IMF Holds Middle East Youth Roundtable in Beirut, Lebanon

Press Release
March 4, 2010

Staff of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today exchanged views with students from the American University of Beirut on the economic policy challenges facing Lebanon, the region, and its youth as part of a series of roundtable discussions being held in the Middle East and North Africa under the auspices of the IMF Youth Dialog.

The Youth Dialog is an IMF-sponsored initiative aimed at engaging with the next generation of the region’s leaders. The objective of the initiative is to work with university students to gain their perspectives on their economic future and to contribute to the evolution of their views on the policy measures that will be needed to secure sustainable economic growth in the Middle East.

“The American University of Beirut is one of the leading centers of higher education in the Middle East, and we were eager to listen to the views of its students,” said Saade Chami, Director of the Middle East Technical Assistance Center (Metac), a Beirut-based collaboration of the IMF and bilateral and multilateral donors that provides technical assistance in macroeconomic and financial management to countries in the region. “The roundtable discussion was extremely fruitful and energetic. We look forward to working with the Lebanese students in the future.”

The roundtable discussion focused on the undergraduate students’ views of a variety of economic challenges facing the Middle East. Foremost among those challenges is the need to provide employment opportunities for millions of young people who have entered the workforce in recent years, or who will be seeking employment over the next decade. In addition, the roundtable covered the role the IMF can play is assisting countries of the region reach their economic potential.

“In these times, especially in the Arab world, there is so much instability and even anger among young people,” said Layal Wehbe, an American University of Beirut (AUB) graduate student in financial economics. “If we are more ingaged in discussion than in politics or sectarianism, this can only be helpful.”

The IMF will hold similar events with students from universities in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates throughout March 2010. A similar roundtable was held last month in Pakistan at the Lahore School of Economics. The roundtable discussions will be followed by other events to continue and deepen the dialogue. In addition, the Youth Dialog has an online dimension with a website where visitors can interact and post their thoughts:

“It’s crucial to have a dialogue in this region, because young people have a lot to say but we don’t have a lot of space to express our thoughts,” said Jana El Choueiry, also an AUB graduate student in financial economics. “We need to change the perception in the West about our region. We can bring something to the world.”


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