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Saturday, 28 May 2011 21:04

IMF Backs Support For Middle East, North Africa

By Omoh Gabriel

DEAUVILLE, France, May 28, 2011 (AllAfrica) - The International Monetary Fund has thrown its weight behind the Group of eight (G-8) industrialised nations to provide financial support to the Middle East and North African economies. The multilateral institution said it was ready to make a commitment of $35 billion to the region as part of a broader international effort to help the region.

 

Launching the Deauville Partnership with the Middle East over the weekend, the G-8 has pledged to support Middle East and North African countries that are transitioning to free and democratic societies. According to Masood Ahmed, Director of IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department: "The region needs to prepare for a fundamental transformation of its economic model, "However, the immediate concern is that this promise should not be derailed by the multiple pressures the emerging markets of the region are now facing."

 

According to the IMF, a global partnership is being formed with countries wishing to support transition in the region, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, as well as other United Nations agencies and multilateral and regional development banks.

 

Leaders of the G-8 countries, who met May 26 and 27 in the French seaside resort, focussed on how best to aid successful transitions toward democratic societies and more inclusive, job-creating economies in light of the Arab Spring movement. The G-8 initiative is designed to support countries in the Middle East and North Africa during this transition, while ensuring that instability in the short-term does not undermine the process of political reform.

 

It said in a report released at the summit that social cohesion and macroeconomic stability must also be sustained. Some of the region's countries have been hit by a downturn in confidence that is affecting tourism and investment, and are relying on higher public spending to maintain social cohesion and support domestic demand, the IMF report said, noting that additional spending in the short- term was understandable.

 

But with a fiscal deficit projected to increase to $46 billion in 2011, oil importers cannot afford to strain public finances and jeopardize the new inclusive growth agenda. Some countries will thus need external support to meet their financing requirements.

 

The IMF, which has already been assessing the region's financing needs, announced it could make available as much as $35 billion as part of a broader international effort. An IMF mission is currently in Egypt to discuss possible financing with the government.

 

"I had the opportunity to meet with the Egyptian and Tunisian leaders, who were invited to the G-8 Summit," said IMF's Acting Managing Director, John Lipsky in a statement following the summit's conclusion. "More work to define goals and strategies remains. But the Fund is prepared to work actively with member-countries in the region to meet their urgent financing needs and develop the necessary strategies to medium-term success."

 

The Deauville G8-MENA Partnership topped a wide-ranging agenda for the summit. Nuclear safety, Libya, aid to Africa, the Internet, and the global economy were also discussed. The IMF report stressed that a multi-year agenda of social and economic transformation must accompany political transformation in order to generate a prosperous future for the region.

 

The presence of the regional donors alongside the G-8 will be key to the success of this partnership, the IMF report said. While each country must identify its specific policies, a broad regional strategy should address four main issues.

 

First, overcoming high unemployment will require a substantial increase in the pace of economic growth. To absorb the unemployed and new entrants to the labour force, MENA emerging economies would require annual real GDP growth of more than 7 ½ per cent--almost 3 percentage points higher than the average achieved in the past decade.

 

Achieving such growth rates will entail both additional investment and improved productivity. While some increases in public investment may be required, for instance to improve the quality of infrastructure and services in less developed rural areas, the key role will have to be played by the private sector, including attracting foreign direct investment.

 

Growth also needs to be more inclusive; governments need to create an environment that allows all segments of the population to contribute to and benefit from economic growth, not just a privileged few, while providing social protection for the most vulnerable.

 

Underlying these goals is the need to build modern and transparent institutions to foster accountability and good governance, and to preserve macroeconomic stability throughout the process.

 

In the initial years, some countries will need external support to meet their financing requirements. In the current baseline scenario which does not yet include the reform agendas that countries would develop, the external financing needs of the region's oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13.

 

Over the medium-term, the financing requirements of a new growth agenda will likely be higher, and will be determined once countries develop their economic and social strategies. (END)

 

 
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