IMF's Christine Lagarde calls for ‘urgent action’ to create jobs in Arab world

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of International Monetary Fund IMF attends the opening session of the Opportunities For All economic conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (AP)
Updated 30 January 2018

IMF's Christine Lagarde calls for ‘urgent action’ to create jobs in Arab world

LONDON: Arab countries need to do more to create private sector jobs and bolster inclusive growth amid growing youth unemployment and regional dissatisfaction, said Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said on Tuesday.
Speaking at an IMF conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, she said 27 million young people would join the workforce in Arab countries in the next five years in a region that has the highest rate of youth unemployment in the world at 25 percent.
Although Arab states are progressing with reforms, they must move away from being “state employers” and focus on improving social safety nets, Lagarde said.
During the two-day conference on inclusive growth, Lagarde said the public dissatisfaction that is “bubbling up” in several countries is a reminder that even more ‘urgent action’ is needed.
In Tunisia, violent demonstrations broke out again this month as anger mounts over IMF-backed measures that include subsidy cuts and tax increases.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CABU), told Arab News: “Frustrations across the Arab world are growing.”
Doyle said: “The region must urgently deploy more resources to tackle youth unemployment and these resources must be deployed far more effectively.”
The director said Middle Eastern governments must take action to end its “many conflicts and crises” to unlock the region’s potential.
Doyle urged the region to look at redesigning its education system to ensure it provides the right skills for a twenty first century jobs market.
“The region needs to look at skilling up for the digital economy,” he said. “However, be under no illusion, it’s a massive challenge.”
The Cabu expert said that Egypt represents a particularly pressing challenge due to its central location and large and growing population.
“[Joblessness] will have an immediate impact on the country and it’s not rosy,” he warned.
“We may well witness more protests and discontent. Governments really should be really aware that [protests] represent genuine economic weaknesses and reflect the levels of corruption in the region.”
Wes Schwalje, COO of GCC research firm Tahseen Consulting, agreed that regional education systems are struggling to produce national workforces with the skills that meet “the needs of knowledge-based economic development and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Schwalje told Arab News: ” A youthful, growing labor market can be beneficial to economic development if it is accompanied by job creation. Without job creation, the counterfactual is youth becoming unemployed, discouraged, or entering the informal economy.
“Discontent among youth is particularly significant since there is a strong link between youth bulges experiencing economic hardship and political violence. If the public sector is unable to create sufficient jobs for Arab youth, the only other option is private sector job creation.”
High levels of public sector employment in the Arab World have been criticized as “perpetuating low productivity, lack of economic diversification, and high public sector wage bills, Schwalje said.
The COO added: “Market reforms will need to reorient Arab youth toward private sector jobs… A number of Arab countries are piloting ambitious labor market reforms, such as unemployment benefits, minimum wages, fees on foreign workers, and increased mobility of foreign workers, but their success is far from certain.”


Leaders descend on Beijing for Bloomberg problem-solving forum

Updated 21 November 2019

Leaders descend on Beijing for Bloomberg problem-solving forum

  • The two-day event aims to encourage solutions from the private sector to some of the big challenges the global economy faces today
  • Some 500 senior leaders will attend the gathering, of which about 200 will come from Chinese institutions

Thought leaders from the business world and the global political scene are descending on the Chinese capital Beijing for the New Economy Forum (NEF) run by the information and media giant Bloomberg.

The two-day event aims to encourage solutions from the private sector to some of the big challenges the global economy faces today — trade, climate change, technology and financial volatility. It will also prioritize issues of inclusion, urbanization and governance.

Justin Smith, chief executive officer of Bloomberg Media, told Arab News — which is a media partner for the event — that some 500 delegates would attend the forum, with about 200 coming from institutions within China.

“The reason we’re bringing people together is to produce a platform for discussion between people who represent the new global economy. There is a whole new class of people from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America who are not represented well in the ‘legacy gatherings’ that take place, which are typically more American and European oriented.

“The idea is to enable people at a principle level — chief executives, ministers, leaders — to have substantive conversations to find solutions to global problems and help mitigate the big issues the world faces. This is not just a talking shop,” he said.

Some 500 senior leaders will attend the gathering, of which about 200 will come from Chinese institutions. “There will be a big Chinese involvement, but this is because of how important China is in the global economy. This really is a one-of-a-kind gathering,” Smith said.

The opening keynote will be delivered by a senior member of the leadership of the Peoples Republic, whose identity has not been officially disclosed amid tight security at the conference venue outside Beijing city center.

While the issue of trade wars between China and the US will be a big issue at the gathering, Smith said that it was not the most important one. “This is not a US-China gathering — it is a global gathering located in Beijing,” he said.

Americans attending the event include former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, as well as Hank Paulson, who was Treasury secretary during the global financial crisis, and Janet Yellen, former chair of the US Federal Reserve.

There is a significant delegation from the Middle East, including Saudi business leader Lubna Olayan, as well as executives and policy-makers from other Arabian Gulf countries.

“The Middle East’s role in the new economy is critical. It has increasingly deep ties with China, but also has strong links with Europe and the West. They are in between western capitalism and state capitalism,” Smith said.