CAIRO, August 6, 2009 — In her first country visit to the MENA Region since her appointment, the World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region Dr. Shamshad Akhtar visited Egypt during the period August 1-6, 2009.
“I am pleased to have Egypt as my first stop in the MENA Region. The visit offered an excellent opportunity to listen and learn more about the country’s priorities and how the World Bank can be of further support within the scope of our partnership strategy,” she said.
During her visit to Egypt, Dr. Akhtar signed on behalf of the World Bank the loan agreement in the amount of US$ 270 million for the Egyptian National Railways Restructuring Project (ENRRP). “Since the railways sector plays a significant role in the Egyptian economy, we are pleased to support the ongoing reforms that aim at creating safer and responsive rail services. This loan is in line with the Egypt-World Bank partnership strategy, in particular addresses the pillar of enhancing the provision of public services as a key objective to achieve sustainable growth,” Dr. Akhtar told the press after the signing.
The objective of ENRRP is to support the strategy of the Government of Egypt for improving the reliability, efficiency and safety of the railways’ services through signaling and track renewal investments by Egyptian National Railways (ENR) and the modernization of its management and operating practices in order to enhance the railways’ sector responsiveness to economic and social needs.
Prior to the signing, Dr. Akhtar met with H.E. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif during which they discussed a wide variety of issues in relation to Bank-Egypt partnering. During her visit, she also held discussions with a number of senior government officials including: H.E. Minister Fayza Aboul Naga, Minister of International Cooperation; H.E. Dr. Mahmoud Mohieddin, Minister of Investments, H.E. Dr. Youssef Boutrous-Ghali, Minister of Finance, H.E. Dr. Mohamed Nasr Allam, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation; and, H.E. Dr. Hatem El Gabaly, Minister of Health.
During the meetings, she commended the country’s progress in implementing economic reforms that have boosted growth, placed the country among the leading economic reformers and helped weather the impact of the global slowdown on the economy.
“The meetings were excellent opportunities to learn and to reaffirm the World Bank’s commitment to support Egypt as it moves towards strengthening the focus on equity and social reforms to address key challenges including quality of education, health insurance for all, and social safety nets, while consolidating and deepening the pro-growth agenda,” Dr. Akhtar added.
During her visit to Egypt, she also engaged in a dialogue with representatives of Egypt’s business and financial communities and discussed the impacts of the global financial crisis on private sector development and ways to further improve business environment in the coming period. She met with members of the National Council of Women led by Dr. Farkhonda Hassan, the Secretary General, as well as academics. Dr. Akhtar paid a courtesy call on the First Lady H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak.
Concluding her visit, Dr. Akhtar carried out a field visit to some successful microfinance projects funded by Social Fund for Development (SFD). She met with the entrepreneurs and listened to their success stories in overcoming challenges in the market and also commended their efforts and products.
“The partnership between the Egyptian Government and the World Bank has been exemplary over the past few years. The lessons learnt and the opportunities arising have created a solid foundation to deepen the partnership between the World Bank Group, the government, private sector and local communities to help increase opportunities for all Egyptians,” said Emmanuel Mbi, Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.