Kuwait City, May 5, 2013 – Senior policymakers, analysts, and government officials from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are meeting in Kuwait to discuss ways to protect the poor and vulnerable from income and unemployment shocks. The five-day course, the first of its kind in the region, is sponsored by the International Monetary Fund—Middle East Center for Economics and Finance in Kuwait, with support from the World Bank. Participants from Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Oman are discussing current social safety net (SSN) challenges in the MENA region and developing an in-depth understanding of the conceptual and practical issues involved in this area.
Mr. Abdelhadi Yousef, Director, IMF-Middle East Center for Economics and Finance said: “SSN programs have a profound impact on reaching the poorest segments of the population, more so than other interventions like universal price subsidies.”
The week-long course provides a knowledge-sharing platform and builds on practical experiences from around the world, including the latest research findings and operational work of the World Bank and other institutions. Participants will have the opportunity to present and discuss challenging SSN issues facing their own countries and to identify solutions. They will join the MENA Community of Practice, a virtual knowledge sharing forum to facilitate a discussion on how best to improve employment opportunities for youth in the region and manage risks faced by various households. In addition, the participants will join the Bank-supported global community of practice to share their main findings and lessons learned.
“This course will provide an opportunity for practitioners from across the region to discuss not only best practices, but also ideas for implementing these best practices at the regional level,” said Bassam Ramadan, World Bank Country Manager in Kuwait. “This dialogue can help improve the effectiveness of social safety net programs in MENA and better address the specific needs and issues faced by the region.”
It is significant that the course is taking place in Kuwait since the country’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor has recently launched a Technical Cooperation Program with the World Bank to assess existing SSN policies and programs and to develop a strategic framework consistent with international practices and grounded in Kuwait’s socio-economic context. The program is aligned with the Ministry’s mandate and priorities as identified in Kuwait’s Development Plan which continues until 2014.
“One of the main priorities of the Ministry of Social Affairs is to ensure that the benefits of the country’s significant economic growth are broadly shared across various households and social strata especially vulnerable individuals,” said Zikra Ayed Al Rashidi, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor. “The shared growth should be supplemented by effective social safety net programs in Kuwait to protect and support these households and individuals in order to integrate them into society.”