Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Simon Neaime

Founding contributors

Simon Neaime
American University of Beirut

Simon Neaime obtained his PhD in Economics from York University and his MA in Economics from the University of Toronto. He is currently Professor of Economics and Finance, Director of the Institute of Financial Economics, and former Chair of the Department of Economics at the American University of Beirut. He has numerous academic articles published in top field finance and economics journals on emerging economies in general and the MENA economies in particular. Simon has also published several textbooks on emerging markets and was recently granted ERF’s lifetime research fellowship.

Content by this Author

Lebanon’s 2019 austerity measures: enough to restore confidence?

Lebanon has entered the danger zone of high public indebtedness. As this column explains, this could seriously compromise the credibility and sustainability of the fixed exchange rate regime and may spark renewed inflationary pressures. Proposed austerity measures are unlikely to be enough to restore confidence in the country’s economy.

Lebanon’s austerity budget of 2019: a last resort to avoid crisis?

Lebanon’s high and rising public debt has become unsustainable. This column explains why it is essential that the austerity measures in the draft budget of 2019 are approved in order to avert imminent debt and exchange rate crises.

Recent financial and debt crises: is the MENA region immune?

How vulnerable is the MENA region to a ‘sudden stop’ in capital inflows and the potential for associated financial and debt crises? This column outlines the risks and the appropriate policy responses.

Arab economic integration: trade and growth policy after the crises

Greater economic and financial integration of the Arab countries is widely agreed to be essential both to promote growth and to shelter the region more effectively from the negative impact of future global crises. This column outlines key policy measures.

Contagion vulnerability of MENA economies

The weak economic performance of MENA countries in recent years would deteriorate further in the event of fresh negative shocks to the world economy. This column highlights the key vulnerabilities of the region to various external events as an essential step in the formulation of appropriate macroeconomic policies.

Inflation targeting versus nominal exchange rate targeting in MENA

Targeting inflation – a monetary policy strategy that has been successfully used in several developed countries – has become an increasingly attractive alternative to nominal exchange rate targeting in emerging economies. This column compares recent experiences with the two policy regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey – and outlines the key requirements for the effective adoption of inflation targeting.

Exchange rate policies and external public debt in the MENA region

Emerging economies are often subject to currency crises and foreign debt crises around the same time. This column explores the links between these phenomena in five MENA economies – Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey – and the current sustainability of fiscal and exchange rate policies in these countries.

Euro-Med trade agreements, macroeconomic stability and income convergence

Economic relations between the European Union and their partner countries in the Southern Mediterranean are being reshaped by the New European Neighbourhood Policy and related trade negotiations. This column reports research on the likely impact of greater trade and financial integration on macroeconomic stability and income convergence between the two regions – and the implications for economic policy-makers in the MED countries.

Are macroeconomic policies sustainable in the Euro-Med region?

Policy-makers in the European Union and its partners in the Southern Mediterranean have introduced austerity measures to limit further deteriorations in countries’ fiscal and macroeconomic positions. This column reports research on the issues of debt sustainability and the ‘twin deficit hypothesis’ – the idea that there is a strong link between the budget balance and the current account balance. Traditional macroeconomic policies seem largely ineffective for promoting sustainable growth and averting future financial crises.

Financial inclusion, financial stability and inequality

Are programmes aimed at promoting financial inclusion in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) leading to less poverty and income inequality and more financial stability? This column outlines the evidence from a study of eight MENA countries.

Lebanon’s challenge of fiscal sustainability

New legislation by the Lebanese government, which provides a big boost to the salaries of public sector employees, puts considerable pressure on the country’s public finances. This column outlines the potential impact on inflation, interest rates, the balance of payments and the exchange rate – and the kind of austerity measures that are needed to restore fiscal sustainability without too much damage to potential economic growth.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.