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Middle East in transition | Oil, women and the IMF | Counting the Cost

The political economy of the Middle East is changing, and as such, many countries are having to diversify away from oil dependency and plan for a different kind of future.

Young people and women are demanding a more inclusive role in that society. One of the advisers to governments of the region is the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, was in Doha and spoke Al Jazeera about the role of women in the Middle East and the changing economic winds in the region.

On the role of the IMF and economic reform...
"Whenever we give policy advice, we finance programmes, we always ask the leaders... to really be mindful of those that are most exposed - of the poor, of the underprivileged, of those that are likely to suffer as a result of potential fiscal consolidation that are sometimes needed. When a country comes to the IMF and asks for a programme... we are asking the country to restore its public finance, but we always say, watch out, the social safety net that you need to have in place is critically important."

"Clearly, the [economic] model [in the region] is going to change. The price of oil is definitely going down and the substitution products are coming to the market. The mindset has changed. And as a result of that you can not operate the country as this welfare state where part of the social contract was 'we have wealth, we are redistributing part of it'. So for us, it means a much more diversified economy to begin with."

"Number two, an economy where the private sector is welcome and where the business environment is friendly, so that people.... are not prevented from investing for all sorts of reasons....It also means providing value for money and focusing on the young people.... It certainly requires the creation of jobs by alternative channels, including the private sector, and it probably means scrutinising the public service which represents a massive share of the public spending."

On women...
"Because I care about this region of the world and because I visit very often, my first advice would not be to the young women. It would be to the leaders of those countries. My advice would be first of all, look at your legal structure... are there laws providing equality for men and women?... Look at your budget, are you providing for parental leave, are you providing for childcare centres, are you helping the women access or stay on the job market? So that would be my first call to the leaders because policies can actually change them up."

"I would also say to them and to people, if I can reach out to them, change your mindset. Consider how valuable women can be for your economy, how much additional growth they can provide, how much more sustainable that growth will be, how more resilient it will be and how much inequality you're going to eliminate."

"Then, I will turn to the women, my sisters, and I would encourage them to number one, get as much education as they can and I hope that this is accessible in the country where I talk to them - not always the case. I would second say, have enough self-esteem, take confidence in what other women in the area or beyond can achieve and just be yourself and make sure that you have a voice. If you can't find your voice, get the support of other men and women who'll be supporting you along the way."

On the economic blockade on Qatar...
"Like in any other similiar situations, we very much hope these differences and the current situation can be remedied and there can be reconciliation... We have observed very carefully how the authorities have reacted in Qatar and they've taken prompt, swift, efficient action to the point that as we're all going through the review of the economy - as we speak - we're seeing rather low impact from this boycott that we have seen in action."

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

Ireland and Brexit: Ireland is the only country to share a land border with Britain. So how is the emerald isle caught in the middle of a big row between the UK and the EU as the Britain gears up for Brexit? Ciaran Cannon, Irish minister of state at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, offers his take.

Iraq reconstruction: An international summit for Iraq's reconstruction was held this week where $3
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