Economic Research Forum (ERF)

October

Trade policy options to improve Palestine’s food security

Palestine’s limited access to international markets and trade disruptions caused by Israeli closures create food shortages as well as surges in prices across the Palestinian territories. For healthier relations between Israel and Palestine, new arrangements are needed to pave the way to a sovereign Palestinian state with full control over its territory and trade policies. This column reports research simulating different trade policies in a future sovereign Palestinian state and assesses which policy options would improve food security in the West Bank.

Chronic illness and the labour market in Arab countries

Chronic illnesses are widespread in the Arab countries – and they have damaging consequences for labour market participation and wider economic performance. Drawing on evidence from Egypt and Tunisia, this column proposes a package of practical actions to protect workers from becoming victims of chronic diseases – and to reduce the losses of income, labour supply and labour productivity.

Human capital and regional disparities in Turkey

Turkey has a longstanding problem of uneven economic development across its regions. This column explores the interactions between the market access of central and remote parts of the country, the varying levels of human capital accumulation in those places, and the wage returns to education. The research evidence indicates the potential of regional policy to reduce inequalities.

Structural transformation in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia

Despite considerable economic progress before 1990, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia all experienced ‘premature deindustrialisation’ and unfinished structural transformation. This column looks back at structural change in these three countries over the past half a century and draws lessons for today on how to unleash their productive potential. In short, an effective industrial policy is needed.

Extreme poverty in Arab states: a growing cause for concern

Extreme poverty is rising in Arab states and the outlook is concerning. This column outlines the latest figures and the implications for policies to promote inclusive and sustainable development in the region.

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.

The investment decisions of Arab sovereign wealth funds

What are the key objectives of the sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) of Arab countries? This column presents the results of new quantitative analysis, which reveals that these institutions typically pursue a top-down investment strategy in which they first screen target countries or jurisdictions, then target sectors and finally target businesses. In the risk-return trade-off, Arab SWFs seem to put significantly more weight on risk mitigation than on returns.

Turkey’s reversal of fortune

Recent changes in Turkey’s economic, social and political environment have not only failed to generate the potential for sustainable growth, but they have also made the country prone to both economic and social crises. This column outlines what lies behind the reversal of fortune – and what needs to be done to get back on a sustainable development track.

Rethinking the state’s role in Arab economies

The Arab world's state-led development model may be set to reach a breaking point, as hundreds of millions of young people prepare to enter the labour market in the coming decades. This Project Syndicate column argues that with the public sector unlikely to be able to absorb these new workers, there is an urgent need to create a dynamic and competitive private sector.

Oil prices and the performance of UAE banks

The fall in the oil price to a ‘new normal’ has had a negative impact on four indicators of banks’ performance in the United Arab Emirates (UAE): return on assets; return on equity; and growth of credit and deposits. This column uses data on 22 national banks to examine differences in performance between conventional and Islamic banks, and outlines measures to improve the banking sector’s resilience and profitability.

Galal Amin and the Egyptian middle class

A sense of ‘defeat’ among the Egyptian middle class was the main motivation for the uprising of 25 January 2011. In a tribute to economics professor Galal Amin, who passed away last month, this column explores what his analysis would suggest lay behind that feeling. The main culprit is the pursuit of stabilisation at any cost: macroeconomic stability rarely translates into more investment and better-quality jobs; liberalisation typically leads to crony capitalism and greater inequality; and it is the poor and the middle class who experience the pain.

Most read

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.