Economic Research Forum (ERF)

September

Business Cycles in Kuwait: A New Chronology

Policy-makers, business leaders and forecasters can all benefit from access to data on historical economic and financial cycles as well as the current state of the economy in real-time. This column outlines efforts in Kuwait to develop a chronology of business cycles – one that tracks and projects the dates of expansions and contractions of overall economic activity.

Development Gains from Arab-African Trade Integration

Despite their proximity, trade and investment flows between the Arab countries and sub-Saharan Africa are very low. This column reports analysis of the potential development gains from deepening economic integration between groups of countries within and across the two regions. Existing and proposed free trade agreements that can help to promote stronger growth include the Arab customs union, the continental free trade area of the African Union, the pan Arab free trade area and the tripartite free trade area, which links three regional economic communities in Africa

Escaping the middle-income trap: lessons from East Asia’s experience

Many countries find themselves in the ‘middle-income trap’, facing a slowdown of economic growth because of weak innovation. This column draws on the experiences of East Asian countries to explore how businesses can upgrade their innovation capabilities and how policies can provide support for those efforts, thereby promoting renewed growth. There are important lessons for the MENA region.

Can Trump’s sanctions break Iran?

Iran and the United States seem to have reversed roles with the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal. As this Project Syndicate column explains, Iran’s isolation before the agreement now contrasts with America's determination to swim against the global tide.

The energy sector reforms of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

Energy constitutes a major building block of Saudi Arabia’s economic reform agenda described in the government’s Vision 2030. This column outlines the key considerations, including the future role of the oil industry, energy efficiency programmes, domestic energy prices and diversification of energy sources.

Euro-Med trade agreements, macroeconomic stability and income convergence

Economic relations between the European Union and their partner countries in the Southern Mediterranean are being reshaped by the New European Neighbourhood Policy and related trade negotiations. This column reports research on the likely impact of greater trade and financial integration on macroeconomic stability and income convergence between the two regions – and the implications for economic policy-makers in the MED countries.

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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.