What a great e-converstion & this is what I'm telling your Finance Ministers


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I just finished our live chat on jobs in the Arab World – thank you so much everyone for contributing, commenting or just listening in.  What was most impressive was the joint search for answers, the dialogue blossoming among participants; it wasn’t “just” questions and answers, but a true dialogue.  Now, I promised you all that I would take what I heard and use it when I meet finance ministers and other high officials during the World Bank’s Annual Meeting – so here is what I heard, please comment/add/suggest/critique etc. etc.:
  • Poor governance and a lack of meritocracy (it is who you know, not what you do that matter) is a major constraint to job creation, to better education and to helping people with the right skills find the right jobs.
  • We need to explore how new technologies and  the social media revolution can be used to improve governance, enhance information sharing and employability
  • Short term actions are needed immediately, while the fundamental reforms and changes in mind-set take place over the long term
  • Low relevance of education is a major cause of unemployment
  • How to create an environment where young Arabs living abroad can come home and contribute to the new Arab World
  • Information, data and dialogue among social partners will be critical to form a new consensus;

    AND most importantly, there are many people ready to help, ready to work, ready to create and be innovative – this can be solved.

    On the short term measures, it will be essential that they are compatible with what we all want in the long run which is the creation of good jobs in the private sector with social protection.  So, the ideas we discussed included quick retraining of university graduates in relevant skills such as entrepreneurship, expansion of access to finance for entrepreneurs, short term employment creation through funding civil society or private contractors to repair infrastructure and deliver social services (e.g. child care), removing subsidies for energy that implicitly subsidize capital investments in labor saving technologies, making it cheaper to buy and operate more machines rather hire new workers, and using some of the revenue saved to improve social protections for the poor and re-target subsidies towards labor (e.g. payment of social contributions for first-time hires).

    A big question is: What happens now after the Arab Spring? On the one hand, the opening up of societies, greater transparency and greater empowerment of social actors should all lead to breaking down the past insider/outsider model and lead to more dynamic societies with greater prospects.  On the other hand, there are at least two risks: (1) that expectations are so high that Governments decide to act quickly without thinking of the long run, and possibly making the situation worse in the process (e.g. by increasing energy subsidies); and (2) that new elites take over and instead of breaking up the current insider/outsider system, simply replace the old elite with a new one.  Only when the Arab World returns to its traditional respect for merit and entrepreneurship can we see a true Arab renaissance.

    In the meantime, please keep the questions and suggestions coming, keep the dialogue open and I will get back to you after the meetings and tell you how things went.


Steen Jorgensen

Sector Director for Human Development

Dr. Abdellah Kherchi
October 11, 2012

Dear Dr. Steen Jorgensen,Good evening to you in Tokyo from Abdellah in Washington, DC. I have read your blog on youth employment before the WB Annual meetings and did listen to your excellent session in Tokyo on jobs for youth in MENA.The remarks of Vice President Andersen, and your report, of which I would like a copy, were very pertinent. Also, I really liked that the VP ended the session by saying that it is important to listen now to the people of MENA. Here isis my input, at my level of a person from MENA, who have worked there for couple decades as a public health physician as you know: Health industry strengthening in MENA, especially in the private sector, could not only enhance the delivery of MDGs, but also deliver a large number of jobs to the youth, as it is a labor intensive industry, with a varied spectrum of jobs, such as nurses, paramedics, Occupational therapists or OTs, PTs, STs, Specialized nurses, X Ray technicians, health administrators, PH planners, etc, and even better, it is an industry which employs more women than men today.As we are in the demographic transition, as His Excellency Mr. Baraka said, and more specifically as we are carrying now in MENA the Demographic Dividend responsibility to deliver at this time employment for the youth, so that they achieve savings and more input to social protection schemes in their most eventual productive years, It is time to scale up the private sector health sector, making it more competitive, better managed, better planned, better evaluated, and highly responsive to both the needs of public health in MENA and the needs of good standards of clinical care to address both the acute and chronic diseases of our time, especially diabetes, cancer, maternal and child health, trauma care, geriatric health and so on. Private Health Industry planning and implementation,, coupled with medical tourism, is a good idea for MENA.Hoping to continue the discussion with you soonest, I wish you a safe trip home.Best Regards, Abdellah Kherchi, MD, MPH, DTMH