Francis 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.”
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.
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?
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.