Middle East Gets an Infrastructure Boost From the World Bank

The World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank have partnered up to address emerging markets left out of the oil boom.

The World Bank is hoping to spur up to $100 billion to close the "infrastructure gap" in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by partnering with the Islamic Development Bank for projects that abide by Islamic Shariah law.

While the region has experienced rapid growth in recent years, another 75-100 billion dollars is required to continue the trajectory and maintain international competitiveness. One means of continuing the private investment flow, the World Bank argues, is to help foster public-private partnerships. Another approach suggested by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private arm of the World Bank, is to attract investors from the Gulf region by setting projects that are "Shariah-compliant," meaning they comply with the holy code that governs everything from crime to hygiene. While the Gulf has sustained its own oil-fueled investments, the rest of the Middle East has been largely left out and the collaboration of the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank is meant to change that.

"This regional initiative will unlock new flows of private sector investment to help countries like Egypt, Morocco, Jordan or Tunisia eager to push ahead with critical infrastructure projects that will drive competitiveness and boost much needed job creation," said World Bank President, Robert B. Zoellick, in a press release.

"In particular, IFC supports cross-border projects from Gulf countries into emerging markets that commercial banks would consider too risky without IFC’s involvement. Over the past four years, IFC has invested more than $1 billion in infrastructure projects in MENA," according to the press release.

The World Bank is expected to continue and scale up its investments in areas as diverse as electricity, transport and water.

[Egypt Image: Flickr user bakar_88"]

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