Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group, on inclusive governance in the MENA region: Viewpoint

Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group

In 2015, for the first time, the rate of extreme poverty was projected to fall below 10%. Our research and experience tells us that three things have been critical to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity: inclusive economic growth, investments in health and education, and insuring against risks that can plunge the vulnerable into poverty – risks like unemployment, illness, climate change and pandemics. Shaping governments so they deliver on these responsibilities is our shared responsibility and is essential to achieving our twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity.

The MENA region has been recently affected by changes in the global landscape. Lower oil prices are forcing governments across the region to re-evaluate policies that have been in place for decades. Economies dominated by large firms are not producing enough jobs, and this is true for countries that both export and import oil. Furthermore, economies dominated by fossil fuels are currently not earning enough oil revenues to support large public sector expenditures and fuel subsidies. Throughout the region, highly centralised bureaucracies have not delivered the health and education services needed to enable young people to compete in the globalised marketplace. The net result is a long period that discouraged innovation and entrepreneurship.

So what’s the best way forward today? We believe that the answer is what we call inclusive governance. At the core of inclusive governance is a social contract between government officials and their citizens that is based on three principles. First, governments must be transparent in their actions and fully engage with citizens. Second, governments must invest in their people to give them opportunities to reach their full potential. And third, governments must create business environments that encourage innovation, competition and private sector investment, which will, in turn, create jobs and increase economic growth.

Here in Dubai, input from communities and parents has helped the Knowledge and Human Development Authority improve education quality. Today, more than half of the emirate’s students are in good or outstanding schools, compared to 30% in 2010, and student achievement has steadily improved over the last five years. With initiatives such as inviting universities to identify a minister under 25 to represent young people and “give them a voice and role in governing the nation,” the UAE government has made some of the most inspiring gestures in governance in 2016.

We know that investing in people, especially in their health and education, is key to promoting opportunity and prosperity. Globally, earnings increase by an average of 10% for every year of education. Educated women can be particularly effective agents of social and economic progress, both for society and their children. Educated mothers earn higher wages and invest more in their children’s health and education.

For the MENA region, and indeed for all regions in the world, the path to stability and prosperity is through inclusive governance – actions that foster individual opportunity through quality public services and an open and competitive business climate.

Leaders must be transparent in their actions and engage with people so that they feel they are in fact citizens. This means that leaders must invest in their people, and they must create business environments that encourage private sector investment. The greatest strength of the Middle East is its people, especially its youth. If leaders invest in young people’s education and health, if they give young people opportunities by diversifying economies and sparking the dynamism of the private sector, the future of this region will become far brighter. With good governance, there will be greater opportunity for all. If the rest of the region can commit to the kind of good governance that has built the modern and dynamic UAE, the prospects for peace and prosperity would greatly improve.


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