Speeches & Transcripts

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim Remarks to the Media Following Meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam

March 24, 2016

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim Press Stakeout Beirut, Lebanon


DR. KIM:  Prime Minister Salam, I’m honored to be here with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and also my friend, Dr. Mohamed Ali, the president of the Islamic Development Bank.

Just a few things.  First, all of us in the global community are extremely grateful to the people of Lebanon for accepting so many refugees.  We heard today that the total could very well be close to two million people, which represents an enormous proportion of the population here.

We’re coming with three major pieces of financial and technical support.  The first, we have already signed agreements for close to $900 million, close to $1 billion, of support for Lebanon.  We are doing everything we can to get that money out, but it has been slow going for reasons that I will talk about in just a bit.

Secondly, our Board has decided that because of the great service to humanity that both Jordan and Lebanon have played, we’ve taken $100 million from a fund that we use only for the poorest countries, many of them in Africa, some in South Asia.  We’ve taken $100 million and provided today a very concessional loan for the education sector, again to show our appreciation for what Lebanon has done in educating refugees here.

Thirdly, along with the Secretary-General and Dr. Ali, we have set up a MENA facility where we have asked for $1 billion in donations, which we will then multiply four to five times in order to provide the kind of concessional financing that will allow Lebanon and Jordan to really move forward in not only simply responding to the refugee crisis, but to build the infrastructure for the future of these countries.

Now the problem in terms of getting the money out of the door, the problem in terms of moving forward, is that it’s been difficult to move in an environment where there is no president and where the parliament is not meeting.  We are now trying to find ways of taking these pledged dollars and move them directly into communities, directly into municipalities.  And the way that that can happen most quickly is if all the citizens of Lebanon and all of the leaders of Lebanon agree that coming together, electing a president, having parliament function as it has in the past, is the best way forward not only in responding to the Syrian crisis, but for all Lebanese people.  Lebanon for many, many years has been a source of inspiration, innovation, and especially important, inclusion where people of different religious backgrounds -- 18 different ones we heard about today -- have been able to live together.  We think that by bringing the government together, electing a president, having parliament function, and working with us, we can bring Lebanon back to that status and grow even faster and more effectively than it did before.

Thank you very much.

SPEAKER:  (Inaudible) education of Syrian refugees.  I want to know first of all if other aid is going to come through any time soon for any other needs that are I guess really necessary with all of those refugees who most of them really live under the standard of normal living.

DR. KIM:  Right.  Yes, as I said we have $900 million that is ready to be disbursed.  But there are things that have to happen before that money is disbursed and it’s in many areas -- water, transport, education, health.  And so we’re working as quickly as we can. But what we are saying is, please Lebanon, please Lebanese government, please Lebanese people, the money is waiting.  We are ready to move.  But we need the government also to move on certain issues in order for us to be able to release these funds.

Moreover, what Dr. Ali said, we hope to raise at least $5 billion.  And when we talk about concessional loans, this is many multi-year-long term loans at zero percent interest.  This is what we’re really talking about.  And this is our way of saying you have done so much for the world.  We now need to come in and push forward in terms of the development of Lebanon.  But again, we can’t do it by just making pledges.  We have to have a functioning, working relationship and it’s difficult when the parliament’s not meeting and there’s no head of state.

So I know this is an old problem for everybody here, but for us, we’re simply urging everyone.  We can begin moving this money all the way out into the municipalities.  We have for the first time in history the very strong support of our Board in doing this, which is innovative and which is not what we usually do.  We are ready to move.  We just need Lebanon to move.