INTERVIEW: Nadir MOHAMMED

Nadir MOHAMMED
GCC Country Director, The World Bank 

Nadir Abdellatif Mohammed, a Sudanese citizen, joined the Bank in 1998 as country economist (Egypt and then Yemen). He joined the ECA region as Country Manager (Albania) and returned to the Middle East and North Africa (MNA) region as Operations Director in 2007. He also served as Senior Advisor in the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network. He is currently the Country Director for the GCC countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. Before joining the Bank, Mr. Mohammed worked in two multilateral development banks (African Development Bank, 1994-1996) and the Islamic Development Bank (1996-1998). Mr Mohammed started his career in academia as lecture and research officer in Universities of Cambridge (UK), Oxford (UK) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). Mr. Mohammed is a graduate of the University of Khartoum (B Ss in Economics) and has two post-graduate degrees in Economics from the University of Cambridge (M. Phil and Ph. D).  Mr. Mohammed published widely on issues of economic development, public finance, natural resource management, poverty reduction, governance and defence economics.


CV MENA: Congratulations on your new post as the World Bank Country Director of the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) Country Department.  How does it feel to be back in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)?

Nadir Mohammed: Thank you. I feel like I am coming back home, and I am excited to have the chance to re-join the outstanding MENA team. I have worked and lived in the region most of my professional life and have had the pleasure to serve the citizens of the region in various capacities both inside and outside of the Bank. I look forward to building and strengthening the strong partnership that my colleagues in the GCC program have forged with the Gulf clients. I hope that by serving these important clients, we also serve other countries in the region and make an impact on a more global level.

CV MENA: In your new post, how would you develop and advance the strategic cooperation program with the GCC states, while keeping in line with MENA's overall regional strategy?

NM: MENA’s overall regional strategy guides our operations in the GCC countries. The MENA region elaborated a strategy to guide its work in the region in 2011 mainly to address the issues that triggered the Arab Spring. The strategy emphasized “doing things differently and doing different things” under four pillars:

  • (i)       Jobs;
  • (ii)     Inclusion;
  • (iii)    Private-sector growth; and
  • (iv)    Governance.

The four pillars remain valid for the whole region and are very relevant to our support programs in the GCC. Issues of rising (structural) unemployment, improving governance structures and public financial management, creating a conducive environment for private sector participation, and inclusion represent the bulk of our Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS) assistance program. In addition, issues of managing non-renewable natural resources to ensure fast and sustained rates of economic growth and inter-generational equity are common across the GCC, as well as other MENA oil and gas exporting countries. We hope to advance our strategic partnership with GCC countries on all of these issues.

CV MENA: The Bank developed two new goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. How do you see the relevance of these goals to the GCC states?

NM: The two objectives are just as relevant at the GCC level as they are at the regional and global levels. First, while there may be low levels of extreme poverty within the GCC countries, our support programs to the GCC countries will certainly serve the global targets for ending extreme poverty because the GCC countries are major contributors of foreign direct investment (FDI) and other financial flows, such as remittances and foreign assistance to countries in the MENA region, Africa, Asia and other parts of the developing world. Second, boosting shared prosperity is very relevant to the GCC countries as in the case in all other middle- and high-income countries.  Wealth abundance does not always translate into equitable and fair distribution. Our strategic interventions in the GCC countries will be guided by the goal of boosting shared prosperity. Therefore, the elaboration of the two goals gives more coherence and strategic relevance to our engagement in the GCC.

CV MENA: What do you think are the key challenges and opportunities in the GCC states? 

NM: GCC countries have huge potential and opportunities provided by their large natural resource endowments. They can achieve marked improvements in the lives of their citizens for decades to come as they were able to do in the past five decades. However, these natural resources are non-renewable, and their management creates macroeconomic management challenges. The resources should be spent in a sustainable manner for this generation and future generations. They need to avoid the “resource curse” and “Dutch disease” effects.  They should also diversify their economic structures away from reliance on natural resource extraction. They need to generate enough and better jobs (mainly in the private sector) to absorb the fast-growing entrants into the labor force. Further, they ought to balance their labor markets comprised of both domestic versus foreign workers. GCC countries will also need to improve their human resource base in terms of education, health and skills needed for the 21st century.  Finally, most GCC countries face serious water shortages and growing environmental problems, and will have to improve their adaptability to climate change effects.

CV MENA: How can the Bank and the GCC enhance their cooperation given the unique role the Bank plays amid the multitude of actors providing advisory services to the GCC?

NM: I do not see the Bank competing with other advisory service providers (mainly consultants).  To the contrary, the Bank provides advisory services in areas of its core mandate, and quite often we convey to our clients the need to obtain consultants to undertake specific tasks. The Bank’s global outreach allows it to benefit from best international experience and to offer capacity building and support with implementation.  The Bank’s partners also appreciate its convening power. Because of its developmental mandate, the Bank’s engagements are usually long-term and go beyond specific transactions. Unlike private sector consultants who are usually profit-oriented, the Bank prides itself on playing the honest broker role, as well as providing unbiased and neutral development perspectives.

CV MENA: The Bank provides advisory services to a number of GCC states with respect to building institutions and enhancing governance. Do you see this area growing in the future?

NM: Indeed, this is the one of most promising areas of the Bank’s future engagement  with the GCC countries. Despite their wealth and natural resource abundance, GCC countries still face the challenge of upgrading their institutions and administrative capacities. The World Bank has indeed an important role to play to build capacity in these counties in a sustainable manner. In the area of governance for instance, the Bank is assisting many countries in assessing the role of the state vis-à-vis the private sector, improving service delivery, reforming public financial management systems, strengthening legal and judicial systems, and strengthening their anti-corruption agencies.

CV MENA: The Bank deals with a wide range of issues. Is there one issue in particular that you feel strongly about?

NM: Redefining the role of the state to build effective meritocratic public institutions, create more scope for private sector initiatives, and explore other avenues for wealth sharing beyond public sector employment  are key challenges for many GCC countries.