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In a further effort to mitigate the impact of the global recession, the World Bank allocated late Tuesday a new $30 million loan to Armenia aimed at rehabilitating some of the country's battered irrigation networks.

In a statement issued after a meeting in Washington of its Board of Executive Directors, the bank said the concessional loan, repayable in 27 years, will finance capital repairs on almost 84 kilometers of canals in the Armavir and Aragatsotn regions. It said the project will help bring irrigation back to about 7,300 hectares of land and benefit around 39,000 farmers.

Armenia's Soviet-built networks of canals are already undergoing a large-scale reconstruction under a $168 million project financed by the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation. A lack of irrigation has been one of the most acute problems facing Armenian agriculture since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the ensuing degradation of rural infrastructure.

The World Bank statement said the loan will also result in new jobs and thereby ease socioeconomic hardship in the unemployment-stricken areas. “Creating jobs and boosting incomes, particularly in rural areas where most of the poor live, is critical in the current crisis environment,” Asad Alam, the bank's director for the South Caucasus, was quoted as saying. “What is important about this Project is that this is done in a way that will also help improve long-term growth and productivity in agriculture.”

The latest allocation raised to $200 million the total amount of anti-crisis loans to Armenia approved by the World Bank this year. They are due to be used for financing Armenia's widening budget deficit, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, rebuilding rural roads and implementing reforms of the education sector.

The World Bank pledged earlier this year to lend at least $670 million to the country in 2009-2012. The total amount of its loans allocated since 1992 exceeds $1.27 billion.
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