World Bank Managing Director urges action on growing poverty gap

Jonathan Spollen
3 Min Read

CAIRO: The World Bank’s Managing Director Juan Jose Daboub praised the Egyptian government’s economic reforms at a press conference Saturday, but stressed that the country’s economy faced several challenges.

Daboub pointed to the yawning gap between Egypt’s rich and poor, and said that it could be as much as a “generation before the benefits of the economy’s growth reached the country’s poorest sectors

“There is progress, there is a pace and there is a vision, Daboub said.

“There are challenges that the government has to face responsibly, consistently, and in a way that doesn t necessarily make people happy today.

“Reforms take approximately one generation; you only have 10 years of reforms (in Egypt) and certainly more accelerated ones only five years. It takes one generational period, it takes between 25 or 30 years, [to go] from lack of development to development.

Egypt was ranked the most improved economy for investors in 2007 by the World Bank, largely due to wide-ranging liberalizing reforms taken by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif’s cabinet in banking, privatization, sales of state-owned businesses, and legal amendments to encourage foreign investment.

While such moves have seen the emergence of many new businesses and a growth in the private sector job market, public sector jobs have been cut and inflation has soared, with those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder feeling the pinch of unemployment and rising prices as their spending power decreases.

“In order to close such a gap, Daboub said, “you need to make sure that besides an intelligently designed and consistently moving forward economic program, you need a fiscally responsible social plan that addresses the needs of the poorest of the poor in a way that doesn t become a handout model but rather one that removes obstacles for people to take destiny in their own hands.

Daboub is visiting Egypt on a wider regional tour as part of the World Bank’s aim to strengthen ties with the Arab world, one of six main strategic themes launched in 2007 by the organization’s president Robert Zoellick.

He also held talks with the Arab League Thursday on a range of issues including education, gender, job creation for the region’s young and growing population, governance, Arab trade integration, sustainable management of natural resources and water scarcity.

“Our meetings today reinforce the relationship between our two institutions at a time when the future of many Arab countries is at a crossroads, he said Thursday. “We are keen to explore further opportunities for cooperation based on shared priorities that serves social development and economic competitiveness goals.

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