Economic Research Forum (ERF)


How the Middle East can prepare for the coming economic storm

How can policy-makers prepare for the challenging years ahead and protect their populations? This column, originally published in The National, concludes that a lot can be achieved if action is taken quickly.

Extending social protection to Tunisia’s informal workers

With one of the most comprehensive social security and assistance systems in MENA, Tunisia has delivered on the promise of its 2014 constitution for some of its citizens – yet a substantial portion of the workforce has been left behind. This column argues that the country has an opportunity to leverage existing regulations and introduce new policy strategies to increase social protection coverage among informal workers and create a more inclusive economy for Tunisian workers.

Governance is the key development challenge for Arab countries

A new Development Challenges Index measures shortfalls in the achievements of developing countries in three areas: quality-adjusted human development, environmental sustainability and good governance. This column outlines what it reveals about Arab countries – and the implications for policy-making in the region.

The World Development Challenges Report: A new measurement framework

The global Development Challenges Index, which has just been launched, measures shortfalls in the achievements of developing countries in three key and interdependent areas: quality-adjusted human development, environmental sustainability and good governance. This column introduces the new framework and its main findings.

How to slow climate change while fighting poverty

Falling aid budgets and ballooning debt in the developing world are impediments to climate action. As this Foreign Policy column explains, green aid projects can bring poorer countries on board.

Jobs and growth in North Africa in the Covid-19 era: Sudan, 2018-21

Sudan’s labour market faced a number of challenges even prior to the pandemic. Economic difficulties, including rampant inflation, and political instability contributed to continuing under-utilisation of the country’s labour force during Covid-19; and employment continues to be primarily self-employment in agriculture. Political stability is a pre-requisite for addressing Sudan’s economic and labour market challenges.

How developing countries can reach net zero

To phase out fossil fuels, the global shift to renewables must be just. As this Project Syndicate column argues, to reach carbon neutrality, the international community must provide developing countries with a positive vision and ensure that the shift to renewable energy creates shared prosperity.

The COP of no return

The human cost of climate change is making headlines almost daily. This Project Syndicate article asks how, in a world of rising geopolitical tensions and daunting economic challenges, we can seize the opportunity the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference offers to inspire an approach to mitigation and adaptation that is based on trust, justice and equity.

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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.