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Poverty and vulnerability in a changing Arab World renew the call for building effective, resilient, and well-targeted Social Safety Net (SSN) systems that can mitigate shocks caused by slowing growth, economic reforms (such as reform of price subsidies), and conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Senior policymakers, analysts, and government officials are meeting in Kuwait this week to share knowledge and practical experiences on the design and implementation of SSNs in MENA context with a specific focus on the how-to and practical lessons learned.

The week-long course, held for the third consecutive year in Kuwait, is sponsored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—Middle East Center for Economics and Finance in Kuwait in collaboration with the World Bank. Participants from Arab League countries will discuss challenging SSN issues facing the region and identify solutions.  

“This course provides an excellent and timely opportunity for practitioners from across the region to discuss not only best practices, but also ideas for implementing them,” said Bassam Ramadan, World Bank Country Manager in Kuwait. “This fruitful dialogue can help improve the effectiveness of social safety net programs in better addressing the specific needs and issues faced by the various countries of the region.”

The course provides a knowledge-sharing platform and builds on practical experiences from around the world, including the latest research findings and operational work of the World Bank and other institutions. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss the conceptual and implementation issues involved in the set-up, implementation, as well as performance monitoring and evaluation of the safety net systems. Participants will then address specific issues facing the region, including: inclusion and resilience of safety nets in a changing political economy; design and implementation of safety nets to mitigate the impact of subsidy reforms; accountability and governance in service delivery; and, use of SSNs to promote human capital development and labor market activation in various countries.

“The experience of a large number of countries indicates that well-designed social safety net programs are important for the sustainability of economic reforms, especially those requiring a substantial reduction in the budget deficit,” said Oussama Kanaan, Director of the IMF-Middle East Center for Economics and Finance. “Such programs are essential both to protect vulnerable people from the adverse impact of the reforms, as well to enable a reallocation of public spending toward health, education, and other areas that are key to inclusive economic growth.”

 

“One of the main priorities of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is to provide social assistance to various households and social strata, especially vulnerable individuals and households,” said H.E. Ms. Hind Sabeeh Al-Sabeeh, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor. “Currently, Kuwait, with support from the World Bank, has developed a strategic SSN Framework aimed at high levels of efficiency and effectiveness in the distribution of transfers as well as encouraging social assistance beneficiaries to join the labor market, whenever possible, and to contribute to human capital accumulation.”