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Unemployment along with sluggish economic growth has prompted protests in several Arab countries, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday, as Iraq, Lebanon and other countries are protesting against corruption and economic decline.
In a report on economic performance in the region, the IMF said social tensions in Arab countries are one of several factors that have kept economic growth in the region weak.
Two weeks ago, the IMF expected growth in the Middle East and North Africa to be only 0.1 percent, from 1.2 percent in April, reflecting weakness in the economies of a crisis-hit region.
Jihad Azour, the fund’s director for the Middle East and Central Asia, told AFP that “the growth levels in the countries of the region are lower than needed to deal with the issue of unemployment.”
“We are in an area where youth unemployment exceeds 25 to 30 percent, and to address this needs to grow between 1 and 2 percent,” he said.
Lebanon has witnessed more than ten days of mass demonstrations condemning corruption and economic deterioration, and demanding political change and job opportunities.
In Iraq, thousands are taking part in demonstrations for the same reasons, as part of a protest movement that has killed and injured hundreds. Demonstrations are taking place in Sudan, Algeria, Egypt and other countries.
Azour said that the government should “work quickly to rectify these imbalances and restore confidence (citizens) by reforming the financial situation and reducing spending.”
The IMF also warned in a report on Monday that government debt rates have become very high in some countries in the region, exceeding the threshold of 85 percent of GDP as a general rate, and more than 150 percent in Lebanon and Iraq.
“The cost of debt is high, and it prevents the investments necessary for the region’s long-term economic future,” the IMF said.