At the Global Parliamentary Conference 2016, the perspectives of parliamentarians from 70 countries energized the debate before the Bank's and the Fund's Spring Meetings. From left to right, on the Preston Auditorium stage: Jeremy Lefroy, a Member of Parliament in the U.K., who served as the conference chairman; IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde; and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
Did you happen to miss the Davos conference over the winter? I feel your pain: Somehow, for the umpteenth year in a row, my ticket to the World Economic Forum in Davos must have gotten lost by the Postal Service, too.
Not to worry, however: Twice a year, in April and October, Washington’s motto might as well be “Davos Every Day” – as the great and the good of globalization gather for the formal meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.
The Bretton Woods siblings are just-now recovering from their semiannual tsunami of scholarship and diplomacy, with still-dazed staff members sorting through their accumulated post-Meetings mountains of newly published policy monographs, economic analyses and deepthink datapoints. This spring’s sprint focused, as is customary, on the speeches, statements and seminars with the Bank’s and the Fund’s scholars, along with the insights of the institutions’ core constituents: the Finance Ministers and central-bank governors who oversee their countries’ daily economic policymaking.
But there was an additional governance-focused feature at this spring's gathering: Meetings-goers also gained the valuable perspective of the almost 200 lawmakers and observers from 70 countries who convened in Washington, for just the second time, for the annual Global Parliamentary Conference. The gathering was held under the auspices of the Bank- and Fund-sponsored Parliamentary Network, which is now chaired by Jeremy Lefroy, a member of the U.K.’s House of Commons representing Stafford.
Hearing the viewpoints among the lawmakers, just before the executive-branch officials began the Spring Meetings formalities, provided Washingtonians a chance to take the pulse of an additional cohort of opinion leaders whose work is indispensable in delivering effective governance. The conference first brought the parliamentarians to Washington in 2015 – and now the Parliamentary Network is aiming to make Washington the venue for their conference every year.
Linking the lawmakers’ conference with the meetings in Washington will provide a valuable opportunity for the parliamentarians to hear more about the latest research findings of the Bank and the Fund. Moreover, it will help the Bank’s and the Fund’s headquarters staffs in Washington hear, more directly, about the policy priorities and development ideas of the leaders who frame their countries’ laws – some of whom may someday, in their turn, become the Ministers and policymakers who lead their countries’ executive-branch agencies.
“There’s no weekend for an entrepreneur,” said 24-year-old Hamdy Ben Salah with a smile, when we met on a sunny Saturday morning at his home-based office, where Elyes Labidi and Boulabiar Marwen—two of his five colleagues—were already sitting in front of their computers. The small room they sit in used to be kept for household garbage. But, with furniture and some paint, today it is the base of AlphaLab.
The Middle East and North Africa region has never faced such significant stress on its ageing infrastructure like it does today, with one of the most telling being the substantial increase in the need for electricity. It is estimated that electricity demand in the MENA region will increase by 84% by 2020, requiring an additional 135 GW of generation capacity and an investment of US$450 billion. The quest for new approaches to ensure adequate and reliable supply of electricity in the region is more urgent than ever before.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a region of extremes. It has the highest unemployment rate in the developing world, with the rate for women and young people double the average. MENA economies are among the least diversified, with the Herfindahl index—a measure of the concentration of exports in a few commodities—ranging between 0.6 and 1 for most countries. The region had the highest number of electricity cuts per month. The ratio of public- to private-sector workers is the highest in the world. While, until recently, the region had been averaging 4-5 percent GDP growth, that average masked a highly volatile growth path.
The political participation of Arab women in post-revolutionary Arab countries has been the subject of various studies and academic research. The 2011 revolutions marked a significant shift in the female political role in the region because women were involved at the head of the Arab uprisings. The revolutions, which were initially secular and egalitarian, also unleashed long-repressed conservative forces, which have been eating in to the gains made by Arab feminists over the past decades.
As Tunisia embarks on an ambitious reform agenda to strengthen corporate governance and modernize its state-owned enterprises, senior representatives from the Ministry of Finance visited Malaysia in December last year to learn about the country’s best practices on restructuring and managing government-linked companies (GLCs).
These companies, where the Malaysian government has a controlling stake, underwent major transformations since 2004 to turn weak operational and financial performances into high performing entities critical for the country’s future prosperity. The program was successfully executed and has enabled these companies to become profitable, dynamic, performance-oriented, and well-governed institutions.
This visit is one of the first activities of the new World Bank Group Research and Knowledge Hub in Kuala Lumpur, which is helping Malaysia share its successful development experience globally. Here are a few lessons that Tunisia, and other countries, can learn from Malaysia’s experience on reforming government-linked companies.
Thirteen of the 15 countries with the lowest rates of women participating in their labor force are in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report (2015). Yemen has the lowest rate of working women of all, followed by Syria, Jordan, Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt, Oman, Tunisia, Mauritania, and Turkey.
In El Aroussa, a small village in Tunisia’s north-western region of Siliana, a group of women of all ages have gathered in a small pebble house for training. They are all weavers, some more experienced than others, and the aim of the training is t to help local artisans become self-sufficient and to expand the market for their wares by gaining access to global customers.
There were over 1,000 Lebanese youths together in one large auditorium, all from different communities, confessions and party affiliations. Some were chanting the Lebanese national anthem, waving the country’s flag. Others were holding hands, and screaming every time their pictures or that of their new friends appeared on a large screen. These young men and women all had one thing in common: they put aside their different socio-economic, religious, and political backgrounds and gave up their spare time to jointly identify and implement community projects across Lebanon.
In recent years, growing evidence supports the value of cash transfers. Research demonstrates that cash transfers lead to productive investments (in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia), that they improve human capital investments for children (in Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Lesotho, Zambia, and Malawi), and that they don’t get spent on alcohol (all over the world).
At the same time, the vast majority of governments invest large sums in training programs, whether business training for entrepreneurs or vocational training for youth, with the goal of helping to increase incomes and opportunities.