Economic Research Forum (ERF)


The dilemma of public debt in Lebanon

Lebanon’s strategy of pursuing long-term fiscal sustainability at the cost of short-term macroeconomic stability, which has dominated for over two decades, has been devastating in terms of economic growth and deteriorating infrastructure. This column explains the background to the current economic and financial crisis.

Fiscal policy for Covid-19 and beyond

Covid-19 has hit developing countries hard. This Brookings column suggests that the crisis could galvanise governments to reduce ‘leakages’ of public spending to beneficiaries other than those for whom it is intended. The objectives should be creating fiscal space to serve the poor better while setting the stage for recovery and sustained economic growth.

Lebanon must learn from the Syrian disaster

Overlapping crises are threatening the political, economic and social stability of Lebanon. As this column explains, the disaster in Syria provides insights into how grievances can accumulate to a point at which single events can trigger conflict.

Sudan and the pandemic: reforms for a vulnerable economy

Sudan’s economy was in a fragile state even before Covid-19 and the lockdown measures implemented to control the virus. This column outlines the bold yet practical reforms that are needed to help the country move to a virtuous cycle of rising productivity and incomes – and hence sustained reduction in poverty.

Who can work from home in MENA?

Which jobs can be done from home, who does them and how prevalent are they in different countries? This column reports evidence on working from home in over 50 countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia.

Measuring monetary poverty in MENA: data gaps and how to address them

As key statistical sources for measuring monetary poverty, household budget surveys are crucial for designing public policies and tracking development progress. But measuring poverty in the MENA region remains a challenge. This column identifies challenges of availability, access and quality of household budget surveys in the region and evaluates ways to fill these information gaps.

Covid-19: forging a new social contract in the Middle East and North Africa

The dual shock of Covid-19 and falling oil prices has brought to light the underlying flaws of economies in the Middle East and North Africa. This column, originally published at OECD Development Matters, suggests that events that are out of authorities’ control will trigger change in the societies of the region. Governments must decide whether that change will be guided or traumatic.

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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.