Even as tensions over migration run high, the Northern Rim and the Southern Rim have renewed their cooperation over energy issues. Amid the global energy transition, investors from the Northern Rim are anxious to pour billions of dollars into hydrogen projects into the Southern Rim. For Southern Rim nations, however, this tantalizing opportunity for economic development risks turning into just another Sahara mirage. That’s because the hype surrounding hydrogen may continue to distract the regions’ leaders from addressing the tough domestic social issues that are behind the migration crisis. If the technology does become viable, revenue from hydrogen exports to Europe could just perpetuate rent-seeking behavior by political and economic elites at the expense of their own citizens.
Current geopolitical tensions between China and the United States have been compared to the Cold War. But the modern-day rivalry differs from that of the US and Soviet Union, not least of all in terms of how other countries have responded. This column argues that in today’s context, a given state is less likely to side directly with either China or the US, and is instead able to benefit economically from courting both superpowers. But while not as deeply entrenched as in the 20th century, the schism between the US and China, as well as the way the international community has reacted, remains harmful to the wider global economy – de-escalation is needed urgently.
Policy-makers increasingly tout multilateral development banks as being uniquely positioned to address today’s pressing global challenges, particularly debt crises in the developing world. But as this Project Syndicate column explains, their lending mostly benefits middle-income countries rather than the lower-income countries that need it most.
An energy transition will require a coordinated global shift in both the supply and demand for fossil fuels and cleaner energy. As explained in this post by the Center for Global Development, multilateral institutions can play an important role, helping to bolster international technology transfers to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as scaling up investment and trade in clean energy to facilitate the global energy transition. Given the potential in the region for solar power, MENA could remain a global hub – but this time for clean energy.
Climate stability, like global macrofinancial stability, is a public good. Yet, while the International Monetary Fund has an operational mandate to preserve global macrofinancial stability, there is no comparable pairing of the internationally agreed operational mandate on climate stability with a global institution. As this Devex column explains, the World Bank could be that very institution.
Falling aid budgets and ballooning debt in the developing world are impediments to climate action. As this Foreign Policy column explains, green aid projects can bring poorer countries on board.
The growing geopolitical and economic split between the United States and China should prompt a paradigm shift in economic thinking. In particular, as this Project Syndicate column argues, economists will need to reconsider their approach to topics such as comparative advantage, market integration and how to promote convergence.
The African continent is much larger than it appears on standard maps of the world. As explained in this column, first published at Le Monde, this distorted projection method has many consequences, particularly in the area of agriculture.
Skyrocketing food and energy prices, together with widening sovereign bond spreads, have placed balance sheets in emerging market and developing economies under severe strain. This Project Syndicate column argues that to avoid disaster, the international community must urgently support bold debt restructuring.
The sanctions placed on Russian oil may give new impetus to the energy transition by encouraging developed economies to find new sources of energy. Current policy has focused largely on supply-side responses to manage this development. This VoxEU column says that demand-side policies may also play a critical role. The authors argue for policies that increase the price elasticity of oil demand, such as incentives for individuals to switch to electric vehicles through subsidies. Nonetheless, they emphasise that the distributional effects of policies, including carbon pricing, are politically important and cannot be ignored.
The democratisation push in Africa’s poorest countries has failed to produce legitimate governments capable of delivering security and development, and the increasing frequency of military coups should trigger a rethink. As this Project Syndicate column explains, where institutions are weak, elections alone will not make leaders accountable.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has accentuated the already pronounced upward trend in energy and food prices. This column assesses the vulnerability of countries in Africa to such changes in commodity markets.
Rates of vaccination against Covid-19 are still disappointingly low in Africa. This column, originally published at Al Jazeera, argues that with supply issues slowly being resolved, the continent’s priority should shift to addressing logistical problems and fighting vaccine hesitancy.
The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to exacerbate the move away from globalisation that began early this century and promote regionalisation around big economic blocs. This column, originally published at the LSE Business Review, explains how African countries have an opportunity to deepen regional integration and create their own value chains, transforming the raw materials that they have in abundance. Agribusiness could be as pivotal for Africa as coal and steel for Europe because of the benefits of food security and jobs for the continent.
In the Middle East and North Africa, energy consumption is heavily subsidised, which has harmful environmental consequences. But reform of energy subsidies is politically difficult, not least because of limited government legitimacy and citizen distrust of authorities. This column argues for a new holistic approach to reform to account for the frail social contract that has prevailed for decades between elites and the broad population of the region.
The race for natural resources to power the simultaneous energy and digital transitions the world is experiencing rages among the major powers. As this Brookings column argues, appropriate transnational governance is essential to achieving an orderly, sustainable and inclusive exploitation of natural resources.
Ensuring that developing countries remain able to access credit markets is vital for promoting growth and recovery post-pandemic. This column argues that efforts by major economies to support regional development banks and preserve their financial standing will help to limit the cost of rebuilding after the crisis. In turn, this will help to preserve international capital markets in the short and medium run.
A new oil price super cycle, an extended period during which prices exceed their long-term trend, seems to be in the making. This column, originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of Finance and Development, explores why it could be the last of its kind – and the challenging implications for oil-dependent economies and their neighbours.
Covid-19 offers an opportunity for developing countries to rethink their tax policy to contribute to the reconstruction effort and promote the recovery. This column explores what the legacy of the pandemic will be for our tax systems and several dimensions for the required rethinking.
While most African countries have been largely spared so far from the direct health effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, the continent’s economy has been significantly hurt by the economic consequences. This is particularly concerning given Africa’s high prevalence of extreme poverty. This column introduces a new eBook from CEPR Press, which focuses on business and household responses to the Covid-19 crisis in Africa, as well as access to international finance, patterns in international borrowing and country-specific experiences during the pandemic.
With the population of Africa and the Middle East set to double by 2050, efforts to ‘demonopolise’ the economies of the region – akin to late 19th century US federal legislation that outlawed monopolistic business practices – are vital to achieve economic transformation. Collectively leveraging the rise in pent-up domestic demand will facilitate the development of domestic productive systems, transforming raw products and supporting the creation of decent jobs.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates face the dual shock of the pandemic and the oil price collapse. Drawing lessons from the European Union’s response to its sovereign debt crisis, this column proposes a stability mechanism for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council aimed at institutionalising solidarity and fiscal discipline among them. The mechanism would issue some special obligations and lend the proceeds at low rates to its members, requiring them to undertake economic reforms in return.
The countries of the Middle East and North Africa desperately need a new social contract to meet the demands of a growing, increasingly disillusioned youth population. As this Project Syndicate column argues, one crucial prerequisite for that is a new ecosystem for the creation, dissemination and discussion of ideas.
What is the nature of the Covid-19 shock? What are the consequences of and immediate responses to Covid-19? Are lockdowns sustainable? Can all countries do ‘whatever it takes’ to deal with the pandemic? How should countries prepare for a recovery? What of global supply chains and trade? And what of sovereign debt restructuring? This column addresses these seven key questions.
Covid-19 has hit developing countries hard. This Brookings column suggests that the crisis could galvanise governments to reduce ‘leakages’ of public spending to beneficiaries other than those for whom it is intended. The objectives should be creating fiscal space to serve the poor better while setting the stage for recovery and sustained economic growth.
The dual shock of Covid-19 and falling oil prices has brought to light the underlying flaws of economies in the Middle East and North Africa. This column, originally published at OECD Development Matters, suggests that events that are out of authorities’ control will trigger change in the societies of the region. Governments must decide whether that change will be guided or traumatic.
The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council face a dual shock: from both the Covid-19 pandemic and the collapse in oil prices. This column argues that authorities should focus first on responding to the health emergency and the associated risk of economic depression. They should postpone fiscal consolidation linked to the persistent drop in oil prices until recovery from the pandemic is well underway.
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa face a dual shock from the Covid-19 pandemic and a collapse in oil prices. This column explores the policy options available to deal with such shocks, arguing that authorities should sequence and tailor their responses. MENA countries should first focus on responding to the health emergency and economic depression, postponing fiscal consolidation linked to the persistent drop in oil prices until the recovery from the pandemic is well underway.
A combination of supply and demand shocks has sent oil prices plunging and financial markets tumbling. This column argues that if the decline in oil prices persists, it will erode the fragile macroeconomic and social stability of countries – especially those in the Middle East and North Africa – that have been hit by the novel coronavirus.
The novel coronavirus, which first emerged in China in late 2019, has the potential to disrupt the economies of the Middle East and North Africa through four distinct channels: directly through infections; and indirectly through oil prices, value chains and tourism. As this column explains, the infection and oil price channels are the most significant, with the virus having spread to Iran and other MENA countries and oil prices having dropped $20 per barrel since its discovery.
Across the Arabic-speaking world, citizens have once again been taking to the streets. This column, originally published by Brookings, argues that to address the latest protests, Arab governments should choose reform paths that put the initial burden on themselves.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.