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Arab Reforms, Iraq Reconstruction  Top IMF-World Bank Summit Agenda - 2003-09-19


Reform in the Arab World and the reconstruction of Iraq will be on the agenda at the upcoming International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting in Dubai.

The annual IMF summit scheduled to formally begin on Tuesday is the first ever hosted by an Arab country and the region will likely be the center of attention.

A delegation from the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, including the ministers of planning and finance and the head of the Central Bank, will be in attendance for discussions of Iraq's economic future.

The IMF and World Bank both pulled out their personnel in Iraq after the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. But the IMF is still preparing a needs assessment on Iraq to be presented at an international donors conference in late October in Madrid.

Essam Montasser, a former advisor to the Kuwaiti Ministry of Finance, said the Iraqi council's presence in Dubai will be a partially symbolic display of the its international acceptance. The council recently received provisional approval from the Arab League, but no Arab country has yet recognized it.

Mr. Montasser predicted that the Iraqi Governing Council would eventually gain broad acceptance and that the IMF and World Bank would soon return to Iraq and work closely with the council.

I"t is in the best interests of everyone actually for the dust to settle down. Something constructive must come of this," he said. "I believe that gradually a new system will emerge and Iraq will stand on its feet."

The IMF's presence in Dubai coincides with the release of a World Bank report on Middle East development that emphasized the lack of good governance, which it said plagues the region. The report identified two main social values whose absence has stunted the economic development of Arab countries: namely inclusiveness and accountability. It also left open the possibility that evidence of such good governance may become a precondition for IMF financial assistance.

Mr. Montasser said that the IMF's plan for the Middle East reflects the recent international trend of blurring the lines between social, economic and political factors.

"After September 11, it was felt that something is wrong in the Arab region - wrong in all these social dimensions of economic reforms, also governance, human rights, freedom of independence, balance between government and civil society. It was felt that the existence of such imbalances, lack of human rights, was a breeding ground for some kinds of extremism," he said.

The actual two-day summit does not begin until Tuesday. But with participants already gathering in Dubai for preliminary meetings, the lead-up to summit the could prove eventful.

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