25 November 2009
BY JEROME MWANDA
MARRAKESH (IDN) ñ Morocco and Egypt have welcomed a new ëDeclaration on Governance and Investmentí, adopted at a ministerial conference titled ëbeyond the crisis: business and citizens at the centre of policy responsesí in the Moroccan capital.
The declaration emerging from two-day talks between government ministers from Arab and OECD countries includes commitments to integrity and transparency in the public sector and to support for freedom of investment, trade and private sector development.
It pledges continued cooperation to streamline public services and improve business conditions in the Middle East North African (MENA) region in a drive to attract investment and boost development. It also underlines the need to increase the participation of women in economic development and prosperity in the region.
The MENA region extends from Morocco in northwest Africa to Iran in southwest Asia, including all the Arab Middle East and North Africa countries, as well as Iran and Israel.
Nizar Baraka, Moroccoís Minister in charge of Economic Affairs, said: "This declaration reflects the commitment of countries in the region to continue reforms and to act together to overcome the effects of the crisis.î He added: ìIn order to achieve our growth goals, we have to work together and get back to basics, putting citizens at the heart of our policies.î
Egyptís Minister of Investment, Mahmoud Mohieldin made a similar call: "We need to sustain the reform process and pursue regional integration in order to promote economic diversification and create employment," he told participants.
Egypt chaired the 30-nation OECD Initiative on Governance and Investment for Development from 2006 until now, handing over the presidency to Morocco during the course of the meeting.
Since its launch in 2005, the Initiative has led to the creation of regional centres in several MENA countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates (Dubai), focusing on such issues as corporate governance and the efficient allocation of public resources.
Main features of the Initiative are:
- It is inclusive -- the governance programme is supported by a partnership between the OECD and the UNDP, and both programmes are being taken forward in close co-operation with the World Bank, Arab League, European Union and other international and regional organisations.
- It builds upon and leverages existing reform efforts in MENA countries and reinforces the impact of bilateral and multilateral assistance programmes.
- It creates regional networks and enables MENA countries to have access to the policy networks of OECD countries.
Angel GurrÌa, OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) Secretary General described the Initiative as ìa model to build co-operation for the global economy of the futureî.
Looking ahead, Mohieldin emphasised the need for further joint work to help MENA countries build effective legal infrastructures and professional capabilities in such areas as civil, commercial, banking and financial law. Members will also explore ways to strengthen their cooperation in complementary policy areas, such as justice and rule of law.
Discussions between ministers, business and civil society were focused on priorities to rekindle sustainable growth and employment. Economic growth in the region is forecast to decline to around 2.2 percent in 2009 from an annual average of 5.1 percent during 2000-2008 and oil-producing countries are hit by weaker world demand for oil and lower oil prices.
Signs of economic stabilisation and recovery are now becoming visible, noted GurrÌa. But he warned that the region faces major challenges and ìmanaging this recovery process will be difficult for all of us.î
During the course of the Nov 22-23 meeting:
- Morocco joined the 30 OECD countries and 11 others, including Egypt, in signing the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. This is a policy commitment by governments to support an open environment for international investors and encourage responsible investment by multinational companies as a means to promote prosperity and growth.
- Egypt, Italy, and the OECD announced the first e-government review under the MENA-OECD Governance Programme, to be financed by Italy and implemented by the OECD in 2010. This will assess Egyptís performance in the use of Information and communications technology for dispensing government services, with a view to helping both it and other countries in the region to improve e-government policy and identify and resolve barriers to its implementation.
- The Palestinian National Authority and the OECD announced a series of specific activities implemented by the MENA-OECD Governance Programme to reinforce capacities and support the implementation of the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan. This project is funded by Norway.
- Ministers, business leaders and civil society representatives agreed on an action plan to foster womenís entrepreneurship and employment in the region.
- Ministers launched a MENA-OECD Business Council to guide work with the private sector, provide policymakers with recommendations on reform priorities, strengthen the public private dialogue, generate new business opportunities and foster sector-specific contacts.
- Reports were presented on corporate governance of banks and insolvency in the MENA region, progress on public governance reform and on the progress of investment climate. (IDN-InDepthNews/24.11.09)