With a population of 355 million and the vast majority of people living in middle-income countries, the MENA region came into the Arab Spring with multiple strengths, including a young and educated population, strong resource base, and economic resilience that helped it weather the 2008/9 global financial crisis.
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Water loss, and its operational and financial consequences, is a major concern for urban water utilities in the Mediterranean region. Losses, both physical and commercial, are due to leakages and the ... Show More +failure to bill customers for the full amount of water they use. A combination of these two factors puts the financial viability of water utilities at risk.In countries already coping with water scarcity, the burden of water loss often leads to rationing and intermittent supply. As climate change exacerbates the problem—threatening the supply of renewable water and increasing the cost of new water resources—reducing losses from leaky pipes and under-billing, is becoming a priority for water utilities in the Mediterranean and throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.Malta, situated at the very center of the Mediterranean, provides a remarkable illustration of how major water resources challenges can be successfully overcome. The island has one of the lowest rates of renewable water supplies in the MENA region, at 100 m3 per capita per year. It also stands in the top ten countries with the highest population density, alongside Gaza, Bahrain, Hong Kong and Singapore.Several decades ago, Malta became one of the first countries in the region to invest in desalination plants but, in the 1990s, as new plants were being built to meet increasing demand, it became clear that demand for water was fast outstripping its supply.The Water Services Corporation (WSC), Malta’s national water utility, turned its attention to water loss instead, initiating an aggressive program that achieved significant results. In addition to state-of-the-art concepts and technology for monitoring and reducing leakages, the WSC also put in place a program to optimize energy consumption at its desalination plants, reducing average energy consumption from 6-7 to 4.5 kWh/m3. Show Less -
Morocco - Second Skills and Employment Development Policy LoanIBRD Loan: US $100.0 million equivalentTerms: Maturity = 29 years, Grace = 6.5 yearsProject ID: P144185Project Description: The objectives... Show More + of the project are to improve the efficiency and relevance to labor market needs of skills development programs; improve the effectiveness of intermediation services; promote the formalization of microenterprises; and strengthen the labor market information system. Show Less -
WASHINGTON, August 26, 2014 – The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today a US$100 million project in support of the government of Morocco’s ongoing efforts to boost employment and imp... Show More +rove the quality of jobs. The project will focus on ensuring the skills taught in universities and vocational training programs match the needs of the labor market, increasing the efficiency of employment services and broadening their reach to disadvantaged segments of the population, promoting micro-enterprises while formalizing the employment conditions for the many currently employed by them, and reinforcing the governance of the labor market.The Second Skills and Employment Development Policy Loan (SEDPL2) is the second in a programmatic series of two projects aimed at addressing employment. A principal aim of the SEDPL2 is to support the development of a clearer path from school to work. The reform of educational and training programs will improve the job prospects of graduates, by equipping them with the right skills, while more effective employment services will match them with available jobs. The project will also support government plans to expand the reach of the national employment agency, ANAPEC, beyond graduates, to offer services to less-qualified individuals. Another policy initiative supported by the SEDPL2 will be to create a new legal status for self-employed individuals who want to exit the shadow economy and pay taxes, in exchange for a package of benefits; including access to credit and affordable social security. Finally, the project will contribute to improving the quality and availability of information needed to make employment policy decisions.“Unemployment continues to be a critical development challenge for Morocco,” said Simon Gray, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb Region. “The government is taking significant steps to improve how institutions respond to the needs of young people, in terms of providing them with the skills that are most relevant to the job market, as well as empowering them to create their own opportunities. We are pleased to be working closely with the authorities to support these and other efforts to boost employment.”In preparation for the launch of the program’s second project, the government undertook a number of initiatives. These included the signing of agreements with thirteen new private sector providers of vocational training; the launch of a support program for Non-Governmental Organizations, which will be funded to provide training programs to out-of-school youth from disadvantaged backgrounds; the launch of an 18-month pilot program to extend the coverage of ANAPEC to non-graduates in five local offices; the adoption of a draft law to promote micro-enterprises; and the establishment of a National Observatory for Employment. “As a result of the reforms supported by this project, we hope to see more people employed in more productive jobs with better working conditions,” said Nadine Poupart, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project. “The project also aims to reach a broad cross section of society, with equal access for women as for men and programs designed specifically for young people from disadvantaged areas.” Show Less -
Following the signing in late 2011 of the Gulf Cooperation Council Sponsored peace agreement, after nearly a year of conflict, Yemen faced the dual task of launching a delicate political transition wh... Show More +ile rebuilding the economy. This challenge was made even harder by the urgent humanitarian needs of the population. Yemen faced poverty rates above 30% before the revolution but these had since climbed to above 40%. As a longtime development partner, the World Bank was fully committed to supporting the efforts of the Government of National Reconciliation to rebuild and create the kind of stable environment needed for the political transition. One of the top priorities was addressing the country’s urgent humanitarian needs.Around 70% of Yemen’s population of 22.5 million lives in rural areas. Poverty is concentrated in this rural population, with rates far higher than the national average. The mountainous terrain and the isolation of small settlements, combined with the lack of decent roads, have left many disconnected from centers of economic activity and out of reach of basic services. The frustration with social and economic exclusion that played a major role in the revolution is starkly apparent among these communities. It is estimated that 90% of the rural population lives below the poverty line. The year of instability made their situation even more precarious and required immediate action.A Labor Intensive Public Works project was launched in early 2012, funded by a US$65 million grant from the International Development Association, the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. The goal of the project was to create short term employment opportunities in Yemen’s poorest communities. The work generated would be for the construction of vital basic infrastructure. While individuals would benefit from jobs, communities would end up with improved access to health and education services, mains sewage and water, and paved roads. Show Less -
WASHINGTON, August 7, 2014: Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Libya are trapped in a “poor policy – poor growth” cycle, which prevents their economies from moving to a sustainable growt... Show More +h path, says the World Bank in the newly released Quarterly Economic Brief for the Middle East & North Africa region.The report, titled “Predictions, Perceptions and Economic Reality - Challenges of Seven Middle East and North Africa Countries Described in 14 Charts,” finds that the situation has gotten worse after the 2011 uprisings. Despite recent signs of economic improvement in Egypt and Tunisia, growth continues to be weak and cannot generate enough jobs. Fiscal deficits are still high and public debts are growing at a faster pace than before, leaving little space for growth-promoting investment. Private sector activity is sluggish, and the few jobs that are created in the public sector are filled through connections, leaving young people frustrated. Many workers move to the informal sector, creating a large, vulnerable group exposed to external shocks.“While the problem of high unemployment is especially pernicious in these countries, an even greater problem is that of those working in the informal sector, “says Shanta Devarajan, World Bank Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa region. “These people, who are not part of the unemployment statistics, are in an even worse situation, since they lack security in their earnings and often live near the poverty line.” These seven countries have the potential to move to a higher growth path but the sustainability of growth depends heavily on governments’ choice of economic policies. “There is a risk of policy error if, by trusting economic forecasts that paint a positive outlook for their economies, policymakers resist needed reforms,” says Lili Mottaghi, World Bank MENA Economist and the author of the brief. Studies have shown that there is an optimism bias in growth forecasts for developing regions and in particular for MENA, because these forecasts do not necessarily take into account new information that comes in at the last minute, nor the structural breaks that sometimes drive an economy.Prompt actions are needed to promote economic activities that deliver sustainable well-being for all citizens. These actions include structural reforms - targeting of subsidies, strengthening the investment climate, improving governance, and removing rigidities in product and labor markets – that are well integrated with economic policies. These reforms are necessary whether the short-term economic prospects are rosy or gloomy. Without them, the private sector will struggle to become a growth driver and create jobs. Show Less -
This issue of the MENA quarterly brief assesses the macroeconomic performance of seven ofthe MENA countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Libya. All of these countries experienced ... Show More +rapid economic growth during 2000-10, and suffered a sharp economic slowdown in the aftermath of 2011. The brief focuses on the challenges facing these countries with a closer look at the actual growth performance in comparison with their forecasts and highlights the limitations of forecasting in the wake of the 2011 uprisings; and at the consequences of the growth slowdown, including unemployment, where perceptions may diverge from reality. The story is told in fourteen charts. Show Less -