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World Bank Report Highlights Middle East Economic Challenges

(ABU DHABI, UAE) -- A new report from the World Bank finds that problems like gaps between rich and poor, unemployed youth, and gender inequality persist in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Titled Unfinished Business, the report published yesterday evaluates progress toward the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that were established in 2000.

Halfway to 2015, out of 84 developing countries included in the report, 45 have met or are near meeting the goal of reducing poverty by 50 percent. The others are nowhere near. "Sub-Saharan African countries continue to lag the farthest behind on the poverty reduction MDGs, despite very rapid growth and impressive reductions in poverty in a number of countries since the mid-1990s," the report stated.

In the Gulf, "per capita incomes vary from around $1000 in Yemen and Djibouti to over $15,000" in the UAE and other oil producing countries, according to the report, and the income inequality has been made worse since 2008 by the global financial crisis.

One solution is suggested in the report: "Greater investment in infrastructure is also essential in order to reduce social and spatial disparities and thereby create equitable growth process and social cohesion." But regional expert Dr. Amjad Hossain, Professor of Economics at Al Ain University, is quoted in today's Gulf News newspaper: "The low income countries in the region should develop their local development agenda that will help them to aggressively pursue growth." He added, "Although the wealthy Gulf states could do more, I'm not so sure if the low income countries could benefit from their support without building capacities."

The World Bank said in the report, "We need to do more, and do it better," and added "The World Bank is using the full range of its financial and knowledge services to help create economic opportunities and improve the living conditions of millions of poor people in middle income and low income countries."

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