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.
The numbers are staggering. Almost one third of the populations of Algeria and Morocco are under the age of 15, with Tunisia following close behind. This ‘youth bulge’ is placing immense pressure on the education systems of the Maghreb.
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.
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.
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.
Is the World Bank working with Non-Governmental Organizations to address high rates of unemployment in Tunisia? I remember this question clearly. It was asked by an NGO advocate during a recent workshop on public works in the Tunisian capital, Tunis. The World Bank team I was with had just finished highlighting the importance of developing public private partnerships for the delivery of employment services when the question was posed.
It was a cold and rainy afternoon in Tunisia in February of 2011. My colleagues and I were on mission, driving from the Ministry of Employment to our next meeting. We got stuck! The street was blocked with hundreds of youth chanting “3amal” (“work” in Arabic). They were outside one of the biggest public employment offices in Tunis demanding work, often violently.
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.
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.