Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Scent of Jasmine All Over My Desk

In the blogsphere these days, everyone is talking about the Jasmine Revolution. Where Arab men and women are rising up against their governments and demanding reform in the Arab world .

In the Economist this week one of their daily charts is visualising a statistical hub for key indicators in the Arab region.

To accompany this map is a very interesting November 2010 report that landed on my desk recently. "The Silatech Index: Voices of Young Arabs" is a project which partners Gallup and Silatech to poll youth in Arab states to focus on their outlook and that of society on job creation, access to necessary resources to find a job and the obstacles therein. The report reveals that more than 100 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29 now represent 30% of the Arab world’s total population. With two-thirds of the MENA region’s population under the age of 24, the region faces an unprecedented “youth bulge.” The largest ever in the region’s history to enter the labor market. The model relies on four main constructs mindset, policy, access and decent work with these being the main drivers for social change. Tunisia topped the Access and Policy indexes and came in second to Algeria on the Mindset index. Interesting...

Another report that landed on my desk is the 2009-2010 State of Reform in the Arab World based on the Arab Democracy Index. According to their website, "data gathered for the Arab Democracy Index cover three different dimensions: the legal aspect, public opinion, and practices of regimes. Measurement is therefore based on monitoring performance and behavior rather than just examining intentions and structures, since intentions may be good but performance poor". They set themselves apart from other indexes like the Human Development Index by stating that they take into consideration both impressions and patterns of behavior and measures the impact on the citizens daily lives.

On a scale of 0 to 1,000 points, Jordan topped the list of the countries covered in the Index, with a score of 620 points, followed by Morocco with 601 points and Egypt with 596 points. Lebanon was ranked fourth with 583 points, followed by Algeria with 570 points and Kuwait with 553 points. Palestine was placed seventh with 506 points, followed by Syria with 461 points, then Yemen with 457 points, and finally Saudi Arabia with 402 points.

Interesting to see the more subjective measures like opinions and perception of citizens being taken into account in all three of these very different reports from the Arab region. GDP alone just doesn't get this picture. However, I wonder what will happen with Egypt/Libya/Tunisia and others on the Arab Democracy Index when 2011 numbers are reported. Will there be a note which says that "there wasn't a smooth transition" and violence broke out over 2011? I think it will take a rather long time before the Silatech index will be able to report that the youth in Egypt are working in decent jobs and/or have their dreams of owning a business or even a corner government office (most say this is the real dream). But, worth the wait and I am really looking forward to watching progress unfold. The prolific Economist paper will certainly be visualising corruption, democracy and press freedom in their regular communication of various indexes. Though, on this one, it would be nice to see a visualisation over time. So, Economist, if you are reading...

I (along with some other prog bloggers!) am currently taking Arabic classes in hopes that I may someday understand the culture better. Apparently it takes 2 years of full-time study to be able to order bread live. But there is reason to be optimistic. Inshallah.

Angela Hariche

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