Statement on World Bank loans in response to Syrian refugee crisis

Friday 11 October 2013

Source: ANND

Date: 10 october 2013

Keywords: Syrian refugee, World Bank , Crisis

Beirut, 10/10/2013. Almost 2 million refugees are estimated to have left Syria for neighbouring countries due to the civil war. Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq are amongst the countries seeking to provide for those who have had to flee their homes.

All these countries are already in vulnerable economic circumstances, with many social development goals yet to be achieved. In Lebanon, inflation has reached 10% and is increasing and consumption was reduced by 15% for the first three months of 2013. Because of political disputes, the Iraqi government is doing little to improve housing, education and other domains that are all needed to reduce unemployment and poverty. Adding to this, around 224,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Iraq since the start of the uprising. Seeing as Iraq is still a conflict-prone zone, dealing with this thorny necessitates suitable funding and support to the state. On the other hand, Jordan’s needs to cover all costs related to refugees are close to $1 billion and the country has only received half of that amount so far. All in all, UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement in September that “we have raised just 40 per cent of the $4.4 billion needed for Syria and neighbouring countries for this year” The international community should be providing support so that refugees can be helped, without negative impacts on local economies and development.

In July, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said that “the international community must play a role to ensure that Jordan does not shoulder this burden alone. The same needs to apply in Lebanon and Turkey, which are also facing a crush of refugees from Syria.”

However, the World Bank is providing its $150 million of support to Jordan as a loan, not a grant. Jordan’s people are being left to shoulder the burden alone, as more debt is created. This debt will have to be repaid by future generations. It is unjust to give loans, rather than grants, in response to a crisis. More so as the funds provided by the UN and other international donors barely amount to half of what is needed. The last thing these countries need is more debts that will further deepen the economic crisis they’re living. Jordan is already heavily indebted, with government payments on foreign debt expected to be 10% of government revenue in 2013, rising to 20% of revenue by 2015. In March, the IMF agreed bailout loans for Jordan of $700 million a year over three years, which will be used to repay Jordan’s lenders, whilst keeping the country in debt.

The World Bank is also preparing an impact assessment of the refugees on Lebanon, which could lead to more loans. Lebanon’s total external debt is a huge 163 per cent of GDP, primarily because of borrowing by the financial sector. But the country also has a large foreign debt; in 2011 the government spent $5.2 billion on foreign debt payments, 55% of revenue, the highest of any government in the world.

True international support would be for Jordan and Lebanon to receive grants, not loans, to assist with the refugees from Syria’s war, and for these to be coordinated through concerned UN agencies, we call for:

1- A stop to all loans designed to assist countries in responding to the Syrian refugee crisis

2- Providing the countries in need of funding with the necessary amount to respond to refugee crisis. This funding should exclusively be unconditional grants

Signatories:

Groups in the region 1. Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)-Lebanon

2. Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union (LPHU)- Lebanon

3. National Center for Rehabilitation and Development (NCRD)- Lebanon

4. NGO Platform of Saida-Lebanon

5. Gender Center for Research and Training-Sudan

6. Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)-Palestine

7. Center Aziz Belal for Research and Studies- Morocco

8. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)- Egypt

9. Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE)- Egypt

10. Espace Associative-Morocco

11. Jordanian Women Union-Jordan

12. Association of Lawyers for Human Rights Jordan-Jordan

13. Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies-Jordan

14. Iraqi Women’s League-Iraq

15. Iraqi Al-Amal Association-Iraq

16. Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRITC)-Yemen

Supported by:

International supporters

1. Jubilee Debt Campaign, UK

2. The Bretton Woods Project: Critical voices on the World Bank and IMF

See online : http://www.annd.org/english/index.php

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