Almaty, February 28, 2012. - The World Bank Director for Strategy and Operations in Europe and Central Asia, Mr. Theodore Ahlers, and the newly appointed World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia, Mr. Saroj Kumar Jha completed their visit to the countries of Central Asia (CA) region. From February 12 to 24, 2012 accompanied by the WB regional team members, the WB Delegation visited Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
The aim of this regional tour was to meet with the respective Governments in the countries, the core groups of ministers and development partners, donors and discuss the issues of strategic partnership of the World Bank with the CA region, the critical development and implementation matters of the national economies, reform agenda, policies, as well as the status of the renewed Country Partnership Strategies for 2012-15FY and ongoing countries' programs supported by the World Bank.
Thus, during the visit to Tajikistan, Mr. Ahlers and Mr. Jha discussed the Government priorities for a tentative allocation of up to USD 100 million in IDA resources in the next two years as part of consultations on the Country Partnership Strategy Progress Report, noting the considerable accomplishments in the current portfolio of fourteen projects.
In Kyrgyz Republic, the assistance of the World Bank in implementation of projects aimed to improve Osh city infrastructure were discussed as well as the plans and priorities of the Kyrgyz government for the next 3 years, in particular, effective public finance management and fight with corruption.
In Uzbekistan the World Bank management and education team have attended the high-level International Education Conference organized by the Government of Uzbekistan. During his speech, Mr. Ahlers noted the progress of the country in education and mentioned ambitious plans, which may set the example for other countries.
In Kazakhstan, the high level meetings agenda was focused on key economic, institutional and social reforms that the Government aims at implementing at an accelerated pace over the coming period. Discussions covered ongoing preparation of the new Country Program Strategy for 2013-2017—which aims at supporting implementation of the central development priorities of competitiveness, improved governance notably through higher standards in public service delivery, and safeguarding the environment—and touched upon key issues in diversification, public financial management, and financial sector development agenda. The main premise of the Bank’s assistance strategy will remain as transfer of cutting-edge knowledge driven by Kazakhstan’s needs and priorities.
In Turkmenistan, the discussions were focused on the cooperation between Turkmenistan and the World Bank in the framework of the proposed Strategy to deepen cooperation in key areas, including development of financial, transport and other infrastructure.
During the high level meetings in the countries of Central Asia the WB management reassured that the international experience brought in by the World Bank would remain the strongest contribution for knowledge exchange on global best practices in economic growth, employment creation, social modernization, and sustainable development to significantly accelerate implementation of key countries’ reforms.
In response to concerns expressed by the partner countries they may experience major flooding during the coming spring Mr. Jha has informed the leadership of the CA countries that the World Bank is committed to provide expertise and financial assistance to help mitigate the flood impacts. A team from the Bank’s disaster risk management unit will be mobilized to assess the risks and provide advice and support in advance of a possible emergency.
“My first visit to the countries of Central Asia was fruitful. The meetings in Dushanbe, Bishkek, Tashkent, Astana, and Ashgabad, particularly with the Presidents of Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic, leading ministers, as well as donor community of the region were very productive in terms of exchange of views,” says Mr. Saroj Kumar Jha. “I would like to reconfirm that the World Bank Central Asia Regional Team will continue supporting the countries in addressing challenges, as well as implementing their ambitious economic and social agenda to ensure better quality of life for the people of Central Asia. We will further assist CA country dialogues and operations with our knowledge and expertise. Also we are very keen to strengthen our relationship and cooperation with the Governments, development partners and civil society organizations in Central Asia.”
Saroj Kumar Jha has assumed the World Bank Central Asia Regional Office on 1 February, 2012. Mr. Jha will oversee the Bank’s program in the five Central Asia countries and lead the Bank’s Regional Team with a focus on results, quality and efficiency. He will provide strategic route to the Bank’s activities in the CA countries in support of reform priorities and enhanced regional cooperation in key sectors, as well as the implementation of the regional strategy.
Mr. Jha, an Indian national, joined the World Bank in 2005 as a Senior Infrastructure Specialist in the Sustainable Development Network, after significant experience with the Government of India and UNDP as a senior executive in the field of public sector management, infrastructure financing, natural resources management, natural disaster prevention, and sustainable environment. He is credited for innovations in regional cooperation, social safety nets in various regions.
Prior to this appointment Mr. Jha managed the Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery since April 2007. He played a major role in establishing disaster risk management global practice. Mr. Jha worked with donors, governments, UN, and civil society organizations to establish GFDRR in 2006 which is now world's largest global fund for disaster prevention and post-disaster recovery operations.
He holds dual degree in civil engineering and development economics from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, India.
Mr. Motoo Konishi served as Country Director for Central Asia region from July 01, 2009. In January 2012, Mr. Konishi was appointed Country Director for Philippines.