Poverty is a complex and multidimensional policy challenge. Understanding the interconnected causes and effects of poverty is a critical first step for policy-makers trying to improve people’s lives. This column presents an updated model for measuring deprivation levels in the Arab region, and proposes a series of policy suggestions to improve economic and social outcomes. Put simply, any reforms in the region should be based on a joined-up policy approach, built on an understanding of the interplay between different aspects of poverty and inequality.
In Arab countries, there are concerns that the public sector is too large. This column shows that the extent to which this is the case depends on how exactly the labour force is measured. Beyond this, focusing on size alone is to miss the point, at least in part. Policy-makers in the Arab region should instead focus on the quality of public services, ensuring they deliver their intended goals at a good price. Concerns over the size of the public sector are of course important, but not as much as ensuring that efficient and effective public services are available to all those who need them. This blogpost is based on a chapter in a book under preparation edited by Samir Makdisi and Raimundo Soto on Conflict and Post Conflict Transitions to Peace Building in War Afflicted Arab Countries
The global Development Challenges Index, which has just been launched, measures shortfalls in the achievements of developing countries in three key and interdependent areas: quality-adjusted human development, environmental sustainability and good governance. This column introduces the new framework and its main findings.
A new Development Challenges Index measures shortfalls in the achievements of developing countries in three areas: quality-adjusted human development, environmental sustainability and good governance. This column outlines what it reveals about Arab countries – and the implications for policy-making in the region.
Arab countries are unlikely to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, even under the best-case scenario of a full ‘pass-through’ of national growth to household incomes. This column presents new projections for pass-through and poverty trends in both the region and the world as a whole. Lower rates of pass-through suggest the importance of incorporating distributional policies into the design of national poverty reduction plans.
The concentration of the Arab region’s wealth in the hands of just a small percentage of its residents should be a wake-up call for a renewed regional and national policy dialogue on inclusive growth strategies – and for immediate policy action. This column argues for revisiting governance frameworks and macroeconomic policies to enact pro-poor fiscal policies that are supported by modest annual contributions from the wealthiest decile. This would reduce wealth concentration and support dwindling fiscal space for social protection and development expenditure in many Arab countries.
Conflicts in the Arab region over the past decade have had a devastating impact, giving rise to illegal migration flows and increased poverty. As this column outlines, some countries have experienced a drastic reduction in living standards and reversals of economic and social progress that will affect multiple generations. The collapse, fragmentation or weakness of state institutions in many places has long-term security, humanitarian and development implications.
Formal private sector firms in Arab countries suffer from four overlapping labour market challenges: job creation, inequality, productivity and technology. As this column explains, proposed policy responses need to rise to the enormity of these challenges. They also need to take account of short-term interventions to address Covid-19, as well as medium and long-term solutions to structural problems.
The economic slowdown caused by Covid-19 is expected to affect jobs, incomes, businesses and the flow of trade and remittances worldwide and across the Arab region. This column reports that an additional 16 million people are expected to be poor in 14 Arab countries as a consequence of the pandemic. Unfortunately, this is not a new trend.
High rates of poverty coupled with high concentration of wealth in Arab countries indicate the need for stronger civic solidarity and the shared responsibility of the public, the private sector and the state for lifting the downtrodden out of poverty. This column makes the case for taxing top wealth to close the poverty gap and promote civic unity.
In an effort to explain and find policy responses to the Arab Spring, there has been considerable focus on inequality. This column summarises the findings of a major research project on the issue.
Conventional wisdom, based mainly on surveyed household income distribution statistics, suggests that inequality is generally low in Arab countries. At the same time, little attention has been devoted to social inequalities, whether in terms of outcomes or opportunities. This column introduces a forthcoming report, which offers a different narrative: based on the largest research project on the subject to date and covering 12 Arab countries, the authors argue that the region is caught in an inequality trap.
Can the development prospects of the Arab countries be separated from the natural resource endowments that have been shaping their economies for so long? This column outlines the likely downward trajectories of per capita natural resource rents to 2030 – and the sense of urgency that those numbers should bring to discussions of the need for institutional reform.
UNICEF’s new report, MENA Generation 2030, focuses on ‘investing in children and youth today to secure a prosperous region tomorrow’. This column discusses the prospects for a ‘demographic dividend’ in the region with the growing share of the working age population in the total population. The authors explore the barriers that impede realisation of the potential benefits and the policy actions that need to be implemented urgently. As the report underlines, the time to act is now.
Inflows of overseas development assistance are typically helpful for countries seeking to rebuild in the immediate aftermath of a civil conflict – but in the longer term, they can pose serious macroeconomic challenges. This column summarises the research evidence on the effects and effectiveness of aid, and draws lessons for Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa are locked in a ‘low productivity trap’ despite shifts in employment towards non-farm and non-oil sectors . This column makes the case for transformational changes in the macro-fiscal policy orientation to generate millions of new job opportunities for the growing educated youth and to improve the labour share of income to reduce poverty.
Extreme poverty is rising in Arab states and the outlook is concerning. This column outlines the latest figures and the implications for policies to promote inclusive and sustainable development in the region.
A sense of ‘defeat’ among the Egyptian middle class was the main motivation for the uprising of 25 January 2011. In a tribute to economics professor Galal Amin, who passed away last month, this column explores what his analysis would suggest lay behind that feeling. The main culprit is the pursuit of stabilisation at any cost: macroeconomic stability rarely translates into more investment and better-quality jobs; liberalisation typically leads to crony capitalism and greater inequality; and it is the poor and the middle class who experience the pain.
There are many gaps in our understanding of trends in both money metric inequality and multidimensional inequality in Arab states. This column previews a forthcoming report that will explore fundamental questions: why study inequality; with what theoretical approaches and measurement frameworks; and inequality between whom?
Arab countries have systematically low tax collection rates relative to the size of their economies. What’s more, with rising military expenditures and lower oil prices, the public budgets of the oil-rich states are coming under growing pressure. This column argues that the time is right for region-wide fiscal policy reforms that enact fair and progressive taxation systems.
A new measure of household poverty in the Arab countries provides the basis for tailored solutions across the region. This column reports the key findings of the first Arab Multidimensional Poverty Report and outlines an agenda for policy action.
What can be done to reduce income inequality in Arab countries? This column explores issues of measurement as well as potential policy measures. It concludes by calling for a new multipurpose pan-Arab survey that would allow for an evidence-based decision-making process on the impact of proposed policies on poverty and inequality.