Economic growth across the Middle East & North Africa is not strong enough to tackle the mounting problem of youth unemployment, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde has warned.

Announcing the findings of the IMF’s latest survey of unemployment trends on 16 May, Lagarde said: “The growth that the region is seeing, at about 3 per cent, would have to significantly increase in order to respond to the demands of a youth population that is waiting to join the job market”

The IMF survey reports that unemployment in the Middle East & North Africa is among the highest in the world and it concludes that youth unemployment and restructuring government finances to create jobs are biggest challenges facing the Arab Spring countries.

The fund reports that eight countries in the Middle East & North Africa are facing unemployment levels well above 10 per cent – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. Egypt’s unemployment in in 2012 is recorded by the IMF at about 35 per cent.

Lagarde said that government honesty and credibility were also key issues, especially with regard to subsidy reform. This was especially so when reducing generalised subsidies to make room for more targeted spending, she said.

“You are only credible if you are transparent and accountable for what you do with public money,” she said. “That is the best road toward sovereignty and economic independence.”

Speaking at the same conference, Lebanon’s former minister of economy and industry Nasser Saidi said: “We spend more on subsidies than we spend on education, yet we have the youngest and fastest-growing populations on earth.”

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