Mister head of government, Ministers, Honorable Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the World Bank, it’s a great pleasure for me to be here today for the official launch of the Middle East and North Africa Chapter of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
I would like to begin by thanking the Network Chairman Mr Jeremy Lefroy, and especially the Vice-Chair of the Network, Mrs Olfa Soukri, for this effort.
For us at the [World] Bank, we are convinced that the work that MPs do is essential to succeed in economic development and fighting poverty, and to achieve equity and justice in our region.
Our region is witnessing a critical period, as we are all aware. Our analysis at the Bank is that we must focus on youth, on the hopes of youth. And the question I would like to ask today to everyone is the following: what can we do to create more opportunities, to create hope for youth today?
The MENA region is the youngest region in the world. And at the same time, the MENA region is the region with the highest unemployment rate of young people in the world. It is also the region that has the highest unemployment rate of university graduates. All these young people are watching us. They are watching you, representatives of the people, to see what we can do to improve their lives and their future.
At the Bank, we believe that the social contract that existed in our region for decades has been broken. It was a social contract based on an agreement between the government and the people that the government provided subsidies for essential products and education, and ensured work for everyone. When I finished university in Egypt in the 1970s, I was sure of having a job in the Egyptian public sector if I wanted to. Today, this is impossible. Today, states cannot afford to hire all young people graduating from university. The states cannot afford to subsidize all products.
We have to develop a new social contract that is based on inclusive growth. We have had growth in our region. Tunisia before the revolution had a growth rate of 5% per year. Egypt had a growth rate of 7% per year. But this growth was not shared. A lot of people, especially young people, did not feel this growth. They have not reaped the fruits of this growth. As a result, they have lost hope. With the end of the old social contract, they did not see how they could have the same quality of life as their parents.
Today we must revisit all this, we must put in place a new economic system that provides hope and opportunities for our youth, an economic system that also applies changes in the education system and job creation.
International experience shows that inclusive and transparent institutions form the basis of shared and sustainable prosperity. Me and my colleagues at the Bank hope that the creation of the Middle East and North Africa Chapter of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and the IMF will mark the beginning of a new era of collaboration, exchange of knowledge and good practices around common development challenges. These exchanges and dialogue will help us address together pressing development challenges in the region.