It is my pleasure to welcome you to the expanded website of the IMF’s Middle East Center for Economics and Finance (CEF) in Kuwait. We hope that the website’s new features will facilitate access to a broader and more diverse audience, and will encourage closer interaction with our staff and partners in a wide range of the Center’s activities.
Our activities for the coming year aim at further expanding the knowledge and skills needed to address the Arab world’s emerging economic challenges. Over the past two years, sectarian wars deepened and spread, worsening an already severe migration and refugee crisis. The drop in oil prices affected not only oil exporters, but had wider regional spillovers through a decline in capital flows, remittances and aid from Arab Gulf countries. In this connection, the Center has been engaging closely with policymakers, public sector officials, and course participants on the choice of activities that could best help them develop sound economic policy responses to these challenges. The 2016 Directors of Training Seminar was particularly helpful in identifying pertinent topics and themes that correspond to the region’s pressing needs and priorities.
Our courses in the core areas of the Fund have been strengthened to include more applications, workshops, and case studies in virtually all areas including monetary and exchange rate policy, international trade and finance, economic growth and statistics. Many of the new policy issues cut across a broad range of the Fund’s areas of expertise. In particular, a central objective for several Arab countries has been to reduce budget deficits while enhancing inclusive development especially in the context of conflict and volatile oil prices. The design of courses in this context has involved close coordination and knowledge-sharing among IMF experts and partners to ensure harmony and complementarity across courses on policies to reorient public sector resources toward health, education, sound public investments and post-conflict reconstruction; target subsidies toward those who need it; build fair and efficient tax systems; and create a business-friendly environment with a more diversified economic base.
The 2017 program reflects a stepped up collaboration with the World Bank, OECD and WTO to strengthen the multi-disciplinary approach needed to design policies for balanced, ethical, environmentally-friendly development. In this connection, our agenda has been expanding to encompass policies to reduce poverty and income inequality; enhance competitiveness and good governance; address climate change; and raise the economic participation of women.
Along with training, an important goal of the CEF has been to foster open discussion among experts, scholars and civil society on policies for durable growth and employment. The center has been leading, jointly with the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), forums of special relevance to the Arab World. Since its initiation in 2015, this series has covered several timely topics including on the challenge of phasing out subsidies, tax reform, diversification in oil-exporting countries, and the impact of economic globalization. The CEF will step up its engagement with the Kuwaiti and broader Arab community to further enrich these forums, while encouraging the inclusion of a broad spectrum of society and a diversity of views. In the same vein, the CEF will build on its successful joint programs with the Arab Monetary Fund and Bank Al-Maghrib, and further expand the range of host countries for our joint courses. Our activities will also benefit from the intellectual contributions of Kuwait’s highly experienced scholars and practitioners in our Eminent Speakers Series.
I look forward to your visit and your thoughts on any aspect of the Center’s work to better serve the Arab world.
Director, IMF-Middle East Center for Economics and Finance