WASHINGTON Dec 18 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
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
"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."