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World Bank to forge new infrastructure partnerships among Arab states

The World Bank's new managing director, Mahmoud Mohieddin, confirms that the bank will push forward with new projects to connect Arab states

Marwa Hussein, Sunday 26 Dec 2010
Mahmoud Mohey Eldain
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The World Bank will forge and institutionalize partnerships with the Arab League, under the Arab World Initiative launched by Robert Zoellick and adopted by the First Arab economic Summit.

The initiative includes three main areas of cooperation. The most pressing infrastructure project is one of electricity connectivity between Arab countries.

"There are four groups of connectivity, some are already installed, while others are in progress or in study," Mahmoud Mohieddin, managing director of the bank told a group of journalists.

Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt have set up a network that will later be extended to include Iraq.

On the other hand, there is a project to connect Egypt's network with Saudi Arabia. "There is a possibility that Egypt would ask for a finance facility from the World Bank to install its part of the project."

On average, Egypt borrows $2-2.2 billion on a yearly basis from the World Bank. Outstanding projects are now at the level of $3.4 billion.

There is a study to connect Sudan to Egypt, to be later expanded to Ethiopia. "The World Bank is ready to finance that project," confirmed Mohieddin.

The connection between the four countries of the Maghreb Region - Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco - is ongoing. Egypt and Libya are already connected.

Unlike electricity, the Arab railway network is lagging.

Mohieddin, the former Egyptian minster of investment, mentioned that the World Bank is reviewing its politics. "There is currently a revision within the bank that requires a high level of flexibility, what can serve one country might not serve another." Revising the economic theories is one of the benefits of the crisis.

The Arab World Initiative, launched in 2007 by World Bank President Robert Zoellick, aims at promoting integration within the Middle East and North Africa region and increasing its links with regional and global partners.

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