Twice a year, we put together an economic outlook for Middle East and North Africa as part of the economic analysis we do at the World Bank. Over the last two years, a series of political and financial shocks have made the regional economic trends and turning points that we are looking for in these reports difficult to identify.
While there have been positive development for beneficiaries of the pension system in Iraq, there are still challenges to improve services in Baghdad and across Iraq. It requires reforming the system to be responsive to the current and future needs of Iraq. Pensions systems are one of the most difficult areas in any country to reform and always involve a long term process fraught with political and technical challenges.
This is good day for asset recovery. First and foremost it is a victory for the Tunisian people and the Tunisian government. It demonstrates that the consistent and patient efforts undertaken by the authorities in Tunis, including the Tunisian Financial Intelligence Unit, the Committee for the return of Stolen Assets, and the Ministry of Justice, are now paying off.
The very fact alone that this country and its people were in bondage for 42 years is unbelievable. The fact that the nation rose up against tyranny in spite of real danger, incredible losses and an uncertain outcome is a testimony to the courage and determination of a people to win their freedom. And the fact that the Libyan people, and especially its young men and women, hold such incredible optimism about the future, speaks to the indomitable spirit of a nation.
Beautiful ruins speak of a people steeped in history with a deep sense of time and an inherent understanding of change. And it was in this city that I saw without any shadow of a doubt the strength of Libyan determination for their new-found democracy and freedom to succeed.
Blood pressures are rising in the Middle East and North Africa and they show little sign of cooling down. They began simmering over shishas in el kahawi (coffeehouses) in Tahrir Square, Eqypt; steaming over fried malsouka snacks in Habib Bourguiba Street, Tunisia; and bubbling over smoke filled debates at Pearl Roundabout, Bahrain. People from all classes and walks of life are equally affected.
Everyday more than 4,000 trucks carrying goods out of the ports of Djibouti-city head west towards Ethiopia. The route passes through a barren, austere landscape where temperatures can soar to 50c. The road is poor and the going laborious. About an hour out of the city, after miles of heat and emptiness, the road turns and a small schoolhouse appears.
One day on a recent mission to Tripoli, Libya – after an early start and a hectic morning of meetings – I went with the World Bank’s Representative to a wonderful Turkish Restaurant in the heart of Tripoli to have lunch and to discuss the progress of the mission. As we were dinning, our waiter engaged in polite conversation with my Tunisian colleague in French.
I started working in Morocco four years ago as a result of the government’s request for
support in implementing their national agricultural strategy, the Plan Maroc Vert. This strategy set the ambitious targets of doubling the agricultural value added and creating 1.5 million jobs in little more than a decade.
The Middle East and North Africa Transition Fund held its second steering committee meeting in the Moroccan capital, Rabat last month. Four new grants were awarded at the meeting in support of the ongoing reform process in Morocco. Jonathan Walters, World Bank coordinator for the Transition Fund was in Rabat and provided us with some background on what the Fund hopes to achieve both in Morocco and the region.