World Bank signs $400mn Deal to support 1.5 million Egyptian Families

Egypt signed Friday with the World Bank Group a US$400 million agreement for a project aimed to benefit 1.5 million poor Egyptian families.

The agreement was signed between Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation Naglaa Al-Ahwany and Hafez Ghanem, the Bank’s regional vice president for the Middle East and North Africa.

Earlier this year, Egypt’s government established conditional cash transfer projects called “Takaful and Karama” (Solidarity and Dignity).

Takaful targets poor families with children younger than 18 to send them to schools, while Karama targets the elderly and the disabled, so long as they can’t earn their living, according to the state TV online website.

Impoverished Upper Egypt is expected to benefit from the project that will insure children get access to education and healthcare, said Afrah Alawi Al-Ahmadi, World Bank senior social protection specialist and project team leader.

With staggering poverty rates reaching 26 percent of the population, Egypt remains one of the top 20 countries suffering from the prevalence of chronic malnutrition with a third of its children under the age of five stunted. In addition, at least quarter of children don’t enroll in basic education and up to half of them do not access secondary schools.

Takaful pays each family EGP 325 in addition to EGP 60-EGP 100 per child on a monthly basis, while Karama pays each elderly or disabled person EGP 350 per month.

However, inflation in Egypt has been accelerating, reaching 11.8 percent in March, the highest since the government cut fuel subsidies, raising prices up to 78 percent at the pump.

Both Egypt’s education and healthcare systems are rundown after years of negligence, conditions the government aims to improve by liberalising these sectors, raising concerns among some of further price hikes.

The World Bank believes the Talaful and Karama projects will “improve the targeting of the social safety net system, which is a critical element to accompany any reforms,” said Hafez Ghanem, the Bank’s regional vice president for the Middle East and North Africa.

The World Bank currently has 26 projects underway in Egypt at a value of US$5.4 billion.

Source: Ahram Online