ATIF KUBURSI, Acting Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said that sustained growth required the participation of the majority of the citizens in a process guided by the state. Decent work should be generated, particularly for the poor, allowing them to acquire assets so that they might become an active part of the political structure of the country. Pro-poor macropolicies should aim at reducing absolute hunger and poverty. There has to be self-sustained growth, seeking to secure tangible reduction in inequalities. These were not traditional macroeconomic policies. There was a general tendency to believe that if one took care of the GDP, one would be able to take care of everything else. There was an inherent dichotomy in economics between equity and efficiency. The world today was described as having an economy that was free for all but this is not the world we live in. Information is not symmetric and different macroeconomics is required.
It was not about the level of aggregation, Mr. Kubursi said. It should be a social economy in which the poor were a major concern. The governments of the region needed to jump from the unsustainable economic growth path by moving away from the traditional growth path. The region had the highest rate of unemployment in the world and the fastest growth in population and labour force. The region had also an unequal distribution of the income in favour of the rich. Crucial elements were needed, such as the improvement of the investment climate. The region was driven by high consumption. This should be supported by high investment. The people's capacity to engage needs to be improved. The choices of the people needs to be broadened and the educational gap should be reduced. The digital divide needs to be narrowed.
Also the empowerment of women was necessary, Mr. Kubursi said. There needs to be greater opportunities for employment. The level of integration needs to be broadened as well through regional cooperation and a broader union. On fiscal policies, the state needs to take its proper role in developing the social safety nets. The state should thus assume the social responsibility. The monetary policies should also be changed. A high level of interest rate to improve the level of savings but subsidized low interest to encourage investment and create a reasonable exchange rate. An exchange rate policy related to promoting exports and growth was important, also with the view of creating decent jobs. But the most important aim is to improve the standards of the most marginalized.
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