Marwan Mouasher

A New World Bank Approach Towards The Arab Region

تم نشره في Tue 23 February / Feb 2016. 10:43 PM

Several World Bank strategies for Jordan caught my attention, added their latest report published online explaining —attempting rather to explain, the dynamics that led to the irruption of the Arab revolutions, with some suggested resolutions.

In such discourses, the “Bank” does not usually consider the internal situation of credited countries, because their system does not allow it, even though politics actually play a major role in the Bank’s decision to approve or decline loans. Accordingly, the latest approaches of the World Bank covered only the technical aspects in complete dismissal of the political factors that affect economy.

Moreover, their —the World Bank's, most pressing concerns in regards to credited countries primarily entailed giving out bigger loans in return for, only sometimes necessary, structural reforms.

As a result, proposed resolutions were shortcoming on many levels.

Recently, however, the Bank has been viewing the region through more realistic lenses. And perhaps the Arab revolutions shed light on the importance of taking wholly the poli-economic dynamics into consideration, especially those that have led to the escalation of the regional situation.

Notably, in a study by the World Bank titled “Middle East and North Africa Countries Need a New Social Contract…” they try to explain in figures the factors that led to the Arab Revolutions. The study says that the old social contract (the terminology itself is novel to World Bank literature) in the region —entailing that states provide jobs, health, education, and basic material in return for limited public participation in decision making, is no longer “efficient”. This contract is incapable of sustaining the provision of necessary funds for the quality of health and education necessary to pillar sustainable development and support the middle class, considering that a part of these funds is being allocated to nonproductive sectors.

Accordingly, indices of education declined compared to global benchmarks, and so did those of health services, leading to the drainage of middle-income segments of societies and to scarcity of real employment opportunities in the private sector.

The study indicates generally that people are frustrated due to low life quality and standards; the state is no longer capable of providing acceptable public services, nor is the frameworks of governance and accountability convincing to the people. Additionally, provided aid and funds cannot solve the problem, because they do not go to those who need such amenities , nor do they create opportunities for employment.

In other words, bellies, mouth, and minds have all been gagged; no wonder revolutions swept across the whole region.

More so, the study also indicates, in numbers, that these factors still dominate, and that frailty is the common denominating feature of Arab states —as if it were a response to those who “comfort us” that the Arab Spring is over.

Mind you —and this is a World Bank study; that there is an imminent need to renew the social contract in the Arab region and build trust between state and citizenry. A new social contract that allows the private sector to create new real new jobs, gives citizens greater expression margins, and includes them in the decision making process. All that in a region where the average rate of unemployment, especially among youths, is double the world average, and freedom indices are the lowest worldwide.

The World Bank states in their strategy for Jordan over the next 5 years, and maybe for the first time, about the impossibility of sustaining the rentier economic system in Jordan, and about the need for a new social contract that includes real jobs and expands the decision making base to improve life quality and attain sustainable development; including a new education and health sector and a new real political representative system.

This straightforward statement is coming from an international organisation that never accustomed us to bluntness; so if the World Bank can no longer package truths in bright wrappings to cover up structural hinges and challenges, then why do we persist on postponing the inevitable confrontations and insist on turning them over for the next generation to deal with instead of facing openly and addressing the political, economic, and social aspects and then execute them with political determination? The State’s refrainment from proposing resolutions along these lines, and refusal to believe in their validity and effectiveness, is frightening and dangerous.