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WB highlights need to improve MENA human capital

Investment crucial in core social sectors

Dr Mahmoud Mohiedin, Senior Vice-President for the 2030 Development Agenda, UN Relations and Partnerships, World Bank Group, addressing the media roundtable at World Bank Kuwait Office

KUWAIT CITY, March 11: “There has been an interesting and gradual shift in focus of World Bank’s country partnerships framework in the MENA region from capital investment in infrastructure towards investment and technical support in education and health,” says Mahmoud Mohiedin, Senior Vice-President, the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations and Partnerships, World Bank Group. He was replying to a question posed by Arab Times during the media roundtable on the World Bank Group’s agenda in the MENA Region at World Bank Kuwait Office, Al Hamra Tower on Monday.

The Arab countries, except for a few, have not figured in the top 60 list of the latest World Bank’s Human Capital Index. The immediate reaction (from the governments in the region) was to take the issue of human capital more seriously than before, Mohiedin stated. A great deal of importance should be given to infrastructural development including infrastructural core technological transformation and digital transformation, he added.

The Human Capital Index is based on a certain methodology which is applied uniformly on all countries. Elaborating further on the topic, Mohiedin said that such a transformation cannot happen unless there is big investment in core social sectors like education and health. “When we make this kind of investment we put people first and we are putting two most important dimensions of education and health (including nutrition) as priority.”

Many of the infrastructural projects that are required for developments could be as well be supported by World Bank through different ways, the official added. One of them is through establishment of framework for maximizing of finance for development, which means that if there is an opportunity for the project in question to be funded through the private sector, the World Bank Group will work as a facilitator, he noted. For instance, instead of putting money for improvement of services in an airport terminal, we can channelize the money for health and education while the financing of the terminal services can be met through private-public partnership with World Bank Group acting as a facilitator, a guarantor and grant provider, he explained.

While witnessing such kind of gradual shift in approach and other reforms we have to keep in mind that such kinds of reforms cannot happen overnight, Mohiedin stated. “It requires lots of discussions on merits of that new approach with client governments.” Delving further into the regional scenario, he said that “the countries in the MENA region can be broadly classified into borrowers, which include Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morroco and those countries which do not need our money which are basically the high income countries.”

By John Mathews Arab Times Staff

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