To some, Sharia-compliant financial services offer a promising path towards expanding financial inclusion among Muslim adults. To others, these services – which avoid charging interest and seek to conform to Islamic principles of profit- and loss-sharing – do not address the root causes of financial exclusion. But most agree that there is a dearth of empirical research that measures the degree to which Muslims are using Sharia-compliant financial products, their demand for it, and the extent to which they refrain from using conventional financial systems. Without data and related analysis, policymakers and private sector leaders are often speculative in framing the role of Islamic finance within the financial inclusion agenda.
It started with the first cries of “degage” that resonated across southern and central Tunisia to the streets of the capital in the winter of 2010. Through the ups and downs of Tunisia’s transition, one constant has been the citizens’ demand that the government listen to their voices and for greater accountability. Public opinion polls, banned under the former dictatorship but common today, rarely touch on bread and butter issues, such as how citizens feel about the most basic public services. One such issue is access to and the quality of health care, where systematic feedback from citizens has long been lacking.
Will a return to political stability solve the economic problems in the Middle East and North Africa?
In the three years since the Arab Awakening of late 2010, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has seen an increase in conflict and political instability, on the one hand, and a deteriorating economic situation, on the other. Given the vicious cycle between economic hardship and conflict, it is natural to ask whether a return to political stability will restore prosperity in the region.
Developing countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region spent 5.8 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on health in 2011, compared to 4.4 percent in 1995. On the surface, this rise in health spending may seem like MENA governments are prioritizing health. Yet, between 2006 and 2011 public spending on health as a proportion of government budget in the MENA region was the second lowest globally, after South Asia. As a result, the people are paying the price. Out-of-pocket expenditures on healthcare remained close to 47 percent of the total health spending throughout the period. These trends suggest that increased spending on healthcare is mainly due to increased private spending at the point of service and as such made health systems less fair and affordable for the people of MENA.
This Blog was originally posted on the World Bank Voices Blog.
The National Dialogue is an important moment in Yemen’s rich history. It has brought together political parties, social groups, women, youth, and regional representation around a dialogue to craft the future of Yemen.
In a conservative society where the majority of men believe that the role of women should be confined to domestic work within the household, Yemeni women are attempting to break the chains of social and cultural constraints.
Citizen Engagement (CE) is a means to empower citizens and enable them to participate—constructively and effectively—in public decisions. Since January 2011, citizens in the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) have asserted their rights for a more inclusive state – a state willing to broker a new social contract that better reflects the aspirations of ordinary citizens who seek equitable progress.
This blog has been co-authored by Michael Clemens and Nabil Hashmi
The recent tragedy off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy highlights the risks that many migrants face. For a large number of people around the world moving is still one of the surest ways of expanding their opportunities and improving their lives. The World Bank's International Labor Mobility program has been dedicated to rethinking the current approach to this movement. Our new series, ‘On the Move’ presents new ideas which showcase a sample of this program's approach, with the aim of changing the debate around migration by focusing on ways of promoting the safe movement of people and unlocking its many potential gains.