UPDATE 1-World Bank pledges $900 million for Iraq
WASHINGTON Dec 18 (Reuters) - The World Bank pledged $900 million to Iraq over the next four years to help it create jobs, build stronger institutions and improve social inclusion, the global development lender said in a statement on Tuesday.
Iraq's government developed the strategy with the World Bank, the private sector, and other stakeholders to focus especially on better management of Iraq's vast oil wealth and improve its investment climate. The programs will also focus on inclusion of women.
Iraq has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, and depends on oil wealth to fund 95 percent of its budget.
But nine years since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq remains a state-centric economy and, beyond oil, private businesses have yet to play a significant role in rebuilding the once thriving Middle East nation.
Infrastructure remains dilapidated after years of war and economic sanctions, and investment is needed to reform banking, build houses and roads and fix a chronic electricity shortage.
Even the oil sector is underperforming due to the country's logistical bottlenecks and weak infrastructure, eroding investor interest.
"Iraq is opening a new chapter in its long and deep history," Ferid Belhaj, the World Bank's director for Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Jordan, said about the country's strategy with the World Bank.
"This is a chapter (for Iraq) 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."
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