Economic Research Forum (ERF)

December

Low social and political returns to education in the Arab world

Arab societies urgently need to start looking at how to improve education systems, not just in ways to improve the marketability of individuals but, as importantly, to improve their social and political impact on society. Drawing on evidence from the World Values Survey, this column argues for strengthening a sense of community, beefing up values of civic engagement, inculcating democratic principles, supporting gender equality and promoting social tolerance.

Replace discretion with rules to boost economic performance

A government that adopts institutional reform to increase policy credibility and enhance the degree of competition may be rewarded with improved economic performance. This column reports the experience of Turkey in the early 2000s, a period in which anti-corruption and economic reform programmes that promoted more rule-based policy-making made significant positive contributions to growth.

Brain gain from return migration: evidence from Egypt

Far from causing ‘brain drain’ in the developing world, temporary migration can lead to a ‘brain gain’ for the sending countries. This column reports research on Egypt showing that migrants acquire significant human capital while they are overseas, which increases their probability of upward occupational mobility when they return home. This provides a potential source of economic growth for their country of origin.

Unemployment and the marginally attached

While the standard definition of unemployment is useful for international comparisons, it may not be adequate for assessing the degree of labour market attachment in many developing countries. This column reports evidence from Turkey that there is a significant group of ‘marginally attached’ individuals who appear to be non-participants in the labour market but are in fact ready for employment when work is available.

Better measures of the health of Egypt’s labour market

Policy discussions about the health of Egypt’s labour market focus almost exclusively on one indicator: the unemployment rate. This column argues that the unemployment rate is a poor indicator of the cyclical performance of the economy. What’s more, it focuses attention on the plight of a very specific group of people, who are not the most vulnerable to poor labour market conditions.

Fiscal rules: how to reduce pro-cyclical public spending

Fiscal pro-cyclicality is a defining trait of many MENA countries and other emerging economies: public spending typically rises in good times and falls in bad times. This column reports research on the effectiveness of fiscal rules in countering this widespread tendency. The evidence from 120 countries over a 30-year period indicates that rules on government expenditure can reduce the pro-cyclicality of public spending by around 40% on average.

Microcredit: choosing between inclusion and impact?

The microfinance industry continues to grow rapidly in the MENA region. This column reports research from across the world showing that giving people access to microcredit does not lead to significant declines in poverty. But while microcredit is not yet a powerful anti-poverty strategy, the evidence shows that it is a useful financial tool.

Video

Understanding the impact of the Syrian refugee influx on education in Jordan

Amman, 13 May 2018. H.E Dr. Omar Razzaz (Jordan Minister of Education) talks about the impact of the Syrian refugee influx on Jordan education

Most read

Why the West got rich and the Middle East did not

Today’s rulers of the three largest Middle Eastern economies all look to religious authorities as a key source of legitimacy. Drawing on a broad sweep of historical analysis, this column explores what this might mean for the region’s economic future. One notable danger is that the types of people who would push for policies that promote long-run growth are excluded from the political bargaining table.

Why Turkish growth ended

Following a period of rapid economic growth, the Turkish economy has slowed significantly since 2007. This column argues that these economic ups and downs reflect institutional improvements in the aftermath of the country’s 2001 financial crisis, followed by an ominous slide in the quality of these economic and political institutions.

Implications of the current low oil prices for MENA countries

The current low oil price environment, in part driven by the US shale oil revolution, has important macroeconomic implications for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This column reports research evidence on its likely impact on both oil-exporting and oil-importing countries in the region.

Prospects for development with democracy in the Arab world

What are the prospects for democracy in the Arab world? This column expresses the hope that as conflict-afflicted countries embark on their programmes of economic reconstruction, autocratic institutions will not be re-established under the pretext of the need for a speedy and steady recovery. The optimal path of development necessarily includes robust growth, equity as well as democracy.

An agenda for reducing income inequality in the Arab countries

What can be done to reduce income inequality in Arab countries? This column explores issues of measurement as well as potential policy measures. It concludes by calling for a new multipurpose pan-Arab survey that would allow for an evidence-based decision-making process on the impact of proposed policies on poverty and inequality.

The United Arab Emirates’ dilemma

As energy-producing economies strive to reduce their reliance on oil revenues, they must strike a balance between the competing demands of fiscal sustainability and steady growth of the non-energy sector. This column outlines how the United Arab Emirates is addressing this challenge.

Freedom for women is crucial for economic progress in MENA

The Middle East was once the cradle of civilisation: can it prosper once again? Looking back at lessons from the European Enlightenment, this column argues that if the region wants to advance economically, it needs to advance in terms of its treatment of women. Female agency is central to understanding the West’s technological leadership of the past two centuries.

Inequality in higher education: Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia

Attainment of higher education is strikingly unequal in Egypt and Tunisia, and a little less so in Jordan. This column reports research showing that in all three countries, family background is the primary driver of inequality. Particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, public spending on higher education is regressive, with the result that what purports to be a meritocratic and equitable system in reality perpetuates inequality.

Oil exporters’ responses to the US fracking boom

What are the implications of low oil prices for the economic and political stability of Arab oil-exporting countries such as Saudi Arabia? This column explores the impact of the US fracking boom on Arab oil revenues – and how policy-makers in these countries should respond.

Pension reform that avoids harming MENA labour markets

To tackle the deficits in their pension systems, should governments in Arab countries raise social security contributions, reduce pension levels or increase the statutory retirement age? This column summarises the results of research assessing the costs and benefits of different pension reforms in terms of their impact on different generations and on the labour market.