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First Visit to Iraq of Shamshad Akhtar, World Bank Regional Vice President for Middle East and North Africa Region

January 19, 2010

Washington DC, January 19, 2010- The World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region, Ms. Shamshad Akhtar, visited Iraq on January 16th to 19th, 2010.  The objective of this visit was to advance the strong partnership between Iraq and the World Bank Group.

The Vice President congratulated the Government for launching the Iraqi Poverty Reduction Strategy, on Iraq’s accession to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and extended the Bank’s support to the Iraqi Joint Anti-Corruption Council and its work on strengthening anti-corruption, accountability institutions and Anti Money Laundering.  "Reducing poverty is the focus of development efforts worldwide, while improved governance is a key to the development process itself" suggested Ms. Akhtar.

Ms. Akhtar engaged the Authorities and Donor Partners on Iraq’s medium-term development priorities and the Bank’s support for enhancing Iraq’s fiscal sustainability and mitigating fiscal and socio-economic vulnerability to oil price shocks.  While acknowledging the prevailing political and security challenges, Ms Akhtar stressed the importance of creating an enabling environment for private sector led growth.  She underscored this would require promoting an enabling competitive and efficient policy environment, developing legal framework for transparent privatization and public private partnership infrastructure development and promoting effective governance in oil sector, while nurturing non-oil sources of economic growth to generate much needed employment.

Ms Akhtar discussed the status of the Bank’s ongoing portfolio, with a view to accelerating implementation, and increasing the benefits for the Iraqi people. The World Bank program in Iraq consists of 22 projects worth about US$1.0 billion including in the areas of education, health, electricity, water and sanitation, social protection, bank restructuring, and public finance.  During her visit, Ms. Akhtar signed a Grant Agreement to assist the Government in preparing an integrated education sector development

strategy for building the human capital needed for Iraq’s future development.  Ms. Akhtar held a consultation meeting with other donors, where there was a broad consensus on the need for a partnership to assist Iraq in its economic reconstruction through support to key strategic sectors and capacity building.

Ms. Akhtar met with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, the Minister of Finance and other senior Government Officials, as well as representatives from Development Partners and the private sector.  Ms Akhtar was accompanied by the Director of the Middle East Department Mr. Hedi Larbi, the Country Manager Mr. Jean-Michel Happi and the Vice President Advisor, Charles Kenny.

Media Contacts
In Washington
Najat Yamouri
Tel : 202-458-1340
In Beirut
Mona Ziade
Tel : +961-1 987 800