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FEATURE STORY May 20, 2021

Recovery in the MENA Region: Designing Inclusive, Resilient, and Sustainable Policies

Recovery in the MENA Region

“As parliamentarians we have a crucial role to facilitate well-calibrated policies and stronger international cooperation to achieve a greener, inclusive recovery in the region.” Senator Neila Tazi, Morocco

The World Bank, in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund and the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and IMF, held its third MENA Regional Chapter Meeting virtually on May 20, 2021. The event engaged Members of Parliament from MENA countries on designing inclusive, resilient, and sustainable policies in their respective countries and reinforcing collaboration across national borders in the region.

Key takeaways:

  • Parliamentarians play an essential role in promoting effective reforms to make the region more resilient, including by fostering regional cooperation, investing in healthcare, taking action against climate change, and digitalizing the public sector.
  • To build an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient recovery, legislators should focus on increasing trust in institutions by championing transparent policymaking and promoting accountability.
  • Strategic regional engagements, such as the one embodied by the MENA Chapter of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and IMF, represent an effective tool to promote cross-country dialogue and partnerships to create collaborative solutions to shared challenges.

"When the government is efficient, the people’s trust in government rises. This is a call to our parliamentarians to look very carefully at being efficient, at moving forward fast, and at communicating with and seeking ownership from their constituencies ahead of adopting new policies."
Ferid Belhaj
Vice President, MENA, World Bank

Recovery in the MENA Region: Designing Inclusive, Resilient, and Sustainable Policies

The meeting focused on the state of the region, which even before COVID-19 was grappling with issues of transparency in governance and rule of law. The added impact of the pandemic has forced governments to implement drastic measures to protect communities at risk, which has in turn tested the region’s resilience and risked exacerbation of economic instability as well as fragility in some cases. Recovery for MENA countries will vary significantly depending on the pandemic’s path as well as the management of existing crises concerning poverty, unemployment, and violence. In this setting, the role of parliamentarians in ensuring transparency and a proper allocation of aid budgets is indispensable as governments face the challenge of overcoming the socioeconomic implications of the pandemic.

The MENA Regional Chapter Meeting provided a constructive space for dialogue on better policies for building an inclusive and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Legislators from Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates contributed to the dynamic panel discussion, moderated by Senator Neila Tazi, Morocco. Parliamentarians provided their unique country perspectives and solutions on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other pressing issues, including vaccines, governance, reforms, climate change, social safety nets, and debt.

“Parliamentarians play an important role in the policy setting. The purpose of our discussion today is to see how they can strengthen the response and accelerate the recovery of the region to address longstanding issues that existed before the COVID crisis” Jihad Azour, Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department, IMF

Jihad Azour, Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the IMF spoke about the importance of understanding the context, identifying priorities, and aligning action accordingly. He highlighted the significance of vaccine rollouts in determining the trajectory of economic growth in the region as more vaccinations will create safer, more attractive environments for industries such as tourism. Ferid Belhaj, Vice President for the MENA region at the World Bank outlined the World Bank priorities for better transparency in governance and a move towards climate action in an area where water scarcity affects entire communities and hinders poverty reduction strategies. Mr. Belhaj also encouraged the private sector to embrace change, operate with resilience and invest in innovative solutions to drive growth and create new jobs.

Dr. Nasser Saidi, Founder and President of Nasser Saidi & Associates, validated the comments by panelists, encouraging parliamentarians to think about long-term strategies essential for creating jobs and reducing poverty in a densely populated region with high youth unemployment. Dr. Saidi stressed the importance of digitalization, creating social safety nets, investing in the green transition, and opening economies to the private sector. In addition to emphasizing necessary structural changes, Dr. Saidi highlighted the importance of regional cooperation and creating an environment of transparency and good governance by holding governments accountable.

“Parliamentarians need to focus on holding governments accountable, and we have not done that in our region. The issue of rule of law is a critical one…That has to be our number one priority.” Dr. Nasser Saidi, Founder and President, Nasser Saidi & Associates

Throughout the meeting, emphasis was placed on the importance of rebuilding confidence and restoring trust between citizens and governments in order to create a new social contract stemming from transparency and accountability. Parliamentarians in the audience were given the opportunity to engage with panelists by posing questions that further enriched the dialogue and enabled a deeper discussion on building stronger more resilient economies in the face of unprecedented circumstances.

“What we wish for today is to benefit from this platform, this network, to work with the World Bank and the IMF, on opening new dynamics, new perspectives in order to recreate the economic model and the social contract.” Hon. Zied Ladhari MP, Tunisia