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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid