World Bank resumes cooperation

The World Bank has resumed full economic cooperation with Cote d'Ivoire, the bank's office in Abidjan announced on Friday, one day after the country paid in full arrears amounting to FCFA 31 billion (US $44.5 million) that it owed the institution.

Mamadou Dia, head of operations in Abidjan, said at a news conference in the Ivorian commercial capital that the arrears were paid via a bridge financing that involved the Central Bank of West African States and the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements. The debt settlement will allow "the total resumption of disbursements for all of the World Bank's portfolios in Cote d'Ivoire totalling an as-yet undisbursed sum of FCFA 200 billions (about US $270 million)", Dia said. It will also permit the Ivorian government to benefit from new loans and credits, render the country eligible for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative, and allow it to implement a multisectorial HIV/AIDS programme.

The World Bank stopped funding Cote d'Ivoire in October 2000 after the then military-led government failed to make payments for over 60 days on the arrears.

Friday's announcement is the latest indication of an improvement in relations between the country and international lenders, many of whom had severed ties with Abidjan in recent years.

The aid freeze, which started in 1998 when the European Union suspended disbursements following the embezzlement of some FCFA 18 billion (US $24.3 million), worsened in the aftermath of the December 1999 coup d'etat. Analysts agree that efforts toward socio-political and macroeconomic reforms, begun by the current government, are slowly paying off. The European Union is expected to resume full cooperation by the end of this quarter.