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Students Debate Strauss-Kahn on Middle-East Issues

Youth unemployment is critical issue facing the Middle East, students told IMF chief Strauss-Kahn during town hall meeting (IMF photo)

YOUTH DIALOG

Students Debate Strauss-Kahn on Middle-East Issues

IMF Survey online

April 4, 2010

  • Youth employment critical issue facing Middle East
  • Linkage between business environment and educational systems is key
  • Call for developing and emerging market countries to have larger voice in IMF

The IMF should play a more active role in promoting job growth and strengthening private sector development in the Middle East and North Africa, said young people from the region Sunday April 4.

Meeting with IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn at a town hall meeting broadcast live by BBC Arabic, a group of university students also called for broadening the representation of developing and emerging market countries in the IMF to enhance the institution’s effectiveness.

Talking with 35 students from eight countries, as well as viewers and listeners across the region, Mr. Strauss-Kahn said youth unemployment was a crucial issue in all countries, including for university graduates.

The solution lies in the linkage of improved business environment and educational systems focused on providing needed job skills. “The less restrictive regulations are, the more (business) will come,” he said. “And the more you have a good business environment with universities providing the skills you need, the more (business) will come.”

IMF initiative to engage young people

The discussion on the program “Talking Point,” was held in Amman, Jordan. It was the centerpiece of the IMF Middle East Youth Dialog, a Fund initiative to engage young people directly on the issues of greatest concern to them. The Youth Dialog allows young people to interact among themselves and put questions and comments to IMF staff using social media.

Students from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates were selected from university roundtables held in each country to participate in the Amman town hall. In addition, young people from many other countries across the region put questions by phone, SMS, email, videophone, and satellite connection from such countries as Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Morocco.

“You are the future leaders of your countries,” Mr. Strauss-Kahn said. “It is important for us to have your opinion about this multilateral institution because it is your institution.”

Call for more say in the IMF

On the issue of IMF governance, the students questioned the role of advanced economies in the Fund, and called for developing and emerging market countries to have a larger voice. Mr. Strauss-Kahn said that this is a major issue for the institution, but also pointed to changes underway since 2008 to better reflect the weight of the developing countries in the global economy.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn also addressed the selection of IMF management by saying, “I may be the last European as Managing Director for a long time. It is probably the right time for candidates from developing countries as Managing Director.”

It is estimated that the region’s work force will grow rapidly over the next decade, reaching 185 million, which would be 80 percent larger than the workforce at the turn of the century. With unemployment and underemployment already high across the region, the problem is expected to only worsen. Addressing this challenge—made more difficult by the global crisis—requires sustainable and equitable economic growth, good financial management, and labor market reforms.

During his visit to Jordan, the Managing Director also met with King Abdullah II, Prime Minister Samir Rifai and Central Bank Governor Umayya Toukan to discuss the economic situation in Jordan and the region.

The IMF Youth Dialog is built around an online forum that enables a broader audience of young people across the region to communicate their views of economic issues with each other and IMF staff. The website—in Arabic, English, and French—offers discussion boards, blogs, videos, and accounts of the university roundtables.


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