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World Bank to optimise ‘huge youth potential’ in region

Global institution announces intention to support new economic, social contract between youth and governments

By Mohammad Ghazal - Jul 29,2018 - Last updated at Jul 29,2018

World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Ferid Belhaj held a meeting with entrepreneurs, startups school and university students at the Zain Innovation Campus on Sunday (Photo by Suzanna Goussous)

AMMAN — As the number of job seekers in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to reach more than 300 million by 2050, the World Bank (WB) on Sunday announced its intention to strengthen its focus on youth engagement and empowerment to help them reach their full potential.

“We see this figure of job seekers as an opportunity more than a calamity,” Ferid Belhaj, World Bank MENA vice president said in a meeting with the press on Sunday.

The WB will intensify its efforts to optimally utilise the “huge energies” of the young people in the region, including Jordan, he said, noting that, to create jobs and further empower the youth in Jordan and the region, as well as to increase their employability, the WB will focus on the introduction of new technologies, the integration of the youth and the launch of programmes to improve education, especially in the field of tertiary education.

The WB is working on adapting its strategy to support a new economic and social contract, Belhaj added.

“Governments in the region are unable to continue providing the same level of support and subsidies, and the situation is becoming difficult. There is a need for a new social and economic contract that strengthens the relationship between the state and the youth,” the vice president commented.

He said that the WB will place its financial and technical capabilities to support the youth in the region during the upcoming stage.

“People have high expectations and, as governments are unable to continue the same level of support, there is a need for a new social and economic contract,” the WB official continued.

Having such a contract based on strengthening and engaging the youth is needed at this stage as the possibilities for tensions between the youth and their governments are high in the region.

“We believe that there is no other option but to engage the youth and we will increase our projects and programmes tailored for addressing this purpose to meet their aspirations,” Belhaj added, stressing the need to address the issue of low quality of services.

“Governments’ spending on health and education is high in the region, while the quality of services is low… Jordan, for example, used to be one of the best regional countries in terms of education but the country’s ranking in education declined significantly,” he highlighted, noting that focusing on innovation and the involvement of the private sector is also key to addressing the current pressing challenges.

Stressing that enhancing the business environment in Jordan as a key to creating jobs and addressing unemployment, the WB official said that having a legal and regulatory framework that facilitates the work of startups in the country is a necessity.

“There is a need for more flexible frameworks,” he stated.

Other WB officials speaking during the meeting stressed on the need to increase the competitiveness and efficiency of the business climate as attracting investments help create new jobs, in addition to developing human resources skills. 

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