Countries need to break the vicious circle of economic stagnation and persistent sociopolitical strife, says Ahmed. Key elements of this process include boosting growth and job creation and promoting fairness—topics that will be the centerpiece of a May 11–12 conference in Amman, Jordan, that the IMF is co-hosting with the Government of Jordan and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.
IMF Survey: What is the main objective of the conference and who are the main participants?
Ahmed: Three years have passed since the onset of economic and political transitions in a number of countries across the region. The transitions began with great ambition but, so far, progress has been limited in generating the strong and inclusive growth needed to reduce unemployment and raise standards of living.
At the conference, we will bring together about 200 people from the Arab Countries in Transition and across the region to discuss how the potential for inclusive growth and job creation can be realized in these countries. Participants include representatives from the government, civil society, academia, donor community, private sector, and media. We have also invited experts who have thought about or experienced similar transitions elsewhere in the world to see what lessons can be drawn from their insights.
IMF Survey: What are the main themes of the conference and why did you select them for discussion?
Ahmed: The conference themes include macroeconomic policies, transparency and governance, youth employment, and the business environment. This range of topics reflects the need for structural reforms in a number of areas to generate inclusive, job-rich growth that would benefit all in the society. We know, for instance, that many countries in the region have work to do on increasing transparency and improving the business environment. This is evidenced, for example, by the fact that many small businesses, as a result of the heavy burden of bureaucracy, are forced to operate in the informal sector, which is larger than it is in many other regions. We also know that inflexible labor-market regulations are among the factors holding back job creation in the formal sector. At the same time, countries need to...