Jordan, World Bank sign $200-million financing agreement

Amman– The Jordanian Government and the World Bank (WB), on Tuesday, signed a soft loan and grant agreement worth $200 million to support the budget and finance a reform program targeting the education sector in the Kingdom. The agreement was inked by Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Fakhoury and Vice-President of the World Bank for Middle East and North Africa Hafez Ghanem.

Under the agreement, the WB will extend a $147.7-million concessional loan, in addition to a $52.3-million grant provided through the Global Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF), Fakhoury said following the signing ceremony. The grant was approved by the GCFF Steering Committee at the end of October.

The repayment period of the loan extends over 35 years and includes a grace period of five years and a favorable interest rate, the minister added.

He pointed out that the funding will be directed to the general budget with a value of $192 million. It also includes a technical support component for the Education Ministry worth $8 million and in line with the National Strategy for Human Resource Development 2016-2025.

The first installment of this program will be transferred at a value of $77 million to the treasury before the end of this month.

Fakhoury added that the results-oriented program will assist the Education Ministry to implement its new five-year plan, which is based on the National Strategy for Human Resource Development for the years 2026-2016.

The plan will focus on the following priorities: expanding access to and improving quality of early childhood education, improving children’s teaching and learning conditions, reforming the student assessment system and certification, and strengthening the management of the education system, according to the minister.

The Planning Minister noted that it is expected that the number of beneficiaries of the program will reach about 700,000 students taking into consideration that Jordan provides government education services not only to Jordanians, but also to Syrian refugees. It will also provide training for more than 30,000 teachers.

Fakhoury expressed appreciation for the World Bank and the donor bodies’ support to Jordan and its development programmes.

The WB official said: “Quality education is at the center of the economic and social development process, and that is why we are delighted to sign today’s agreement to be partners with Jordan in carrying out its ambitious reforms.” Fakhoury said GCFF was launched last year by the World Bank, the UN and the Islamic Development Bank with the supported of Japan, the UK, Germany, Canada, the US, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the EU.

He added that this facility came in response to Jordan’s official request to the World Bank in the spring of 2015 to find innovative and affordable financing mechanisms to respond to the needs of high middle income countries affected by conflicts and crises, such as Jordan and Lebanon, which are not eligible for concessional financing.

The signing ceremony was attended by Minister of Education Omar Razzaz and representatives of the main donor countries and organisations in the Kingdom.

Jordan hosts around 1.3 million Syrian refugees, who have put very high pressure on the basic services provided to them and to host communities, said Fakhoury, adding that “as our countries are already facing financial and economic challenges and slowing growth rates. Hence, this initiative to alleviate the costs of soft loans provided under this initiative”.

Jordan has benefited to date from this mechanism by $167.7 million in the form of grants with very soft loans amounting to $ 868.7 million from the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development with an interest rate ranging between 1-2% and long repayment periods in line with the public debt policy.

Source: Jordan News Agency