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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs