By Nafisa Eltahir
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – The World Bank will shortly begin allocating roughly $ 2 billion in grants to Sudan, said a bank clerk who marks the country’s return to the international financial system after decades of isolation.
The priority areas for the funds will be set after the meetings early next month and the allocations would take into account a peace agreement signed last year, said Ousmane Dione, World Bank country director for Sudan.
The peace deal, signed between the transitional government and several of the groups that fought across the country against ousted President Omar al-Bashir, involves substantial development spending.
In a statement on Friday, the Sudanese cabinet highlighted agriculture, infrastructure, health and education as priority investment areas.
“It is extremely important to ensure that these resources are used where they can help reduce the gap between the center and the periphery,” Dione said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday.
While the Sudanese government is expected to “take the driver’s seat” for these projects, they could include partnerships with the private sector where it is beneficial, he added.
The World Bank’s International Development Agency (IDA) committed on Friday to provide the US $ 2 billion in grants over the next two years.
The new funding was made possible through the clearing of Sudan’s arrears at the bank, facilitated by a US $ 1.15 billion bridging loan that the World Bank repaid.
“Sudan is currently responsible for ensuring that the country does not default on IDA,” said Dione, adding that the country will not be liable for the bridging loan. Sudan has been allocated a direct budget of $ 215 million to cushion the government’s fiscal burden, he said.
The government decision after Bashir’s fall has carried out painful economic reforms, including cutting energy subsidies and currency devaluation as the country implements an IMF-overseen program amid an economic crisis.
Under Bashir, Sudan’s ability to attract foreign credit and investment dried up, and external debt accumulated, valued by the IMF at $ 50 billion.
Sudan hopes to start a debt relief process in June.
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