Economic Research Forum (ERF)

March

Is the Middle East the world’s most unequal region?

Survey-based estimates suggest that inequality in Middle Eastern countries is not particularly high by historical and international standards. This column reports research that combines household surveys, national accounts, income tax data and rich lists to produce the first estimates of income inequality at the regional level. The results suggest that the Middle East is the most unequal region in the world.

Shifting commodity markets in a globalised world

Commodity markets have been on a rollercoaster ride in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. A new book, summarised in this column, examines the long-term forces of technology, geography, demography and policy that influence these markets, and how their interplay sends price signals to producers and consumers.

Improving market access for Jordanian exports to Europe

As part of its efforts to alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan, the European Union has granted a relaxation on origin requirements for selected products from certain parts of the country. This column reports analysis of whether the EU’s decision can help to provide job opportunities for refugees.

Highways to growth: the impact of road upgrades on Turkish trade

Investment in transport infrastructure can improve a country’s growth prospects by facilitating trade. This column reports the findings of research on the impact of a major programme of road upgrades in Turkey from the early 2000s, which converted many two-lane undivided roads into dual carriageways. Trade both within the country and with other countries has benefited significantly from these improvements.

Why economists missed the Arab Spring

Just prior to the Arab Spring, many of the economic and social indicators for the countries of the Middle East and North Africa painted quite a favourable picture of the region. This Project Syndicate column explores why economists failed to anticipate the unrest. One key lesson is that improved economic performance cannot be viewed as an insurance policy against political instability.

Financial vulnerability and export dynamics

How does the financial vulnerability of many developing economies affect the ability of their firms to participate effectively in export markets? This column summarises research on 34 developing countries between 1997 and 2011. Financial crises in both the exporting and importing countries have a big negative effect on export dynamics.

MENA firms involved in trade: characteristics and challenges

How do MENA firms participating in international trade compare with their counterparts elsewhere in the world as well as with non-traders in the region? This column reports globally comparative data on the size and productivity of firms that export, import and do both – ‘two-way traders’. The results indicate the need for policy measures in MENA economies to promote efficient access to export markets and material inputs, especially for dynamic mid-range firms with potential for growth.

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.