Former Lebanese minister of finance Jihad Azour, Moncef Cheikh-Rouhou, deputy chairman of Finance Committee of the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly, Abdel Karim Al-Eryani, former prime minister of Yemen, and Ziad Bahaeddine, former deputy prime minister of economic affairs in Egypt, discussed social justice and political progress from regional and local perspectives. Carnegie’s Maha Yaha moderated the session.
SOCIAL JUSTICE FROM A REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE
- Economic Justice: Prior to the Arab Spring, social issues, like rising inequality and high unemployment, were neglected, Azour said. Currently, economic injustice in the Arab world is largely a result of rapid population growth without any inclusive economic growth. Unfortunately, he continued, the current solutions for economic growth is not enough and should be diversified: the state is the central driving force of growth in the Arab world.
- A Path to Social Justice: Azour noted that strengthening governance and trust in governance might lead to stronger social justice. Furthermore, a stronger social justice framework could result from a focus on employment and private sector growth, a redefinition of social cohesion, reform of the taxation system, and the enhancement of skills and capabilities offered by the school system, he explained.
CONSOLIDATING TUNISIA’S POLITICAL PROGRESS
- Equity, Not Justice: Cheikh-Rouhou argued that equity, not justice, is a more sensible term–the objective should be to produce wealth efficiently and distribute it equitably. Some amount of inequality is necessary in order to build investment, he added.
- Democratic Path: Tunisia’s attempts to build a modern democratic state were initiated by the basic concept that all citizens contain equal participation rights to vote. Democracy is a platform to achieve social justice and social inclusion and is needed to progress, said Cheikh-Rouhou.
THE CHALLENGES OF SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR YEMEN
- Unity Government: The violent repression of the 2011 Yemeni revolution led to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s intervention, forming a unity government divided between the ruling party and the opposition, explained Al-Eryani.
- Representation: The purpose of this unity government is to form a parliament equally representing the entire political system in both north and south Yemen, clarified Al-Eryani.
EGYPT’S ROAD TO JUSTICE
- A New Scenario with Sisi?: Growth and production rates, foreign direct investments, and tourism are all on the decline in Egypt, presenting challenges to the newly elected Egyptian president, said Bahaeddine. However, Egypt also faces an opportunity: the people are more prepared for future difficulties and are more patient with the new ruling parties.
- Room For Improvement: No one is currently addressing the social justice agenda in Egypt, said Bahaeddine. However, there is room for improvement: many agendas should be encouraged, such as investment in the private sector, infrastructure development, and taxation in economic sectors, he argued. However, it’s very important that any socioeconomic program is paralleled with a stable political situation, he concluded.