Thursday,14 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)
Thursday,14 December, 2017
Issue 1168, (10 - 16 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Bank help on human development

A World Bank delegation visited Egypt last week to advise on government plans to enhance social welfare, writes Noha Moustafa

Al-Ahram Weekly

A delegation of high-ranking World Bank officials visited the offices of the Egyptian ministers of health, international cooperation, insurance and social affairs and finance last week in order to advise on the government’s plans to improve its services in healthcare, nutrition and population, social protection and labour, and formal and technical education.
Members of the delegation had come from the Bank’s headquarters in Washington to join the Cairo team in what they described as a “human development task”, as they put their assignment.
Addressing the media at World Bank premises in Cairo at the end of their visit, the delegation members said they wanted to restart talks with the transitional government and to explore opportunities for cooperation on funding and technical assistance.
Regarding healthcare, nutrition and population, Enis Baris, the sector manager, said that the bank had allocated $75 million since 2009 to establish the infrastructure for a database for a government health insurance project.
However, because of delays in issuing the relevant legislation the project had not gone off the ground.
“We have been working with the last four governments on how to develop the health insurance system,” Baris said. “We are currently trying to restructure the initial plans of the project and to discuss the most suitable plan for implementation.”
Alaa Hamed, a senior health specialist at the World Bank in Cairo, said that the initial plans had had to be altered as the relevant health insurance law had not been drafted.
During its meetings with the four ministries, the delegation had agreed to use project funds for health services in poor and rural areas. These projects would later be identified by the government.
Yasser Al-Gammal, the bank’s social protection and labour sector manager, said that a World Bank financed public works project that had been agreed upon in June 2012 was now up and running and was expected to be supported by an additional 70 million euros from the European Union.
Al-Gammal said that such projects were now even more important, given the current economic slowdown. The project finances a number of public works in rural areas, such as clearing canals and paving roads. A major aim is to create job opportunities for young people, who are able to gain work and training and to improve infrastructure at the same time.
The main partner in this project is the Social Fund for Development (SFD) that works through different ministries in various governorates. The SFD has already signed contracts estimated at LE200-250 million.
Al-Gamal said that his sector also cooperated with NGOs in financing other job-creation projects, notably training for girls and women that helped to tackle illiteracy and improved the care received by elderly people.
Such projects are mainly aimed at the unskilled and aim to provide them with job opportunities in the private sector by helping to match market needs with the supply of labour.
The government aimed to expand such projects as part of its larger social welfare programme, Al-Gammal said. During the bank’s meeting with Minister of Finance Ahmed Galal, it had been stressed that the government wanted to expand such projects in order to create job opportunities and reduce unemployment, he said.
Another project that the World Bank will provide technical support for is the restructuring of the social security system, helping to design a more effective system that will involve the setting up of a comprehensive database and manage a cash transfer system.
This system will provide cash payments to poorer households, helping them with the costs of children’s healthcare and education, for example. The government intends to start implementing the programme next year.
“Putting such a database together will need the cooperation of the whole government system. And if there is political determination, and I believe there is, it will be possible to do it,” Al-Gammal said.

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