President Khuri, Vice-President Belhaj, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of HE the Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil, it is my pleasure to be here
today at this very exciting dialogue on preparing our youth and our economy for the
future. I would like to begin by thanking the American University of Beirut for hosting this dialogue, and thank the World Bank for prioritizing this topic. And Ferid: it’s always good to have you back in your adopted country!

Preparing for the future is no doubt a vital
topic. What we will hear today from the
authors of the World Development Report
and the Education Reports is of critical
importance to the MENA region and to
Lebanon in particular. It is about how the jobs
of the future will be different from the jobs of
today. Interestingly, I had the pleasure of
hosting HEC’s director Peter Todd yesterday
to precisely discuss, among others, this issue
and how to help Lebanon’s youth prepare for
the major shifts ahead, which says that our
region is interesting to a lot of people in this
regard. As Ferid said, the world is looking at
our capacity to create jobs.

We will also hear today how technology is
disrupting the world of work as we know it.
Technology is creating new opportunities –
exciting ones. But for countries to be ready
for these new opportunities, much needs to
happen. For Lebanon to be ready for the
future, we have to try to anticipate how it
may look like, and which infrastructure will be
needed to secure a competitive edge, and
when and at what cost we have to have it in
place. Visionary policies have to be
developed, a strategic plan has to be
implemented, and regulations have to be
adopted. And before anything else, our
human capital will have to be skilled,
enthusiastic, confident, and ready.

Despite a very harsh rise in inequalities and a
deteriorating environment, Lebanon can still
pride itself with its human capital. One only

needs to look around at the youth of this
distinguished university that is always
working on upgrading its ability to cater for
the future, as we just heard– and other
universities – to see that. Yet, we also know
that on one hand, our economy is not
producing jobs for the highly skilled, and on
the other, not all our youth are well-equipped
or skilled for the job market and that many
are being left behind. And we saw that our
index per the World Bank Human Capital
Index was 0.54 (out of 1), and our ranking
was 86 out of 157 countries. The 0.54 means
that when a child born today in Lebanon
reaches the age of 18, she will be only 54%
productive as she could be if we had a better
performing education and health system. And
despite the fact that some of us are
challenging this ratio, which still requires fine-
tuning, among others to define whether it

includes refugee children or not, this remains
a big loss for the economy and a social time
bomb. We are in a world where whatever you
learn in your first year at university can
become obsolete when you graduate, which
means that we have to change, and change

As a Government, we are committed to
working on improving our human capital. This
is why we agreed to be an “Early Adopter of
the Human Capital Project” at the Annual
Meetings of the World Bank/IMF in Bali,
Indonesia last October, where I had the
privilege to announce it and be part of the
launching by President Jim Kim. During our
very interesting closed meeting, many great
experiences were shared and success stories
were told, including Jack Ma’s, which is very
relevant to us. And Lebanon also had a nice

story to tell, in addition to commenting on
the Human Capital Index methodology.

And being an Early Adopter of the Human
Capital Project means that we will firstly,
assess why the productivity of our future
workforce is not as high as we aspire it to be.
Secondly, the government will put in place an
“Acceleration Plan” to improve our human
capital outcomes. Thirdly, this Plan will be put
together through a “whole of government
approach”. That is, we will work together as
Ministries of Education, Health, Social Affairs,
Labor, Economy and Finance, as well as bring
in private players and institutions and other
stakeholders. And I am hoping that the goals
and the expected positive impact on
Lebanon’s youth and future generations
should be a strong enough motivation for us

to work together in harmony, and rise to the
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The World Development Report, which will
be presented to you now, also brings up two
additional interesting aspects of the changing
nature of work that complement Human
Capital – which we as a Ministry of Finance
find very important. The first is the need to
deeply rethink social protection in the digital
era. Digital will expand job opportunities but
traditional provisions of social protection that
are based on a steady wage job, clear
definitions of employers and employees, and
a fixed point of retirement will have to
change. Our social protection system in
Lebanon is already not reaching half the
population. Hence, we must rethink how to
provide coverage to all our population, but it
must also be fiscally achievable and

sustainable. For that, it needs to be fair and
far-reaching, and not be biased toward
lobbies’ interests of all kinds, and this
requires some political courage. But if we
succeed in this, it could be a trigger toward
higher fairness and better redistribution in
our economy.

The second point is how can we create the
fiscal space for public financing of human
capital development and social protection? At
a time when the fiscal deficit is flirting with
the double digits in percentage points, this is
a big challenge for us, but we must look at
where inefficiencies exist in our current
spending and reprioritize. As a matter of fact,
not only can we achieve a wider fiscal space,
but with some political courage and sound
policies, we could bring Lebanon’s back to
manageable deficit and debt, much higher

productivity and competitiveness, and, key to
all, to the level of governance that the
Lebanese deserve, after so much suffering
and given the amount of generosity they have
shown. It is time for us to make the right
decisions and stop ignoring what should be
fixed. Having a big potential is one thing, and
allowing it to blossom is something else. This
something requires a common vision, a
strong and united leadership, and a great
willingness to do the right thing at all levels.
And seeing so many talents around tells me
that it is going to happen, for sure.

World Bank and AUB Event,
November 30, 2018
Opening Remarks
Mr. Alain Bifani