- After failing to fund the last elected government of Guinea-Bissau before it collapsed, the World Bank has now pledged to strengthen its financial assistance to the troubled nation. The Bank's Vice-President promised fresh funds to help Guinea-Bissau to leave its economic crisis behind during a visit to the country.
World Bank Vice-President Gobin Nakani was on an official visit to Guinea-Bissau when making these promises to the government. In Bissau, Mr Nakani met with transitional President Henrique Rosa. After the meeting, the World Bank official told the press in Bissau that he had promised to provide Guinea-Bissau with more financial aid.
Mr Nakani however added that the final decision on how much fresh funds would be released to the Bissau-Guinean government would only be made at the next meeting of the administrative board of the World Bank. He did not give any date for when this meeting was to be held.
- In Washington, we will discuss with the board of the Bank what kind of mechanisms will be used to increase the financing of sectors such as infrastructure, health, education and rural development, the World Bank's Vice-President promised.
Mr Nakani further confirmed that the Washington-based institution would take on responsibility to assist the government of Guinea-Bissau in the successful organising of an upcoming donor conference for the country. There are plans for such a conference to be held in Lisbon in February.
During the government of ex-President Kumba Yala - who was democratically elected to take over from a military regime in Bissau in 2000 - the World Bank was heavily criticised for not assisting the country sufficiently to overcome its crisis. Guinea-Bissau had just lived through a period of civil war and military coups.
During the Yala regime, a rapidly declining economy slowly led to the dissolution of state authority. Unable to pay civil servants and the country's armed troops, opposition against President Yala got out of control. Faced with bankruptcy, President Yala was overthrown in a bloodless coup in September 2003.
Meanwhile, the new rulers in Bissau are in the process of re-establishing all democratic structures in the country. Despite aid pledges from potential development partners and financial institutions, the government of Guinea-Bissau has so far only received a very limited financial aid from abroad.
Foreign Affairs Minister of Guinea-Bissau, Soares Sambu, earlier this month warned that the slow response to aid pleads by his government could result in new political crises in the country. According to Minister Sambu, "there is a strong pressure from the international community for the [Bissau] authorities to fulfil a number of requirements."
However, these requirements had been coupled with aid pledges from the donor community, which were "not always followed up on," Mr Sambu said. "No matter how hard we are working on a domestic level and how our efforts develop, the potential of tensions still exists and remains latent," the Minister added.
The World Bank and the IMF have on several occasions been criticised for responding too slow to critical economic situations in Africa, especially in post-conflict countries where the situation yet has to stabilise. The Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau are often named as examples of this.
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