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Monday, July 18, 2011

World Bank commits US$75 million for basic services

The World Bank (WB) office in South Sudan has announced it is committing $US75 million to support government and citizens of the new nation in the provision of basic services.

Addressing a press conference at the bank’s premises in Juba on Monday, Ian Bannon, acting country head for Sudan, said WB encourages the government of the new nation to adopt participatory policy and give more attention to agriculture and private sector. He said he does not expect the education system in South Sudan to be like that of Demark but that of South Africa and other developing countries is attainable in the coming years.

"This is a wonderful, historic moment for the people of south, and the world bank pledges to be a strong partner as we help to transform a day of independence into decade of development", said WB president, Robert B. Zoelick at the independence day celebrations on 9 July.

South Sudan has suffered from decades of civil war, and has some of the lowest human development indicators in the world. Over half of the population lives below poverty line. The 2009 national household survey indicated that 38% of the population walks more than 30 minutes one way to collect drinking water. 50% use wood or grass as the primary source of lighting. 96% use firewood or charcoal as their primary fuel for cooking. 15% of households own a phone, this increases to 59% in urban areas compared to 8% in rural areas.

Bank official said speedy attention to the most urgent needs was one of the main recommendations of the World Bank’s 2011 development report on conflict, security and development. While attaining nationhood changes south Sudan’s political framework and governance arrangements, south Sudanese still face enormous development challenges particularly those of inclusion.

"The bank’s priority remains helping South Sudan to provide comprehensive and inclusive development for its people. Ensuring inclusive governance, providing jobs and livelihood for its people and building well enough institutions that can provide basic services, these are the building blocks of a new nation that the government must strive to towards," said Ezekwesilli.

The statement explains that the South Sudan transitional trust fund will be used to rapidly increase the coverage of child immunisation, provision of vitamin A, de-worming, and selected services for rural mothers and children. It will also increase rural livelihoods opportunities and improve rural access by supporting a project to provide feeder roads in areas with high agricultural potential.

In addition the trust fund will help create jobs through grants to 200 entrepreneurs, increasing outreach to women entrepreneurs, and building up a micro-finance client base of 30,000 individuals.

The WB and International Monetary Fund have been subject to criticism because it relinquishes economic autonomy from the state borrowing money. Their loan is subject to the “Washington Consensus” - conditionalities of trade liberalisation and so on. They also focus upon empowerment of the private sector, in some cases to the detriment of the public sector. There policies are often seen as developed world-centric.

As the global financial crisis continues with riots in Greece and plummeting Italian government bonds, it is not a good time to be in debt. However, South Sudan needs a cash injection to bring its infrastructure up to speed and for it to fulfil its economic potential.

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