World Bank & IMF 2014 Spring Meeting: MENA Region Focus

For the third year, PITAPOLICY attempted to cover The Annual World Bank & IMF meetings finished on Sunday, which started off with the MENA economic outlook.  Throughout the week, government and civil society organizations representatives revisited the Arab Youth inclusion discussion (like last year) but sprinkled in the Syria crisis.  At the same time, a common theme on MENA, was the philosophical debate of “how to achieve political consensus” to implement reforms and move towards a participatory democracy.  These meetings are not just economic; they are political.  Note: During the briefing, a reporter asked to what extent Iran’s economy, which has contracted in the last three years, will swing back the other way depending on political developments–like reaching a nuclear deal.  Iran’s economy contracted in 2012 and 2013.

Overall growth for oil-importing countries is short of 3 percent.  IMF MENA Director stated that investment, rather than consumption, is playing a stronger role in promoting MENA growth as government policies are reallocating spending away from subsidies (shift from general to targeted). Given that the IMF approved a $225 Million loan to Tunisia, and grew 2.7 percent in 2013, there is a hope that its economy is expected to strengthen by 2015.

In other MENA transition countries: Egypt did not grow as much and has not asked for financing.  But Egypt’s Minister of Finance, Hany Diman, launched a blog to better communicate with the public, since consensus building is a goal.  Check out the blog: mofegy.blogspot.com.  Yemen has stabilized, with its budget deficit projected to decline in 2014.  But Yemen still has a ways to go since it requires “financing worth up to $50 billion in 2015” according to the World Bank report released last week.

Nonetheless, Syria represents the worst in any type of transition as it reduces investor confidence in neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan.  Although not in transition, Jordan has received an IMF package too in the amount of $264 million.  The reasons for receiving $200+ million are due to economic shocks to its economy from Syrian refugees and the gas pipeline sabotage.

Oil-Exporting Countries (GCC and Algeria)

In the subcategory of ‘oil-exporting countries’ have grown more relative to their ‘oil-importing’ countries because of the stable oil market.    On the upside, Algeria will benefit as a gas exporter because Europe’s demand has grown.  On the downside, Bahrain and Oman are running fiscal deficits and are encouraged to diversify their economies.  Bahrain and Libya share the unique characteristic that they are both in the oil-exporting category and also in the transition category–no matter how much we dance around Bahrain’s political woes.

mofegy.blogspot.com,#sthash.U2VZI7BD.dpuf

“It is time to translate protests into the real work, which is inside institutions,” stated Morocco’s Youth Minister at the annual World Bank/IMF Spring Meeting…on the topic of ‘Arab Youth’ [Note: PITAPOLICY recognizes the oversimplification of lumping all of “Arab Youth” up until the age of 35 into one category.  There’s a significant difference in the worry burden between a 13 year old and a 33 year old.  But we understand that they all are worried about jobs.  But so is a 43 year old :)]

A Conversation with Al Jazeera’s Ali Velshi and Jim Yong Kim On Thursday, Al Jazeera held a conversation with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim with Ali Velshi, Host of Al Jazeera America.

 

#EndPoverty 2030 – Millenials Take on the Challenge What Have Young People Gained from the Arab Spring?

  • Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing director & Chief Operating Officer, World Bank Group
  • Inger Andersen, Vice President of Middle East and North Africa region, World Bank
  • H.E. Mohamed Ouzzine, Minister of Youth and Sports, Kingdom of Morocco
  • Ahmed Alhindawi, Youth Envoy of the UN Secretary General, Jordan
  • Shatha al-Harazi, Academic/Journalist/Activist, Yemen
  • Mouheb Ben Garoui, I-WATCH Executive Director, Tunisia

Moderator: Abderrahim Foukara, Al Jazeera Bureau Chief, Washington, D.C. Highlights:

  • The estimates that the economic loss of exceeds US$ 40–50 billion annually across the Arab World.  30% of are unemployed, & 41% of 15-24 yr olds are inactive, i.e. in School, not in & Not in Training (NEETs).  On this note of worry, Alhendawi said, “If we don’t fix the situation for youth & address , we will just be recycling our failures.”
  • “Going out into the street is important but influencing policy is even more important,” argued CSO participant, Mouheb Ben Garoui, I-WATCH, Tunisia. He continued, “youth today are in a position to be empowered, but they need to organize in order to influence decision making.”
  • According to the Arab Youth Survey: nearly 40% of all prefer to live in the UAE followed by US at 25%. Alhendawi raised the point that “Four percent of the youth volunteered in according to the study launched a few weeks before the resolution. “Nothing has changed from the government, there is even more corruption in this new government,” added Shatha al-Harazi.  Forty-eight percent of have no confidence in their national government, said Indrawait. Over the past three years, support for traditional values in has dropped from 83% to 54%. The best tweet came from @kamelasmar “The funny part is when the speakers congratulate the Moroccan minister of youth for doing “his duty” ”   

If you missed the hot debate hosted by & on the current situation of , watch it here:

Highlights:

  • Ben Hammouda: As Tunisia is trying to stabilize its economy, emphasized the balance between stabilization and the”growth agenda”.  Stimulus packages are not the current path because the “private sector is better positioned” to do this.  Most important achievement is that we achieved a political consensus as demonstrated in passing a constitution.  Since trade unions have played a significant role in Tunisia’s political, social and economic life, another focus will be to negotiate salaries with only those among lowest wage earners.  Concurrently near an agreement with private sector on the taxes the Tunisian government will implement.

 

  • Baraka: Moroccan government is focused on small to medium sized businesses as it has now mandated a public-private council and passed the Small Business Act.  The SBA requires that 20 percent of the tender goes to SMES; and require that 30 percent of the corporate tax go to the SME sector.  At the same time, on the agriculture issue, Morocco is also concerned with food security in Morocco and beyond.  The King agreed to to offer lower-priced fertilizers to sub-Saharan African economies to address intra-regional food security and promote economic integration.
  • On the political front: Moderation and legitimacy is an alternative to one hundred percent consensus. [This contrasts a bit with a monarchy government structure.]  At the same time, his mission is focused on attracting FDI… no specification as to how.

 

  • Kharas:  If you want a citizen focused economy, must consider those in the rural areas…so focus on agriculture. Reforms that will produce immediate results don’t need to be big all the time because overhauling institutions take time.   Easy wins for immediate results will focus on agriculture because GROWTH is different from increasing household incomes (subsidizing food).  We’ve seen Japan, China, and Korea examples being where they are today– or “emerged” quickly– because they started with a focus on agriculture.

 

  • Dimian: In his capacity, he launched a blog on Ministry of Finance’s website illustrating Egypt’s financial needs and solicit public comment.

Syrian Crisis: The Art of Resilience

  • Chris Gunness, Spokesperson and Director of Communications, UNRWA
  • Jihad Yazigi, Founder and Editor, Syria Report
  • Laura Trevelyan, Anchor & Correspondent, BBC World News America
  • Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group
  • Inger Andersen, Vice President of Middle East and North Africa region, World Bank Group

Find audience comments on Twitter by using #withsyria & #ArtofResilience

  • mofegy.blogspot.com, to allow the public to effectively engage in open discussions, – See more at: http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/04/09/ministry-finance-launches-blog-communicate-public/#sthash.U2VZI7BD.dpuf  Deeply concerned about the polarization that is an impediment [Note: to get “quick wins” on certain reforms?]  We need to discuss the counter-measures that need to address the effects on vulnerable populations who will be affected by structural reforms.

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