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Welcome Message

Welcome to the World Bank in Sao Tome and Principe
Laurence Clarke, World Bank Country Director for Angola, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Principe

We are a relatively small team with a vibrant pool of experts who work in close collaboration with government officials, development partners, and members of civil society in the various areas of our intervention in the island of São Tomé and Príncipe (STP).

Since STP joined the World Bank in 1977 and became a borrower in 1985, the World Bank’s support to the country has been steady and diversified covering a range of critical development challenges over the years. This ranged from a focus on macroeconomic stability in the 1990s, to today’s diversified portfolio that includes support to agriculture, health, education, governance, and information and communications technologies.

Throughout our collaboration, STP has registered remarked progress in economic performance, translated into real GDP growth increase to an average of 5 percent over the period 2001-2007 from 2.0 percent in 1994-2000. Furthermore, STP public external debt was largely reduced. Through the World Bank and IMF Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, STP received US$314 million in debt relief.  We have supported improvements in STP’s public finance management, which resulted in the approval of a new procurement and tax legislations, as well as an integrated financial management information system. We have invested in STP’s human development by scaling up our support to the health component of our Social Sector Support project, and by approving an Education for All-Fast Track Initiative Catalytic Fund Grant. Examples of gains include the gross enrollment rate, estimated at 121 percent, and the completion rate in primary education at 64 percent. As for the health sector, the proportion of births attended by skilled professionals increased to 86 percent in 2009 from 70 percent in 2003. The proportion of pregnant women receiving antenatal care increased from 65 percent to 82.3 percent during the same period. Mortality from malaria has dropped to close to zero in 2009, making STP a success story on that front.  The HIV prevalence among pregnant women has dropped from 5.4 percent to an estimated 1.5 percent in 2009.

By most standards these are remarkable achievements. But much still needs to be done. For instance, despite the HIPC debt relief initiative, STP’s debt burden is still among the highest on the African continent. About 54 percent of the country’s estimated166 thousand people are poor and 15 percent among them live in extreme poverty. The country ranked 131 out of 182 in a recent UNDP Human Development Index. Furthermore, the 2008 food and fuel crisis brought to the fore STP’s vulnerability to exogenous shocks and its high dependency on imports. For all that and much more, we stand ready to continue our support to STP in today’s fast-moving circumstances.

The Board of Directors of the World Bank has just approved a new Interim Strategy Note (ISN) which outlines the strategic directions for the World Bank’s program in STP until FY2012.This means that the ISN will extend the 2006-09 Country Assistance Strategy in order to allow us time to set out the analytical underpinnings for the development of a fully fledged Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) that is aligned with the STP’s forthcoming Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) currently under preparation by STP authorities and expected to be launched in FY12.

Our ISN proposes a selective and targeted support program built on the 2006-2009 CAS and STP’s own recently assessed development challenges. Under the ISN, our support will be organized into two pillars: –a)  accelerated sustainable and broad-based economic growth, and b)  strengthened governance, public institutions, and human capital.

In closing, allow me to thank the staff of the World Bank for their hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm. I’m also grateful to the Government and people of STP for stepping up to the new challenges with creativity and dedication throughout the years of our collaboration.

Laurence Clarke,
World Bank Country Director for Angola, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Principe

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