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You Say You Want a Revolution...

Hoda Atia Moustafa's picture

As I return from a week-long mission to Lebanon and Jordan, where I took part in a workshop to teach government agencies about MIGA's mission and products and met potential clients to discuss prospective collaboration, I am struck at how much unchartered territory there is for us in this ever-changing and turbulent region. 

During the 18 days of the Egyptian revolution that began on January 25, I was glued to the news media -- and to Facebook, which proved to be a vital source of information quicker than any news agency -- to try to get news of what was happening and ensure that my family and friends back in Egypt stayed safe. Since then, I have followed closely Egyptians and expatriates' efforts to rebuild the country, most certainly filled with problems and bumps along the way, but in an atmosphere that gives the people hope for the future. Now is the time to shine.

My colleagues in Lebanon and Jordan spoke often of the revolution, of its after-effects on the region, of how the world was and continues to watch events unfold. Being a representative of the only agency of the World Bank Group that deals exclusively with political risk, I also see a unique opportunity for MIGA. Now is the time for us to take on risks ourselves in order to maintain existing investment in the region and encourage new investment from abroad.

MIGA's war and civil disturbance cover can be a powerful tool to accomplish this. With products such as temporary business interruption providing compensation to investors for lost profits during a halt in operations due to riots and civil disturbance, and asset cover for any property or assets destroyed or damaged during the same, many of the business that suffered in the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt would have enjoyed protection against these risks. As new governments are formed which may or may not be friendly to certain foreign investment, investors can take comfort in MIGA's expropriation cover to ensure protection against government take-over as well as breach of contract cover to ensure that even new governments respect existing contractual obligations.

Perhaps even more importantly MIGA now has the ability to cover existing investments, so that entrepreneurs who previously ignored these risks can still take advantage of these covers nonetheless. MIGA has no exposure in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon or Jordan   -- meaning we have plenty of capacity for projects there. Of course, like any insurance company, coverage in places that are now riskier will be priced accordingly, but the very fact that MIGA is open and active in these countries puts us ahead of the private market, which tends to shy away from such risky areas once the turbulence has begun.

The World Bank is following the events in the broader Middle East intently, poised to help where possible. We are looking at how we can assist with some of the underlying sources of tension that have development concerns at their root – such as the region’s dearth of jobs for its youth. The Bank also recognizes the need to engage civil society and not just government institutions. I believe MIGA has an important role to play in the region in assisting these countries attract and retain foreign investment by protecting them against the very risks that are feared the most.

Political risk is our business. As exciting as it is to see history in the making before our eyes, the reality can also be quite terrifying. On both a personal and professional level, I very much want to be a part of the rebuilding and reshaping of this dynamic and important region. And I truly believe we can.

Comments

It is great to see that the protests in Egypt and elsewhere remind us that challenging the bonds of poverty and oppression is about extending to people the feeling that they matter. I am reminded that real big-“D”evelopment comes when people awaken from fear and they can look forward to a future in which they feel secure, valued, and honored. And that, ultimately, this must come from within. To those of us in the aid industry I ask: Do we question the sources of power in “D”evelopment enough in our day-to-day work? Do we acknowledge and challenge the policies and practices that marginalize and demotivate people, especially local activists? In all of the seemingly mundane acts of planning, coordinating and monitoring development projects, do we acknowledge the deep and profound difference between social change and service delivery? And if the development industry, as a whole, remains divorced from this, are we missing the whole point?

Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. Your questions are all relevant and definitely must be addressed. The World Bank is hosting a conference this morning on Arab Views & Voices and as one of the speakers bluntly put it when referring to the Bank's monitoring of progress in development in Egypt, "We looked at all the wrong indicators." The implementation of policies is just as important as the policies themselves, and it is precisely that implementation which must come from the sources of power inside a country. So yes, these questions must continue to be asked and answered by the development community to make our efforts effective and relevant.

I will be co-moderating a session, "Winds of Change: Will They Bring a New Paradigm to Development Assistance?", which will take place during the WB/IMF Civil Society Policy Forum in Washington D.C. on April 15th at 11:00am EST. Please join us and feel free to contact me for more details. We hope to have various web tie-ins.

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