[OPE] Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the ESCWA Region

From: glevy@pratt.edu
Date: Fri Jun 13 2008 - 12:35:17 EDT


---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------

Subject: SURVEY OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE ESCWA
REGION 
From: "Ali Kadri" <kadri@un.org> 
Date:
Fri, June 13, 2008 6:23 am 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


Kindly find attached the three previous issues of the summary
of 
the SURVEY OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE ESCWA
REGION (This is the official document presented to the Economic and Social
Council 
about Western Asia). The Survey comprises two parts, namely:
a first part 
that covers recent socio-economic developments; and a
second part that 
explores in depth a topical social and
developmental issue. Within the 
context of the latter, the thematic
part has focused since 2005 on 
economic and social issues in line
with development as a human right, with 
the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs) as guiding principles. Why so? 
Because in this region
we notice that: 
· Average real per capita growth was
highly volatile and more 
dependent on oil than ever; it was over the
1980-2005 at negative one to 
two percentage points. 
· Regional unemployment now stands at a little over 14
percent 
(official rate), twice the world rate. 
·
Income inequality measured by the GINI coefficient has steadily 
risen also to reach the highest levels globally. 
·
All round human development has been weak. In the case of Egypt, 
after 25 years of nearly six percent real GDP growth, a 15 percent rise
in 
the price of bread led to mass riots and exposed the fragility of

development. Indeed, income inequality measured but the Gini
coefficient 
was rising at the same time. A recent article notes that
Egypt is back to 
the 'two-percent economy' under King Farouk, i.e.
when two percent of the 
population owned most of the wealth. 

The focus on rights is because rent economies do not produce 
commensurate jobs for the population, and welfare can be strengthened by

redistribution measures. The region exported nearly a trillion
dollars 
outside since 2002 and what remained, i.e. most investment
went into real 
estate and poorly regulated equity markets. There is,
unlike elsewhere, a 
primacy of politics here and pro-poor economic
strategies have to be 
situated on the basis of the right to
development. 

Insofar as macro policies are concerned, the idea
of right to 
development is based on the 1986 declaration and couched
in it are 
pro-poor policies. Meaning, first, mass poverty is the
most important 
problem facing the ESCWA countries, and its
elimination should be the main 
priority of their governments. it
suggests that poverty cannot be reduced 
to the inability to reach an
arbitrary level of income. Rather, 
insufficient income is one of the
implications of the structural 
inequalities constituting the
economic system in the countries in the 
region. It follows that the
solution to deeply ingrained problems of 
poverty and inequality is
primarily political, rather than economic. The 
second principle is
that pro poor growth must benefit the poor more than 
the rich;
growth is rights-based when it reduces relative as well as 
absolute
poverty. In this framework, economic policies are not selected in 
order to maximize growth; reciprocally, equity is not an instrument for

the achievement of rapid growth. Although high growth can facilitate
the 
achievement of these outcomes, the type of growth is at least as
important 
as the rate of economic growth. In this approach, GDP
growth, inflation 
control, high investment, low public debt and
other conventional 
parameters of economic
&euro;&tilde;success&euro;&trade; should not be the most
important 
objectives of government policy. Instead, they should be
seen as 
instruments for the elimination of mass poverty and the
achievement of 
secure, sustainable, equitable and empowering human
development. Third, 
improvements in distribution and social welfare
should be pursued 
directly. These improvements should not be merely
marginal or conditional 
on trickle-down processes, and they must be
unambiguous across a broad 
spectrum of measures of welfare and
distribution. Changes in the initial 
distribution of income and
wealth in the ESCWA region (for example, 
through land reform,
universal basic education and training and the 
introduction of
pensions and other entitlements funded by progressive 
taxation) can
promote several pro poor-based objectives simultaneously in 
the
countries in the region. 

So, if after reading these documents,
you wish to be included on 
our mailing list, please send me your
request to Ms. Arpy Atamian: 
atamian@un.org 

Regards. 


Ali Kadri 
UN ESCWA - Economic Analysis Division 
P.O. Box 11-8575 - Riad el-Solh Square 
Beirut, Lebanon 
Tel:
(+961) 1-981-301 #1457 
Fax: (+961) 1-981-510 












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