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.
Read More »
WASHINGTON, August 7, 2014: Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Libya are trapped in a “poor policy – poor growth” cycle, which prevents their economies from moving to a sustainable growt... Show More +h path, says the World Bank in the newly released Quarterly Economic Brief for the Middle East & North Africa region.The report, titled “Predictions, Perceptions and Economic Reality - Challenges of Seven Middle East and North Africa Countries Described in 14 Charts,” finds that the situation has gotten worse after the 2011 uprisings. Despite recent signs of economic improvement in Egypt and Tunisia, growth continues to be weak and cannot generate enough jobs. Fiscal deficits are still high and public debts are growing at a faster pace than before, leaving little space for growth-promoting investment. Private sector activity is sluggish, and the few jobs that are created in the public sector are filled through connections, leaving young people frustrated. Many workers move to the informal sector, creating a large, vulnerable group exposed to external shocks.“While the problem of high unemployment is especially pernicious in these countries, an even greater problem is that of those working in the informal sector, “says Shanta Devarajan, World Bank Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa region. “These people, who are not part of the unemployment statistics, are in an even worse situation, since they lack security in their earnings and often live near the poverty line.” These seven countries have the potential to move to a higher growth path but the sustainability of growth depends heavily on governments’ choice of economic policies. “There is a risk of policy error if, by trusting economic forecasts that paint a positive outlook for their economies, policymakers resist needed reforms,” says Lili Mottaghi, World Bank MENA Economist and the author of the brief. Studies have shown that there is an optimism bias in growth forecasts for developing regions and in particular for MENA, because these forecasts do not necessarily take into account new information that comes in at the last minute, nor the structural breaks that sometimes drive an economy.Prompt actions are needed to promote economic activities that deliver sustainable well-being for all citizens. These actions include structural reforms - targeting of subsidies, strengthening the investment climate, improving governance, and removing rigidities in product and labor markets – that are well integrated with economic policies. These reforms are necessary whether the short-term economic prospects are rosy or gloomy. Without them, the private sector will struggle to become a growth driver and create jobs. Show Less -
BEIRUT, June 3, 2014- While the war in Syria shows no sign of abating, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today told an audience of students and policymakers that it was time to “p... Show More +repare for peace” in Syria and surrounding countries, citing similar efforts that began 70 years ago before the end of World War II.“No one knows how or when this war in Syria will end – and sadly there are no signs of it ending anytime soon,” Kim said in a speech at the Ministry of Education in Beirut during a four-day trip to the Middle East. “But this is exactly the right time for us to prepare for the peace that surely will come. The international community, including the World Bank Group, the United Nations, and key donors, must put together a plan that will help not only Syria rebuild, but also will help Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq recover from the massive spillover effects of the war.”In his speech, Kim spoke about the extensive planning for rebuilding Europe that began in 1944, even though there were no signs then that World War II was ending.“Let me take you back to 70 years ago, to 1944, while the guns were still firing during World War II,” Kim said. “It was difficult to envision peace then – Europe was experiencing a scale of human tragedy that dimmed the hopes of Europeans the same age as you.”But the international community started planning for Europe’s recovery and then spent billions of dollars in rebuilding the region when the war ended. The recovery was swift. Europe’s economic output in 1951 was 35 percent higher than before the war, he said. “We know that it’s possible to build back better, even after the most devastating conflicts.”“Today can be the 1944 moment for Syria and for the entire Arab world,” Kim said. “Today must be the day that the international community, led by Arab leaders, begins preparing for peace and economic opportunities in Syria and lays the groundwork for a more prosperous future for all people in this region.”The World Bank Group President said that the plan to rebuild must include good governance, inclusive growth, sustainability, and quality education and health care.He made a special point in thanking Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq for their role in taking in Syrian refugees. He said their generosity should be acknowledged around the world. In particular, he cited the extraordinary efforts made by Lebanon and Jordan, which together account for opening their borders to nearly 2 million refugees.Kim acknowledged that many people might be skeptical of a hopeful message involving the future of Syria, but he argued that the seeds of transparency, citizen involvement, and the demand for more jobs have been planted throughout the region. He said the region’s 100 million young people represented a possible positive force for growth, as long as countries invested in their education and the right environment to create jobs. He said the World Bank Group, in particular, was actively pushing a strategy of regional integration that could bring great economic prosperity.“This region is no different from any other,” Kim said. “Peace, stability, growth and opportunities come when people and countries realize that they have a common interest in living, developing and thriving together, irrespective of national, ethnic or sectarian divisions. In this region, integration is the key.”Discussions with government officials focused on Lebanon’s longer-term development program and the World Bank’s sustained engagement. Kim confirmed the Bank’s commitment to garnering support from the international community for Lebanon, saying this would include updating its recent economic and social impact assessment of the Syrian crisis.In his meeting with the donor community, Kim urged representatives to contribute—quickly and generously—to a World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund, set up to gather grant financing for development projects to help build the economic resilience of Lebanese communities hosting more than a million Syrian refugees, as well as mitigating threats to Lebanon’s fiscal stability. “The world needs to come to Lebanon’s rescue as it cannot be left to confront the deep challenges on its own for a conflict that is not of its making,” said Kim.The World Bank Group President visited a local school in Beirut to see for himself the impact of the Syrian conflict on the Lebanese public education system, where the sharp increase in demand for education arising from the large numbers of Syrian child refugees, has led to mounting costs, adverse effects on the quality of education, double teaching shifts and a huge need for non-formal education.World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim’s visit to Lebanon is part of a three-country trip to the Middle East which included a stop in Saudi Arabia and will include a stop in Jordan. About the World Bank GroupThe World Bank Group plays a key role in the global effort to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. It consists of five institutions: the World Bank, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA); the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Working together in more than 100 countries, these institutions provide financing, advice, and other solutions that enable countries to address the most urgent challenges of development. For more information, please visit www.worldbank.org, www.miga.org, and ifc.org. Show Less -
JEDDAH, Monday, June 2, 2014 — World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, on his first visit to Saudi Arabia, highlighted the leadership role of the Kingdom in global and regional economic developments,... Show More + emphasizing the importance of strengthening partnerships with Arab bilateral and multilateral partners for development assistance and scaling up support for countries in transition. Saudi Arabia is a member of the G-20 and is a major shareholder in the World Bank Group and a generous supporter to the International Development Agency, which provides concessional financing to low-income countries, Kim said.“Saudi Arabia plays a crucial role in regional and global economic development as a major source of energy, overseas development assistance, foreign direct investment and remittances,” Kim said. “I came to the Kingdom to thank the senior leadership of their generosity and also to seek ways to strengthening our partnership with them in order to support other countries in transition in the region as well as those impacted by the tragic conflict in Syria.”While in Saudi Arabia, Kim also exchanged views on the growing World Bank-Saudi partnership in supporting the poorer countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In this context, Kim expressed strong appreciation for the close collaboration with Saudi Arabia in support of Yemen during its transition process.Saudi Arabia has contributed US$3.25 billion to neighboring Yemen to help develop its economy which included a US$1 billion deposit to the Central Bank of Yemen. In addition, Saudi Arabia along with the United Kingdom, led and co-hosted the ‘Friends of Yemen,’ a group of countries and intergovernmental organizations that came together to assist in Yemen during the transition process. The International Development Association (IDA), the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries, has also benefited from prominent contribution by Saudi Arabia.Kim met with Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Finance Ibrahim Al-Assaf, and senior government officials.Kim also visited the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) to congratulate its leadership on its 40th Anniversary and affirm the importance of the partnership between the two organizations for benefit of mutual member countries.The World Bank Group’s program in Saudi Arabia which includes the Technical Cooperation Program (TCP) is based on Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS) where the Bank brings technical expertise and global knowledge to counterpart ministries and agencies. It is a multi-sectoral programmatic approach focused on supporting policy and programs in areas of employment, urban development, health, water, transport, and energy efficiency. In addition, the International Finance Corporation has a growing advisory services program in the Kingdom.Kim was accompanied on his trip by Inger Andersen, World Bank Regional Vice President for MENA; and Mouayed Makhlouf , the International Finance Corporation’s Regional Director for MENA.World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim’s visit to Saudi Arabia is part of a three-country trip to the Middle East which will include stops in Lebanon and Jordan. About the World Bank GroupThe World Bank Group plays a key role in the global effort to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. It consists of five institutions: the World Bank, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA); the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Working together in more than 100 countries, these institutions provide financing, advice, and other solutions that enable countries to address the most urgent challenges of development. For more information, please visit www.worldbank.org, www.miga.org, and ifc.org. Show Less -
KUWAIT CITY, March 9, 2014 – Identifying and implementing strategic choices to improve education systems in the Arab world is the focus of a nine-day course sponsored by the World Bank in associa... Show More +tion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-Middle East Center for Economics and Finance (CEF).The course, Strategic Choices for Education Reform in Arab Countries, brings together 35 representatives from 13 Ministries of Education and Higher Education, national centers of Education Development and Training, universities, and Offices of International Cooperation. Presentations will focus on familiarizing the participants with topics related to the World Bank’s latest Education Strategy 2020: Learning for All. The trainers will address key challenges facing education systems in the region and the necessary solutions drawing on global evidence, experiences, and best practices. The session is part of a series of human development related courses held in partnership between the World Bank and the IMF Center.“Indeed human development issues are live ones across the region, and when it comes to investing in skills and people, nothing is more important than enhancing the quality of education in empowering everyone (including girls and women) to fulfill their potential and live rewarding lives” said Philippe Karam, International Monetary Fund—CEF Acting Director echoing IMF Managing Director, Mme Lagarde’s words during her last visit to Kuwait in November 2013.The World Bank Education Strategy 2020: Learning for All highlights the importance of “investing early, investing smartly, and investing for all” as countries attempt to improve the quality of their education systems. Governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are making considerable financial investments in education but student achievement in international standardized tests are not up to par. Moreover, youth unemployment continues to rise and graduates often lack the requisite skills to compete in the job market. Building fair, accountable, and responsive systems will be central to the provision of high quality education services and meeting the region’s social and economic needs. “Several countries in the Arab world have made strides in expanding access to education but they need to now shift towards improving the quality and relevance of the education systems,” said Bassam Ramadan, World Bank Country Manager in Kuwait. “Ministries of education will need to ensure what they provide is in line with today’s labor market and societal needs, and this means better and more regular use of all relevant data.” The World Bank is well positioned to work with MENA countries on transformative education sector reforms. The Bank can mobilize data, information, experiences and interventions stemming from its five decades of experience in the education sector in over 150 countries from around the world to create systems, policies, and institutions that are more fair, accountable, and responsive to people’s needs.“Providing top quality, relevant education today requires governments to think more long-term and systemically,” said Hana Brixi, World Bank Sector Manager for Education in the MENA region. “Governments need to facilitate citizen engagement in education at the level of policies and public expenditures as well as schools. They also need to strengthen linkages and cooperation within the education sector, and increase ties with relevant external partners such as employers.”The course emphasizes that achieving the goal of developing life-long learners today will require ministries and other agencies providing education and training to do their work in truly new and innovative ways. Ministries will need to become ‘learning organizations’ and shift their focus away from simply providing educational inputs to more innovatively pursuing ways to achieve better learning outcomes. Show Less -
A short term focus on political and security concerns has stood in the way of the structural reforms needed for growth and stability.WASHINGTON, February 7, 2014 – Ongoing regional tensions, together ... Show More +with a challenging external environment, have hit the economies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region hard. Economic growth is slowing, fiscal buffers are depleting, unemployment is rising, and inflation is mounting in seven transition countries in the region. Long overdue reforms, that could help spur growth and create jobs, have continued to be delayed to avoid further social and political discontent. The World Bank Group’s latest Quarterly Economic Brief argues that these countries should seize the opportunity to advance structural reforms needed to break the vicious circle of slow growth and political instability.“Governments in these countries cannot afford to continue short term policy actions such as increasing public sector wages and subsidies”, says Shanta Devarajan, World Bank Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa region. “These policies exacerbate a situation which is driven by long-standing structural weaknesses, including labor market rigidities, complicated and opaque regulations, infrastructure deficiencies, regressive and inefficient subsidies, and inadequate social safety nets”.The report, entitled Middle East and North Africa: Growth slowdown heightens the need for reforms, assesses the macroeconomic situation in seven of the region’s most vulnerable economies-- Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Libya -- post Arab Spring and emphasizes the urgency of the reforms needed to reverse the downward spiral of these economies. The report outlines reform priorities and challenges for these countries. It cautions that raising general subsidies and public sector wages will impose fiscal pressures on the government and reduce the fiscal space available for spending priorities on health, education and investment in infrastructure.“Policymakers have resisted reforms lest they increase social discontent. But reforms can both create fiscal space and help restructure the economy towards job creation and inclusive growth”, argues Lili Mottaghi, World Bank MENA Economist and principal author of the report.Oil-importing countries, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon suffer from years of underinvestment, especially in industry and infrastructure. In Egypt, the barriers to doing business are numerous and cronyism dominates the private sector. In Tunisia, social and economic disparities across regions remain key economic challenges. The Lebanese economy suffers from inadequate public services, overcrowded public schools and limited access to government clinics and hospitals for low income people, especially in rural areas. In Jordan, urgent reforms including streamlining business regulations, removing labor market rigidities, and improving the efficiency of public spending, are needed for macroeconomic stability. And the influx of Syrian refugees has stretched all of these sectors to the limit.The mismanagement of petroleum resources heightens the urgency for economic diversification in oil exporters in order to address long-term financial and economic stability in Iran, Yemen and Libya. Public and quasi-public sectors are large and hindering private sector development in these countries. “The lack of access to financing, uncertainty in the legal environment and a fragile security situation are preventing private sector growth“, says Devarajan. Streamlining general subsidies is urgent because of their large share in the government budget which reduces space for pro-poor and pro-growth expenditures. Governments’ fiscal positions in Yemen and Libya are deteriorating and short and medium term financing needs remain large. Show Less -
ABU DHABI, February 6, 2014 – The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries lag behind when compared with other regions in the development of broadband networks, internet access and use, and creat... Show More +ion of digital content. The demand for widespread access to broadband internet, a key driver of economic growth, job creation, and social inclusion, has never been greater. According to the latest regional report by the World Bank on broadband in the Arab world, open competition and policy and regulatory changes could transform the region into a global leader in high speed internet.“The Middle East and North Africa region has been the cradle of science and technology and can again use modern technology to address the contemporary problems faced by the region,” said Inger Andersen, World Bank Vice President for the MENA region. "We at the World Bank Group are committed to working closely with all countries in MENA to improve access and quality of broadband internet connection.”The report, “Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa: Accelerating High Speed Internet Access,” launched today, highlights how broadband drives economic development and is core to the competitiveness of nations. However, high speed internet penetration is low in MENA compared to emerging regions in Europe and Asia. With the exception of Gulf countries, where internet access is available to broad segments of the population, in many countries of the Arab world fewer than a quarter of households have access to this essential tool. Millions of people cannot afford internet services and are therefore excluded from the information revolution that is shaping the modern world.In Morocco and Tunisia, low-income households would need to pay about 30 to 40 percent of their income to afford fixed or mobile broadband services. In Yemen, the poorest 40 percent of the population would need to spend over half of their income for mobile high speed internet. In Djibouti, the cost of fixed and mobile broadband can cost a multiple of a monthly income of the poorest 60 percent of the population.“The Arab world is facing slower economic growth and high unemployment especially among young people and women,” said Carlo Maria Rossotto, World Bank ICT Regional Coordinator in the MENA region and co-author of the report. “Broadband can radically change the socio-economic prospects for the region and contribute to higher growth and shared prosperity.”The study is a "first" in terms of assessing the endowments of untapped fiber optic networks belonging to energy, electricity and transport utilities, and their potential contribution to the development of affordable internet services. If used more optimally, these networks could boost broadband access, including in rural areas. With 49,000km of fiber optics deployed by Algerie Telecom and over 20,000km owned by utilities, Algeria stands out as a potential regional leader. Also, Libya has extensive fiber optics networks owned by oil and gas companies that can play an important role for internet development.The report highlights policy recommendations for MENA countries eager to engage in broadband sector reform. These recommendations include boosting local competition between different telecom service providers to allow them to offer broadband to a larger number of people using new platforms. Exploring new models of public private partnerships would increase the efficiency of operating and expanding broadband networks at a local level. Sharing unused fiber optic cables among utility networks would also reduce the cost of new broadband deployment and increase the resilience of existing networks. Moreover, the provision of incentive structures could significantly improve the feasibility of rolling out broadband services to underserved areas. For example, introducing incentives in the real estate industry could ensure that high speed internet is provided to newly built neighborhoods and buildings. Additionally, implementing policies to increase the provision of high speed internet in rural and underserved areas could promote digital literacy and stimulate greater economic opportunities and social inclusion.The World Bank Group is committed to helping countries reduce extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. The Bank views access to information and communication technology as essential to achieving transformative change. According to Rossotto, "Investing in broadband networks could create thousands of new jobs in infrastructure, while at the same time, developing a platform for broad-based, knowledge-driven employment in the region." Show Less -