Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Samir Makdisi

Founding contributors

Samir Makdisi
American University of Beirut

Samir Makdisi is professor emeritus of economics and founding director of the Institute of Financial Economics, the American University of Beirut (AUB). He has served as Minister of Economy and Trade, Republic of Lebanon, 1992 and Deputy President of AUB, 1992-1998; member of the Board of Trustees of the Economic Research Forum and of the Board of Directors of the Euro-Mediterranean Econom-ic Research Institutes (FEMISE). He received his Ph.D in Economics from Columbia University.

Content by this Author

Moving beyond the Arab uprisings

Despite the popular movements for freedom and justice in several Arab countries a little over a decade ago, the region continues to be classified at the bottom of the world table of democracy. Nevertheless, this column argues, the uprisings have rung in the changes of an inevitable and deep-seated political and economic transformation in the Arab region: a change in the social contract is in the making, though its path and inception time remain uncertain.

After the Arab uprisings: reconstruction, peace and democratic change

Any post-uprisings transformation leading to lasting national peace in Arab countries will be conditional on laying the foundations for inclusive socio-economic development in the context of a genuinely democratic environment. This column, which summarises a forthcoming multi-authored ERF book explores how these goals can be achieved.

On Lebanon’s economic crisis and recourse to IMF assistance

Failures of fiscal policy, monetary policy and banking practices have led to economic crisis in Lebanon. This column argues that the focus of the new government’s plan for national recovery should be on fiscal governance and policy measures that constitute the bedrock for reforms in other areas of economic policy. Assistance from the International Monetary Fund can support their implementation and an effective rescue programme.

Repatriation of refugees from Arab conflicts: scenarios for reconstruction

The prospects for early repatriation of refugees who have fled conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen in recent years do not yet look promising. Nevertheless, not only have discussions about repatriation started at both national and international levels, but there is also a steady, though still limited, stream of refugees in neighbouring countries trickling back to their war-ravaged homes. This column summarises the latest ERF-FEMISE Euromed Report, which discusses the issue of repatriation in general and as a potential solution to the refugee crisis.

Sustainability of GCC development under the new global oil order

It is now a widely held view that the price of oil will eventually be converging to a lower long-term trend. Together with growing demands for political change in the MENA region, this implies the need for many countries to reconsider their growth models and their underlying social contract. This column considers the implications for the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

On autocracy, democracy and populism: Tunisia and the wider Arab region

Different circumstances offer different opportunities for the emergence of populism. This column contrasts the rise of populist movements in the established democracies of the West with the uprisings against entrenched autocracies in the Arab region. While many of the latter have been reversed or sparked civil conflict, there is hope in Tunisia’s gradual transition towards consolidating a fully-fledged democracy.

Prospects for a closely integrated Euro-Arab Mediterranean region

The Euro-Med partnership of over 40 countries aims for closer integration of the region, fostering the development and stability of the southern and eastern members, and narrowing economic and political gaps between North and South. This column explores its prospects, concluding that the rationale for a politically integrated Euro-Arab Med region does not seem to have been adequately thought out: it is a matter that deserves deep study.

Prospects for development with democracy in the Arab world

What are the prospects for democracy in the Arab world? This column expresses the hope that as conflict-afflicted countries embark on their programmes of economic reconstruction, autocratic institutions will not be re-established under the pretext of the need for a speedy and steady recovery. The optimal path of development necessarily includes robust growth, equity as well as democracy.

forum Talks – Reconstruction and development

Samir Makdisi highlights the importance of clearly identifying funding, human and physical capital requirements to address reconstruction priorities.

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Labour market effects of robots: evidence from Turkey

Evidence from developed countries on the impact of automation on labour markets suggests that there can be negative effects on manufacturing jobs, but also mechanisms for workers to move into the services sector. But this narrative may not apply in developing economies. This column reports new evidence from Turkey on the effects of robots on labour displacement and job reallocation.

Global value chains and domestic innovation: evidence from MENA firms

Global interlinkages play a significant role in enhancing innovation by firms in developing countries. In particular, as this column explains, participation in global value chains fosters a variety of innovation activities. Since some countries in the Middle East and North Africa display a downward trend on measures of global innovation, facilitating the GVC participation of firms in the region is a prospective channel for stimulating underperforming innovation.

Food insecurity in Tunisia during and after the Covid-19 pandemic

Labour market instability, rising unemployment rates and soaring food prices due to Covid-19 are among the reasons for severe food insecurity across the world. This grim picture is evident in Tunisia, where the government continues to provide financial and food aid to vulnerable households after the pandemic. But as this column explains, the inadequacy of some public policies is another important factors causing food insecurity.

Sustaining entrepreneurship: lessons from Iran

Does entrepreneurial activity naturally return to long-term average levels after big economic disturbances? This column presents new evidence from Iran on trends in entrepreneurship among various categories of firm size, sector and location – and suggests policies that could be effective in promoting entrepreneurial activities.

Intimate partner violence: the impact on women’s empowerment in Egypt

Although intimate partner violence is a well-documented and widely recognised problem, empirical research on its prevalence and impact is scarce in developing countries, including those in the Middle East and North Africa. This column reports evidence from a study of intra-household disparities in Egypt, taking account of attitudes toward gender roles, women’s ownership of assets, and the domestic violence that wives may experience from their husbands.

Manufacturing firms in Egypt: trade participation and outcomes for workers

International trade can play a large and positive role in boosting economic growth, reducing poverty and making progress towards gender equality. These effects result in part from the extent to which trade is associated with favourable labour market outcomes. This column presents evidence of the effects of Egyptian manufacturing firms’ participation in exporting and importing on their workers’ productivity and average wages, and on women’s employment share.

Do capital inflows cause industrialisation or de-industrialisation?

There is a clear appeal for emerging and developing economies, including those in MENA, to finance investment in manufacturing industry at home with capital inflows from overseas. But as the evidence reported in this column indicates, this is a potentially risky strategy: rather than promoting industrialisation, capital flows can actually lead to lower manufacturing value added and/or a reallocation of resources towards industries with lower technology intensity.

Financial constraints on small firms’ growth: pandemic lessons from Iran

How does access to finance affect the growth of small businesses? This column presents new evidence from Iran before and during the Covid-19 pandemic – and lessons learned by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

Happiness in the Arab world: should we be concerned?

Several Arab countries have low rankings in the latest comparative assessment of average happiness across the world. But as this column explains, the average is not a reliable summary statistic when applied to ordinal data. The evidence from more robust analysis of socio-economic inequality in happiness suggests that policy-makers should be less concerned about happiness indicators than the core development objective of more equitable social conditions for citizens.

The economics of Israeli war aims and strategies

Israel’s response to last October’s Hamas attack has led to widespread death and destruction. This column outlines the impact thus far, including the effects on food scarcity, migration and the Palestinian economy in both Gaza and the West Bank.