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Press Briefing on Iraq

September 20, 2003
Dubai, United Arab Emirates


MS. RIZA:  Good morning.  (Arabic phrase.)

Thank you all for being here today, and I'm going to introduce our panel here, and then I will leave and ask our Chief Economist to come over here so he can answer some of the questions.

I have to my right Mr. Joseph Saba, and he is the Country Director for the Maghreb Region, which includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, and to his right is our Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region, Mr. Christiaan Poortman, and to his right is our Senior Vice President now for the Human Development Network who, until very recently, was the Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region.

I will also introduce Mr. Mustapha Nabli, who was going to be coming here and sitting.  He's our Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region.  We also have here, sitting right at the front row, Nigel Roberts, he is our Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza, and he will be happy to talk to you later, and we are also arranging some interviews.  So anybody who wants to talk to Nigel can contact Serene or Nigel directly.

I will ask Mr. Poortman to start with some remarks, and I think he will be followed with some remarks by Mr. Saba.  And I'll get off right now and ask Mr. Nabli to come and sit over here.

MR. POORTMAN:  Thank you very much.  I'll keep the introduction relatively short because I view this as a possibility to ask questions rather than for us to make another large presentation.

Clearly, the fact that the annual meetings are being held in Dubai is very important for the Bank, but it's particularly important for the Middle East and North Africa Region.  And as you know, and we have already appeared in front of you on a number of occasions, we used the opportunity very much with these meetings to launch a set of reports that put forward a set of recommendations:

First of all, the challenges that we see for the region at this point in time and a set of recommendations that we would like to have an opportunity to discuss, first of all, here, at this meeting and in the context of this meeting, but obviously a set of messages that we would like to take forward and discuss in more detail with the individual countries in the region.  We're all members of the World Bank, as you know, and where this might be helpful and useful in charting their future, the directions for their future directions and policy change.

I will not go into these reports again.  You know that the fourth one was launched yesterday, and they're all out there for you to look at and to ask questions.  Mr. Nabli is now at the podium, so if there are any particular questions on that, then he will be here to answer those.

The other issue that obviously you're very interested in, and it's very much topical at this point in time, is Iraq.  We have, on a number of occasions already, answered some of the questions.  Mr. Wolfensohn spent a significant amount of his time yesterday talking about Iraq, both in his general press conference and some of the follow-up press interviews that he's had.

We're also standing quite ready to answer any questions you have on Iraq, and Joe Saba here is with us to start and to kick that off.

I'd just like to repeat that, also, it might be of interest to know, and this seems to be something that we found is something that is not that well known about the Bank, but more generally I think that it is important that people get a better perception of what the Bank does.  And one of the programs that we have been drawing some attention to because they might be of particular interest in this context is the program that we have had for a number of years in West Bank-Gaza.  And as was said, Nigel Roberts is here to answer any questions you have on that.

And then I'm very happy to say that Jean-Louis Sarbib is here with us on the podium.  Obviously, he has been associated closely with this region for the last three years.  So he will also be here to be available to answer any of your questions.

I'd like to leave it at that and turn the floor over to Joe Saba to say a word about Iraq, and then we'll open it up for questions.

Thank you.

MR. SABA:  Thank you very much, and thank you for joining us this morning.  As you know, from early July, we have been engaged with our partners, the United Nations, the European community and a group of international advisers provided to us from the international community in working on what we call a needs assessment in Iraq.

Over the past few weeks, teams have been working very hard to work on the 14 different sectors that we are taking a look at.  At the same time, we have been working with the international donor community, and the United Nations, and the International Monetary Fund to design a model for a trust fund that would permit donor cooperation, donor coordination and meaningful donor dialogue with the emerging Iraqi administration.

As we have discussed, a major goal in the assessment is not nearly coming up with particular sets of numbers, but for us the major goal in this entire process, in fact, is to build institutional capacity in Iraq to assist the emerging Iraqi administration to provide sustainable development for its people.

Emergency needs, of course, are important.  Laying the bricks, fixing roads, fixing water, fixing power, all of these things present immediate emergency problems.  But when one takes a slightly longer perspective, it's clear that really the most important issue here is to provide or to work with the Iraqis to provide the institutional capacity that provides them with a future which can provide productive meaningful jobs for a very large and growing Iraqi labor force and to assist Iraq to once again take its rightful place in the international community to provide again for economic sustainable development.  That's the purpose of the exercise we are engaged in.

In terms of process, we are completing early drafts of the various sectors and of the overall needs assessment.  We hope in the coming week, in separate meetings, to be able to have meetings with Iraqi counterparts, probably here in Dubai.  Other meetings are currently taking place elsewhere in the region in one or two sectors.  We hope that we will be able to have final drafts of these papers, discuss generally with the community, and provided to capitals in early October to permit the international community to make a meaningful statement and hopefully take a meaningful position in the context of this assessment by the time we come to a donors' meeting in Madrid in late October.

That, generally, is the process, and we'll be happy to take questions concerning the process or the goals of our work.

MR. POORTMAN:  All right.  The floor is open.

Yes, sir?  He's coming from the back.

QUESTION:  Yes, my name is Eddie O'Sullivan.  We've just done a report on the Iraq economy, but we are reporting this weekend that the CPA is facing a very serious financial crisis.  It's down to its last $200 million for reconstruction and operational facilities.  That's what we've been told from a very senior level in Baghdad.

So the question I would ask the panel is that, looking at the Madrid Conference, how worried are you that, unless there's going to be a very substantial contribution from the international community, a commitment in Madrid, of cash and money that will be delivered immediately, how worried are you that the Iraqi economy will really fall back on its heels and even dissolve financially in 2004?

MR. POORTMAN:  Joe, you want to take that?

MR. SABA:  Well, at the moment the Iraqi economy is not in excellent shape in any event.  We're starting, frankly, following the conflict, and following 20 years of sanctions of war, at a very low base.  So I'm afraid that the situation at the baseline is really quite grim.

I can't--we obviously can't speak for the CPA in understanding the revenues that might be available.  Obviously, the extent to which Iraq can continue to pump petroleum and move that petroleum to market is a factor in the revenue that they realize.  And that's impossible to say, given the current circumstances.

However, based on what we understand so far, we don't see over the coming weeks certainly, as we--in the run up to Madrid, a major crisis of the nature that would cause the Iraq economy to certainly fall any worse than it already has fallen.  We are trying to take a good look at the resource package, at the needs assessment, as well as the implementation and capacity, to try to design a program, as I said, which will get them forward.

In every country it's a question not only of needs, which are determined along some criteria.  It's also a question of what are the available resources, and we have to tailor that essentially to what a country can afford.  And it also depends a great deal on what is the timing, the priority, the sequencing of the reforms, exactly what is it you can get done.

So I think the concept that somehow we need to come up with some massive sum all at once is perhaps a bit misleading.  I think we're talking about a process over time.

QUESTION:  Is there a financial crisis in CPA?

MR. SABA:  I can't speak for the CPA.  We don't--we have not seen, in our work, a particular financial crisis.  But then we are not necessarily privy to the information they might have.

MR. POORTMAN:  All right, Alan?

QUESTION:  Alan Friedman, with the Wall Street Journal Europe.

You do track the Iraqi economy, though?  That is your job?  You monitor the Iraq economy.  So let me try something that doesn't obligate you to speak for the CPA, but just gives a macroeconomic and financial set of data or estimates that you might have on Iraq.

When I last talked to Paul Bremer in June, he said that the revenues that they would have for the balance of 2003 were $3.5 billion against costs of around double that.  What are the oil revenues, in your judgement, for the second half of 2003 for Iraq?  Is that accurate figure?  Is it more than that?  Is it less than that?  What's the budget deficit, compared to the costs?

MR. SABA:  Well, I think for 2003, we relied on what the CPA has provided.  I don't think we have a basis, really, to do an independent analysis.  So the figures that the CPA gives are figures that we also take, because in our needs assessment we're trying to look forward, starting with the 2004 budget.  So we wouldn't necessarily have any better figures than they do.

Obviously, since June circumstances have also changed.  And again, in terms of what are the costs, what are the needs, it's also a question of what is it you can do and what is it you have to do in the time period involved?

In terms of revenue, you can take the number of barrels of oil being pumped, what are the domestic needs, what are the exports multiplied by the market price and come up with a fairly, fairly reliable number.

The question then is what are your priorities in sequencing what you do with that budget?  And what is the capacity within the country to do that?

For 2003, we've relied on the CPA's material.

QUESTION:  (Off mike.)  (Inaudible.)

MR. SABA:  The numbers change, depending on the circumstances and the fact that we have greater knowledge of the country almost on a daily basis.  So the more we work, the more we understand, the more we are able to interface with the Iraqis, the better we understand their system, as well.

So they do, the numbers change almost on a daily basis.

MR. POORTMAN:  Yes, sir?

QUESTION:  James Quadahy (ph) from Bloomberg News.

Can you describe in a little bit more detail the 14 sectors that you're looking at, which ones you see as the priorities?  And within those, the kind of problems that you face?

And also, secondly, as you go into the Donors Conference, presumably you'll be presenting, rather than just sort of one option for what the donors can fund, you'll be presenting several options, depending on their potential generosity.  What do you see as being at the core of those options?

MR. SABA:  Well, the 14 sectors are well known.  Health, education, agriculture and livestock, mine action, water supply, and sanitation, macroeconomic, economic management including safety nets, investment climate and SOE restructuring, banking and financial sector, transport and telecom, electricity, employment generation, housing and municipal servants--services, governance and rule of law.

Obviously, that's a--those 14 sectors and the way we've divided that is to provide us with a methodology of working and a way of providing a piece of writing which gives us some coherence in an overall program.

When you ask about the question of what's more important, it's obviously a cross-sectoral question.

I think, in terms of overall goals, what we're seeking to achieve first is perhaps Iraq's achievement, again, of meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  I mean, obviously, access to clean water, access to basic education, maternal health.

So basic--the basic fundamental services that a government is expected to provide, should be considered the baseline for our work.  So we would look to those Millennium Development Goals as setting some standard for us in terms of what we would achieve.

To achieve those Millennium Development Goals, one can look at these various sectors, but one of the major cross-cutting issues which is not listed directly in those 14 sectors is, in each case, again institutional development.  Again, the issue is not so much the building of buildings, but the ability of the institutions to provide services and to do so in a transparent and accountable way.  And that cost-cutting set of factors also takes a fair amount of time.

But the immediate emergency priorities are going to be those defined by the Millennium Development Goals.

MR. POORTMAN:  May I add that this is also very important, the context of the fact that the Oil-for-Food Program, as you know, is going to come to at least be officially phased out in November.  So another type of program needs to be put in its place, which will have immediate sort of impact, is closely related to this question of basic needs that Joe was talking about.

Yes, who else?  Yes,  ma'am?

QUESTION:  I wanted to--

MR. POORTMAN:  Wait, wait, just wait one second.

QUESTION:  I wanted to follow up on your answer to James' question.

First one, I mean you were just concentrating on 2004 when you're drawing up your needs assessment?  Or is there a longer period that you're looking at?

And secondly, when you say that your--your goal is to meet basic needs, I needed--can you clarify?  So what you're after is to allow Iraq to function at a basic level?  You're not looking at rebuilding Iraq into Emerald City by next year?

MR. SABA:  I should say that the needs assessment, actually we've been trying to look at a--obviously, in terms of numbers, trying to first cover 2004.  But we're also taking a medium-term view.  And for the most part, our view covers a period of about four years.  So we can never take a look at the short-term.

I should say in that sense, our experience in post-conflict work elsewhere in the world is that funds mobilized usually at the beginning of that period are most often dispersed, that is the money begins to see its greatest effect, in fact, in the second and third years.  So while you look at a budget in the very first year, you really have to look over at least a short to medium term in order to assure yourself of the impact.

Concerning the question on basic needs or Emerald City, we've used the analogy often of the house that has had a fire.  If your home has had a fire and you try to see how you're going to rebuild it, the first thing you're going to do is connect your phone line, you're going to get the lights working, the water working, and you're going to move into the house.  Then you're going to see what it is you can afford to do in terms of fixing that house.  And there are going to be trade-offs because you're going to see what your budget is.

The next step you're going to take is that you're going to go--well, in some countries, you're going to go to the ATM machine, so to speak, and one could look at that perhaps as a trust fund, and you're going to be able to get some money from that.

But the next problem in, in fact, doing that work is to hire the contractors, the practical problem of lining up the different workmen, the materials, and to meeting those expectations about what your needs are and what you can afford.

This cannot be done overnight.  And therefore, our goal is to look at obviously immediate priority emergency needs, with a goal of, as I mentioned, of trying to meet Millennium Development Goals.  But as we move on, obviously Iraq itself has capabilities and standards.

Iraq was a founding member of the World Bank.  It graduated from IBRD in the 1970s.  So 25 years or more ago, Iraq met certain standards of development.  There is, in the population, an expectation that we can assist them to at least get back to where they were.  I think that's a fair expectation.  It's just that that expectation can't be realized overnight.

MR. POORTMAN:  All right, we'll go to that side.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION:  Michael Backfisch (ph), German Business Daily Hansblatt (ph).

Regarding needs assessment, how much data do you have already?  Obviously, you have some data and statistics.  When will you have 100 percent?  And could you say something about the financial scope?  Mr. Wolfensohn said in about a period of three years, we'll have something around $75 billion for reconstruction.  That comes pretty close.  That's what he said.

MR. SABA:  No, that's not what he said.

MR. POORTMAN:  Before Joe answers the question, I think it's very clear that Mr. Wolfensohn I think was very careful yesterday not to mention any numbers.  And this is very important because he was making a very important point, which is that the exercise hasn't been completed.

He said that he would hope to have numbers in another two or three weeks' time, and I think that's appropriate because the assessment is being--we have a lot of data, and Joe will speak to that in a minute, but we haven't had an opportunity, which is very important--the point that Mr. Wolfensohn underlined yesterday--we haven't had an opportunity to discuss the findings with the Iraqi authorities in a final way.  So this is one of the steps that we need to take, together with our partners in the next couple of days to finalize this process.

So he said very clearly that we don't have a number at this point and that we will have a number in another two or three weeks' time.  Obviously, in time and in line was the time line that we set for the preparation of the conference in Madrid at the end of next month.


MR. SABA:  No thanks.

In terms of data, to date, approximately 23 visits of what we call missions or assessment teams have been made inside Iraq.  Those visits or what we call missions consisted of international experts drawing not only from the World Bank, but as I mentioned, from a large international team, with particular expertise, and that included language skill.

Before those teams went in, beginning in July, we had already begun with the United Nations to do what we call "watching briefs."  So, basically, throughout 2003, we have been engaged in a process of trying to bring up our knowledge basis in Iraq, and we had done, even before the needs assessment, a number of internal papers--I believe UNICEF released one a few weeks ago, which gave us a base line of data prior to the conflict, based on what was known at that time.  So that provided us with a fairly good baseline of data, at least up to the conflict.

Following the conflict, we're obviously hampered somewhat, actually, a fair amount, because there was extensive looting.  When I was there in July, we went around to a number of the government buildings to try to appreciate the extent of that looting.  And I remember, in the municipality, for example, of Baghdad, for someone working in the World Bank, it was a rather sad scene to see the municipal records scattered all over the staircases, out in the courtyard, some of them burnt, many of them ripped.  These are decades of the kinds of records that we like to work with.

So, obviously, we have some data difficulties.  To try to remedy these data difficulties, we have employed teams of consultants who are Iraqis.  We have worked with people who have worked in some of these ministries, and we are trying to re-establish that data, as of course the Iraqis themselves are trying to do.

We hope, and expect, that over the coming months we'll be able to bring that database up.  I don't know when we're going to reach 100 percent.  Maybe one could argue that you never reach 100 percent.  But, nevertheless, we feel that, in comparison with some of the other post-conflict work that we have done in a number of other places, given the number of months that we have following the end of official hostilities, we actually have a fairly solid database, by comparison.

But, by no means, is it 100 percent, and we have, as I had mentioned in the financial matters, we are learning things every day, and there's a team coming from Baghdad tonight, and we hope to learn a great deal more, which of course, again, will have an impact on our needs assessment.

MR. POORTMAN:  The gentleman in front of you with  the purple shirt?

QUESTION:  Anwar Farooqi (ph), Associated Press.

You said that raising the money to rebuild is a gradual process, and that's fair enough.  But in your assessment, what is the minimum that the donors need to commit--more or less immediately, next month--for effective work to begin toward the goals you outlined?

MR. SABA:  Frankly, I don't know yet exactly what that number is.  The issue for us is what is it going to take in order to meet certain standards, as I mentioned, with the Millennium Development Goals and what are the resources we have available.  So we have to allocate these two things together and get some kind of consistent progress, pattern.  So I don't know exactly what that number is.

I think the issue for the World Bank, in any event, is not to tell the donors what they should or should not provide.  I think our duty is to try to set forth a set of options for them, as best we can, time table, sequencing priorities, and costs associated with these various elements.  And then, frankly, it's up to them to decide how they want to respond and what level they can respond.

MR. POORTMAN:  Let me just add one thing, in light of what Joe said to an earlier question, is that experience in similar kind of situations does suggest, strongly suggest, that you need a fair bit of that money committed up front because that's the way in which contracts can then be let, and we're making a clear distinction here between commitments on the one side and disbursements on the other.  So usually one needs a significant or a reasonable level of commitment in order to be able to start planning for these contracts that will actually disburse, as Joe said, two or three years later.  But that's a rule of thumb, I think, that we have developed in many of these kind of situations.

Yes?  Yes, sir?

QUESTION:  Alan Veasey (ph) from the Financial Times.

Can you tell us, based on what you've seen, about the kind of institutional capacity in place in Iraq, assuming that the political problems in terms of having a representative government and a recognized government, are squared away?  How long do you think it might be before Iraq is able to borrow or accept grants from the World Bank and the IMF?

MR. SABA:  We've had some opportunity to have some dialogue with the Iraqi administration.  When I say "administration," I'm really describing what I recall the bureaucracy; that is, not necessarily the political leadership, but the large administration which every day must deliver services.

I know that we tend to concentrate here on the top political leaders, but the fact is, in most countries, the day-to-day services that the government has to provide and that the people expect are provided by a bureaucracy and administration which just moves along.  Children go to school, hospitals have to function.  Hopefully, the sewage, water treatment, and so forth, and the power has to keep functioning.  The people who keep that functioning are what I'm referring to as the administration.

In that sense, although we've not had a chance to move throughout the country, obviously, as much as we would like to, but to the extent we've had direct contact or indirect contact; that is, people who have also had good contact, the level, the capacity of that administration actually seems quite good, from a technical point of view.

I should mention, also, that we've had experience in other transition countries because we should view Iraq not as a reconstruction country because the damage done by the war, while serious, is not that extensive.  It's much more a question in Iraq of a transition; a transition from this tightly controlled state, limited by sanctions, a state which has not had access to modern technology for more than a decade, to, as I mentioned, a state which can encourage productive jobs.

In that sense, our experience in other transition countries suggests that even the most competent administration, the most competent bureaucracy is still not going to change, necessarily, it's day-to-day behavior overnight.  This takes a fair amount of encouragement, a fair amount of work.  It's very much the kind of work I was mentioning earlier, a few minutes ago, when I talked about building institutional capacity.  This means working with that administration to provide the kind of resourcefulness, the responsiveness that they need to do to provide that sustainable development.

They have done it before, and they have the evidence of their own history.  So we're confident that with a little bit of encouragement, not only financial, but again from a technical point of view, from a knowledge transfer point of view, they can do it.  How long will it take?  Until we can all get in there and work together, it's a bit difficult to know, but it's not going to happen in three, four, six months.

MR. POORTMAN:  Let me just add to what Joe said; that, obviously, once the politics are more settled, I think, also that we'll create an opportunity to work more significantly on our part with respect to the institution building, and that's very much what we want to do.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION:  Ibrahim Khayatt, al-Hayat.

I'd like to ask how difficult it would be for you, if you're going to work in Iraq, how the security problem will have an impact on your ability to decide, and to work, and to assess directly.

The other question, also, is how much money do you think the Arab community or the Arab countries surrounding Iraq will be ready to commit to help Iraq in the next year or next two years?

MR. POORTMAN:  Well, security is obviously a major concern.  As you know, the very unfortunate events that took place in Baghdad last month had an impact on the whole of the U.N. community, and we also had our office set up in that community, and we were affected very badly by that as well.  We had one staff member actually killed, and we had three people injured quite badly.

So that has meant that, like many other organizations, that we had to temporarily evacuate and withdraw our staff.  We had started opening up a small office, and as Joe has said, we've had, and until that time, we had a fair number of people going down to Iraq to work on the needs assessment.

Like many other institutions, we're reviewing the security arrangements, all with the idea of hoping to find the way in which we can bring our staff back into Iraq as quickly as possible, but, clearly, as also Mr. Wolfensohn I think said yesterday, we want to be extremely cautious and careful.  And I think in that way we're not dissimilar from many others with whom we are in close contact to sort of, together, review the security arrangements.

But in the final analysis, we need to get back on the ground in Iraq as quickly as possible.  That is the only way in which obviously the development effort can be initiated and further accelerated.  So we are looking for ways to do this relatively quickly, but we want to make sure that the security angle has been looked at from all sides.

As far as the contributions from Arab nations, I can't tell you that.  This is what the donor conference is going to be all about, and I think, at that point in time, we will find out.

Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION:  Three questions.

Will Iraq--

MR. POORTMAN:  Can you introduce yourself.

QUESTION:  Sorry.  Anna Willard from Reuters.

Will Iraq qualify for IDA lending?  And the second question, when will the Monitoring Board for the Development Fund for Iraq be set up?

And the third thing, in your experience of post-conflict situations, do you think the World Bank should control a Donor Fund?

MR. POORTMAN:  I think Joe has been following the IAMB and the Multi-Donor Trust Fund.  I think that's what you're talking about more closely.  So I'll ask him to answer those questions.

Let me take the IDA question.  This is something that we're considering at this point.  The Bank is now looking forward to determining, in the next couple of weeks, also in the run-up to the conference in Madrid, what we could do, in terms of financial assistance, provided these threshold issues that we talked about have been resolved.  So this is very much on the discussion.  Whether there is an IDA eligibility and, if so, for how much, and how much IBRD we might be able to make available, these are all questions that we're debating at this moment, and we haven't come to any decisions.

Joe, do you want to take the other?

MR. SABA:  Sure.  On the International Advisory Monitoring Board, which is mentioned in Security Council Resolution 1483, the four parties named in that resolution to participate in the Board, the Arab Fund, the World Bank, the IMF and the United Nations, have agreed on a text of a terms of reference for that IAMB, and they have submitted a draft of that.

We were delayed, of course, a few weeks ago by the bombing in Baghdad and its aftermath, but we have now been able to submit those terms of reference, and we are awaiting the comments of the CPA on those terms of reference.  We believe that we'll be able, we believe and we hope that we'll be able to reach agreement on those terms of reference.  The IAMB functions essentially in the way that a modern Audit Committee functions in a large public corporation.

Concerning the question on the Trust Fund, the word "control" is perhaps not really the correct term.  The Bank has functioned, in other post-conflict situations, as what we might call either a fiscal agent or an administrator of the Fund.  This is a largely fiduciary responsibility.  It's a question of mobilizing the funds, keeping track of the numbers, keeping track of who put in what, and making sure that people have an account of what was put in.  In other words, perhaps it's more akin to your own bank, which provides you a record of your deposits and perhaps of checks and withdrawals that you have made.

How we use your money, after you've gone to the ATM machine is a different question, and that's not something that the World Bank has in other cases or in this case intending to control or determine.  That's very much a question for the parties that deposited that money to determine what they want to do in dialogue with the Iraqi administration.

But what we try to do is to essentially be the bank account providing you with those reports.  Once you pull your money out of the ATM, it's a different story, and we don't have any control over that.

QUESTION:  (Off mike.)  (Inaudible.)

MR. SABA:  That's up to the donors to decide.  What we're going to do is try to present models for that to them, and if that's what they wish, then we're happy to perform that task within our own rules and our ability to provide those services.  But that hasn't yet been determined, and we have an obligation right now to make certain, specific proposals to them as to how this account will work.

MR. POORTMAN:  Yes, sir?  Over there.

QUESTION:  (Interpreted from Arabic)  You have provided specific information--in your reports you provide very accurate information concerning the diagnosis of the situation in Iraq and the needs, and you always avoid presenting figures.  Can we find out, for example, what are the financial requirements for the Bank?  How much is required to rebuild Iraq?  What are the three most important sectors which are accorded priorities and what are the periods required for that?

And what is the situation also in Gaza and the West Bank with regards to the Bank's operations?

Thank you.

MR. POORTMAN:  Well, there are a number of questions--sorry, a number of, yes, questions in your question.  I will ask Joe to speak to some of these.  Let me just say that we're not--and I apologize if you have the impression that we're always avoiding mentioning figures.  The point that we were trying to make and the point I was trying to make one of the earlier questions is that it is very important--and again, we talk here from experience in other similar situations that we do do a good job in making the assessment.

This is not easy.  This is not a matter of just tallying up numbers.  There are requirements, and there are many requirements and they need to be--at least recommendations need to be made about priority.  They need to be sequences.  There are questions about capacity as to how much can be implemented at the same time.  So this is a rather painstaking process.  And we're in this process with a number of partners who all need to be involved and have been asked to be involved.

And then as I mentioned in the final analysis, very importantly, we need to discuss these recommendations in the first instance with the Iraqi authorities, who have been involved in this process but who should also be speaking to and reviewing what our final recommendations are.  So this is a process that takes a certain amount of time, although as Joe said, if you look at the timeframe that has gone by in order to put this initial assessment together, I think it's gone pretty quickly, particularly if one keeps in mind the difficulty in obtaining some of the numbers and the figures.

But these numbers will be coming out shortly.  As I said and as Mr. Wolfensohn said, we expect in the next two to three weeks in the run-up to the meeting in Madrid these numbers will be made available, and until such time I think it's better not to talk about these numbers and wait until this final consultation process has been completed.  So we're not trying to hide anything.  It's just a process that needs to run its course.  That's the way it is.

Joe, you want to say something?

MR. SARBIB:  Yes, sure.  But at the same time I think it's, as Mr. Wolfensohn said yesterday, I think it's pretty clear that making sure that people have power, making sure that people have drinking water that is safe to drink, making sure that the kids can go to school and find teachers there and teaching material, making sure that there is a modicum of what the doctors and the nurses need in hospitals, making sure that there is a functioning administration, those are likely to be the priorities.  Because the return to a normal life for the people of Iraq is clearly what we hope to see happen very, very rapidly.

What we don't know is how much it will cost to get there.  And obviously, how much it will cost will depend to the ambition of your objectives.  If you want to reach the Millennium Development Goals in one year, it's a number.  If you want to reach it in 15 years, it's a number.  If you want to reach it in five years, it's another number.  And as Joe and Craig have said, the capacity of the administration to function and to function in a very different context, because we're going to go from an IMD administration and I-tell-you to the IMD administration and I-serve-you.  This is not an insignificant change in the mind-frame and in the skills that are needed to function.

So yes, the people of Iraq working in the administrations are very competent technically, but they have learned to function in a system which is a command-and-control system and not a listen-and-serve system.  And we hope that the transition will also be one that will make a difference in the everyday life of the people of the country.

MR. POORTMAN:  Nigel, you want to maybe from there say something?  You need to get the microphone.  This is Nigel Roberts, our country director for West Bank and Gaza.

MR. ROBERTS:  Yes, thanks.  There was a question about the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.

MR. POORTMAN:  Stand up and--

MR. ROBERTS:  The short answer to that is the situation in the West Bank and Gaza is both tragic and dangerous.  The Palestinian people are under tremendous economic pressure at the moment.  This makes it imperative for the donor community, which includes the Bank as a very active participant, that we retain our focus on the kind of assistance that we've been providing since the beginning of the peace process some 10 years ago now, but very intensively during the period of the intifada.  That is to say the last three years.

It would be very easy for the international community to lose their focus amid a growing sense of disappointment, and also in light of the needs that are emerging from many other areas of the world.  But I think all of us need to keep that focus that we've had and to retain that lifeline of economic development for the Palestinian people, because that, as much as anything, is what has stood between them and really very severe levels of suffering.

MR. POORTMAN:  All right, are there any more questions?  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  I'm from Dubai Satellite Channel.  Taking into consideration the large Iraqi foreign debt and the large amounts of money needed to rebuild Iraq, will the World Bank play any role of easing these debts?

MR. POORTMAN:  Do you want to--

MR. SABA:  Essentially, the question of the debt is being looked at in terms of, first, quantifying it, Paris Club, non-Paris Club, UNCC, that is the Claims Commission and the debts that are accumulated there.  The Bank, basically this is not the primary function of the Bank.  The Bank looks at the debt in terms of commands on--looks at the debt in terms of commands on Iraq's resources.  But it is not fundamentally the work of the Bank to involve itself in debt forgiveness in that sense.

MR. POORTMAN:  Let me just go to the back there.  Yes, sir?

QUESTION:  How do you think the continuous disruption of the Iraqi oil pipes will reflect on the Donor Conference in Madrid next month?

And do you think the idea of issuing international bonds against Iraqi oil is acceptable in the current circumstances?  Thank you.

MR. POORTMAN:  I will make a stab.  I mean, the pipeline interruptions, I mean it's--what shall I say?  I don't think it's a topic, per se, that is going to be discussed at the donor conference.  It clearly has a short-term, and hopefully not too long-term impact on the capacity of the country to generate the kind of revenues that one would like to see a country generate as a contribution to its--and the financing of its, first of all, its daily needs.  But then--and recurrent needs.  But also make a contribution towards these capital investments that needs to take place.

But it's not an issue, per se, that's going to be discussed at the conference.

Do you have something on the bonds?

MR. SABA:  There are two issues.  It's actually an extremely interesting issue, but the primary question is how will Iraq reconcile its needs, its available resources, and then of course the debts?  The question, perhaps, is akin, to use an analogy, a young man who has a trust fund and the young man has fallen into some extreme difficulties.  Now, if we want that young man to get back out into society, to be productive, and to continue a normal life, we all need to find some way for that man to preserve his assets to some extent, to get his debts paid, but also to get back to a functioning life.

So this really is the main goal of the exercise, and we're going to need some rather interesting and sophisticated financial engineering to get that done.

The question then will become, when you look at debts, when you look at UNCC claims, when you look at large international lending, the question then will come into technical matters concerning negative pledges.  And I think that we're going to have to wait for some very clever lawyers and financial engineers to see how we can best do that.

I think what's important, though, from our point of view when we look at needs assessment, is that we are able to tell the international community what's necessary to get that young man going again.  And we, in turn, have to ask the international community to try to help to schedule this in a way that makes it possible for him to continue to have access to his resources in order to get himself back on his feet.  So this is going to take some work.

Fortunately, U.N. Security Counsel Resolution 1483 at least gave us through calendar year 2004 to get that done.  So it remains to be seen how that will come about.

MR. POORTMAN:  I'll take one more question, because we have another event starting at 10 o'clock.  I think--well, yes, sir?

QUESTION:  Ibrahim Khayat al-Khayat (ph).

Iraq has $300 billion request for compensation.  $50 billion have been agreed by the U.N. until now.  $19 billion have been paid.  How are you going to tackle, or at least make proposals, to sort out this issue?  Because it's even more important than the debts themselves.

MR. SABA:  Well, first, it's not a World Bank issue.  But there are forum and there are precedents for doing it.  As an example, the Hague Claims Tribunal.  There are processes in place for doing this.  It takes a certain amount of time.  But in any event, it's not something the Bank is tasked with doing.

QUESTION:  (Off mike.)  (Inaudible.)

MR. SABA:  Frankly, as I mentioned two minutes ago, this is--we do certain things, a needs assessment.  And we're trying to reconcile that with the available resource package.  We're looking to the international community also for some help to make that kind of proposal.

But that's something the Bank itself does not do.

MR. POORTMAN:  Well, thank you very much.

Before you leave, I'd like to leave two messages with you.  We have two events which have a bearing on the--very much a bearing on the Middle East and North Africa region.  First of all, now, at 10 o'clock, in Hall 8, there will be a roundtable on the MENA's employment challenge in the 21st century, which you might find interesting to attend.

And then, at four o'clock, in Hall 5, there will be a presentation, a discussion, on women in the public sphere.  Both of these topics, as you know, topics of two of the reports of the four that I mentioned to you.  So I can recommend them for your attention.

Thank you very much.

(Whereupon, at 9:57 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)