Keynote speech by Angel Gurría
Dubai, UAE, 8 February 2016
(As prepared for delivery)
His Highness Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum,
His Highness Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Muhammad Al Maktoum,
Ministers, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, Mr. Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum for making this visit possible.
The OECD is a strategic partner of the World Government Summit since its inaugural meeting in 2013. Our collaboration builds on the role of the OECD as a hub and facilitator for global governance, but also on our growing relations with the UAE and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) more broadly.
Before speaking about the OECD-MENA relationship, as well as our common efforts to address the region’s main challenges, I would like to provide some context with a brief global and regional economic outlook.
The world economic outlook is still clouded by important uncertainties. We expect the global economy to have grown by about 3% in 2015. This is the weakest growth since 2009 and well below the long-run average. Business investment in OECD economies remains subdued, rising by an anaemic 3.3% over 2015-16, trade is growing at half speed, and credit has stalled particularly in the euro area and for SMEs.
The outlook for emerging economies is a particular source of global uncertainty, given their large contribution to global trade and GDP growth in the last few years. Recessions in Brazil and Russia and the slowdown in China are hitting activity in key trading partners. Talk of a new era of less “cheap money” and low prices of international commodities are sobering prospects for many emerging economies. Thus, we foresee a very gradual improvement in our global economic outlook with growth slowly strengthening to reach 3.6% by 2017.
This global outlook exacerbates the challenges faced by the MENA region where slow growth, high unemployment and rising inequalities continue to make it more difficult for the region to reach its potential. The region has not seen its overall growth surpass 3% for over 3 years, with strong heterogeneity between countries – and particularly between oil exporters and importers. In addition, the security situation in some countries in the region has forced millions to flee their homes.
It is therefore more important than ever that we strengthen our collaboration to help these countries promote a more resilient, more inclusive and sustainable growth.
For more than a decade now, the OECD has been working with the MENA region, helping its governments design effective reforms through the MENA-OECD Initiative.
Our ongoing co-operation with the UAE is producing important results in the fields of education, gender, public governance, and SMEs. Our co-operation on public governance and gender equality have inspired the establishment of institutions like the UAE Gender Balance Council, a crucial step in the promotion of better opportunities and decent jobs for women; or the Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation which aims to support equal access and quality of public services to people.
We were also a key partner to the UAE’s effort to strengthen the country’s data collection capacity, which culminated in the creation of the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority in November last year.
We want to strengthen our collaboration with the UAE, and the whole MENA region, to keep promoting best practices. We need to focus all this collaboration on the promotion of more inclusive growth.
The OECD can provide a strong support to make the MENA region more inclusive through a new type of growth that promotes prosperity for all. Our Organisation is actively shaping the debate on sustainable development through our All on Board for Inclusive Growth Initiative.
Only last week we launched our new report Youth in the MENA region which shows how the absence of a framework for inclusive growth has left young men and women in the region vulnerable. The evidence is staggering: youth unemployment rates have skyrocketed up to 51% in Libya, 39% in Egypt and 38% in the Palestinian Authority.
The report also shows that young people in MENA countries express less trust in government than their parents. We cannot stress enough the importance that young people’s voices are not left out of the policy debates which will shape their future.
We are also focusing on gender equality, an essential ingredient in helping to mobilise all human potential – both men and women. Our evidence shows that if labour force participation rates among women in OECD countries reached those of men, annual global GDP could rise by 12% over the next 20 years. Here in the MENA region, this figure could reach 25%.
Good public governance is the foundation of inclusive growth. We must strive to promote open and innovative public sectors which actively engage with their citizens; which focus upon expanding opportunities for all; which support businesses to create jobs and fuel the economy; and which provide high performing accessible social services – particularly health and education.
The MENA governments should also seek new ways to engage and address citizens’ needs. And for that, we must always be innovative by including all stakeholders in the design and delivery of public services. Tunisia, for example, does just that in the implementation of its national open government agenda. It holds a monthly steering committee meeting with representatives from public institutions and civil society organisations.
Open government is a prime example of a commitment to strive for transparency, accountability, the rule of law. This is precisely what our common efforts should focus on: to make governments more responsive to the needs of the people. We need tools such as the Observatory on Public Sector Innovation to share lessons on how to innovate in areas such as open government, citizen participation, youth and gender equality.
Governments could also take advantage of open data and big data to generate better evidence for their policies. Policymakers should dig down to the local level to see how policies are working, as we do with the OECD How’s Life in Your Region web tool and publications.
Promoting inclusive growth in MENA requires a new vision for the public sector in order to ensure that governments remain responsive to changing circumstances and emerging challenges. To do this we need to strengthen our strategic foresight capacity across government institutions.
The UAE’s Vision 2021 is a good example as it communicates where the UAE wants to go and how it will get there based on key national indicators. We are convinced that many countries around the world could also benefit by introducing similar initiatives.
I invite you to meet us at the launch of the OECD Global Platform and the OECD Innovation Pavillion to discuss with political leaders how best to exploit the potential of public sector innovation to change people’s lives.
His Highnesses, Excellencies, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
You are the centres of governments, the budget managers, the regulators, the public service innovators, the digital government leaders, the guardians of ethics. You have the power to inspire citizens to take action and responsibility, and to engage your youth in civic life so that all citizens can take interest and ownership of the way our societies are organised and managed.
The OECD stands ready to support your quest for new visions, new ambitions and new solutions towards better public governance. Together, we can design, develop and deliver better policies for better lives. Thank you.