For the six oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa region—Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia—high unemployment is a chronic problem. Averaging above 10 percent for the past two decades, unemployment rates here are among the highest in the world. And, youth unemployment is even more alarming at over 20 percent. Given the enormous economic and social costs of unemployment, the region can no longer afford the status quo. These countries need to create about 18? million full-time jobs over the next decade to provide employment for young people looking for their first job and to bring down unemployment. But, why is unemployment chronically high? And what needs to be done to fix it?
With the global economy on the mend, countries in the Middle East and North Africa are witnessing a pickup in trade and economic growth. But, within the region, the picture is mixed. Indeed, for the region’s oil-importing countries, we are likely to see growth nudge up from 4½ percent in 2009 to around 5 percent this year. However, that is well below the growth rate required to create the 18 million jobs needed over the next decade. For these countries, greater competitiveness will be the crucial ingredient to boosting economic growth and employment. In this blog post, Masood Ahmed explores what we mean by ‘competitiveness’ and what are the policy actions governments need to take to raise it.
Countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia region that import, rather than export, oil were hit hard by the Great Recession of 2008/09. The good news is that, today, the outlook for those countries is broadly positive. But, as often seems to be the case in today’s world, this good news is tempered with a word of caution. According to our latest Regional Economic Outlook: Middle East and Central Asia, there are a number of downside risks. And the key challenge for these four countries—Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan—will be to take actions now to address these risks.
Continuing my travels through Asia for the launch of our latest Regional Economic Outlook: Asia and Pacific, I am writing to you today from Singapore. Last week, I wrote about the near-term outlook for Asia. Today, I turn to the key medium-term challenge—an issue emphasized by G-20 ministers over the weekend—the need to rebalance economic growth. For much of Asia, this means shifting away from heavy reliance on exports by strengthening domestic sources of growth. While much of the discussion on this issue has focused on ways to increase consumption, the role of investment is equally important and should not be overlooked.
The devastating impact of the global financial crisis created a consensus that pre-crisis financial regulation didn’t take the “big picture” of the system as a whole sufficiently into account and, as a result, supervisors in many markets “missed the forest for the trees.” In other words, they did not take into account the macro-prudential aspects of regulation, which has now become the focus of many authorities. Macro-prudential policies were the focus of discussions in Shanghai earlier this week, where The Peoples’ Bank of China hosted conference titled Macro-Prudential Policies: Asian Perspectives, that brought together central bankers and senior financial officials around the world. At the conference, there was wide agreement that the first step in designing macro-prudential policies ought to be a convergence of views regarding the objectives of such policies.
I am in Asia this week to launch our October 2010 Regional Economic Outlook: Asia and Pacific (REO) in Jakarta and Singapore. As I have inevitably found during visits to Asia over so many years, the mood here is confident about future economic prospects. Yet it is also watchful for risks that may be lurking over the horizon. This mood matches closely the main messages of our current assessment of the outlook for the region. In the first of several blogs posts from the region, here I reflect on the self-sustaining recovery under way across Asia, the risk external risk factors and, the pressing issue for Asian policymakers, policy options for managing the tide of large capital inflows.
Almost unnoticed amidst the difficulties in western Europe, the other half of the continent has begun to recover from the deepest slump in its post-transition period. In our fall 2010 Regional Economic Outlook, the emerging economies in central and eastern Europe are projected to grow by 3¾ percent this year and next—a relief after the 6 percent decline in 2009. But the boom years before the crisis had left much of the region addicted to foreign-financed credit growth, making it very vulnerable to a disruption in capital inflows. So, as the region emerges from the crisis, the big question is how do we avoid a repeat?
This past weekend in Washington DC, as the economic leaders of 187 countries gathered for the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, the mood was tense. The world’s finance ministers and central bank governors were concerned because the global recovery is fragile. And, on top of the risks to the outlook, there is concern that the strong international cooperation that was shown during the crisis is in danger of receding. So, after the meetings, was the atmosphere less tense? Yes...and no. The world made some progress over the weekend. But we shouldn’t be too self-congratulatory. We are not yet out of the woods. The IMF’s analysis indicates that improved economic policy coordination, over the next five years, could increase global growth by 2.5 percent, create or save 30 million jobs, and lift 33 million more out of poverty. With such high potential returns, can we really afford each to go our own way?
With the 2010 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings, you’ll see some big changes from previous years. Our goal—for this year and future years—is to provide a forum for people to debate, to learn from each other (and us from them), and to be part of a global conversation. At this critical juncture for the global economy there are many burning policy issues on the agenda. And, we are opening our doors and inviting you—the membership and the broader public—to be part of this discussion. Our expanded Program of Seminars is a major part of the dialogue. Here, Siddharth Tiwari tells us about the topics that will be discussed and invites you to add your voice to the discussion.
Achieving a “strong, balanced, and sustained world recovery”—to quote from the goal set in Pittsburgh by the G-20—was never going to be easy. It requires much more than just going back to business as usual. It requires two fundamental and complex economic rebalancing acts: internal and external rebalancing. These two rebalancing acts are taking place too slowly. As the latest World Economic Outlook reveals, the result is a recovery which is neither strong, nor balanced, and runs the risk of not being sustained.