Meeting the Employment Challenge in the GCC


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي)

The issue of how to create more jobs is high on the minds of policymakers everywhere. The economies of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—are no exception.

By many measures, these economies are doing very well. Abundant oil and gas reserves are producing large budget and external surpluses, growth is up, and considerable strides have been made on social indicators.

Yet, economic activity is dominated by the oil/gas sector and—given that many GCC countries have proven reserves of at least another 50–100 years at current rates of production—will remain so. However, that sector creates relatively few jobs directly—it employs less than 3 percent of the region’s labor force.

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Lively Debate on the Dead Sea Shores


By Nemat Shafik

(Version in عربي)

 I’ve been in Jordan this weekend, attending a vibrant meeting of the World Economic Forum on jobs and growth in the Middle East. I participated in a panel on employment with Queen Rania, and I’d like to share some of the ideas generated during that discussion and at the meeting more generally.

The atmosphere was both cautious and optimistic—cautious because of the growing risk of the downturn in advanced economies (particularly Europe) spreading to the region, and optimistic because of the recent political gains in both Libya and Tunisia in particular.

 One of my biggest (and heartening) takeaways was that there were more young people bubbling with ideas and entrepreneurial spirit (ready to take risk) than ever before at this regional forum—which reflects a growing recognition of their current role in the Arab Spring and the role they will have to play in the future as drivers of economic change.

 Creating jobs for the young and growing population in the Middle East and North Africa remains the dominant topic. Here on the Dead Sea, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs that are still on everybody’s mind. And it’s clear that there’s a tension between the high hopes for a better future in the long term and the impatience and frustration with difficulties and challenges in the short term. Continue reading

What the Arab Spring Has Taught Us


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي)

As we launch the IMF’s Arabic blog, Economic Window, we are witnessing an historic shift in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It is clear that the popular uprisings that began 10 months ago were born of a desire for greater freedom and for a more widespread and fairer distribution of economic opportunities.

But the scale of protests in the region and the associated deplorable loss of life came as a surprise to everyone, including us at the IMF.

Like others, we had pointed to the ticking time bomb of high unemployment, but we did not anticipate the consequences of the unequal access to opportunities. We had focused our efforts on helping countries in the region build solid macroeconomic foundations, liberalize economic activity, and introduce market-based reforms that would generate higher economic growth. IMF lending, policy advice, and technical assistance have indeed contributed to improving the economic indicators of many countries in the region. However, with hindsight, it is clear that we were not paying enough attention to how the benefits of economic growth were being shared.

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2011—A Pivotal Year for Global Cooperation


By John Lipsky

(Version in Español | 中文 | Français | 日本語 | Русский | عربي )

2011 represents a pivotal year for the global economic recovery and for international policy cooperation—as well as for the role of the Fund in addressing these two principal challenges.

With the crisis of 2008-09 receding, and following the unprecedented efforts expended in 2010 developing the outlines of a new, post-crisis world, 2011 will be the year in which post-crisis plans will be implemented, tested, and assessed. If they are deemed to be successful, it will not be an exaggeration to claim that a new model for global economic and financial governance will be under way. If unsuccessful, however, the sense of failure likely would undermine confidence while adding to the formidable list of challenges to be overcome. Continue reading

Is There a Silver Lining to Sluggish Credit Growth in the Gulf Countries?


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي )

Bank credit has been very slow to pickup in the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). How big a problem is this for their economic recovery?

Sluggish credit growth in the post-crisis period was hardly a unique development, as indicated in our latest Regional Economic Outlook. More than a dozen countries in the Middle East and Central Asia region, and countless more outside the region, shared this experience. But while there are clearer signs of recovery in some countries, credit to the private sector is still barely growing in the GCC, notwithstanding policy efforts to revive it.

It might seem easy to ring the alarm bells. After all, won’t the prospect of weak credit growth restrain economic activity in the short-term? Perhaps. But we believe the negative impact of credit growth may not be quite so severe.

Why not? In part, that answer lies in how we arrived at the current situation. Continue reading

More than 18 Million Jobs Needed!


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in عربي )

For the six oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa region—Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia—high unemployment is a chronic problem. Unemployment rates here are among the highest worldwide. This can have enormous economic and social costs, with the potential for what the IMF Managing Director has described as a ‘lost generation’ of unemployed.

Figures for these six countries in the region, outlined in our October 2010 Regional Economic Outlook, are staggering. Continue reading

Raising Competitiveness: Recipe for Tapping into the Middle East’s Growth Potential


By Masood Ahmed

(Version in  عربي )

With the global economy on the mend, countries in the Middle East and North Africa are witnessing a pickup in trade and economic growth. Aided by rising oil prices and production levels and supportive fiscal policies, economic growth for the region as a whole is projected to exceed 4 percent in 2010, almost double what it was in 2009.

In contrast, and unlike many emerging markets elsewhere, the region’s oil-importing countries saw only a mild slowdown in economic growth last year to 4½ percent and are likely to see growth nudge up to around 5 percent this year. However, as our October 2010 Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East points out, that growth rate is well below the average of 6½ percent a year required to create the 18 million jobs needed over the next decade to absorb new labor-market entrants and eliminate chronically high unemployment. Continue reading

Weekend in Washington: Cooperating Our Way Out of Crisis


By Dominique Strauss-Kahn

(Version in عربي 中文 Español Français 日本語 Русский )

This past weekend in Washington DC, as the economic leaders of 187 countries gathered for the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, the mood was tense. The world’s finance ministers and central bank governors were concerned because the global recovery is fragile. And uneven. And it is fragile because it is so uneven.

In the emerging markets of Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, things are going pretty well. Even in Africa, many countries have returned to growth much faster than in previous recessions. In Europe, however, the recovery is sluggish. And in the United States, it remains subdued. The IMF’s latest economic outlook, released during the meetings, does not anticipate a “double dip.” But there are risks. Continue reading

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