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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs