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April 22, 2014

Inclusive Growth in Post-Arab Spring Countries in the Middle East and North Africa
Joint seminars of JICA and the Brookings Institution held in Washington, D.C. and Cairo

photoFrom left, Hafez Ghanem, senior fellow, Global Economy and Development, the Brookings Institution; Daniela Gressani, deputy director, Middle East and Central Asia, the International Monetary Fund; Akihiko Koenuma, director-general, Middle East and Europe Department of JICA; and Kemal Derviş, vice president of the Brookings Institution.

JICA and the Brookings Institution in the U.S. started a joint research venture in 2012, scheduled for three years, to discuss stabilization of the social economy after political changes in the Middle East and North Africa by sharing experiences of Japan and East Asia.

In parallel with the completion of five research papers written during the second year of the venture (February 2012 – January 2014), a seminar was held at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11. Also, the first local seminar from this research was held in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 25, 2014.

At a seminar in Washington, D.C., held to report on the research papers, over 100 people, including some involved with international organizations, and researchers participated. Moderated by Kemal Derviş, vice president and director of Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institution; Senior Fellow Ghanem; Akihiko Koenuma, director-general, Middle East and Europe Department of JICA; and Daniela Gressani, deputy director, Middle East and Central Asia, the International Monetary Fund appeared as panelists and exchanged opinions.

At the start, Ghanem commented, based on the five papers written in the second year that, for MENA countries going through a post-political-change transformation, approaching not only from the political side but also the economic side is important. An inclusive approach especially is required for the people in rural areas, which account for most of their populations. Also, to realize social equity and inclusion, the quality and content of aid are more important than the size, and a good review of aid policy is needed.

Ghanem's comments were then followed by a panel discussion, and Koenuma said that JICA evaluates aid suitable for the Middle East based on its experience in Asia, and it aims for inclusion by providing assistance in areas such as regional development, infrastructure improvement and capacity building. Also, in reply to a comment that donors’ expectations of transformation in each MENA country may be too high and that they may be hurrying the progress, Koenuma said, “Donors are also reconsidering how their assistance should be in order for inclusive growth to happen,” and Ghanem added that while understanding that transformation doesn’t happen overnight, donors need to comprehend the goal of each MENA country.

After the panel discussion, Naohiro Kitano, deputy director of JICA Research Institute, introduced the schedule of the third-year joint research starting in February 2014, and he also touched on the past partnership between JICA and the Brookings Institution.

The first on-site seminar was held in Egypt

photoChief Representative of the JICA Egypt Office Hideki Matsunaga, fourth from right, moderated the fourth session of the seminar held in Cairo.

The political turmoil in Egypt was triggered by large-scale demonstrations on Jan. 25, 2011. After the fall of Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, succeeded him in the presidency. On June 30, 2013, another large-scale demonstration by people who were discontent with Morsi’s administration took place. The disorder prompted intervention by the Egyptian military. The Muslim Brotherhood was ousted from power, and the Egyptian military established an interim administration.

In Egypt, settlement of these situations and the initiation of well-balanced, inclusive development are required. To help them become a reality, JICA provided assistance to formulate a master plan for Egypt national development after the revolution in February 2011. This effort was also taken up by first-year joint research, and Kei Sakamoto, then staff member of Middle East and Europe Department of JICA , wrote a paper entitled “Efforts to Introduce Inclusive Planning in Egypt.”

In order to widely share JICA’s lessons learned through these efforts and experiences as well as to share perception of other actors involved in the economic development in Egypt, JICA, the Brookings Institution and Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University co-hosted a seminar entitled “Towards Achieving Inclusive Growth in Egypt” in Cairo, Egypt. Approximately 200 people including government officials, donors and researchers participated and they had an active discussion.

What can be done for an inclusive growth?

photoMinister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Ayman Abou Hadid

Following an opening remarks by Koenuma, in the first session of the seminar entitled “Inclusive Planning in Egypt” Ayman Abou Hadid, minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation; Hala El Said, dean, Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University; Mohamed Omran, chairman of The Egyptian Exchange; and Shinji Naruo, JICA expert, appeared as a panel. The discussion among the panelists focused on the idea that economic policy should fully reflect the needs of diverse range of related parties. In order to decide and implement such policy, a system to take up the voice of the citizens in the process of forming policy is required. Also, Naruo suggested that it is important to decide on economic policy bearing in mind the consistency among the national development plan, economic and social policies, and individual development project.

In the second session, entitled “Creating Economic Opportunities” Ghada Waly, minister of Social Solidarity and managing director of Social Fund for Development (SFD) gave a keynote speech. She said it is critical to bring in the energy of the youth for economic growth, and especially for the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises, creating employment opportunities for the youth is important.

Moreover, Akira Murata, research fellow of JICA Research Institute, the author of a paper for the second-year joint research, reported that while young people tend to prefer to become public employees, narrowing the salary gap between the public sector and private sector would increase interest in the private sector, along with policies for the private sector such as educational support, improvement in IT infrastructure and aid in medical insurance.

In the third session, entitled “Rural Development,” Ghanem, who wrote a paper on the same theme in the second-year joint research, reported that more than half of the population of Egypt lives in rural areas with a high poverty rate, thus a well-balanced development both in rural and city areas is an imperative element for the growth of Egypt.

At the closing of the seminar, the fourth session, a discussion was held on how each donor should play its role and cooperate in the future for inclusive economic growth in Egypt, in which much development assistance was provided also in the past. The seminar was moderated by Hideki Matsunaga, chief representative of the JICA Egypt office and members from the United Nations Development Programme, the French Agency for Development, the African Development Bank and the World Bank discussed the theme based on their practical experience through daily operations.

Questions were raised one after another, showing the expectations and hopes of the seminar participants for the growth of Egypt. As the sudden resignation of the Cabinet a day before the opening of the seminar illustrated, Egyptian politics are still in the middle of a transition since the revolution in 2011. Amid this situation, JICA has continued and will continue operating its ongoing projects, and it will keep discussion and cooperation with a diverse range of players through joint research activities, in order to contribute to inclusive growth in Egypt.

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