 230 deaths, US$ 11.1 million in losses, and affected 100,000 people. Nine years later in 2013, slightly less flooding in Djibouti resulted in fewer victims, though 13 people still died, and there was a far shorter disruption of citizens’ livelihoods.What was the difference?The difference was the emphasis the country placed in learning how to manage the risks caused by water scarcity and floods, and investing in protective infrastructure. Intense, unusual rains do not have to mean disastrous flooding. Neither does a drought have to become a source of malnourishment.The percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) exposed to floods, the most recurrent natural hazard in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, has tripled from 1970–79 to 2000–2009. The 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction finds that although global flood mortality risk has been on the decrease since 2000, in MENA and some other regions, it is still increasing.Coping with droughts and floodsThough MENA countries face serious water challenges, there have been regional improvements in managing these and other risks.Djibouti’s resilience to floods is one of the success stories. Since 2006, Djibouti has rehabilitated the dike protecting people from its most flood-prone wadi (dry river bed), updated its preparedness and emergency plans, and installed new hydro-meteorological stations in the different climatic areas of the country. It has also performed seismic and floods risk/vulnerability assessments, established a flood early warning system.Slow, creeping natural disasters like droughts are especially hard to cope with. Djibouti has carried out the world’s first Post Disaster Needs Assessment of its kind on its 2008-11 drought. There are also initiatives across the region to develop drought resistant agriculture.A new approach to natural disastersCountries in MENA have decided to change their approach to so-called natural disasters, understanding the benefits of being prepared for the weather or geological risks, rather than waiting for such events to strike and putting the pieces back together again.Efforts have also been made to design and enforce new disaster risk management (DRM) policies, plans, and legislation. Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and Yemen are a few of the countries that have designed policies and established DRM units within the government to strengthen coordination. Disaster risk assessments, early warning systems, risk management laboratories, and knowledge centers have been established.Despite this encouraging progress, more needs to be done at regional, national, and local levels. The World Bank has been financing post-disaster reconstruction and risk reduction initiatives in the region for the past three decades. It is partnering with governments and other international institutions to lay the foundations for DRM in MENA. The report Natural Disasters in MNA: A Regional Overview analyzes the risks the region faces, and the measures and tools countries have adopted to enhance their preparedness.Developed by the World Bank, in collaboration with MNA governments, the United Nations and regional institutions, this report also looks at the DRM experience from around the world, while also focusing on the specific risks the region faces. The report proposes a path to improve the resilience of MENA countries to the challenges around water, both in terms of its scarcity and sudden overabundance, as well as a range of other natural hazards. Show Less -