Syria and neighbors need reconstruction plan: World Bank

BEIRUT Tue Jun 3, 2014 9:49am EDT

1 of 2. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (2nd L) meets with Syrian children refugees at a classroom inside a school in Burj Hammoud, north of Beirut June 3, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) - World powers and international donors must prepare a post-war reconstruction plan for Syria and its neighbors to help the region recover from the Syrian conflict, the head of the World Bank said on Tuesday.

Jim Yong Kim said that although there was no sign that the ruinous war between President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters will end soon, international efforts - led by Arab states - should focus now on a post-war phase.

"The international community, including the World Bank Group, the United Nations and key donors, must put together a plan that will help not only Syria rebuild, but also will help Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq recover from the massive spillover effects of the war," he said.

Kim was speaking in Lebanon, a tiny Mediterranean state that hosts more than 1 million Syrian refugees and has lost billions of dollars in state revenues and extra expenditures as a result of the civil war in its larger neighbor.

The World Bank has set up a trust fund to support development projects in Lebanese communities under strain from the refugee influx, but it has received minimal funding.

In Syria itself, three years of war have brought a collapse in industrial and agricultural output and left almost two thirds of the population in extreme poverty, according to a U.N. sponsored report released last week.

The study estimated there had been a 40 percent contraction in GDP since the start the conflict in 2011. Almost half of Syria's labor force is unemployed and losses - based on estimated damage to residential and state buildings - stood at

$143.8 billion, it said.

"But this war will end," Kim said. "We must commit ourselves to seize the moment and prepare concrete plans for that day when Syria's guns fall silent and when an internationally recognized government ensures peace and stability."

Kim drew a parallel between the current turmoil in the Middle East with the conflict in Europe towards the end of World War Two, and a meeting of allies at Bretton Woods in 1944 which set the framework for the post-war global economy.

"Today should be the 1944 moment for Syria and for the entire Arab world," Kim said.

World War Two ended in Europe less than a year after the Bretton Woods meeting. Kim did not say how the World Bank or other donors would help Syria if the conflict drags on for many more years.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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