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AP Interview: World Bank head looks at Lebanon aid

September 4, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The World Bank is helping Lebanon prepare the ground to request an influx of international aid to offset the high costs of the spillover from the Syrian civil war, President Jim Yong Kim told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Kim said in an interview that the Lebanese government asked the World Bank to take the lead in preparing a quick assessment of the social and economic impacts of the war in neighboring Syria. This analysis will be presented during a Sept. 25 meeting of an international support group for Lebanon at the United Nations General Assembly.

Kim said the bank made a “very intensive effort” to finish the assessment in a few weeks, something that normally would take six to nine months.

Lebanon is hoping the World Bank’s stamp on the analysis will underpin its request for aid from individual donor countries as well as international agencies. It will look at the enormous strains the Syrian conflict is putting on Lebanese tourism, trade, health, education and the burden on ordinary citizens.

“We have been preparing the path so that the global community can support Lebanon,” Kim said, adding that he hopes funds will begin to flow once the assessment is presented at the U.N. The analysis was prepared in cooperation with U.N. agencies and the European Union, potential donors, but the World Bank led the effort.

The bank is looking for partners to provide grants to alleviate some of the strain on Lebanon’s economy, government budget and infrastructure.

Lebanon, a country of about 4 million people, is grappling with an influx of more than a million refugees from Syria.

The World Bank said it could not provide a dollar figure for the aid Lebanon might request but the assessment is meant to help determine how much is needed now. It said the aid will augment help Lebanon gets from the U.N. refugee agency specifically to help with the costs of the refugees.

However, the conflict is now permeating the fabric of Lebanese society and the country feels broader assistance is needed.

The World Bank is already providing aid to Jordan, another Syrian neighbor, to help offset the costs of caring for hundreds of thousands more Syrian refugees. The bank provides loans and other assistance to developing countries with the goal of alleviating poverty.

Kim also said he was concerned that an escalation of the Syrian conflict would cause even greater human suffering and could disrupt access to oil, increasing prices and hurting the world’s poor.

President Barack Obama is seeking the support of the U.S. Congress for military action to punish the Syrian regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb last month.

“An increase in oil prices has very far reaching potential impacts on the well-being of especially the most vulnerable,” he said.

“We would plead for all parties to really think hard about the human impact of any actions that are taken.”

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