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January 2012

What does inclusive growth mean for the people of the Middle East and North Africa?

Elena Ianchovichina's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
Last week I was in Abu Dhabi for the opening of the joint World Bank – Arab Monetary Fund course on policies for inclusive growth. The course was offered to mid- and high-level policy makers and government officials working in central banks and ministries of finance in sixteen Arab countries. After the opening remarks, I was scheduled to start the course with two lectures on economic trends and inclusive growth in the region. I looked forward to the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of Arab policy makers on a topic that is so relevant in the context of the events of the past year.

Davos and the new Arab discourse

Omer Karasapan's picture
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World Economic Forum l Jolanda FlubacherLast week  Al-Arabiya News had an article on the new (and old) Arab faces at Davos - "For years, the Egyptian government spared no effort or money to impress the Davos crowd. Ministers of trade, investment and finance were always on the chase for the next panel or interview, with Jamal Mubarak (as) the face of the more modern and energized Egypt. Scores of businessmen flocked to hunt for opportunities on the back of a strong government presence.  Actors and pop stars were…the trendy part of the entourage. That was the Egyptian delegation before January 25, 2011."

The market score on Egypt's elections and revolution

Caroline Freund's picture
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The Egyptian election brought a modest gain to the Stock Exchange.  The EGX30 is up 6 percent since before elections in November and the broader EGX100 is up 1 percent.  This suggests that the market is cautiously optimistic that the new parliament will be pro-business.  The biggest gainer is Telecom, up 16 percent , though this may be related to renewed trading of Orascom after the company split, and less to the election.  Still, other gainers are chemicals, construction and materials, financial services (excluding banks), and industrial goods and services (including automobiles), which are all up about 5 percent.  Importantly, none of the 12 sectors are down more than 2 percent since the beginning of the election cycle (see chart below).

January 25th, a day Egyptians will never forget

Khaled Sherif's picture
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January 25th, 2011 began like any normal Tuesday in Egypt except that it was a national holiday (Police Day).  I had arrived three days earlier to the news of my mother being ill and in hospital.  Everything in Egypt was normal on January 23rd and 24th although we all expected demonstrations on Tuesday the 25th.  But, virtually everyone including the security services thought very little would come of it. On Tuesday January 25th the Imam in our mosque encouraged people to go to Tahrir and join other demonstrators.  I hadn’t gone to the prayers, and maybe because I was so preoccupied with family matters, I couldn’t sense the gravity of the situation. 

The post-Arab Spring Islamists and Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party

Omer Karasapan's picture
Also available in: Français
In many respects the question of whether Turkey represents a model for kindred political movements in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has already been answered - with a clear, if not always resounding, yes. From the closeness of their names – at least in Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey – a variation on Justice, Development, and Freedom to strongly articulated support for political democracy and pluralism, the Islamist parties in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia are sympathetic to and appear to be espousing positions broadly similar to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Tunisia one year after the Revolution: which priorities should the World Bank support?

Eileen Murray's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

Tunisia demonstrated one year ago that citizens' voice matters. Accountability is a must.  Government legitimacy is key. Starting from Tunisia, a wave of revolutions now commonly referred to as the "Arab Spring" spread to the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Citizens demanded voice, accountability and opportunity for all, not only for a selected few and mostly privileged. The World Bank has taken significant steps to support this rapid and positive change. 

Adaptation to a changing climate in the Middle East and North Africa

Dorte Verner's picture
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While the people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have been coping with a harsh environment for thousands of years, climate change offers unprecedented challenges. With rapid climate change existing coping mechanisms are often becoming inadequate or obsolete; hence climate change impacts negatively on people’s lives and livelihood. Solutions to reduce vulnerability and capitalize on opportunities are presently difficult for policy makers in the region to identify and implement. This has motivated the World Bank and the League of Arab states to produce the flagship report: Adaptation to a Changing Climate in the Arab Countries.

Morocco: When governance, transparency, integrity, accountability, & public procurement entered the Constitution

Laurence Folliot Lalliot's picture
Also available in: Français
Although many events from the Middle East and North Africa region have enjoyed large press coverage and headlines, one has remained, to date, a rather well-kept secret: the inclusion of governance and a dedicated provision on Public Procurement in the new Moroccan Constitution, adopted by referendum on July 1, 2011. In doing so, Morocco has joined the very small list of countries (i.e., South Africa and the Philippines) to grant a constitutional status to this rather technical field, the impact of which will be progressively felt in the world (even outside the small world of procurement lawyers), as it affects how government money is converted into goods and works like roads, schools, vaccines, etc.

The missing “Killer App”: Women's empowerment & their economic contribution

Nadereh Chamlou's picture
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World Bank | Arne Hoel | 2012Before the holidays, World Bank staff was treated – and I mean treated in its true and exquisite sense – to two fascinating speakers and groundbreaking books, both explaining underlying reasons for the “divergence” between Western economies and other regions of the world that were ahead of the West for much of humankind’s history in terms of culture, science, and prosperity. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and elsewhere, there has been a longstanding discussion about what helped the West to speed ahead, and what held others back.   

Subsidies, loss aversion, and lessons from Iran

Caroline Freund's picture
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One week after extensive protests and strikes against the government’s removal of fuel subsidies, the Nigerian government responded by rolling back prices.  The cost of gasoline had doubled since New Year's Day, and this week’s reversal leaves prices elevated by just one third. Most Nigerians view the subsidy as the main benefit from the country's oil wealth. Though implementation was faulty in this case, there is a strong economic rationale for subsidy removal that goes well beyond their high budgetary cost.  Subsidies distort prices and hence, too much of the subsidized good is used by consumers and producers because it is relatively cheap.

What are Arabs searching for?

Caroline Freund's picture
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One answer is available from Google Insight—“Facebook” – was by far the top search across countries in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. Only the people of Oman and Iran didn’t record “Facebook” in their top 3 searches. And Yemenis were searching almost exclusively for Facebook. This represents a big change from 2009, when Arabs (+Iran) were primarily searching for “Games” and “Images.” Interestingly, the only country that reported “Facebook” as a top search, back in 2009, was none other than the leader in the Arab revolutions –Tunisia. By 2010, all but 6 countries had “Facebook” in their top 3 searches. See the Table below for full details.

Egypt: Going "ultra" is now the norm

Khaled Sherif's picture
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OK, I’m a Zamalek fan, I admit it.  For those of you that don’t follow Egyptian football (soccer), Zamalek is always the team that finishes second.  The team that is so close to winning the title, but always stumbles in the end.  If you have a heart condition, or if you are seriously vested in getting one, become a Zamalek fan and it won’t be long before your first visit to the neighborhood cardiologist.  Yes, it is that heartbreaking. Then there is Ahly (National).  They always finish first and just manage to nudge Zamalek out by that one point, or that one goal for that matter.  They always win, it’s what they do.  They have the biggest purse, the larger number of fans, and they all wear red, Ahly’s playing color. 

Thank you all and let’s keep it alive!

Inger Andersen's picture
Also available in: العربية
Over 600 people across the world joined me today in the first Live Web Chat in Arabic and English hosted by the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region of the World Bank. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I appreciate your time, your seriousness, your passion and the very clear commitment in all your comments and questions. I am convinced that embracing social media technology platforms to enable our dialogue and discussion with you is the right way to go and I salute all the young people in MENA who have stood out as such a creative example in these communication spaces. We have learned so much from you.

WaterHackathon Cairo: Unusual partners for collaborative solutions

Cecilia Paradi-Guilford's picture

How could the World Bank engage and bring together Egypt’s technology community with water specialists to solve the country’s most pressing water and sanitation challenges? This past October, Cairo hosted the first-ever WaterHackathon in an effort to find out. WaterHackathon Cairo brought together Egyptian technologists with water specialists to brainstorm innovative ICT solutions for Egypt’s biggest water challenges. With 70% of the participants between the ages of 19 and 28, the event captured the energy and commitment of Egypt’s young people.

Keywords to the Middle East and North Africa: Check for yours here

Inger Andersen's picture
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Next week I’ll be in a “live chat” conversation online with anyone who wants to jump in and share a thought about what the Middle East and North Africa needs now to shape a future so deeply challenged by the voices of citizens demanding a better social contract. It has been stunning to see how young people have used social media platforms so creatively to exchange views, to monitor and to hold authorities accountable over the past year. With this same set of tools I believe we at the World Bank can better learn from citizens of the region what their priorities are now. While the World Bank is not a big source of financing to MENA (despite the image some have of us!), we do have global knowledge to share and expertise to offer. But only insofar as countries value that and seek our input.   

Tahrir Square, batata and a wedding

Khaled Sherif's picture
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Fridays in Egypt aren’t what they used to be.  In Fridays past, you typically would sleep in and as the noon hour approached you’d walk to the neighborhood Mosque where you would meet friends and pray gamaa (as a group).  After noon prayers, my friends and I would go to the Maadi Club, play a little soccer, have tea, and then we would agree to do it all over again the next Friday. What fun. But, one thing seems to have been added to the Friday agenda.  You still sleep until noon, you still go to the Mosque and the Club, but now you have to go to Tahrir Square and join the latest “millioneya,” the million man/woman march which seems to be an event on most Fridays. 

Unemployment: The Mediterranean effect

Caroline Freund's picture
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High unemployment rates in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are well known. What is less well known is that high unemployment characterizes all Mediterranean countries. Using the most recent data in the World Development Indicators, countries with coastlines on the Mediterranean have an average unemployment rate of 12.5%. Average unemployment among the European Mediterranean countries is 13.5% percent (of which, France, Italy, Greece, and Spain average 11%), while unemployment in the MENA Mediterranean averages 10.5%.  

Share your views: What does the Middle East & North Africa region need now?

Esther Lee Rosen's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français
Across the Middle East and North Africa, citizens are demanding a say in the way development choices are made. A year ago, the world watched as people found the power of voice in Tunisia; a year on, the world is challenged to support the aspirations of millions of citizens across the region, reclaiming their dignity. To mark this historical tide, the World Bank will host a live online discussion with Inger Andersen, Vice President of the Bank’s MENA region. Inger invites you to share your views with the World Bank on January 10, 2012 at 7:00 am EST.