Economic Research Forum (ERF)


Public banks and development in Egypt

In Egypt, the role of public development banks is played by three government-owned commercial banks, namely National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr and Banque du Caire. This column outlines the contributions they have made to the economy in recent times, including maintaining financial stability, promoting small businesses and enhancing financial inclusion. Digitalisation, financing the budget deficit and the aftermath of the pandemic are continuing challenges.

How business survives under sanctions: the experience of Iranian firms

How have firms in Iran responded to the international economic sanctions against the country? This column reports evidence on the operational strategies used by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to increase their chances of survival.

What will it take to achieve an energy transition in MENA?

An energy transition will require a coordinated global shift in both the supply and demand for fossil fuels and cleaner energy. As explained in this post by the Center for Global Development, multilateral institutions can play an important role, helping to bolster international technology transfers to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as scaling up investment and trade in clean energy to facilitate the global energy transition. Given the potential in the region for solar power, MENA could remain a global hub – but this time for clean energy.

The geography of innovation: evidence from regions in Turkey

To what extent does the concentration of new firms in a region naturally lead to innovation and growth? And when are policy actions needed to stimulate the local economy? This column reports new research on the experiences of Turkey, contrasting the innovative performance of different parts of the country – and exploring the implications for policy to promote local growth.

National economic institutions and participation in the global value chain

The economic institutions of a country – including property rights, business freedom and government integrity – play a central role in determining the extent of its participation in the global value chain. This column reports new research findings on associations between eight economic institutions and integration into international trade networks in a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The environmental impact of foreign direct investment in MENA

Are countries in the Middle East and North Africa ‘pollution havens’ when it comes to foreign direct investment (FDI) – or do they merit a ‘pollution halo’? This column reports evidence on how the quality of economies’ institutions and human capital influences the environmental impact of FDI.

The historical roots of state weakness and social inequities in Lebanon

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and through the interwar period, Lebanon and much of modern Syria were administered under what was known as the French Mandate. This column explores the legacy of the arrangement, concluding that it had a highly negative impact on the post-independence economic, political, and social development of Lebanon.

Making macroeconomic policy more job-friendly: the case of Egypt

The Egyptian economy suffers from both several structural imbalances and recent cyclical developments, which have exacerbated the negative impact of the pandemic on the labour market. This column explains why deep structural reforms are needed to make it possible to create more and better jobs.

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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.