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Friday, April 25, 2014
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Slow Growth in the Middle East and North Africa Region Calls for Bold Approach to Economic Reform

08/02/2014 19:51 (75 Day 11:46 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- Ongoing regional tensions, together with a challenging external environment, have hit the economies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region hard, according to the World Bank Group.



Economic growth is slowing, fiscal buffers are depleting, unemployment is rising, and inflation is mounting in seven transition countries in the region. Long overdue reforms, that could help spur growth and create jobs, have continued to be delayed to avoid further social and political discontent. The World Bank Group’s latest Quarterly Economic Brief argues that these countries should seize the opportunity to advance structural reforms needed to break the vicious circle of slow growth and political instability.

The report, entitled Middle East and North Africa: Growth slowdown heightens the need for reforms, assesses the macroeconomic situation in seven of the region’s most vulnerable economies-- Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Libya -- post Arab Spring and emphasizes the urgency of the reforms needed to reverse the downward spiral of these economies.  The report outlines reform priorities and challenges for these countries. It cautions that raising general subsidies and public sector wages will impose fiscal pressures on the government and reduce the fiscal space available for spending priorities on health, education and investment in infrastructure.

Oil-importing countries, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon suffer from years of underinvestment, especially in industry and infrastructure. In Egypt, the barriers to doing business are numerous and cronyism dominates the private sector.  In Tunisia, social and economic disparities across regions remain key economic challenges. The Lebanese economy suffers from inadequate public services, overcrowded public schools and limited access to government clinics and hospitals for low income people, especially in rural areas. In Jordan, urgent reforms including streamlining business regulations, removing labor market rigidities, and improving the efficiency of public spending, are needed for macroeconomic stability. And the influx of Syrian refugees has stretched all of these sectors to the limit.

The mismanagement of petroleum resources heightens the urgency for economic diversification in oil exporters in order to address long-term financial and economic stability in Iran, Yemen and Libya.  Public and quasi-public sectors are large and hindering private sector development in these countries. “The lack of access to financing, uncertainty in the legal environment and a fragile security situation are preventing private sector growth“, says Devarajan.  Streamlining general subsidies is urgent because of their large share in the government budget which reduces space for pro-poor and pro-growth expenditures. Governments’ fiscal positions in Yemen and Libya are deteriorating and short and medium term financing needs remain large, according to the World Bank Group.



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“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”: presidential election and early parliamentary elections

23/04/2014 16:38 (1 Day 14:59 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- A 14-member delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), led by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), will travel to “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” from 25 to 28 April to observe the conduct of the presidential election (2nd round) and the early parliamentary elections, alongside observers from the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly and Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), according to PACE.



Major Cloud Service Providers Slash Prices; Threaten Smaller Players’ Existence: IDC Warns

19/04/2014 13:40 (5 Day 17:57 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- In the last week of March, major Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) in Asia dropped their prices for core services dramatically and IDC believes that this will make it very difficult for smaller CSPs to remain in business if they continue to rely on provision of basic, undifferentiated services, according to International Data Corporation (IDC).

Zurich identifies seven cyber risks that threaten systemic shock

23/04/2014 17:00 (1 Day 14:37 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- The recently published Zurich Cyber Risk Report, created in collaboration with the international think tank Atlantic Council, argues that cyber-risk management professionals need to look beyond their internal information technology safeguards to interconnected risks which can build up relating to counterparties, outsourced suppliers, supply chains, disruptive technologies, upstream infrastructure and external shocks, according to Zurich Insurance Company.


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