Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

World Bank Official: Lebanon, Jordan doing a Big Favor to International Community | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In this May 29, 2014 file photo, Syrian refugee students sit in their classroom at a Lebanese public school where only Syrian students attend classes in the afternoon in Kaitaa village in north Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

New York-Vice President of the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa Hafez Ghanem said that the World Bank was currently assisting countries hosting large numbers of refugees in providing good education to children and fighting unemployment.

In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Sunday, Ghanem said that the World Bank was providing special programs to Lebanon and Jordan, which are receiving thousands of Syrian refugees.

He added that those programs were aimed at promoting children’s education, fighting unemployment and empowering women to become an active partner in the economic cycle.

The interview with Ghanem was held on the sidelines of the United Nations 71st General Assembly meetings in New York.

Asked about the World Bank’s initiative to assist Middle Eastern countries that are receiving the highest number of refugees, Ghanem stressed that Jordan and Lebanon were the states that have been most affected by the influx of the displaced. He noted that the World Bank was providing funding over a period of 25 years with a two percent interest rate to help the two countries overcome the existing economic burdens.

Ghanem said that Lebanon and Jordan were doing a big favor to the entire international community by welcoming thousands of Syrians who fled their homeland due to the ravaging war.

He added that programs launched in this regard include building new schools and improving the educational system to benefit nationals and refugees alike.

Asked about assistance programs in war-stricken regions, Ghanem said that the World Bank would no longer wait for the end of conflicts to launch assistance and development projects.

He noted that current programs include polio vaccination campaigns in Yemen, in cooperation with UNICEF and the World Health Organization, as well as other medical programs.

As for Iraq, Ghanem said the World Bank is working with the government on reconstruction projects in areas liberated from ISIS, infrastructure development projects especially in the regions of Basra and Erbil and assistance programs to cover the budgetary deficit resulting from the crisis costs.

Commenting on other commitments, Ghanem said that the World Bank was working to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2030.

He noted in this regard that poverty rates have declined by 50 percent over the past ten years, thanks to the economic growth witnessed in China and India, as the two countries had the highest poverty levels in the world.

Ghanem stressed that the successful completion of World Bank programs in the poorest countries would hopefully lead to the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030.

Regarding poverty in the Middle East and the need to integrate women in the economic life, Ghanem said despite the fact that both men and women receive the same level of education, 75 percent of Arab women do not enter the job market.

He added that the weak integration of women in the economic sector would negatively affect the middle-income society and hence, would constitute a major challenge to a country’s economic growth.

Ghanem said that the World Bank was providing educational and employment programs to help the women and the youth to play an active role in their countries’ development.

On a different note, the World Bank official lauded “Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030” and the Kingdom’s efforts to promote non-oil industries.

He said that while the deline in the prices of oil had relatively negative consequences on Arab States’ economies, it has encouraged those countries to shift towards non-oil industries and launch economic reforms based on sustainable resources.