Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Editors' picks

Debt clouds over the Middle East

A number of MENA countries face high debt levels. Egypt, ...


COVID-19 pandemic and the Middle East and Central Asia

The number of confirmed COVID-19 pandemic in the Middle East ...


Mahmoud Mohieldin and Ishac Diwan on the Political Economy of COVID 19

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as the rest of the world, is facing human, economic and social crises. A decade of political instability, violence and austerity had left critical public institutions insufficiently prepared and underfunded to deal with this perfect storm. While the countries of the region are all exposed to this storm, they are not in the same boat. Their initial conditions, preparedness to shocks and readiness to adapt, change and rebuild are different. Within countries their has also been increasing inequality, and in many cases countries suffered from significant increase in extreme poverty. Despite some efforts there are alarming indicators of drifting from the path towards achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) Comprehensive socioeconomic actions are needed to meet the requirements of response and recovery within as well as across countries. While there has been a great deal of discrepancies in crisis response, the recovery may take different paths and widen the existent gaps and deepen the divergence in the region. Building back better and creating resilience includes addressing the inequality which have made some societies more vulnerable than others. The comprehensive nature and magnitude of the crisis requires very different approach of policy design including the political economy of responses to the crisis and plans for recovery.

In focus

Sources of the 2020 crisis in Lebanon

The devastating financial tsunami that is engulfing Lebanon has been ...

Lebanon must learn from the Syrian disaster

Overlapping crises are threatening the political, economic and social stability ...

Most read

Labour market effects of robots: evidence from Turkey

Evidence from developed countries on the impact of automation on labour markets suggests that there can be negative effects on manufacturing jobs, but also mechanisms for workers to move into the services sector. But this narrative may not apply in developing economies. This column reports new evidence from Turkey on the effects of robots on labour displacement and job reallocation.

Global value chains and domestic innovation: evidence from MENA firms

Global interlinkages play a significant role in enhancing innovation by firms in developing countries. In particular, as this column explains, participation in global value chains fosters a variety of innovation activities. Since some countries in the Middle East and North Africa display a downward trend on measures of global innovation, facilitating the GVC participation of firms in the region is a prospective channel for stimulating underperforming innovation.

Food insecurity in Tunisia during and after the Covid-19 pandemic

Labour market instability, rising unemployment rates and soaring food prices due to Covid-19 are among the reasons for severe food insecurity across the world. This grim picture is evident in Tunisia, where the government continues to provide financial and food aid to vulnerable households after the pandemic. But as this column explains, the inadequacy of some public policies is another important factors causing food insecurity.

Sustaining entrepreneurship: lessons from Iran

Does entrepreneurial activity naturally return to long-term average levels after big economic disturbances? This column presents new evidence from Iran on trends in entrepreneurship among various categories of firm size, sector and location – and suggests policies that could be effective in promoting entrepreneurial activities.

Intimate partner violence: the impact on women’s empowerment in Egypt

Although intimate partner violence is a well-documented and widely recognised problem, empirical research on its prevalence and impact is scarce in developing countries, including those in the Middle East and North Africa. This column reports evidence from a study of intra-household disparities in Egypt, taking account of attitudes toward gender roles, women’s ownership of assets, and the domestic violence that wives may experience from their husbands.

Manufacturing firms in Egypt: trade participation and outcomes for workers

International trade can play a large and positive role in boosting economic growth, reducing poverty and making progress towards gender equality. These effects result in part from the extent to which trade is associated with favourable labour market outcomes. This column presents evidence of the effects of Egyptian manufacturing firms’ participation in exporting and importing on their workers’ productivity and average wages, and on women’s employment share.

Do capital inflows cause industrialisation or de-industrialisation?

There is a clear appeal for emerging and developing economies, including those in MENA, to finance investment in manufacturing industry at home with capital inflows from overseas. But as the evidence reported in this column indicates, this is a potentially risky strategy: rather than promoting industrialisation, capital flows can actually lead to lower manufacturing value added and/or a reallocation of resources towards industries with lower technology intensity.

Financial constraints on small firms’ growth: pandemic lessons from Iran

How does access to finance affect the growth of small businesses? This column presents new evidence from Iran before and during the Covid-19 pandemic – and lessons learned by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

The economics of Israeli war aims and strategies

Israel’s response to last October’s Hamas attack has led to widespread death and destruction. This column outlines the impact thus far, including the effects on food scarcity, migration and the Palestinian economy in both Gaza and the West Bank.

Happiness in the Arab world: should we be concerned?

Several Arab countries have low rankings in the latest comparative assessment of average happiness across the world. But as this column explains, the average is not a reliable summary statistic when applied to ordinal data. The evidence from more robust analysis of socio-economic inequality in happiness suggests that policy-makers should be less concerned about happiness indicators than the core development objective of more equitable social conditions for citizens.