Economic Research Forum (ERF)

February

Religion as a catalyst for trade: evidence from Turkish exports

Does religious affinity help firms to get access to foreign markets? This column reports evidence that sharing Islamic beliefs with potential customers abroad eases the first-time access to export markets of manufacturing firms active in Turkey. The nexus between religiosity and trade may help to explain the recent tightening of Turkey’s trading relationship with the Muslim world – and between Muslim-majority countries more generally.

Improving the economic policy debate in the MENA region

The Forum, a policy portal for the Middle East and North Africa, was launched in October 2017 with the aim of becoming ‘the platform’ for rich and relevant debates in the region on economic, social and political development issues. This column reviews progress to the end of 2018.

On autocracy, democracy and populism: Tunisia and the wider Arab region

Different circumstances offer different opportunities for the emergence of populism. This column contrasts the rise of populist movements in the established democracies of the West with the uprisings against entrenched autocracies in the Arab region. While many of the latter have been reversed or sparked civil conflict, there is hope in Tunisia’s gradual transition towards consolidating a fully-fledged democracy.

Electoral participation in Turkey: what drives high voter turnout?

Well-functioning democracies and economies require voters that evaluate the economic performance of governments and reward or punish them accordingly. For that reason, low and steadily declining electoral participation in North America and Western Europe is viewed with alarm. There is no such tendency in Turkey, where the turnout rate is about twice as high as in many industrialised countries. This column discusses key factors that determine electoral participation in Turkey.

Equity capital inflows, corporate finance and growth in emerging economies

Studies of the relationship between foreign investor participation in public equity markets and aggregate economic activity in emerging economies find strong effects on productivity, investment, economic growth and the price of publicly traded stocks – but it is not clear why. This VoxEU column shows that equity capital inflows increase the supply of funding available to firms in emerging economies, encouraging them to obtain more equity financing to invest and expand. Large firms benefit most from the inflows.

Ownership structure and multinationals’ productivity: evidence from Turkey

Evidence is mixed on the effects of multinational activity on productivity and competitiveness in host economies. This column provides new evidence that previous estimates of the effects of multinationals on productivity may have been under-estimated. Analysis of data from Turkey’s manufacturing census suggests that the ownership structure of multinationals and foreign acquisitions play an important role in driving aggregate productivity growth.

Fiscal policy in the GCC countries: towards ensuring sustainability

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are all seeking to promote diversification of their economies away from continued dependence on the energy sector, yet oil prices remain the main driver of economic growth in the region. This column discusses how the GCC countries should respond to the ‘new normal’ of ‘low for long’ oil prices, with a goal of supporting growth while ensuring fiscal sustainability and macroeconomic stability.

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.