By Massoud Derhally
The World Bank approved yesterday a US $10 million credit to improve the access and quality of basic social services in poor and remote communities in the West Bank and Gaza.
The World Bank approved yesterday a US$10 million credit to improve the access and quality of basic social services in poor and remote communities in the West Bank and Gaza by strengthening the role of local municipalities and village councils in delivering these services. The credit will finance an Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP) which aims to engage local governments in managing small-scale civil works projects for roads, water supply, schools and clinics with active participation of residents. The ICDP is among a series of projects to tap into the World Bank's special trust fund for development assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, which was established in 1994. The credit is issued on standard International Development Association (IDA) terms with a 40-year maturity and 10-year grace period. The ICDP is based on the World Bank's short- to medium-term strategy of focusing on poverty reduction in the West Bank and Gaza while supporting emergency interventions in the current conflict. With approximately 75 per cent of the West Bank's poor population residing in rural or outlying areas, local governments are seen as playing an important role in stimulating the local economy. According to the World Bank, 45 to 50 per cent of the total Palestinian population is living below the poverty line of $2 per person per day, while per capita real income declined by12 percent in 2000, and an additional 19 per cent in 2001. One component of the project will finance about 100 community development projects prepared by local officials in consultation with residents -- using local contractors, materials and labourers to stimulate the economy in municipalities and villages. The project will also address agricultural needs by upgrading existing irrigation networks and improving terraces and wells. At a later stage, the ICDP plans to establish telecenters in 10 low-income communities covering a total population of at least 75,000. The telecenters will offer residents public access to internet and computer-based training, providing youth and women in particular with marketable job skills.