Economic Research Forum (ERF)

April

Was public free mass education detrimental to Egypt’s human capital?

Since the early 1950s, when schools in Egypt opened their doors to the masses, some have expressed concerns that the country has somehow suffered from this educational expansion. This column explains the reality of the reform effort: that it was the last step in a century-long public programme that accelerated following the 1923 constitution and its requirement that compulsory education be provided for every Egyptian child. All in all, the provision of free mass education increased student enrolment and improved, on average, the educational and occupational outcomes of the masses.

Attitudes towards gender equality in Arab countries

The position of women has fluctuated considerably in the recent history of the MENA region. But in general, Arab countries rank lower on gender equality than other societies at a comparable level of development. This column reports evidence on changing social attitudes towards gender across generations in a number of these countries, as well as the impact of the political regimes they have experienced over the past 50 years.

Domestic violence reduced by better education: evidence from Turkey

A policy change in Turkey in 1997 raised the number of years that children are required to be at school from five to eight. This column reports research that uses this reform of compulsory education to estimate the effect of education on domestic violence against women. The results indicate that additional schooling makes men less prone to abuse of their spouses.

Guidelines for cost-effective public procurement: lessons from Turkey

Cost-effectiveness is the key objective in public procurement auctions. This column reports analysis and evidence from Turkey on how best that can be achieved through attracting the optimal number of bidders for a given contract and by encouraging bids from new entrants. The author provides an easy-to-use methodology for policy-makers in developing and developed countries.

Iran’s long economic journey

The landslide re-election of Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, in 2017 reflects the by now familiar pattern of continuity and change that has characterised Iran’s major elections over the last two decades. But, as this Project Syndicate column explains, it also stands out in one key way: Rouhani has remained popular despite pursuing painful macroeconomic stabilisation. Now he needs to look beyond current conditions to address entrenched structural challenges facing the Iranian economy.

A sustainable economy for the Arab world

Building a sustainable economy is an urgent imperative for policy-makers, businesses, and citizens throughout the Arab world. This Project Syndicate column says that it won’t be easy, but the region has plenty of experience overcoming even the most difficult challenges.

When is debt a drag on economic growth?

Is there a tipping point for public indebtedness beyond which growth drops off significantly; and does a build-up of public debt slow the economy in the long run? This column reports the results of an empirical analysis of these questions for 40 advanced and developing economies over nearly half a century.

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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.

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.

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.