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Speeches & Transcripts

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim Press Conference with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and Minister of Planning Imad Fakhoury

March 27, 2016

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim Amman, Jordan


DR. KIM:  
Thank you very much, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Judeh, and also Minister of Planning Fakhoury.  It is a great honor for me to be here with the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

You know, we had some wonderful meetings today.  It is always an honor to meet with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania.  In the meeting we just had with the Deputy Prime Minister, he said that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

There is no question in my mind that what the Jordanian people have done for the world in accepting so many refugees is truly extraordinary. This will go down in history as one of the great, great acts of compassion and tolerance in human history.

Given the extraordinary measures that have been taken by Jordanians, I come here to announce several of what we hope will turn out to be extraordinary measures in support of Jordan. The first, and the Minister Fakhoury mentioned some of them, but let me just add some color.  
The first $100 million that we brought directly, for the first time in the history of the World Bank Group, we have taken money from a fund that has been designated solely for the poorest countries that has terms that are as long as 40 years to pay back a loan that carries zero percent interest. For the first time in history, we have taken money from that fund and given it to a middle income country because Jordan has taken such extraordinary measures.

Second, Minister Fakhoury talked a bit about the compact. I want to explain what this is. This is a completely new and innovative approach where we take grants from a donor country, in this case, the United Kingdom, with loans that we provide, we blend them together, turn it into another instrument with a very long time to pay back at zero percent interest, and we will use that to create 100,000 jobs.
Now, this is not just any job.These are jobs that we think will persist, and even after Syrian refugees return to Syria -- everyone we talked to today at Za’atari camp has told us that they want to go back to Syria -- even after Syrian refugees return, this will be a source of great jobs for Jordanians, and will become, we hope, one of the drivers of future growth in Jordan.

We are not doing this simply for the sake of responding to the refugee crisis. We are doing this with an eye toward taking extraordinary measures to show Jordan how much the world appreciates what it has done for the refugees.
Finally, the MENA facility that we spoke about, once again, we are talking about raising $1 billion from donors, and then adding to that anywhere from $3 to $4 billion of loan money, once again, turning them into loans that have long pay back periods at very low to zero percent interest, so that we can help Jordan go through the reforms that it has already committed to, things like improving the business environment, including the way the government functions in providing services to the people, improving the educational system.

I want to end with a story that we told each other. The Secretary General and I were both born in Korea and we both have an enormous affection and appreciation for Jordan. We learned partly why. The Deputy Prime Minister told us that in 1953, the World Bank, my organization, came to the new King, King Hussein, and said Jordan is hopeless; you have no natural resources, you have no agriculture, this is a hopeless country.
King Hussein responded by saying we will invest in the only thing we have, we will invest in our people. About 10 years later, the World Bank Group, my organization, went to South Korea and said your country is hopeless; you only have agriculture, you have so few people who have been educated, you are so hopeless, we are not going to even give you the most concessional loan that we have.

Well, one thing I can tell you now, knowing the leaders as we do, and knowing the people of Jordan as we do, the World Bank Group will not make that mistake again.  
What happened in 1953 is King Hussein invested in his people. What happened in 1963 is that Koreans decided they were going to invest in their people, well before the World Bank thought they could afford to invest in their people.

We will continue to invest in Jordan. We know that the investment will turn into wonderful things, not only for this country but for the entire region.  
It's a great honor to be able to work with you.  It's a great honor to be here. Thank you very much.  

Thank you for mentioning that Dr. Kim. (Inaudible) We are extremely grateful for everything that you are doing for us. I think we have time for one or two questions. (Inaudible)

(Inaudible) What is your response to the Amnesty International (Inaudible) in Jordan regarding how the country deals with the Syrian refugees (Inaudible)

Yes, if you are talking about the Amnesty International report that I saw a couple of days ago, I thought that it was extremely unfair quite honestly (inaudible), and quite frankly, I really think that Jordan’s credentials do not need to be proven when it comes to, this is a report that points to certain errors in the way Jordan has dealt with the refugee crisis. I do not think that Jordan’s credentials do not need to be proven in any way, shape or form with 1.35 Syrians on Jordanian soil, almost 640,000 of them registered refugees (Inaudible).
Hundreds and thousands of them being treated in Jordanian hospitals and health facilities, schools going back to double shifts, a system that we had done away with many years ago, and (Inaudible), the water sector, the energy sector, the jobs, the open arms, the open borders, vaccinations (Inaudible).  And so on and so forth (Inaudible).

I just want to say, there was a time when the World Bank put very strict conditionalites on everything it loaned, and it often told countries to do the same thing across the world, it was a program called structural adjustment. In fact, the World Bank has changed dramatically.
Twenty years ago, I was actually one of the protesters. I was part of a movement called 50 Years is Enough, when we protested against that kind of conditionality. I called at that time for the World Bank to be closed. I am very glad I lost that argument, (laughter) I am here now.
Since every loan belongs for the country, you know, enter into a long discussion with a country about what they want to accomplish. The things I told you about, improving the business environment, improving efficiency of revenues.  These are not ideas that came from me. These are ideas that came from the Jordanian government. We have great faith that they can carry them out.


Secretary General can you briefly comment on what happened in Palmyra (Inaudible) And a question for President Kim, 100,000 jobs, whose getting these jobs, how long will it take, and how does it help Syrian refugees who need support now (Inaudible).

ISIS and extremist terrorists, they have been not only been killing brutally people, they have been destroying ancient civilizations, heritages (Inaudible)
-- and is now able to preserve and protect these common cultural assets. I am also encouraged by their announcement that they are not only trying to preserve and protect, but they are also trying to restore. I hope they will be able to do that. Wherever these historical heritages may be located, these must be used for our current generations, for their lessons and inspirations, in that regard, I am urging all the people around the world to protect these commons assets. Thank you.  

DR. KIM:  
The jobs will go to Syrian refugees and to Jordanians both. We are not quite sure what the mix will be right now. What I want you to know is we are not a relief organization. We work very closely with the U.N. now, much more closely than ever before, but our job is to create a productive capacity that will last. So, some of these quick fix job kind of programs look like (inaudible) villages this one is not. We will bring our private sector group in so that these industries and the production capacity we create will be market-tested and will last.
So, in other words, at first, it will be a mixture of Syrians and Jordanians, but we think as time goes on and as Syrians return, that most of the jobs will be taken by Jordanians, because we will focus on building businesses to last.

(Inaudible) I think the structure of the Jordanian economy helps us in a way, that in (Inaudible), that are very much white collar jobs, and it is that combination that allows us to be innovative and creative, so we will be creating jobs, new jobs, sustainably for Jordanians, and at the same time, complimented by Syrian job opportunities in areas (Inaudible).  

Thank you.