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Middle East and North Africa Economic Developments and Prospects 2007: Higher growth, more jobs but reforms are still a priority

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Press Briefing Transcript

Washington 14 April 2007 — High economic growth has been accompanied by strong job creation and declining unemployment in recent years. But for this performance to be sustainable it needs to be supported by deeper structural reforms in countries of the Middle East and North Africa region. The World Bank Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region launched a new report that looks into economic trends and prospects for the region. This is the third of an annual series of reports. The theme for this year's publication is labor markets and employment, a critical area for the MENA region as a result of its strong labor force growth and large share of young population.

According to the report, the GDP growth reached 6.3% for the region in 2006 – up from an average of 3.6% a year during the 1990s. This is the fourth year in a row of robust growth performance, driven by high oil prices, economic recovery in Europe and reforms that are broadly going in the right direction. As a result, many jobs have been generated, primarily by the private sector as public employment slows down. "Countries in the MENA region need to remove the remaining barriers that hinder the business environment for the private sector in order to maintain growth, increase private investment and generate more jobs" said Daniela Gressani, World Bank Vice President for the MENA region.

Indicators reveal that employment grew at 4.5% per annum in 2000-05, the strongest rate of job creation among developing regions. However, the report indicates that productivity remains a concern and women are still less successful than men in finding jobs. "Too many jobs are still being created in sectors with low or declining productivity" said Carlos Silva-Jáuregui, Lead Economist and principal author of the report.

"There is evidence of reform progress in trade, business environment and governance in MENA. However, the overall business climate remains challenging for doing business. There is an urgent need to embrace difficult structural reforms required to balance growth with labor productivity and job creation," said Mustapha K. Nabli, Chief Economist of the MENA region.

 For more information see:
Economic Developments & Prospects : Job Creation in an Era of High Growth

For more information on the World Bank and the Middle East and North Africa, see:

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