Economic Research Forum (ERF)


What is the likely impact of the earthquakes on economic growth in Türkiye?

The earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria in February 2023 have caused widespread destruction and loss of life. As explained in this column, originally published at the Economic Observatory, experiences from a previous earthquake suggest that the impact on GDP in Türkiye is likely to be short-lived, as public spending on reconstruction will provide a substantial economic boost.

Measuring poverty in Lebanon in the time of economic collapse

What has been the impact of Lebanon’s long-running economic crisis on the daily lives of citizens? This column documents a sharp increase in absolute poverty starting in 2019. Having at least three poor people out of every five residents of the country is a clear signal of the emergency of the situation.

Gender and corruption in MENA countries

The Middle East and North Africa is generally thought to be among the parts of the world where corruption spreads the fastest – and this is despite the progress of legislation in some MENA countries and the economic wealth in others. The role of women in the fight against corruption in the region is often ignored and underestimated. This column argues that more gender egalitarianism in a fair system can enhance efforts to reduce corruption.

Social protection in Jordan: towards collaborative implementation

Jordan has an ambitious national strategy for social protection, adopted in 2019. But as this column explains, implementing it has not been easy in the context of economic challenges, the global pandemic and geopolitical instability. Achieving transformative social protection requires a new social contract, citizen engagement and effective support from the international donor community.

The impact of revolution and war on income inequality in Iran

How did Iran’s revolution of 1978-79 and the war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988 affect levels of income inequality levels in the country? Would income inequality have developed differently in Iran if the revolution and war had never occurred? And how significant were the effects of the revolution and war in reducing income inequality? This column reports new research findings on these questions.

Investing in climate action and the SDGs for a resilient future

The interlinked crises of climate change, lingering effects of Covid-19 and the ensuing food and energy crises need to be tackled together – and as this column explains, this is best done within the broader context of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and in a framework of effective partnerships.

On calamities, debt and growth in developing countries

What implications does the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic have for debt and growth in developing countries? This column, originally published by the World Bank, summarises new research evidence on the economic impact of three types of calamities – natural disasters, conflicts and external debt distress.

Funding women entrepreneurs in MENA

Do women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa face obstacles in funding their businesses, either from others’ behaviour, such as discrimination, or their own, such as self-selection? This column reports evidence from data collected on more than 6,000 enterprises in six MENA countries, documenting the financial behaviour of both owners and managers according to their gender.

Economic issues affecting MENA through the lens of public opinion

For more than a decade, policy-makers in developing countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been confronted with high inequality, low growth, rising poverty, and high youth and women’s unemployment. They now face new challenges as well. This column, originally published by the Middle East Institute, identifies some of the most important issues affecting the region, relates them to the results of a recent survey of 12 Arab countries carried out by Arab Barometer, and suggests some pathways out of the current quagmire.

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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.