Economic Research Forum (ERF)

October

Energy subsidy reform: progress and challenges

Despite a growing global consensus about the need for reform of costly and environmentally damaging energy price subsidies, many countries remain resistant. This column takes stock of recent developments in the context of a database of diesel prices. Environmental concerns seem to play a role in driving reform, but most reforming countries have been facing large fiscal imbalances.

Creating jobs: East Asian success and MENA failure

Comparing the experiences of MENA and East Asia in recent decades reveals the delicate nature of the latter’s remarkable structural transformation: several parts of the economy had to be pulling in the same direction. This column explains how East Asia succeeded – and MENA failed – in generating productive employment.

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.

Going beyond Doing Business to foster job creation

The World Bank’s Doing Business rankings provide a useful benchmark, but making them a key policy goal is inappropriate for Arab countries where the reform agenda needs to be far more wide-ranging. This column argues for a more practical and effective approach to creating business environments that will attract investment and foster job creation.

Public procurement: the value of making global commitments

The World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement aims to ensure that public procurements in signatory countries are conducted in a competitive, non-discriminatory and transparent manner satisfying the conditions of integrity. This column reports research showing that the agreement promotes competition, reduces corruption and delivers better value for taxpayers’ money.

Lessons and pitfalls of transitions to democracy

Under what circumstances is a country most likely to make a successful transition to democracy? This column outlines the roles of both human agency and structural factors such as class or economic interests. Key to the process of democratisation is the kind of incentives that encourage elite groups in society to reach compromises even in the face of ideological differences.

From booming oil revenues to inclusive growth

The first ten years of the twenty-first century saw an unprecedented surge in oil prices and highly favourable incomes for oil-exporting countries in the Middle East – yet it culminated in social and political upheaval. This column reports research on the extent to which the growth experiences of those countries in that decade may be considered to have been ‘inclusive’ of a broad swathe of society.

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.