While celebrating the seventh anniversary of the ousting of president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians been demonstrating against their government. This column, which originally appeared on The Conversation website explores what is going on and where the country should go from here
What have been the economic and political underpinnings of Egypt’s transition between social contract models? This column explores possible pathways to a new, more equitable and sustainable social contract, and the challenges such a contract would face. It examines the power structure in Egypt’s current ‘unsocial contract’ and whether it is possible to make the transition to a different but better social contract.
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.
To manage the volatility of commodity prices, resource-rich countries are typically advised to adopt a fiscal policy framework that can be operated counter-cyclically. Drawing on Norway’s experience, this column explains that a fiscal spending rule will not necessarily shelter the economy: if the constructed rule is too lax over the commodity price cycle, fiscal policy may even exacerbate the business cycle.
While state ownership of companies is widely thought to lead to inefficiencies, in the United Arab Emirates, it has proved to be a pillar of good corporate performance. This column describes the country’s experience over the period 2008-16, evaluating the performance of listed companies and banks, and comparing indicators across privately owned companies and those in which the government holds majority stakes.
A young person’s first job has a huge impact on the rest of their working life. Today, Egyptian youth face big challenges in securing that first position. This column explains why active labour market policies are unlikely to help with the initial transition into employment. Instead, policy-makers in Egypt should focus on improving the investment climate for small firms, and creating safe and accessible jobs for young women.
As the golden age of oil nears its end, incomes in the MENA region are destined to fall precipitously from their artificial petrodollar-boosted levels. Using the analogy of how to respond to being caught in quicksand, this column argues that the quick kicks of investment in big projects and misguided wars will drag the region down further. While structural reforms are slow and boring, they are also indispensable for economic progress.
Reforms that get more firms and workers into the formal economy can come in the form of both inducements such as better information and lower costs – ‘carrots’ – and legal enforcement – ‘sticks’. This column surveys the research evidence on the potential of carrots, sticks and other development policies for promoting greater formalisation and the many benefits it can bring to the economy and wider society.
Cultural norms and the social environment in many Middle Eastern societies discriminate against women, limit their socio-economic opportunities and relegate them to a lower status than men. Can education bring a change? This column reports research on what happened to young women and their children when Turkey raised the period of compulsory formal schooling from five to eight years.
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.
Arab countries experiencing economic and humanitarian crises are paying insufficient attention to the demographic trend of ageing populations. This column argues that providing economic security and healthcare for the elderly is one of the key challenges for the region.
Despite significant increases in women’s education and health indicators in Egypt, their rate of labour force participation remains one of the lowest in the world. This column explains how marriage acts as an obstacle for women taking jobs in the private sector, and outlines potential remedies to the ‘marriage mismatch’.