Drafting a new social contract in Arab countries has become a necessity, not a luxury, to deal with the repercussions the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed and to be able to build better for the post-pandemic era, said Marwan Muasher, the vice president for studies at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
This came during a panel discussion — attended by Ahram Online — organised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and held virtually on Wednesday on economic and social transformation in Latin America and the Arab World and moderated by the IMF's Director of Middle East and Central Asia Department Jihad Azour.
The panel speakers also included the IMF’s Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva; the Chief Economist at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Erik Berglöf; the visiting Senior Research Scholar and visiting Professor at Columbia University, Mauricio Cárdenas; and the Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Minouche Shafik.
Muasher stressed that social peace is imperative for Arab countries’ economic and social transformation through dealing with all citizens on an equal footing and opening a national dialogue on a new social contract in such a region.
He cited Tunisia as one of the Arab countries which managed to draft a new constitution that lays foundation to a new social contract, especially amid the ongoing pandemic-related economic and social-related implications.
“But the rest of Arab countries seem like they are not willing to chart such a path”, said Muasher.
On Egypt, Muasher noted that the country, in the wake of the Arab uprisings, has focused on the security aspect and the deep state approach, which will work for a while, as it will not represent a solution for the deep cause of the country’s 25th revolution that was the absence of equality and the lack of economic opportunities.
He stressed that the absence of these aspects in the Arab world may lead to a fourth or even a fifth wave of the Arab uprisings, adding that the pandemic is a significant opportunity for such countries to draft a new social contract for the good of their people.
He urged international institutions to support the model that Tunisia extends today, calling for an education system in the region that enables the youth to generate ideas that can deal with the 21st century’s challenges, and for a move to allow civil society to be involved in the decision making.
During the panel, IMF’s Georgieva said that COVID-19 has put the whole world on the boundaries of a new socio and economic transformation.
She added that building a green resilience, expanding in digital transformation, taking climate action, and working on better socio and economic conditions for countries and their people, are crucial to be included in policies to transform better and faster.
“We can now draft the right conclusion for the end”, said Georgieva.
She also urged countries in the Arab world and Latin America to take lessons from the past and how the process of transformation is hard and may take decades to be fully carried out.
On her side, LSE’s Shafik noted that three factors play a role in the ongoing transformation process in the Arab world, including the change in political power, what constitutions are like, and how they deal with the good and innovative ideas that are very critical for their transformation in the ongoing challenging time.
She added that equal access to economic opportunities instead of providing jobs in the public sector, involving women in the economy, and tapping all talents in Arab countries, are crucial for the socio and economic transformation these countries need.