G8 pledges billions for Arab nations
Marseille - Arab states that ousted their dictators got a financial
shot in the arm Saturday with promises of tens of billion of dollars to
help their rocky transformation into modern democracies.
G8 rich nations and institutions including the World
Bank, the IMF, regional banks and the Arab Monetary Fund pledged nearly
$80 billion in aid and loans over the next two years, doubling the
amount promised earlier this year.
French Finance Minister Francois Baroin announced the
massive increase at a Group of Eight finance ministers' meeting in
Marseille, where close by up to 1,000 demonstrators gathered to protest
against austerity measures.
The money is earmarked to support reform and help new
governments weather short-term economic instability in the wake of
popular uprisings that began in Tunisia and toppled its strongman leader
before spreading to Egypt and Libya.
"We are facing an historical transformational moment,
and while there are downsides, there is enormous enthusiasm,"
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde told reporters here.
Jordan and Morocco, which have not faced popular
revolutions but whose kings have promised steps towards deeper
democracy, joined the so-called Deauville Partnership after the initial
members Egypt and Tunisia.
Representatives from the four states were in Marseille
on Saturday to explain to donors and lenders how they planned to
relaunch their economies and to hear what help they can expect from the
world's major economic powers.
Officials from Libya's new government -- whose fighters
have taken control of most of their country but are still battling
remnants of strongman Moamer Kadhafi's forces -- were also in the
southern French city as observers.
Libya is not yet a formal member of the Deauville
Parternship -- named after the French town that hosted the G8 meeting in
May -- but has been promised it will be added to the list soon.
Its transitional government got a boost Saturday when
the IMF said it now formally recognises it, paving the way for the
fledgling administration to benefit from the IMF's financial help.
"The fund stands ready to help the authorities through
technical assistance, policy advice, and financial support if requested,
as they begin to rebuild Libya's economy," IMF chief Lagarde said.
"The new authorities will also need to quickly restore
oil production to generate revenues, stabilise the currency,
re-establish a payment system, introduce sound public financial
management, and start reforms to foster a more inclusive and sustainable
growth for the benefit of all Libyan citizens."
IMF staff are ready to travel to Libya for an initial fact-finding mission as soon as security conditions allow, Lagarde said.
This week both Egypt and Tunisia -- which are due to
hold elections before the end of the year -- said they had so far
received little or nothing despite the grand promises made by the G8 in
Tunisia's Finance Minister Jalloul Ayed told the
Financial Times that his country had received not a penny, while his
Egyptian counterpart said only $500 million had come through.
"We understand this frustration," an official from a
major financial institution said Saturday in Marseille. But the donors
and lenders "need to know who (in the new Arab administrations) they are
France's Baroin said that while no deadline for
delivering the financial aid had been drawn up, it should be released
"as soon as possible."
"These are not just words," he said. "This is concrete, it will be fast."
Officials from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were also at the meeting in Marseille.
Before turning their attention to the Arab Spring, the
finance ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan,
and the United States on Friday vowed tough measures Friday to get the
global economy back on track.
But they were short on detail and admitted the problems were so complex that a unified response was impossible.
The gathering came as stock market turmoil returned to
the United States and Europe after the resignation of the European
Central Bank's top economist fuelled fears over the continent's debt
Up to 1,000 protesters gathered a few hundreds metres
away to demonstrate against austerity plans under the slogan "People
first, not finance."
Unions, left-wing party members and about 40 associations were represented in the crowd.
"It's important to unite during the G8, because the
decisions being made to fight the crisis are going against the people.
Other ways are possible," said French CGT union official Patrice