Unemployment in the Arab world fuels protests

Unemployment in the Arab world fuels protests

Unemployment and slow economic growth have resulted in protests in several Arab countries according to a report released on Monday by the International Monetary Fund.

Social tensions also contribute to the sluggish economy in the Mena region (Middle East and North Africa).

Two weeks ago, IMF reduced its growth forecast for 2019 to only 1 % in the MENA region, including the Arab countries and Iran.

In addition, global trade wars, oil price volatility and the uncertainty around Brexit are other factors that explain the situation.

“The growth rate in these countries is lower that what is required to tackle unemployment,” said Jihad Azour, IMF director for the Middle East and Central Asia. “Youth unemployment in the region exceeds 25 – 30 %.”

Unemployment rates are on average 11 % across the region, compared to 7 % in other emerging and developing economies.

Women and young people are the most vulnerable, with more that 18 % of women and almost 23 % of young people without a job in 2018.

Violent demonstrations arose in December 2010 in Tunisia and spread to several Arab countries (“Arab Spring”), where they turned into civil wars in some of them.

A new wave of protests erupted in recent months in Algeria, Sudan, Iraq and Lebanon, where protestors are demanding economic reforms and an end to corruption.

Lebanon has experienced a very slow economic growth in recent years and faces an increasing budget deficit and trade imbalance,” Azour said. “The government must act firmly and quickly to address these imbalances and restore confidence.”

Lebanon suffers from sectarian divide, enshrined in its constitution, and a dysfunctional government.

Hundreds of thousands of people are protesting in the streets and are calling on the government to resign, The New York Times reports.

IMF also considers the level of government dept very high in many countries, exceeding 85 % of gross domestic product (GDP) on average, and more than 150 % in Lebanon and Sudan.

Iran is facing the worst economic crisis among all countries because of the US sanctions. Its economy shrank by 9.5 % this year after growing by 4.8 % in 2018, according to IMF.

The Brussels Times

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