Iran’s middle class has experienced persistent expansion over the past 50 years, excluding the period coinciding with revolutionary turmoil and the Iran-Iraq war. As this column explains, the growth of the middle class has been significantly influenced by oil revenues acting to expand non-oil trade, the service sector and the real estate sector. But growth has not been accompanied by improvements in the quality of political institutions.
The Covid-19 crisis is exacerbating income inequalities in the Middle East and North Africa, pushing many vulnerable people into poverty and causing bankruptcy for multiple micro-enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises. This column explores some financial innovations to help address these huge challenges, particularly focusing on improving access to finance for individuals and small businesses.
- Roberta V. Gatti ,
- Daniel Lederman ,
- Ha Nguyen ,
- Sultan Abdulaziz Alturki ,
- Rachel Yuting Fan ,
- Asif Islam and
- Claudio Rojas
Public debt has been a critical tool for governments dealing with Covid-19, but it is a double-edged sword: as the pandemic subsides, tensions will inevitably arise between potential short-run gains and long-run costs. As the World Bank report summarised in this column concludes, institutional reforms to improve governance and transparency can address the trade-off. Such measures can be implemented with limited fiscal costs – and they hold the promise of boosting long-run growth.
The United Nations High-level Advisory Board on Economic and Social Affairs, of which ERF Managing Director Ibrahim Elbadawi is a member, convened its first meeting recently. As this column reports, the experts urge international solidarity to prevent the Covid-19 crisis from pushing countries further apart.
What are the immediate and longer-term effects of at-scale cash-based assistance programmes on refugee populations? This column reports results from an evaluation of two of the largest humanitarian aid programmes currently in operation, targeted at families in Lebanon that have fled the continuing conflict in Syria.
In response to the global pandemic, public authorities in Egypt responded with a comprehensive package aimed at tackling the health emergency and supporting economic activity. This column examines how private sector firms perceived ease of access to finance before and after the emergence of Covid-19 in 2020.
Socio-economic inequality across religious groups has been at the centre of public debate in the Middle East for decades. This column argues for the value of taking a longer historical perspective: in Egypt, for example, inequality is not simply a consequence of postcolonial policies but rather has colonial and, perhaps more importantly, long-standing pre-colonial roots.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, there are countries working to modernise state institutions to make them more efficient, effective and responsive. This column argues that while it is common for Arab governments to look elsewhere for reform ideas, there is a wealth of experience within the region that practitioners should consider. Lessons from public sector reform in MENA from the past two decades suggest that transformative change is possible.