Economic grief spurs Mideast tumoil: World Bank

AFP , Tuesday 22 Mar 2011

'Festering' problems won't be solved by regime change alone, says bank's president

The economic and social grievances behind the Middle East's political turmoil will not end because one leader is replaced by another, World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned Monday.

"As we have witnessed over the past three months, people across the Middle East and North Africa have taken to the streets to demand and in some cases obtain change. It has been a striking moment, engendering its own momentum," the former senior US diplomat said.

"Many of the underlying grievances and triggers of these unprecedented events are economic and social in nature, though they've taken on a political form."

But, he said, these problems would not disappear "just because one government fell or one leader replaced another." While the problems have been festering for some time, the World Bank's many studies on the problems have had little impact in the region, he admitted.

Zoellick added the World Bank itself as done numerous reports on problems creating youth jobs, promoting gender inequality and boosting business competitively. "But the record of action has been spotty," he said.

Zoellick was speaking at the opening of a World Bank-hosted conference Arab Voices and Views, which came in the wake of the revolts that toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.

As he spoke Yemen's government was scrambling to survive against a popular uprising, Syrians marched in the streets against their leaders, and a US-European coalition sought to pin down Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's military and protect that country's opposition.

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