Saudi Arabia among top donors to World Bank fund for poor

king, Salman

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is among the top donor countries with total contributions to the World Bank and its programs for poor countries exceeding $2.2 billion.
“The World Bank expects more Saudi contributions as the bank is in the final round of negotiations with 50 donor countries including the Kingdom,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank group vice president for development finance, here Tuesday.

Trotsenburg said that “the final round of negotiations with 50 donor countries, including the Kingdom, will take place in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on Dec. 14.” The negotiations will give a boost to the programs of the International Development Association (IDA), an institution of the World Bank, which generates core funds on which the poorest developing countries, especially in Africa, rely on.

Trotsenburg, who was speaking to Arab News in an interview after his wide-ranging talks with Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, said that the bank is also supporting the Saudi government across many sectors including education, health, labor markets, transport, energy, urban planning, economic management, public financial management and business climate.

Referring to the role of Saudi Arabia in promoting the policies and programs of the World Bank, especially IDA programs, he pointed out that the Kingdom has been a major contributor to the IDA. “We are, on the other hand, very supportive of the Saudi Vision 2030,” said Trotsenburg.

Saudi Arabia and the World Bank have been in partnership since 1974 when the Kingdom signed a Technical Cooperation Program (TCP) Agreement establishing the World Bank office in Riyadh.

This advisory services program is the oldest of the bank. Under the agreement, upon government demand, the World Bank brings technical expertise and global knowledge to counterpart entities to support the government as it addresses development challenges. The TCP has diversified and grown over the past four years.

Asked about the allocations and assistance provided for poor countries and fragile states like Yemen and Syria under IDA, he said “the major beneficiaries have been Muslim countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria.”

“We are working closely with other UN agencies to help people in Yemen,” added the World Bank official.

He said that “the IDA will reach about 77 poor and deprived countries in 2018.” To this end, he noted that the Kingdom has actively supported the IDA. Saudi Arabia is a valued, active partner of the World Bank Group. “Through its contributions to select funds, it reinforces its status as a key partner in the effort to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity,” said a Bank statement released on the occasion of the visit of Trotsenburg.

Saudi Arabia has its own chair on the board of executive directors and has been a major donor to the IDA since its inception. The World Bank is also supporting the Kingdom in strategic projects related to its “Vision 2030” and the National Transformation Program 2020 (NTP). The portfolio size under these programs has increased from around $4 million in 2010 to around $11 million in 2016.

“Among the results seen by Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS) engagements in Saudi Arabia is the World Bank’s support for the development of national strategies such as the national water and transport strategy and the national waste management strategy. Upon demand by the Saudi government, the bank assessed water consumption and agriculture subsidies,” said the statement. It was clear that the wheat production industry was consuming water inefficiently.

The bank advised removing the subsidies on crops generating negative added value. Saudi Arabia stopped its local wheat production, saving the Kingdom water and financial resources. The bank also provided support for the Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA) in the areas of animal feed, goods manufacturing practices and medical devices regulation. These engagements resulted in the automation of the licensing processes and improving inspection practices for SFDA.

© Arab News

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