Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Magda Kandil

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Magda Kandil

Magda Kandil was the Chief Economist and Head of Research and Statistics Department at the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates until her untimely passing in June 2020. In previous roles, she worked at the IMF, where she held the positions of Advisor to the Executive Director and Senior Economist, as well as a Visiting scholar at the IMF institute and the Research department. She published extensively on various topics such as debt accumulation, public spending, price flexibility, exchange rate fluctuations, and macroeconomic policies. Originally from Egypt, where she studied as an undergraduate at Cairo University, she received her Ph.D. in economics from the Washington State University, Pullman, Washington in 1988. She was an ERF Research Fellow and regular contributor to The Forum.

Content by this Author

Why data transparency matters for MENA economies

Magda Kandil was a highly regarded economist and long-time supporter of ERF and The Forum. In her final column, written shortly before her untimely passing, she concludes that the Covid-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to integrate short-term challenges into the long-term reform agenda so that MENA countries can graduate from the current crisis to a better and sustainable path of growth and prosperity.

Economic challenges for the GCC countries after Covid-19

Similar to most net oil-producing countries, the economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council are affected by two simultaneous shocks: the Covid-19 outbreak and lower oil prices. In response, GCC governments have adopted sizeable stimulus packages to attenuate the negative impact of the crisis, while putting more pressure on their fiscal positions. This column discusses how GCC countries should strike the right balance between supporting economic recovery while ensuring fiscal sustainability and macroeconomic stability.

Oil prices: challenges and a way forward for the United Arab Emirates

How should the United Arab Emirates chart a way forward from today’s world of very low oil prices and a deteriorating world economic outlook? This column explores the impact on of current circumstances on UAE economic activity, government spending and the budget deficit. The ultimate goal, the authors conclude, should be to sustain the momentum of further diversification of the economy to reduce oil dependency and hedge against continued fluctuations in oil prices and spillovers from the global economy.

Covid-19 and the global economy: this time is different

The economic crash landing caused by Covid-19 is unprecedented. But as this column argues, once the virus threat has abated, the speed of recovery could be almost as fast as the speed of deterioration given the pent-up demand, the massive policy support and the strength of fundamentals that many economies had before the crisis.

Fiscal policy in the GCC countries: towards ensuring sustainability

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are all seeking to promote diversification of their economies away from continued dependence on the energy sector, yet oil prices remain the main driver of economic growth in the region. This column discusses how the GCC countries should respond to the ‘new normal’ of ‘low for long’ oil prices, with a goal of supporting growth while ensuring fiscal sustainability and macroeconomic stability.

Oil prices and the performance of UAE banks

The fall in the oil price to a ‘new normal’ has had a negative impact on four indicators of banks’ performance in the United Arab Emirates (UAE): return on assets; return on equity; and growth of credit and deposits. This column uses data on 22 national banks to examine differences in performance between conventional and Islamic banks, and outlines measures to improve the banking sector’s resilience and profitability.

Iran: the nuclear deal, currency depreciation and inflation

Iran’s currency has once again fallen against the dollar following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. This column explores the inflationary impact of speculative attacks on the rial, as well as the policy responses from the government and the central bank. Such episodes – and subsequent overshooting – have proven to be highly disruptive to the country, with lasting adverse social and economic effects.

Corporate ownership and performance in the United Arab Emirates

While state ownership of companies is widely thought to lead to inefficiencies, in the United Arab Emirates, it has proved to be a pillar of good corporate performance. This column describes the country’s experience over the period 2008-16, evaluating the performance of listed companies and banks, and comparing indicators across privately owned companies and those in which the government holds majority stakes.

The United Arab Emirates’ dilemma

As energy-producing economies strive to reduce their reliance on oil revenues, they must strike a balance between the competing demands of fiscal sustainability and steady growth of the non-energy sector. This column outlines how the United Arab Emirates is addressing this challenge.

Most read

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.