Egyptian policymakers are facing a significant challenge: how to address acute economic challenges while managing ongoing political and social transitions. Output in major sectors of the economy (construction, trade, and tourism) remain weak while foreign direct investment (FDI), once a core tenant of Egyptian growth, reached nearly zero in the second quarter of this year. The Egyptian unemployment rate, which traditionally hovered around 9.5 percent in the years preceding the revolution, has increased to 13.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013.
“Kefaya!” (“Enough!” in Arabic), was one of the main slogans in 2011 as people took to the streets and called for social justice. Although change has taken various forms across the region, the quest for social justice remains prevalent throughout.
One of the key ways to promote social justice is through better public services. As surveys suggest, social justice for citizens largely means equal access to quality public services such as healthcare and education.
Regional Vice President Inger Andersen reaffirms the Bank’s commitment to the success of Yemen’s historic reconciliation process.
Egyptian writer and commentator Bassem Sabry talks to Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Director for Djibouti, Egypt and Yemen about the economic challenges facing Cairo.
Sabry: What do you think are the questions that are missing from the discussion on Egypt right now?
Schafer: I think the question is, what is the priority right now for Egypt? If we go back two and a half years, the revolution was basically the result of growing exclusion and inequality. And that is still, in my view, the top priority.
Following the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, many Egyptian expatriates turned towards their home country with a renewed sense of hope and desire to participate in the change process. As the political and economic transition is underway, many Egyptians abroad are looking for ways to engage in the transition period, and donors and development agencies are trying to effectively channel their efforts to contribute to development outcomes.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is no stranger to severe weather, floods, and earthquakes. The number of natural disasters around the world has almost doubled since the 1980s, in MENA it has almost tripled. Over the past decade, governments in the region have developed a better understanding of the risks posed by natural disasters and the measures needed to prepare for them. In support of their efforts, the World Bank has prepared a report, Natural Disasters in the Middle East and North Africa: A Regional Overview,which aims to highlight the natural hazards facing the region and the progress made in tackling these challenges.
There is an Arabic proverb that says it is better to prevent than to cure.
This is exactly the premise of disaster risk management.
Why is it important for people and governments in the Arab world?
As Franck Bousquet, Sector Manager of Urban, Social and Disaster Risk Management explains: While the number of disasters worldwide has doubled, in the Middle East and North Africa region it has tripled.
To some, Sharia-compliant financial services offer a promising path towards expanding financial inclusion among Muslim adults. To others, these services – which avoid charging interest and seek to conform to Islamic principles of profit- and loss-sharing – do not address the root causes of financial exclusion. But most agree that there is a dearth of empirical research that measures the degree to which Muslims are using Sharia-compliant financial products, their demand for it, and the extent to which they refrain from using conventional financial systems. Without data and related analysis, policymakers and private sector leaders are often speculative in framing the role of Islamic finance within the financial inclusion agenda.
It started with the first cries of “degage” that resonated across southern and central Tunisia to the streets of the capital in the winter of 2010. Through the ups and downs of Tunisia’s transition, one constant has been the citizens’ demand that the government listen to their voices and for greater accountability. Public opinion polls, banned under the former dictatorship but common today, rarely touch on bread and butter issues, such as how citizens feel about the most basic public services. One such issue is access to and the quality of health care, where systematic feedback from citizens has long been lacking.
In the three years since the Arab Awakening of late 2010, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has seen an increase in conflict and political instability, on the one hand, and a deteriorating economic situation, on the other. Given the vicious cycle between economic hardship and conflict, it is natural to ask whether a return to political stability will restore prosperity in the region.