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$255m in loans

Geraldine Panapasa
Friday, January 18, 2013

THE World Bank provided 13 loans totalling $US146million ($F255.77m) to Fiji for projects in infrastructure, telecommunications and electricity since 1971 says Franz Drees-Gross, newly-appointed World Bank country director for Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific islands.

The Sydney-based director said the last loan to Fiji was in 1991 and all loans since 1971 to Fiji had been paid.

"World Bank financing terms depend very much on a country's capacity to take on debt," he said.

"For most of the Pacific islands, we now provide predominantly grand funds although in some we also provide some highly concessional credits at zero per cent interest.

"I'm pleased to say that at least in the broader Pacific region, we have never had any issues with any countries not being able to repay."

Mr Drees-Gross said the bank provided about $US2m ($F3.50m) in finance for the Pacific islands, PNG and Timor Leste.

Much of this, he said, had been in the past few years with the present active portfolio of $US570m ($F1.002billion) directed to all projects that had been approved within the past 5-6 years.

"We have been significantly scaling up our engagement in the Pacific region. Five years ago, the total value of our active portfolio was about $US350m ($F615.3m)," he said.

"About two thirds of financing comes from bank resources while the rest is trust funds provided to the bank to implement especially, but not only, from the Australian government.

"Pacific island countries have a growing share of our portfolio as we have built programmes with traditional clients such as Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga as well as expanding support for new clients like Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands."

Mr Drees-Gross said the World Bank focussed on tackling poverty in Pacific island countries, PNG and Timor-Leste.

He said the bank aimed to help countries improve their connections with the region through better transport, aviation and telecom links, build resilience against shocks such as natural disasters and climate change, and improving education and health for its citizens.

The private sector arm of the bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC), also encouraged new investment to promote jobs and growth.

The bank has 40 active projects across the region making real improvements in peoples' lives.





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