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The World Bank has maintained strong partnerships with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries for more than five decades. Governments in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have made use of the knowledge and global development experience the Bank provides through technical assistance programs offered as Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS). 

The Bank’s RAS portfolio in the GCC reflects country priorities, core World Bank strengths, its twin goals—ending extreme poverty and increasing the poor’s share of prosperity—and the direction of the Bank’s strategy for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Improving service delivery, promoting economic diversification to lower overall dependence on hydrocarbons, strengthening governance, and enhancing human capital (with a focus on jobs and gender) are areas in which the World Bank has extensive global expertise.

Currently, the Bank’s largest programs cover long-term vision, development planning, and the management of sustainable macroeconomic and fiscal policies. They include business environment reforms, promoting investment through support to skills development, and fostering a dynamic and entrepreneurial small business sector. Improving human capital is key, including giving advice on health, education, and social protection systems, as well as developing programs to tackle climate change and gender, urban development and economic management, trade and competitiveness, governance, transport, energy, land management, and digital development. 

Supporting this sort of development in GCC countries has contributed to the Bank’s global experience of addressing challenges in high- and middle-income countries and helped it deliver global public goods. Supporting women’s economic empowerment, and especially moves towards equalizing the rules for economic inclusion, has had strong spillover effects throughout the region and beyond.

The World Bank Group also works with the GCC and its institutions to finance development projects. The Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) provides GCC-based private sector companies wishing to expand their operations with financing, and its Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) issues guarantees, especially to projects involving renewable energy and climate change.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have, over the years, themselves been generous donors to the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries. Saudi Arabia almost tripled its contribution from IDA 18 to IDA 19. Bahrain, despite its own fiscal constraints, became a first-time donor in IDA’s last replenishment. As While being generous donors to IDA, GCC countries have been instrumental in recovery and reconstruction in the MENA region, both on a bilateral and multilateral basis.

These efforts have been strengthened by existing partnerships with the Islamic Development Bank and other regional development funds, including the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab Monetary Fund, Saudi Fund for Development, Kuwait Fund, Qatar Fund for Development, and Abu Dhabi Fund. Such partnerships aim to leverage the financial support extended by GCC countries to other parts of the Arab World and beyond. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE in particular contribute to Global Multi-Donor Trust Funds managed by the World Bank.

The GCC department of the World Bank is managed by four offices: a regional office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, headed by a Country Director; a country office in Kuwait; a country office in Abu Dhabi; and a country management unit at the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2021

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