Parliament Cooperating with the World Bank
Interview by: Omid Memarian
Published in Jahan-e- Sanaat ( World of industry)
28th July 2004
Christian Poortman, Vice President of WB for MENA Region, accompanied by high ranking Bank officials, attend the inaugural ceremony of the Persian-SpeakingGender & Development Network, sponsored by the Bank on 18 July. In his one week stay in Iran He also met with number of Ministers and MPs during and believes that the cooperation with the Bank is in agenda for the new Parliament.
Iran resumed its relation with the Bank during the course of Rafsanjani Presidency. What is your key mission in your cooperation with Iran?
Fighting with poverty is our main task which is pursued in our projects in Iran. However, the machinery differs in each country. In Recent years we have developed and concluded our economic assessments in Iran where we should have comprehensive understanding of economic challenges to further develop the international cooperation. Iran in its turn should learn the international mechanism to take advantage of economic opportunities. Tackling the poverty is the key issue.
- In some developing countries, there is negative perception of bank policies on development projects. This might be the result of what is happening with Latin American countries, e.g. Argentina.
This might not be an accurate conclusion of the Banks activities in most countries. The Bank has good relation with the governments and carries out projects which are beneficial to people (e.g. South East Asia). Those who are happy do not express themselves but unsatisfied countries speak up. Nonetheless our policies are based on studies on economic infra-structure and facilities which in some cases the policies might not be in line with the political context. People usually do not like the bad news regardless of benefits in the long run. Privatization is one of our major policy which proved to increase productivity followed by economic boom, depending to the infra structural condition and regulations. However, privatization is followed by price increase and short term unemployment which entails good management. Governments are not ready to risk on what generates short term un-satisfaction. Consultation is provided by the Bank, but it is up to the government to decide. We have carried out projects on water & Sewage and were among the primary organizations initiated working in Bam. we hope undertaking projects would at least develops realistic and positive understanding of Banks policies in Iran.
-US has influenced Banks Policy to the extent that WB is considered to be an American entity.
Perhaps, The main reason is due to the location of the Banks Head office at Washington and the fact that the major share holder of the Bank is US. However 180 other countries are among the share holders and can influence the decision makings. Therefore we are an international institution composed of multinational and multi cultural member staff.
-It appears Iran’s request for credit was hampered due to US ban. Is this true?
Since last years… we provided more than 1 billion USD worth of credits to Iran. Therefore US rejection is possible but there are also other members have a say, when projects have technical justifications, they are approved. The indication is the growth of the amount of credits provided by the Bank.
-Do you consider political situation a major factor influencing decision making in the Bank? Being democratic or otherwise?
As it is mentioned in the Letter of Association of the Bank, endorsed by all members including Iran, WB is an economic entity with no political connotations. The credibility of the countries and nature of the projects are prioritized. The feasibility of economic projects is our major concern.
-As a high ranking WB figure, what is y our assessment of cooperation with Iran?
In recent years we were studying economic situation to have better understanding of the context. We initiated some projects; however the slow pace of the procedures of implementation is disappointing. The process of calling for Tender to be according to the banks regulations where Iranians are not so familiar should be outlined as to be causing constant delays. Yet we are now on the right track and hope that the significance of this cooperation is highlighted.
- Political changes brings about economic changes specially in Iran where these two are tightly linked;what changes are to be expected in your policies towards Iran after recent political alteration?
following several meetings with MPs and Ministries we come to the conclusion that no major economic policy changes are in agenda towards cooperation with The Bank. The new officials are also favoring Banks projects in the framework of the 5 year development plans.