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Middle East and North Africa

It’s Not the How; It’s the Why

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Hardly a week goes by without my hearing the statement, “It’s not the What; it’s the How.”  On the reform of energy subsidies in the Middle East and North Africa, for instance, the discussion is focused not on whether subsidies should be reformed (everyone agrees they should be), but on how the reform should be carried out.  Similar points are made about business regulations,educationagriculture, or health. I confess to having written similar things myself.  And there is no shortage of such proposals on this blog
 
Reforms are needed because there is a policy or institutional arrangement in place that has become counterproductive.  But before suggesting how to reform it, we should ask why that policy exists at all, why it has persisted for so long, and why it hasn’t been reformed until now.  For these policies didn’t come about by accident.  Nor have they remained because somebody forgot to change them.  And they are unlikely to be reformed just because a policymaker happens to read a book, article or blog post entitled “How to reform…”

Global child mortality rate dropped 49% since 1990

Emi Suzuki's picture

The under-5 mortality rate worldwide has fallen by 49% since 1990, according to new child mortality estimates and press release launched today. This information is also summarized in the report Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2014 by the United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME).  Put another way, about 17,000 fewer children under-5 died each day in 2013 than in 1990.

These rates are falling faster than at any other time during the past two decades: from a 1.2% annual reduction during 1990-1995 to a 4% reduction during 2005-2013. 

More children making it to their fifth birthday
The major improvements in under-5 child survival since 1990 are attributable to better access to affordable, quality health care, as well as the expansion of health programs that reach the most vulnerable newborns and children.

The 49% drop – from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 46 deaths in 2013 – means that a baby born today has a dramatically better chance of survival to age 5 compared with a baby born in 1990.   

More progress needed to achieve the global Millennium Development Goal 4 target
Four out of 6 World Bank Group regions are on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), which is to reduce the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015.  Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are two regions where the rates of decline remain insufficient to reach MDG 4 on a global scale.  In 2013, the highest under-5 mortality rate was in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there were 92 deaths per 1,000 live births or where 1 in 11 children die before reaching the age of 5.

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Stories from the Unfinished Revolution: Regulations Leave Bitter Taste for Tunisian Candy Makers

Antonio Nucifora's picture


​Tunisian sugar beet and Sudanese sesame seeds are the main ingredients of the halwa made by Tunisia’s Grand Fabrique de Confiserie Orientale (GFCO) company. Great globs of sesame seeds, mixed with nougat, are put in cans bearing pictures of a gazelle. The Ottoman Turks left behind a taste for this sweet not just in Tunisia but in Libya and Algeria too, and this brand of halwa has long made its own way onto their markets, according to the company's director, Moncef Ayoub.

It’s not the How; It’s the Why

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Hardly a week goes by without my hearing the statement, “It’s not the What; it’s the How.”  On the reform of energy subsidies in the Middle East and North Africa, for instance, the discussion is focused not on whether subsidies should be reformed (everyone agrees they should be), but on how the reform should be carried out.  Similar points are made about business regulations, education, agriculture, or health. I confess to having written similar things myself.  And there is no shortage of such proposals on this blog
 
Reforms are needed because there is a policy or institutional arrangement in place that has become counterproductive.  But before suggesting how to reform it, we should ask why that policy exists at all, why it has persisted for so long, and why it hasn’t been reformed until now.  For these policies didn’t come about by accident.  Nor have they remained because somebody forgot to change them.  And they are unlikely to be reformed just because a policymaker happens to read a book, article or blog post entitled “How to reform…”

“Libya’s 52 Percent”

Heba Elgazzar's picture
 Heba Elgazar

In Libya right now, one out of every two people is 24 years old or younger (52 percent). 

One out of every two fighters was previously unemployed or a student (52 percent). 

Why does this matter? 

Since my last trip to Tripoli in April, the unfolding conflict has brought these numbers to life.  At the time, opportunities were emerging, which I’ll return to in a bit.  The current conflict notwithstanding, it was clear at the time that Libya has immense potential due to its natural resources and unique geography. 

Beware the Middle Income Trap – Says Who?

Borko Handjiski's picture

Fishing in the Hai River Economic development theorists and practitioners are increasingly using the term “middle-income trap” to describe the situation where developing economies’ convergence to the development frontier comes to a halt once their income per capita reaches a middle-income level. The term is ambiguous: is it a halt in convergence or slowdown in growth, and what exactly is the definition of middle-income? Nevertheless, the concept has been successfully used to create a scare that developing countries are more likely to run out of breath or even give up the race in the middle of the track than to continue catching up with the leading economies. Eichengreen et al. and several IMF economists are among those who provide empirical evidence that the “middle-income trap” is real and that developing countries do get stuck at some low-level equilibrium.

The Rapid Slowdown of Population Growth

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

We are living in a paradoxical time of population growth. In the media, there have been alarming reports asking how the world will be able to deal with a much larger population in years to come. The challenges are real, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, whose population is expected to double by 2050 and possibly quadruple by 2100. At the same time, we have been experiencing the most rapid decline in global population growth ever.

But how can we reconcile those two facts: a rapid expansion of total population numbers with a fast slowdown of population growth? Here is an analogy from the world of cars: imagine you are driving on a German motorway, where speed limits are notoriously non-existent. You are cruising at 160km/h (100m/h) but soon you cross the border into France, where 130 km/h is the limit. You are still driving very fast, though substantially slower than before. Now you switch to a regional road, driving at 80km/h, and now you slow down further to 50 km/h as you enter into a town. Meanwhile, someone else is still driving at 160 km/h on that Autobahn.

Remittances from Qatar: Less-informed Families Receive Less

Robertas Zubrickas's picture

Doha Skyline from the museum of Islamic art | flickr@jikatu/8041248308

Over the past decade, there has been an almost exponential rise in international remittances. We from recent research that remittances are critical for the well-being of individual households in developing countries – helping them to emerge from poverty, send their children to school, and invest in small enterprises, health, education and housing. Yet not much is known about determinants of remittance flows within transnational households (those with one or more members working abroad), an increasingly important topic for policy makers with the sums involved.

Yemen’s Delicate Dance with Decentralization

Balakrishna Menon's picture
 Mohamed El-Emad

My good friend and colleague Naif was furiously sketching on a flipchart. His demeanor, usually calm and scholarly, was intense. Naif was sharing with us the main outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, the highpoint of Yemen’s state restructuring process which brought together the most disparate groups of Yemenis, from Houthis in the Northwest and Hadramis in the East to the Hirak in the South. They sat together and, through dialogue, agreed on a series of guiding principles aimed at guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms, reducing the centralization of power, eliminating corruption, and empowering women and youth. 

A Matter of Trust: Governance and Service Delivery in the Time of Ebola

Hana Brixi's picture
WHO team are preparing to remove dead bodies of people who died from Ebola.
"WHO logistician Jose and team are preparing to remove dead bodies of people who died from Ebola." Source: WHO

Why do people  sick with the Ebola virus in West Africa avoid public hospitals?  Or, why do children not learn basic skills in schools despite significant public investment in education? 

In response to such situations, development specialists typically call for sector-wide reforms. And the design of such reforms draws on sector policy analysis and on the assessment of service delivery arrangements and capacity. Increasingly, since the 2004 World Development Report, sector reforms also seek to make teachers, health professionals and other service providers accountable to citizens and communities.


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