Economic Research Forum (ERF)


Building a knowledge economy in Syria: external and internal shocks

Several studies suggest that the more open an economy is, the more vulnerable it will be to major global events and what is happening in neighbouring countries. This column summarises empirical evidence that goes against this narrative of the importance of such ‘external shocks’. In the context of the transition towards a knowledge-based economy in Syria, internal shocks have a stronger impact.

Transnational governance of natural resources for the 21st century

The race for natural resources to power the simultaneous energy and digital transitions the world is experiencing rages among the major powers. As this Brookings column argues, appropriate transnational governance is essential to achieving an orderly, sustainable and inclusive exploitation of natural resources.

Contours of Middle East economics

A new handbook on the Middle East economy has just been published. As the volume’s editor explains in this column, knowledge of Middle Eastern economies as an autonomous field within economics is of relatively recent origins and has evolved in uneven ways.

Trading with China: implications for growth in MENA countries

What is the impact of trade with China on growth in the Middle East and North Africa? This column presents new findings that reveal the absolute dominance of China's growth in generating positive spillover effects for the region.

Aid in the development of the Kurdistan region of Iraq

Since the establishment of the Kurdistan region of Iraq in 1992, international aid has played an important role in development of the region. This column outlines the effects before and after the war.

On the economics and politics of IMF loans

Loans made by the International Monetary Fund are supposed to be based mainly on technical economic considerations. But as this column explains, international politics can play a key role in the IMF’s lending decisions. What’s more, domestic politics in recipient countries can have a significant impact on the outcomes of loans, with democratic regimes more likely to experience economic benefits.

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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.