Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Jamal Haidar

Editorial board

Jamal Haidar
Research Fellow at the Middle East Initiative, Harvard University

Jamal Ibrahim Haidar is a Research Fellow at the Middle East Initiative, Harvard University. He holds a PhD in economics from the Paris School of Economics, University of Paris-1 Pantheon Sorbonne and a MA degree in applied economics from Johns Hopkins University (US). Previously, he worked at the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, International Monetary Fund, and Institute of International Finance in Washington DC. His fields of specialization are international economics and development economics.

Content by this Author

How foreign powers could break Lebanon’s gridlock

It is well known that factionalism and corruption have long stood in the way of the kinds of structural reforms that Lebanon needs. But as this Project Syndicate column argues, an overlooked problem is the inaction of foreign powers that could easily compel domestic changes if they had the right incentives.

Access to finance for Egypt’s private sector during the pandemic

In response to the global pandemic, public authorities in Egypt responded with a comprehensive package aimed at tackling the health emergency and supporting economic activity. This column examines how private sector firms perceived ease of access to finance before and after the emergence of Covid-19 in 2020.

Late-movers outperform first-movers in export markets

The relationship between first-movers and late-movers in export markets has important policy implications. First-movers need to be productive enough to pay market entry costs; in turn, they generate ‘information externalities’ for late-movers. This column uses a unique disaggregated export-level customs dataset – including from Egypt and Jordan – to test whether first-movers outperform late-movers in export markets.

Lebanon: sectarianism and cronyism stifle economic reform

How did Lebanon’s economy collapse – and what happens now? This column from The Washington Post outlines what you need to know.

Cronyism reduces job creation in Lebanon

Firm-level political connections are widespread. This column examines whether they affect employment decisions in Lebanon, a country where the majority of university students think that connections are important for finding jobs and many admit to having used them.

Effectiveness of export sanctions: evidence from Iran

Whether export sanctions are effective depends on their goal. This column highlights that if the goal is to reduce total exports of the targeted country, sanctions may be less effective as exporters can redirect their exports from one destination to another. But if the goal is to put pressure on exporters in the targeted country, then sanctions can be effective as exporters incur welfare losses while redirecting exports to new destinations.

Going beyond Doing Business to foster job creation

The World Bank’s Doing Business rankings provide a useful benchmark, but making them a key policy goal is inappropriate for Arab countries where the reform agenda needs to be far more wide-ranging. This column argues for a more practical and effective approach to creating business environments that will attract investment and foster job creation.

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Egypt’s care economy needs to address deteriorating working conditions

A robust and high-quality care economy is critical for supporting women’s employment – as both an employer of women and a mechanism for redistributing unpaid care work to the market. Yet in Egypt, despite national goals of expanding care services, employment in the sector has been shrinking, while becoming increasingly privatised. As this column reports, care jobs have also experienced worsening conditions of work, including reduced formality and the emergence of a pay penalty for care workers.

Unemployment among young women in GCC countries

The average rate of unemployment among young women in the high-income countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is far higher than the equivalent for young men. This column reports new evidence on the extent to which flexible labour markets, in the context of a generous social contract, can reduce female youth unemployment rates in the region.

Boosting trade through flexible rules of origin in preferential agreements

Rules of origin are critical components of preferential trade agreements designed to stop products coming in under insufficient transformation or through the partner that applies the lowest tariff. But in practice, these rules are often needlessly complex, undoing the benefits of market access associated with trade agreements. This column reports research showing that the adoption of more flexible product-specific rules of origin within preferential agreements would give a significant boost to global trade.

Challenges of GCC investment in the energy transition

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have identified the energy transition as a crucial area of growth and are investing heavily in a diverse array of projects. However, as this column explains, the region faces a number of challenges in making a success of these investments, most notably its current dependence on fossil fuels, a lack of infrastructure and technical expertise, the high upfront costs, and geopolitical tensions.

The decline of social insurance in Egypt: directions for reform

The longstanding challenge for the Egyptian economy of providing its workers with decent, formal, socially insured jobs has become even more difficult. As this column explains, informality has been rising rather than falling, with a substantial reduction in social insurance coverage for the employed since the late 1990s. Reforms are needed to reverse this decline.

Social insurance in Egypt: between costly formality and legal informality

The rates of participation of Egyptian workers in contributory social insurance has continued to decline, even during times when the country has had positive annual growth rates. This column discusses key institutional elements in the design of the current social insurance scheme that have contributed to the growing gap in coverage, particularly the scheme’s cost and eligibility requirements.

Jordan: navigating through multiple crises

Jordan’s real GDP per capita is today no higher than it was 40 years ago. While external factors have undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the country’s economic outcomes, weak macroeconomic management and low public spending on investment and the social sectors have also played a substantial role. This column explores what can be done to reduce high public debt, accelerate private sector development and enhance social outcomes.

Making trade agreements more environmentally friendly in the MENA region

Trade policy can play a significant role in efforts to decarbonise the global economy. But as this column explains, there need to be more environmental provisions in trade agreements in which developing countries participate – and stronger legal enforcement of those provisions at the international level. The MENA region would benefit substantially from such changes.

Egypt and Iraq: amenities, environmental quality and taste for revolution

The Middle East and North Africa is a region marked by significant political turbulence. This column explores a novel dimension of these upheavals: the relationship between people’s satisfaction with, on one hand, the amenities to which they have access and the environmental quality they experience, and, on the other hand, their inclination towards revolutionary actions. The data come from the World Value Survey collected in 2018 in Egypt and Iraq.

Iran’s globalisation and Saudi Arabia’s defence budget

How might Saudi Arabia react to Iran's renewed participation in global trade and investment? This column explores whether the expanding economic globalisation of Iran, following the lifting of nuclear sanctions, could yield a peace dividend for Saudi Arabia, consequently dampening the Middle East arms competition. These issues have attracted increased attention in recent times, notably after a pivotal agreement between the two countries in March 2023, marking the resumption of their political ties after a seven-year conflict.