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Middle East and North Africa

Promoting Social Entrepreneurship in Morocco

Diego Angel-Urdinola's picture
 Arne Hoel

Youssef lives in a small and disadvantaged rural province in the south of Morocco. He is a manufacturing worker in a local factory. He has two children aged 10 and 12. The public school his children could attend is far from the factory and has been in the process of rehabilitation for several years. Student and teacher absenteeism is quite high, especially during the winter because the school has no heating and roads to the school are in poor condition.

Yemen’s Qat Addiction Worsens

Mustapha Rouis's picture
 Peer Gatter

Yemen is mostly in the news these days for its political transition. This has obscured a longstanding issue, the chewing of qat, which has equally important consequences for the country.
 
Qat is a mild narcotic leaf popular in Yemen and the Horn of Africa.  Excessive qat-chewing has disastrous impacts on health, education, and productivity. We illustrated this for Yemen in a report we prepared in 2007 (see here).  The situation today is probably just as bad, if not worse. 

Economic Outlook for the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2014: A Goldilocks Moment?

Farrukh Iqbal's picture
Kuwait
From Flickr

The World Bank’s latest Quarterly Economic Brief for the MENA region warns that short term prospects for many countries in the region are poor.  For reasons related to ongoing political turmoil, these countries face high fiscal and current account deficits and are not undertaking structural reforms that could make things better in the medium run.    On the other hand, one part of the region, the hydrocarbon-rich members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), faces a much rosier short term economic outlook.  This is of some consolation because the GCC economies account for almost half the region’s GDP and have a significant impact on some neighboring economies (including Egypt, Jordan and Yemen) through financial transfers related to remittances, tourism, foreign investment and aid.

EdStats: Big Data, Better Policies, Learning for All

Husein Abdul-Hamid's picture



Are we effective in presenting education data to help tackle the real issues that developing countries are facing? The education community continues to be puzzled by two realities: (1) crucial data is often not available and (2) available data is often hard to digest.

Redistribution and Growth: The MENA Perspective

Elena Ianchovichina's picture

Recently three IMF economists published a paper arguing that redistribution is in general pro-growth (Ostry et al. 2014). The paper caused a stir as it dismisses right-wing beliefs that redistribution hurts growth. However, even people sympathetic to the ideas of inclusive growth and equality of opportunity find this finding problematic. One reason is that the authors rely on a measure of redistribution that misrepresents the true cost of redistribution in an economy. Another has to do with the omission of factors that affect positively the income growth of the poor and vulnerable, such as employment.  This omission would exaggerate the importance of equality through redistribution as a source of growth and underplay the importance of structural transformation and investments directed towards sectors that use unskilled labor more intensively, and therefore have the potential to generate inclusive growth and productive employment for the poor segments of the population.

Egypt and Tunisia's New Constitutions recognize the importance of the knowledge economy and intellectual property rights

Guest Blogger's picture
 Arne Hoel

Last January, Egypt and Tunisia enacted new constitutions in the context of the political changes they have been witnessing since the 2011 revolutions that overthrew the Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes. While most public attention has focused on how these constitutions have addressed hotly debated issues such as the structure of government, the role of religion and fundamental freedoms, there has been relatively less attention to how they have dealt with economic and social issues. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the two constitutions contain clauses which give high priority to building a knowledge economy and which provide for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs), at the constitutional level, for the first time in the history of these countries.

Is Inequality the Convenient Villain or a Misguided Obsession?

Jean-Pierre Chauffour's picture

Inequality is back in the news. In his 2014 State of the Union address, U. S. President Obama lamented that, “after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better.  But average wages have barely budged.  Inequality has deepened.  Upward mobility has stalled.”   At the global scale, Oxfam is making the same point, noting in a recent report that the richest 85 people in the world own the same amount of wealth as the 3.5 billion bottom half of the Earth's population. Perhaps more surprising, the rich and powerful CEOs jetting to Davos earlier this year seemed to finally get it: capitalism cannot survive if income and wealth become concentrated in too few hands. Fighting inequality would therefore not only be the morally correct thing to do, it would also be smart economics.  And this is what a recent Staff Discussion Note from the IMF suggests: “inequality can undermine progress in health and education, cause investment-reducing political and economic instability, and undercut the social consensus required in the face of shocks, and thus tends to reduce the pace and durability of growth.”

Wasta Once Again Hampering Arab Youth Chances for a Dignified Life

Jumana Alaref's picture
Young men from MENA - Arne Hoel

“It is not what you know that matters, it is who you know” is how the old adage goes, and so I have observed from my conversations with family and friends during my recent visit back to my hometown in East Jerusalem when I asked what they thought of the often heard complaint among Arab youth that “wasta” is all that matters in landing a decent job nowadays.

Privatization: A Key to Solving Egypt’s Economic Woes

Karim Badr El-Din's picture
Cairo Street

In 1991, Egypt launched the Economic Reform and Structural Transformation Program (ERSAP) to address dire economic conditions. The difficult financial situation forced the government to reschedule its public debt twice, in 1987 and 1991. The Egyptian reform program moved at a slow pace until 2003, when the government pushed for further liberalization of the economy. The government began by floating the rate of exchange of the Egyptian pound in 2003, followed by the implementation of a series of policies aiming at shifting Egypt from a centrally planned to a free market economy.

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