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Middle East/North Africa

Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

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To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on his assessment of the link between accountable regimes and economic growth in (a) the Middle East and (b) North Africa; and what action his Department is taking to promote good governance in the regions. [129892]

The Middle East and North Africa compares badly with other regions of similar incomes and characteristics in terms of public accountability and inclusiveness. A number of reports have been published recently which highlight the relationship between accountable governance and economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa. The 2002 "Arab Human Development Report" concluded that social and economic development was being hampered by deeply rooted shortcomings in the structures of governance in the region. More recently, a World Bank's report, "Better Governance in the Middle East and North Africa", noted that income growth per head averaged just 0.5 per cent. across the region in the period 1985–2000, and at the heart of this poor record was a noticeable "governance gap". Taken together, these reports provide a substantial body of evidence to support the view that improving accountable governance, strengthening political and economic freedoms, and enhancing public participation are prerequisites for lasting economic, social and human development in the region.Promoting better governance is a key feature of DFID's bilateral programme to the region: this is set out as a central theme of our soon-to-be-published Regional Assistance Plan. Examples include support to public administration and civil service reform in both Jordan and the Palestinian Territory. We are also working to help ensure that the European Commission's development programme takes proper account of the need to improve governance and respect for human rights, and reduce poverty, in partner countries in the Middle East and North Africa.