In light of recent political and social unrest in the region, foreign investors are taking a “wait-and-see” attitude to projects in the Middle East and North Africa. For the region’s investment promoters, this demands better, more proactive performance than in the past. Fortunately, although much remains to be done, the investment agencies of the 19 MENA governments are, as a group, off to a good start.
Labor and Social Protection
The topic of inclusive growth has captivated the minds of economists and politicians in the Middle East and North Africa for some time. The interest was there before the events of the Arab Spring and only intensified with the revolutions of 2011. But inclusive growth has eluded the countries of the MENA region.
Egyptians mark the second anniversary of their 2011 revolution on January 25. The revolution, which was in part fueled by unmet aspirations for economic mobility, highlighted the mass discontent of young people unable to find jobs that matched their expectations. The youth entering the labor force is more educated than in the past, but job opportunities have been shrinking.
During the most recent phase of the political transition, two of the themes driving popular debates are the questions of social justice and equality. The general perception inside and outside Egypt before the revolution was that social injustice and a somehow unequal distribution of resources were deep rooted phenomena, simply part of the social landscape. That has changed with the revolution.
From the pyramids showcasing the world’s first great civilization, to the sandy white beaches of the southern Mediterranean, religious sites and pristine eco-reserves, the Middle East and North Africa region is chock full of unique tourist attractions. Tourism in MENA does not only satisfy the hedonistic wishes of vacationers – it is an important sector for economic development and job creation.
As Arab countries mark the two-year anniversaries of their revolutions, economic challenges remain sharp, and the current political and policy uncertainty make it difficult to forecast how growth will evolve over the longer run. One way to reduce some of the guesswork is to look at what has typically happened in other transitions. In a recent paper, we identified and examined 90 attempts at transition from autocracy to democracy that took place over the last half century.
The end of 2011 was undeniably a momentous time across the Arab World with uprisings first emerging in Tunisia and Egypt and then spreading to Libya, Yemen, and Syria. Expectations of 2012 were high as old regimes were discarded and new governments brought with them hopes of more equitable societies and opportunities for all.
Tune in for the live streaming of a virtual knowledge sharing forum on the topic of jobs on January 16 and January 17 at 8:30 AM EST (3:30 PM Istanbul time). This is a unique opportunity for anyone interested in this issue to connect with experts and top-level practitioners with just a few clicks. Participate in the debate, ask questions and share your views!
January 14 marks two years to the day since the Tunisian uprising of 2011 and on the outside, things are moving in the right direction. Democratic elections, the drafting of a new constitution and new-found freedoms are examples that change has come. But within Tunisia, there is growing skepticism that the demands of the revolution have not been met.
The key human development challenge for Iraq is to continue to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of its human development sectors. This will involve introducing policies that enable the human development sectors to work together strategically with the common, long-term aim of developing Iraq’s human capital. Social protection will play a critical role in this process.