Arab News – 26 June, 2008
World Bank President Robert Zoellick has backed Custodian of the Two Holy
Mosques King Abdullah’s energy-for-the poor initiative and said the bank
would work with Saudi Arabia to support the $ 1 billion program.
“We will work with the Saudi government to explore how best to support the
initiative announced by King Abdullah to address the energy needs of the
world’s poorest countries,” said Zoellick. “The combination of high fuel and
energy costs is having a devastating impact on the poor, putting a huge
burden on the one billion people who live on less than $ 1 a day and many of
whom spend two-thirds of their income on food for their families and on
energy and transport.”
King Abdullah announced the initiative while opening a meeting of oil
producers and consumers at Jeddah Hilton on Sunday. He called on the Saudi
Fund for Development to allocate $ 500 million in loans for the energy needs
of developing countries.
“World Bank research suggests that high energy prices will result in
economic growth in about 40 developing countries being between three and 10
percent lower than it would have been otherwise – affecting millions of
people,” Zoellick said stressing the significance of the king’s initiative.
In his keynote speech at the energy summit, King Abdullah said: “I call for
launching an ‘Energy-for-the-Poor’ initiative. Its aim will be to enable
developing countries to confront the increasing costs of energy, and I call
on the World Bank to organize a meeting as soon as possible for donor
countries and regional and international financial institutions to discuss
and activate this initiative.”
Suleiman Al-Harbash, secretary-general of the OPEC Fund for International
Development, said King Abdullah’s directive to the Ministerial Council of
the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to commit $ 1
billion to the initiative would help more than 100 countries to carry out
new energy projects.
He said an extraordinary meeting of OPEC’s ministerial council would be
convened to approve the initiative.
“Once the $ 1 billion initiative is approved, the amount will be given to
projects related to energy production in poor countries such as setting up
power plants and building dams to generate electricity,” Al-Harbash said,
adding that the beneficiaries would include African, Asian and Latin
“We have received applications for loans from several countries and we
finance projects in association with other international funds such as World
Bank, Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Fund for Development, Kuwait Fund for
Arab Economic Development and Arab African Fund,” he explained.
Ever since its establishment in 1976, the OPEC Fund has provided $ 9 billion
in loans to finance development projects in more than 100 countries, he
said, adding that about 20 percent of the amount was allocated for energy
projects. Saudi Arabia is the largest contributor to the fund with a stake
of 35 percent.