World Bank sets $900 mn aid program for Iraq

The World Bank announced Tuesday a $900 million support plan for Iraq aimed at helping the war-ravaged country better manage its human and vast oil resources.

The World Bank's four-year support for Iraq, through 2016, will focus on job creation, social inclusion and building stronger institutions, the institution said.

The announcement came exactly one year after the last US troops left Iraq, ending the nearly nine-year war that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's regime and left Iraq shattered.

The World Bank said the new program was designed together with the government of Iraq.

The support will help Iraq in managing its resources more efficiently and effectively, and promote the diversification of the economy and private-sector growth "for the benefit of all citizens," it said in a statement.

"Iraq is opening a new chapter in its long and deep history," said Ferid Belhaj, the World Bank's country director for Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Jordan.

"This is a chapter where the people come first and where the immense human potential of the country, its vast natural resources and its strategic location will be central to its socio-economic recovery," he said.

Belhaj pointed out the program was the first full country partnership strategy between the World Bank and the Iraqi government.

"It will allow the World Bank to align its program of support over the next four years with the government's National Development Plan," he added.

The development lender noted that Iraq remains fragile and its economy is dominated by a large public sector due to a legacy of centralization.

The Bank strategy will focus on improving governance and social inclusion, particularly the inclusion of women.

"Proper management of Iraq's vast oil wealth and human resources, coupled with a conducive and efficient investment climate, will be key to inclusive growth and job creation," the Washington-based institution said.

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