Economic Research Forum (ERF)

March

Africa’s continental free trade area: a stepping-stone to integration?

In a week that marks the anniversary of the treaty for an African continental free trade area, signed in Kigali on 18 March 2018, this column asks whether it is a turning point on the road towards economic integration. There are signs of progress: the inclusion of negotiations on trade in services; progress-tracking on removing barriers to trade in goods; easing the movement of persons; and improving hard and soft infrastructure to lower trade costs. But starting off with a small membership that does not include all the big players and the possibility of backsliding under the guise of indiscriminate promotion of regional value chains pose serious threats.

Transformation under radical uncertainty: the challenge for MENA

Shifting from a centralised rent-seeking society to a decentralised productive society is such a major transformation that it cannot be fully planned in advance. As Paul Collier explained in his keynote address at ERF’s 25th annual conference, it is subject to ‘radical uncertainty’ and as such depends on igniting rapid social learning so that society ‘error-corrects’ as it attempts change. His analysis draws lessons for MENA countries.

Productive jobs: rebasing growth in the MENA region

With the oil rents of the Middle East set to wane, it is essential to generate opportunities for jobs that are sufficiently productive to sustain the living standards that the population has come to expect. As Paul Collier explained in the opening keynote address at ERF’s 25th annual conference, the bare bones of building productivity at twenty-first century levels are not mysterious: clusters of firms capable of innovation have to be built and linked to vocational training that equips a workforce with the skills that firms need.

Kuwait and New Zealand: comparing GDP, competitiveness and social progress

A comparison between two economic indicators shows how competitiveness is more closely related to social progress than to GDP. This LSE Business Review column looks at how Kuwait, New Zealand and many other countries perform in terms of GDP per capita, the Global Competitiveness Index and a new Social Progress Index.

Knowledge, research networks and development policy: the ERF at 25

ERF’s annual conference has become the premier regional event for economists of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This column previews the 2019 conference, which takes place in Kuwait City next week (10-12 March) and which marks the 25th anniversary of the ERF. The central focus will be on the knowledge economy as an economic development model for the region.

Location and firm performance: evidence from Italy, Tunisia and Turkey

Clustering of economic activity has long been seen as an important way to boost employment, innovation and productivity. This column reports FEMISE research evidence for the positive impact on output and innovation performance of local ‘spillovers’ between domestic and foreign firms located in the same regions in Italy, Tunisia and Turkey. The results provide a benchmark for analysing the efficiency of clusters of small and medium-sized enterprises in southern Mediterranean countries.

The benefits of year-round daylight saving time: evidence from Turkey

Ever since Benjamin Franklin’s observation in the late eighteenth century that people wasted daylight by sleeping after sunrise and squandered wax by burning candles in the evening, energy conservation has been the main motivation for governments to follow ‘daylight saving time’ (DST). Using Turkey’s recent decision to extend DST to the whole year, this column summarises new evidence on how DST affects the consumption and generation of electricity, and related greenhouse gas emissions. The analysis suggests that while total consumption is unchanged, emissions may have gone down due to the policy change.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.