The Carnegie Middle East Center hosted a roundtable of leading policy-makers, regional experts, and representatives of international organization from the Middle East region to discuss the "Global Financial and Economic Crisis: Impact and Response in the MENA Region". Participants included Susan Joekes (Senior Program Specialist at the IDRC Regional Office in Egypt), Nada al-Nashif (Director of the International Labor Organization Regional Office in Beirut), Dr. Yousef Al Ebraheem (Economic Advisor at the Amiri Diwan and former minister of finance in Kuwait), Dr. Makram Sader (Secretary General of the Association of Banks of Lebanon), Dr. Charles Abdallah (Head of Regional Cooperation on Economic Issues at the EU in Lebanon), Dr. Ramla Khalidi (First Social Affairs Officer at UNESCWA), and Dr. Ibrahim Saif (Carnegie Middle East Center).
Panelists from Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon provided insights on the emerging public policy rhetoric and addressed the policy debates regarding government intervention, market regulation, financial architecture, the future of capitalism, and trade protectionism. Concluding the discussions, the panelists reached consensus on several aspects. First, countries of the Middle East have resorted to short-term survival policies that lacked coordination among monetary, fiscal, and social policies. Second, the countries are far from responding collectively at the sub-regional level though the GCC countries have exemplified a state of higher coordination measures. Third, most of the problems of the Middle Eastern countries are structural problems that were exacerbated further by the crisis. Finally, there is a strong need to reconsider social policy in the Middle East.
- Yousef Al Ebraheem proposed the establishment of a GCC Stabilization Fund arguing that had the GCC countries acted as a bloc, the impact would have been minimized.
- Nada al-Nashif suggested that workers should be viewed as decision-makers arguing that, more than ever, now is the time for social dialogue.
- Charles Abdallah wondered what could be the "real economy" in the GCC countries.
- Nabil Sukkar predited that the crisis will lead to a slower pace of Syria's attempts at economic liberalization.
- Bahri Yilmaz argued that Turkey's recent macroeconomic problems were mainly home-grown and stemmed to a large extent from excess aggregate demand generated in the public sector to force the economy to grow faster than private savings would allow.
- Lahcen Achy predicted that Morocco will be at the heart of the crisis when the world economy recovers.
- Ghassan Omet questioned the wisdom of the government's recent monetary policies.
- Mongi Boughazala expressed his skepticism of the government's "arbitrary" policies.
- Heba Nassar recommended the adoption of a social crisis management approach to rescue packages.
- Munir Rached focused on the need for Lebanon to rethink its interest rate policy.
- Sahar Rad argued that the international isolation of Iran has meant both a deprivation from global benefits as well as protection against fluctuations.
- Mohammad Nasr explained that the policy response of the Palestinian National Authority to the global financial crisis is constrained by the limited policy space available to it under the terms of the Paris Protocol.
- Safiat Ali Saber Ali highlighted mismanaged economic policies in Sudan.