Economic Research Forum (ERF)

June

A moonshot for MENA: laying the groundwork for a modern digital economy

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.

Iran: the nuclear deal, currency depreciation and inflation

Iran’s currency has once again fallen against the dollar following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. This column explores the inflationary impact of speculative attacks on the rial, as well as the policy responses from the government and the central bank. Such episodes – and subsequent overshooting – have proven to be highly disruptive to the country, with lasting adverse social and economic effects.

Measuring economic destruction in Syria from outer space

How is Syria’s civil conflict affecting the economy? This column analyses data on night-light intensity measured by satellites to assess the extent of the destruction of economic activity across the country. Without a strong programme of economic rebuilding when the conflict finally ends, the return of approximately 5.6 million registered refugees to Syria will not happen any time soon.

Local winners and losers in Erdoğan’s Turkey

Throughout the 2000s, Turkey was portrayed as a model of social and economic success for other countries in the MENA region. Ahead of the country’s early presidential and parliamentary polls, this column reports research evidence on how the ruling Justice and Development Party has managed public resources and fostered local economic development since it took power in 2002. The government has played a substantial role in influencing local economic performance on a discretionary basis.

Liberalising road transport markets between Turkey and Europe

The routes that connect Turkey to its most important trading partners in Europe are governed by a system of road transport quotas, which has a significantly negative effect on the country’s exports. This column explores the challenges of liberalising the market for road freight transport services between Turkey and the European Union.

Poverty reduction efforts in Iran: the wrecking force of inflation

Iran’s universal cash transfer (UCT) programme plays an important role in fighting poverty. But as this column shows, its real value and impact on the country’s poorest people has diminished significantly as a result of rising prices. Over the five-year period since the UCT was first operating in 2011, inflation halved its original value.

The new normal in the global economy: challenges for MENA

ERF’s annual conference has become the premier regional event for economists of the Middle East. This column previews the 2018 conference, to be held in Cairo in July, where the main theme will be the challenges for the region of the likelihood of a relatively sustained period of low oil prices as well as disruptive cyclical movements around the long-term price trend – the so-called ‘new normal’ in the global economy. Special sessions will also discuss the challenges of inequality; climate change and environmental damage; and solidarity, economy and social justice.

Video

Understanding the impact of the Syrian refugee influx on education in Jordan

Amman, 13 May 2018. H.E Dr. Omar Razzaz (Jordan Minister of Education) talks about the impact of the Syrian refugee influx on Jordan education

Most read

Fair competition is needed to empower women economically in the Arab world

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.

Recession without impact: why Lebanese elites delay reform

The survival of Lebanon’s political elites is highly dependent on the wellbeing of the economy. Why then do they delay necessary reform to avoid crisis? This column examines the role of politically connected firms in delaying much-needed economic stabilisation policies.

Competition laws: a key role for economic growth in MENA

Competition policy lacks the attention it deserves in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region characterised by monopolies and lack of market contestability. As this column explains, there are many questions about the extent of anti-competitive barriers facing new market entrants in the region. What’s more, MENA’s weak overall performance on competition is likely to be hindering economic growth and the path towards structural transformation.

The future of Egypt’s population: opportunities and challenges

Egypt’s potential labour supply depends on the growth and changing composition of its working-age population. This column reports the latest data on labour supply and fertility rates, concluding that the country has a window of opportunity with reduced demographic pressures to try to address longstanding structural challenges for the labour market.

Formidable challenges facing the Middle East require a sea change in economic policies

Weakening global growth, endemic conflicts and increased tensions within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – as well as emerging challenges such as climate change and rapid demographic shifts – are likely to have an adverse impact on the region’s economic, social and political stability in the coming years. This column outlines the policy responses that are needed to avert disaster.

Domestic demand and competition: a new development paradigm for MENA

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.

Effects of urbanisation on productivity and wages: evidence from Turkey

Are the substantial productivity gains associated with larger cities in developed countries similar for developing countries? This column provides evidence on urbanised economies in the non-Western world by focusing on Turkey, a country that has experienced fast urbanisation and a high rate of growth of the urban population.

Gender discrimination in small business lending: evidence from Turkey

Discrimination in access to financial services can prevent women from exploiting their entrepreneurial potential. This column reports on a ‘lab-in-the-field’ experiment to test for the presence of gender discrimination in small business lending in Turkey.

How import dependence could lead to corruption in MENA

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.

Social security for young workers in Arab countries

Social security coverage of young workers in Arab countries is low – in part because many are employed in informal jobs; and in part because they do not see the value of the system. This column reports survey evidence on young workers’ attitudes towards participation in both social security and politics. It also explores policy reforms that might make access to social security universal for young workers.