Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Rabah Arezki

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Rabah Arezki
Chief Economist for Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank.

Dr. Rabah Arezki is the Chief Economist for Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank. Rabah is also a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He was the chief of the Commodities Unit in the IMF’s Research Department and a research fellow at Brookings Institution. He has written on energy, commodities, development economics, international macroeconomics, and the economics of the Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Arezki is an ERF Research Fellow.

Content by this Author

The two arrows for growth policy in MENA

How can governments in the Middle East and North Africa revitalise their economies? This column focuses on two key elements of growth policy that are needed in the region: harnessing digital technologies in a programme similar to the 1960s US moonshot; and promoting free and fair competition to end the cosy relationship between governments and connected firms.

Distrust fuels protests in the Middle East and North Africa

Street protests are enveloping many countries in the Middle East and North Africa – and the fundamental cause is a growing sense of individual uncertainty and distrust of governments. This column argues that governments in the region must restore confidence in their abilities to lead change. More open markets can help to unleash the full potential of individuals in MENA countries – but to do so requires open governments.

Rethinking the role of the state in the Middle East and North Africa

What should be the role of the state in MENA economies? This column argues that countries in the region should try to increase their level of accountability towards their citizenry by inculcating a culture of ‘value for money’, promoting the emergence of independent, yet accountable, regulators and relying less on the state to rejuvenate their economies.

Tearing down the walls of vested interests in MENA

The economic outlook for the Middle East and North Africa is weak, with medium-term growth projected to be a fraction of what is needed to create enough jobs for the fast-growing working-age population. This column argues that bolder and deeper economic reforms are needed, not least promoting fair competition to complete the transition from an administered economy to a market economy.

Fair competition is needed to empower women economically in the Arab world

The participation rates of women in the labour market in Arab countries are the lowest in the world. This column argues that remedying the under-representation of women in the labour force is a social and economic imperative for the region. There are three dimensions for action to realise the potential of Arab women: amending laws and regulations; instilling fair competition in markets; and promoting the digital economy.

Lessons in economics from Algeria’s victory in the Africa Cup of Nations

Algeria’s recent victory in the Africa Cup of Nations has united a country whose development model has frustrated its young and educated workforce. This column offers four lessons for economic development from the national football team’s success: on the role of competition and market forces; mobilising talent; the role of managers; and the importance of referees (that is, regulation).

How import dependence could lead to corruption in MENA

Export-led development strategies have had little success in MENA countries; what’s more, instruments of earlier import-substitution strategies – such as state-owned enterprises, high tariffs and subsidies – have survived. As this column explains, these legacies have created crony-capitalist industries that have limited the level of competition in many sectors of the economy and furthered the region’s dependence on imports.

Domestic demand and competition: a new development paradigm for MENA

A lack of competition in domestic and regional markets is holding back development in the Middle East and North Africa. This column argues that the region and the international community must ensure that barriers to market entry and exit are eliminated, and that independent regulatory bodies at the national and regional levels help to promote domestic demand as the main engine for sustainable and inclusive growth.

How to liberate Algeria’s economy

Algeria’s economy is growing far too slowly to provide enough jobs for a young, expanding and increasingly restless population. As this Project Syndicate column explains, the country's authorities need to boost competition, spur the creation of a digital economy and revamp state-owned enterprises.

Why reforms in the Middle East are unavoidable

One striking feature of the recent economic history of the Middle East is high-income Gulf economies financing the persistent external imbalances of its geo-strategically important neighbours. This column asks what happens when, as a consequence of the technological disruptions of the global fossil fuel market, the current account deficits of key countries in the region are no longer sustainable.

The economic and social transformation of the Middle East and North Africa

The crises that began with the Arab revolts signal the urgent need for economic and social transformation in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet there has been near universal failure to implement the structural reforms required to transform hidebound, state-dominated economies into modern ones that embrace technology and recognise the salutary impact of competition and private enterprise. This column outlines what has to change.

Rethinking the state’s role in Arab economies

The Arab world's state-led development model may be set to reach a breaking point, as hundreds of millions of young people prepare to enter the labour market in the coming decades. This Project Syndicate column argues that with the public sector unlikely to be able to absorb these new workers, there is an urgent need to create a dynamic and competitive private sector.

How the Middle East can escape the middle-income trap

The Middle East and North Africa urgently needs a new social contract focused on economically empowering the hundreds of millions of youth who are expected to join the labour market in the coming decades. This Project Syndicate column argues that the key to success will be technological adoption, adaptation and innovation, encouraged and facilitated by governments.

Rethinking the macroeconomics of resource-rich countries

After years of high commodity prices, a new era of lower prices, especially for oil, will be challenging for resource-rich countries, which must cope with the decline in income and the potential widening of internal and external imbalances. This column summarises a recent eBook in which leading economists examine the shifting landscape in commodity markets and explore the exchange rate, monetary and fiscal policy options, as well as the role of finance, including sovereign wealth funds and diversification.

A moonshot for MENA: laying the groundwork for a modern digital economy

A new economic reality is needed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This column proposes a ‘moonshot’, which, like the US effort to land a man on the moon in the 1960s, can unite people behind a common goal and transform the ways in which governments, companies, international financial institutions and civil societies conduct business. It would transform MENA economies and help to ensure that millions of the region’s young people can find the good jobs they deserve.

Shifting commodity markets in a globalised world

Commodity markets have been on a rollercoaster ride in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. A new book, summarised in this column, examines the long-term forces of technology, geography, demography and policy that influence these markets, and how their interplay sends price signals to producers and consumers.

How to diversify oil-producing economies

Many oil- and gas-rich countries have either announced or put in place policies to reduce their dependence on oil by diversifying their economies. This column argues that the key is to shift the focus away from the end goal of diversification and towards the transformation process of how to get there.

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Arab countries are caught in an inequality trap

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.

How Egyptian households cope with shocks: new evidence

Managing risks and reducing vulnerability to economic, social, environmental and health shocks enhances the wellbeing of households and encourages investment in human capital. This column explores the nature of shocks experienced by Egyptian households as well as the coping mechanisms that they use. It also examines the relationship between such risks and job formality and health status.

An appeal for Sudan’s future

Sudan today is on a knife-edge: it can evolve toward peace and democracy – or spiral into instability and violence. As this Project Syndicate column argues, vital and timely international assistance can make the difference between success and failure for the new government.

Egypt’s labour market: facts and prospects

An ERF policy conference on the Egyptian labour market in late October 2019 focused on gender and economic vulnerability. This column summarises the key takeaways from the event.

Reinforcing the re-emergence of the “missing middle” in Egypt

The more rapid growth of employment in small and medium-sized businesses compared with both micro enterprises and large firms in the Egyptian private sector presages the re-emergence of the ‘missing middle’. This column explains why this is a positive phenomenon that needs to be promoted and reinforced.

Political settlement scenarios for Arab conflicts

Millions of refugees from the Arab conflicts want to return to their countries, rebuild their homes and get their lives back – but what kind of political settlements might support that prospect? This column explores types of political settlements, what happened in the past after conflicts in Algeria and Lebanon, and scenarios for future political settlement in Syria.

Repatriation: scenarios for conflict resolution and reconstruction

What are the prospects for conflict resolution in Syria and other war-torn Arab countries, for reconstruction of their broken economies and societies, and for repatriation of the many refugees that have fled for their lives? This column discusses the notion of inclusive political settlements as a precondition for safe refugee repatriation and reconstruction plans for devastated communities.

Tackling multidimensional poverty in MENA

What does most recent multidimensional poverty assessment of the Middle East and North Africa reveal about health, education, living standards and social security in the region. This column outlines the evidence and potential policy responses.

Rethinking inequality in Arab countries: the latest research evidence

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.

Distrust fuels protests in the Middle East and North Africa

Street protests are enveloping many countries in the Middle East and North Africa – and the fundamental cause is a growing sense of individual uncertainty and distrust of governments. This column argues that governments in the region must restore confidence in their abilities to lead change. More open markets can help to unleash the full potential of individuals in MENA countries – but to do so requires open governments.