News / Middle East

IMF: Economic Realities Visible on Streets, Not Spreadsheets

International Monetary Fund [IMF] Managing Director Dominique Strauss Kahn attends the IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington, April 15, 2011
International Monetary Fund [IMF] Managing Director Dominique Strauss Kahn attends the IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington, April 15, 2011

Activists in the Middle East and North Africa say a lack of opportunities and high unemployment rates, especially among the young, contributed to the tensions that erupted into popular uprisings across the region. Economists say they must look beyond spreadsheets if they want to provide the types of support that will improve the lives of individuals on the streets.

Late last year, a 26-year-old fruit vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire, hoping to highlight the indignities average people endured in order to work.

Mohammed Bouazizi's self-immolation is credited with triggering a popular uprising in his country that has since spread to other countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Despite his university degree, Bouazizi could only find work as a street vendor, trying to earn a living as police stole his fruit or prevented him from selling his goods.  

Mustapha Nabli, the Central Bank governor in Tunisia, addressed the issue of economic disparity when he spoke Friday on a panel at the International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington.

Nabli said he believes the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere did not ultimately stem from inequality.  

"I think it's really about fairness. The revolutions took place because people felt that what was happening was unfair and lots of things [that] were happening were unfair. It was not inequality, per se, which was a problem. It was the way people were acquiring wealth, accumulating wealth which was felt to be unfair."

Fellow panelist Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University in New York, said governments and the international system alike are at fault for fostering unfair economic realities.

"Obviously the elites of these countries are primarily responsible, but they were enabled and encouraged and reinforced not just by external support for repression, but by ideological support for the policies that they were following, and by a blind eye to things like corruption, by a blind eye to things like the fact that a larger and larger share of national income was going to a narrower and narrower stratum, and that's not productive," said Khalidi.

The IMF's managing director, Dominique Strauss Kahn, said countries such as Tunisia and Egypt have fairly healthy macroeconomic figures. But, Strauss Kahn said, the distribution of income and high levels of youth unemployment showed that the population at large was not reaping the economic benefits.  

"The international community needs to link more what is traditionally seen as important - economic, financial - and what is the really important thing in life - which is the people on the street," he said.

Strauss Kahn said economic experts must take into account real life if they want to help foster inclusive growth.

Egyptian pro-democracy activist Wael Ghonim agreed that the reality on the street is different than the reality presented in economists' spreadsheets. "When we read the consumer reports that say that the inflation is about 10 percent, and then I find I'm talking to my neighbor, who tells me that the price of meat is 50% higher, who am I going to believe?"

Ghonim also acknowledged that he is among the fortunate, as he holds an executive post at Google. He added that he believes Egyptian people do not want aid, but rather investment and technical expertise in order to create new, meaningful jobs that will enhance society.   

"Is job creation that we're referring to a guy making $100 for a firm that makes billions of dollars as part of profits for very few people? I think the world now got sort of like a wake-up call."

Nabli, of Tunisia's Central Bank, said people are going to be disappointed in the short term, as quality jobs are going to take time to materialize, even though the people want them now.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid