World Bank, Marshall Islands partner to reform telecom


The World Bank last month launched its first Country Partnership Strategy with the Government of the Marshall Islands, beginning its support to strengthen the Pacific Island nation’s economy and reduce poverty. The first project is a $3 million plan to help reform the telecommunications sector and boost access to mobile phones and internet for the country's 53,000 people.<!--more-->

<a href=""><img class="alignright size-full wp-image-4780" alt="4resizedimage.php" src="" width="300" height="200" /></a>The Marshall Islands is one of the world’s least “connected” countries, and telecommunications access is low. Just two percent of people subscribe to internet services, and only about one-quarter have a mobile phone. It imposes a heavy toll on communities, including the country’s many overseas workers, government and local businesses. Communities in the outer islands are particularly disadvantaged.

The project aims to help the country attract new investment in telecommunications and bring down service costs, including through increased competition. In the Pacific region and Papua New Guinea, such reforms have given over two million more people access to mobile phones, with much cheaper calls.

The strategy was developed in consultation with the government and other stakeholders, and marks a deepening of the engagement between the Marshall Islands and the World Bank.

In addition to the initial focus on telecommunications, the four-year strategy outlines other potential assistance to help improve the management of revenues and fisheries – a key source of income for the country and its people. Other proposed areas of engagement could include support to strengthen the role of women, and measures to improve the sustainability of the energy sector and reduce high fuel costs.

The Marshall Islands will receive assistance through grants from the International Development Association. A US$3 million grant is being provided for the ICT Sector Development Operation, the first of a series of three operations to address telecommunications reform, which will be implemented by the Marshall Islands’ Ministry of Finance.

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