Middle East and North Africa
On October 8, President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree pardoning all ‘Arab Spring’ political prisoners. While the decree, if implemented, marks a milestone in Egypt’s hard-fought 21-month-long revolution, the quotient of inequality that contributed to setting it off still remains.
From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, inequality has risen to the top of social agenda. However, our measures of inequality are often limited to final outcomes, such as income, wealth, and educational achievement, which do not distinguish between the impact on inequality of personal responsibility and that stemming from factors beyond the scope of individual responsibility.
Work is central to people’s lives and identity. For many, participating in the labor market is important beyond its obvious economic rewards as it also provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Conversely, labor deprivation impedes economic growth and leads to a feeling of emptiness and exclusion.
Yet, it is not uncommon to see large differences in attitudes towards employment across social groups. Urban residents, for example, are typically louder in voicing their labor market complaints than rural residents, even though living conditions in rural areas are known to be worse.
Countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are a cauldron of wrenching social change. For years pundits have attributed the region's tense social fabric to relatively high population growth rates, a lack of economic diversity, autocratic governments, and, in many countries, on an over-reliance on oil.
Howard Pack, eminent business and public policy Professor at the Wharton School, came to the World Bank earlier this week to share his views on the question of why MENA countries never came close to the equivalent of an East Asian miracle and how they might get on a more successful economic path.
Ahmed Galal is currently Managing Director of the Economic Research Forum, a regional research institution covering the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey.
As someone who values the role of knowledge and strong endogenous research capacity in advancing the cause of development, I was very impressed by the speech Robert Zoellick, World Bank President, gave on September 29 at Georgetown University. The speech, on development economics research and the role of the World Bank, stimulated an interesting debate, with Dani Rodrick being favorable, Bill Easterly critical and Nancy Birdsall somewhere in between.
From my perspective, the speech is refreshingly critical of the “one size fits all” approach to reform, honest about the evolution of thinking within the Bank, and open-minded about the new research agenda for development. It hits target by advocating research that is policy relevant. And it calls for “Democratization of Research” and a new role for the Bank as a knowledge broker and facilitator. All these are in line with the views of many researchers in the developing world, myself included.