The conflict in Syria, raging into its third year, is devastating the country’s population, economy, and infrastructure. The impact on neighboring countries, while less visible in the media, is nonetheless real and growing rapidly. At the request of Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the World Bank, in collaboration with the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund, undertook an Economic and Social Impact (ESIA) Assessment of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon. The report, available here, was presented to the newly formed International Support Group to Lebanon (ISG) at its inaugural meeting on the sidelines of the recent United Nations General Assembly.
Ferid Belhaj of the World Bank and Robert Watkins of the United Nations discuss the impacts of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon, and the need for a coordinated response to the rising social and economic costs.
The Middle East and North Africa region is on the front lines of climate change. According to the World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 ͦ C Warmer World Must be Avoided (WB, 2012), the region is steadily getting hotter and drier. Of the 19 countries that set new national temperature highs in 2010, the warmest year globally since records were first kept in the 1800s, five were Arab states.
It was once located on the grounds of the Uruguayan Embassy in Lebanon, and the name has somehow stuck. Now, Uruguay Elementary School is in a new building in an altogether different, bustling area of Beirut. It is hard to recognize it as a school at first: a seven-story building among other tall offices and manufacturing plants beside a major thoroughfare.
This week’s mass demonstrations in Egypt and assassination of an opposition leader in Tunisia -- not to mention the continuing conflict in Syria -- highlight the turmoil and uncertainty facing many countries in the Middle East and North Africa.To track the effects of these and other developments on the economy, the MENA Quarterly Economic Brief provides a real-time review, using high-frequency data, of five countries that are at risk of sluggish economic growth in 2013.
Whether constructing a new bridge or buying textbooks for a public school, governments around the world constantly purchase a wide variety of goods and services. In the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, these types of public contracts represent between 15 percent and 20 percent of GDP each year, an annual amount equal to tens of billions of US dollars.
"Syria's neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan in particular, have shown tremendous hospitality and tremendous generosity [in hosting the influx of Syrian refugees]. The international community needs to help them carry that burden, as they should not have to bear it alone." Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country Director.
Peer learning has great potential as an effective tool for sharing knowledge and good practice. For it to work, the right environment is needed; one that is conducive to learning and knowledge-sharing. In a recent case in Georgia, however, it all came down to the right crowd, a great host and relevant experiences. Good food and nice weather may also have helped some.
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity… poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Many years later these words by Nelson Mandela still resonate with me in my work on social protection of the poor in the Arab world, where a growing middle class exists alongside severe poverty.