Soros in Kosovo joint venture with World Bank

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Wed Nov 17 09:41:29 PST 1999

[If the name includes "Open Society," it must be Soros. From the World Bank's daily clipping service.]

KOSOVO SECURES COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FUNDS. The World Bank and the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society (KFOS) yesterday announced a new fund which will provide small loans to help rebuild communities in Kosovo, Reuters reports. The new fund, called the Kosovo Community Development Fund, expects to have financing of $20 million to allow it to provide loans backing small-scale infrastructure projects, programs for youth, war widows, the elderly and disabled, and loans for small businesses, among other things. Loans provided by the fund, the first operation financed by the World Bank in Kosovo, will be for a maximum of $75,000.

Meanwhile, the EU today promised to give more than $500 million to the fund to finance the long-term reconstruction of Kosovo as an international donors meeting began in Brussels, Reuters says in a separate report. The World Bank and the European Commission estimate the task will cost $2.3 billion in the next five years alone. But World Bank regional director Chris Poortman, the meeting's co-chairman, said the priority would be on finding an estimated $1.1 billion for 2000.

"There's a certain amount of frontloading to this program to get it started," Poortman told reporters before the meeting began. Funds are urgently needed to repair houses and power supplies destroyed during NATO's 11-week campaign to evict Serbian forces.

More than half the aid is expected to come from the EU and its member states after the US paid for most of the military campaign, the story notes. "We will commit $519.7 million today in the donors' conference for Kosovo," European foreign relations commissioner Chris Patten told a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

UN administration head Bernard Kouchner yesterday appealed to governments for generous financial contributions to put people in the province to work and decrease the level of violence despite concerns about continued ethnically motivated attacks. Officials at the UN mission are particularly anxious to secure funding for public sector jobs as the administration is not yet in a position to collect nearly enough revenue to pay teachers, doctors, and clerks proper salaries. An estimated 65,000 public sector workers will be on the administration's payroll for the foreseeable future, according to World Bank and IMF estimates.

There is frustration in Kosovo that budgetary support pledged at an earlier donors meeting in Brussels in July has not been released, says the story. Poortman told reporters that of the $2.2 billion pledged at that meeting, $1.7 billion had been committed but only $920,000 had been spent, mainly on humanitarian aid.

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