|You see a major Jordanian camp for Syrians refugees in Zaatari; the EBRD sees a development opportunity.|
Now, though, comes an element of "mission creep": with Middle East turmoil driving millions upon millions of refugees to European shores, the EBRD is now tasked with helping staunch this massive flow of humanity. How? By promoting economic development in Middle Eastern countries that are currently hosting large numbers of refugees:
This realization has prompted the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development to find a new calling: crisis development. Created after the fall of the Berlin Wall to help Europe's ex-communist nations become market economies, the EBRD controversially moved on to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia after the Arab Spring. Last summer, as he watched TV coverage of refugees coming to Europe, the bank's president, Suma Chakrabarti, told me he saw "an opportunity to show we are relevant to crisis situations." Now Lebanon has applied for EBRD membership.Thus went the call for funding for Middle East projects:
In October, Chakrabarti says he got the EBRD's board to agree to a new approach. It would help stabilize refugee host countries by corralling funds and private investors to deal with the consequences of sudden population explosions and treat them as a development opportunity. On Wednesday, he announced a 900-million euro program. "We're ready to go," says Chakrabarti. All that's required is for donor countries to provide 400 million euros, and for the host countries to cooperate.Jordan is currently one of the targeted nations given its massive population surge from refugees settling there:
In 2010, the population of Lebanon was around 4.3 million. By last summer the CIA estimated that figure at 6.2 million, mostly because of refugees from Syria. It is, said Lebanon's education minister Elias Bou Saab, as though 32 million people had suddenly descended on Britain...Maybe it should now be called the EMEBRD--the European and Middle Eastern Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Start with sewage. Already straining, Jordan's system can't cope with 1.4 million extra Syrians, so the first EBRD project would strengthen the network in the Zarqa River area, north of Amman. Then landfills - they're full. New ones have to be built.
Jordan, the second most water-poor country on earth, has had to halve cistern deliveries in some areas. Leaking water pipes need repair. Four hundred schools are running double shifts -- local kids in the morning, Syrians in the afternoon. More schools need to be built. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Transportation systems are overrun. Digging landfills and laying pipes is labor intensive, as is building schools and hospitals -- which is good. The work can employ both locals and Syrians.