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February 2012

Morocco: Opening the door towards gradual and steady reform

Lida Bteddini's picture
Also available in: Français
Against the noise of citizens echoing their demands from the streets of Rabat, our discussions with Moroccan authorities in preparation of the Accountability and Transparency Development Policy Loan (DPL) were promising – both on the central and local level.  There is a strong will to deliver on governance reforms which respond to popular demands for change and an urge to produce strong and visible results in the short term.  This interest is also reinforced by an ambition to translate recent constitutional reforms into real change on the ground.  On Monday, Moroccans marked the one-year anniversary of the country’s own version of the Arab Spring uprisings. Thousands of citizens joined in Casablanca and Rabat, and a few more thousand across the country , to reaffirm demands for democratic change.

Quick win for government accountability

Caroline Freund's picture
Also available in: Français
In an attempt to improve government transparency and accountability, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti this week made his cabinet disclose their finances. The public was so curious that the government website crashed. Is this a sensible step towards better governance?  A recent paper on disclosure by politicians says yes. Djankov, La Porta, Lopez-de-Silanes, and Shleifer (2010) collect data on the rules and practices of financial and conflict disclosure by members of parliament in 175 countries.  They find that less than one third of countries make disclosures available to the public, and less than 15% of potentially useful information is presented. 

From Spring to renaissance: repositioning of the Arab cities

Franck Bousquet's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
Home to one of the world’s most rapidly expanding populations, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is currently around 60% urbanized. Its urban population is expected to double or triple in the next 30 years. The region will experience a 65% increase of its urban population, corresponding to over 130 million additional urban inhabitants by 2030.  Indeed, the region’s average annual urban growth rate in the past two decades is exceeded only by Sub-Saharan Africa, which is far less urbanized.

 

Can the Arab Spring spur regional integration?

Omer Karasapan's picture
The list of challenging issues that led to the Arab Spring are now well known and will need to be overcome to meet the aspirations of the people of the region. These range from governance, education and bloated public sectors to a correspondingly weak private sector, all of which crystallize around the issue of employment, particularly for youth and women. The OECD's "Arab World Competitiveness Report, 2011-2012" estimates that 25 million jobs will be needed over the next decade just to keep unemployment at current levels (over 10%).

To make sense of Egypt you need first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, and pressure washers

Khaled Sherif's picture
In 1989, I remember reading in Al Akhbar, a prominent government newspaper, that all cars in Egypt were mandated by government to have first-aid kits and the police would be randomly stopping cars to check if drivers were in compliance.  No first-aid kit, you would pay a fine. I remember thinking this is crazy, but I bought the first-aid kit anyway.  So did eight million other people who had cars.  I recall going to a car parts store to buy my first-aid kit, and the salesman told me there was only one kit that was in compliance according to the requirements of this new law.  Could this get any more bizarre?

A special voice is lost to us

Dale Lautenbach's picture
Also available in: العربية
Call me old fashioned, but my favorite source of news is still the writing, and sometimes the voice, of a known reporter or commentator. When one falls, as Anthony Shadid fell yesterday on his way out of Syria, something so special is lost, something that binds thousands of readers in a common web of understanding and appreciation. We mourn for Anthony and his family as one might for a colleague or friend. We knew him, even though we’d never met. We feel the loss as intimately as a familiar presence in a newspaper, whether it crinkles reassuringly in our hands or slides along glass at our fingertips.

We Are Egypt: The movie

Will Stebbins's picture
Also available in: Français
Long before anyone was paying attention, Lillie Paquette was listening.  Her debut film, screened before a diverse audience of World Bank staff and guests, recounts the prologue to the Egyptian revolution. We Are Egypt: The Story Behind the Revolution follows opposition politicians and civil society groups over the course of the two years leading up to the mass uprising. With the benefit of hindsight, the ultimate conclusion in Tahrir Square appears inevitable, but for the men and women struggling for change it was a long process, with many setbacks.  Though the film ends before February 11, 2011 when former President Mubarak stepped down, and focuses on the painstaking work of organizing and building institutions, it is an engaging and valuable historical document.

New benchmarking tool helps universities grade themselves

Adriana Jaramillo's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
World Bank | Arne Hoel | 2011Arab World Higher Education Ministers have endorsed a screening card tool to benchmark university governance across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Developed by a higher education program at the World Bank supported  Marseille Center for Mediterranean Integration, it is aimed at benchmarking university governance and identifying different patterns and “fitness for purpose” to help higher education institutions understand how they can improve performance.

Arab citizens demanding a seat at the virtual table

Amina Semlali's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
World Bank | Arne Hoel | 2011Development agencies, such as the World Bank, have often been criticized for not sufficiently listening to the people they are trying to help. For acting without first systematically assessing whether beneficiaries agree with the strategies produced and projects developed on their behalf. To address this, many World Bank teams now arrange in-country consultations with a broad range of people including civil society, young people, and government representatives, depending on the type of project.

Egypt one year after the revolution: Tell us what priorities the World Bank Group should support?

David Craig's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français
Egypt is at a historical crossroads.  Just over a year ago, Egyptians demonstrated to the world that they could successfully come together to reclaim their destiny.  Beginning with Tunisia and continuing with Egypt, 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 respect, voice, accountability, and opportunity for all. One year after the Tahrir revolution, Egypt faces huge challenges, including a fast deteriorating macroeconomic situation, persistent poverty, high unemployment, especially among the youth, and a failing education system. 

Metrics for success in the post-Arab Spring era

Omer Karasapan's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
An issue that often comes up both within the Bank and outside is how one identifies the metrics to measure whether our countries are on the path to “inclusive” and “sustainable” growth as they move away from the old regimes and their crony-friendly and often wasteful policies and programs. Well, be careful (grateful?) for what you ask for…the metrics are on their way and spot on when it comes to issues around the transition in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Infrastructure for Jobs in Tough Times

Caroline Freund's picture
The recently released Global Economic Prospects report cautions that a second global financial crisis emanating from the Eurozone is a serious threat. Among the policy recommendations for developing countries is to prioritize infrastructure spending, even in a tight budgetary environment, because of its importance as stimulus and for long-term growth. We couldn’t agree more. This is especially relevant for many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where domestic uncertainty has already lowered short-run economic prospects and unemployment is on the rise. A forthcoming report (click here for summary), shows that investment in infrastructure contributes significantly to job creation in MENA.

All aboard! All aboard! transparency is on its way

Lydia Habhab's picture
Also available in: العربية

World Bank | Arne Hoel, 2011Francis Maude, Minister of the Cabinet in the United Kingdom, was at the World Bank recently talking about transparency in the UK. He said it best when he described the classic road of transparency: “Politicians think transparency is a great platform to run on for elections. Politicians think transparency is a great idea once elected because it gives them the opportunity to expose their predecessors. After about a year, transparency seems doesn’t seem like such a great idea anymore because it means politicians then have to expose themselves.”

How to reach the heart of every family

Inger Andersen's picture
Also available in: العربية

World Bank l Arne Hoel, 2011 We touched on many important topics during the Live Chat I hosted last month and when we generated a word cloud out of the conversation we had and the issue that leapt out big and bold was EDUCATION. That’s no surprise. I imagine many of the voices who joined me in the chat were young and among young people education and jobs loom as especially significant. But for a number of years now my colleagues at the Bank have been working on education in the Middle East and North Africa with a sharp focus on quality.

Of pirates, ports and poverty!

Simon Bell's picture
Also available in: Français

A hard-scrabble, drought-prone small African country;  youth unemployment at 70 percent;  poverty rates of 40 percent;  highly dependent on the port which services much of Ethiopia’s imports and exports;  a few foreign military bases which have little connectivity with the local economy.  Pirates roaming the seas off the coast of the region (like a bad Johnny Depp movie);  illegal money suffusing through the region from illicit piracy;  neighboring Somalia in a state of war and chaos;  Yemen just across the Red Sea with its own bloody revolution;  and neighboring Eritrea causing significant problems of their own across the northern frontier.  Can such a nation ever hope to become a more dynamic, diversified, and private-sector oriented state with faster, more fairly distributed, growth and deeper poverty reduction?

Job creation: a big role for big firms

Bob Rijkers's picture
Also available in: Français
SME promotion programs are becoming progressively more popular. While evidence on their effectiveness remains elusive, their policy prominence is predicated on the belief that small firms grow faster and generate the most jobs. Our preliminary analysis of the Tunisian registry of firms, which contains longitudinal information on all formal firms from 1996 until 2010, yields three stylized facts suggesting that large firms are far more important than small firms in generating employment and growth.

What do Yemeni youth want?

Wael Zakout's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

During my first visit to Yemen, I met with a group of young people in the capital, Sana'a. The purpose of the meeting was to learn more about how the youth are thinking; what is important to them; and how the World Bank can help them achieve their goals. I was amazed at the level of their understanding of priorities, the immediate and short-term ones. Their enthusiasm was overflowing with an expression of unconditional love to serve and develop Yemen, their country. They expressed their full readiness to contribute to the national dialogue and work to build the new civil state if they were given the opportunity to do so.

The Egypt exodus: Part 2

Khaled Sherif's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
Once in the terminal, I looked behind me and the security services had closed the entrance to the terminal.  It could accommodate no one else.  It was barely 9:00 AM, and no one was being allowed into the terminal from what I could see.  My sister’s instincts were right.  If I had gotten to the airport terminal any later, I would have been turned away likely like thousands of others with confirmed reservations. From the corner of my eye, I could see that BA was already checking people in.  For a flight at 4:00 PM, check in was already on-going at 9:00 AM.  But, I had to get to check in station 4, and I was closer to check in station 24.

Corruption not in the culture

Caroline Freund's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
President Mikhail Saakashvili recently addressed a standing-room-only crowd at a book launch for Fighting Corruption in Public Services, a case study of Georgia’s reforms.  This short book provides a timely account on the “how to” of eliminating corruption, which all new government officials seeking to redesign the system should read. Emerging immediately after the revolution offered the government a unique opportunity for major reforms because of the overwhelming popular support for change.  This experience provides important lessons for new governments in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.  Georgia’s success proves that corruption is not in the culture, but simply a response to poor governance.   

The Egypt exodus: Part 1

Khaled Sherif's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
The phone rang.  It woke me up shortly before 7:00 AM.  I hadn’t slept most of the night due to the sound of machineguns firing consistently outside our window.  And, this is the way it had been for a week since the curfew came to be.  As soon as it got dark, shooting would start and it would be constant throughout the night. Tanks and armored personnel carriers were deployed all over Cairo.  In Maadi, they were in every square and main intersection.  With the internet and international lines all severed, communications with the outside world were impossible.  Cell phones could not dial internationally, or receive calls from abroad. 

Unbundling governance: what is the role of the World Bank?

Guenter Heidenhof's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
People often ask me what exactly the World Bank means when it uses the term “governance.” Many think the governance agenda is associated mainly with activities to fight fraud and corruption. That is true, but only partially. In our view, fraud and corruption are visible consequences – symptoms if you like – of breakdowns in government systems and institutions. Ideally, countries should have strong institutions that are responsive to citizens’ needs and deliver public services. Ideally, countries should have transparent processes and regulations that benefit all citizens and the entire private sector, not only a small elite. Ideally, governments should have the capacity to ensure that public money is well spent and that policies are implemented.