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Middle East and North Africa

From population bomb to development opportunity: New perspectives on demographic change

S. Amer Ahmed's picture

A generation ago, the World Development Report 1984 focused on development challenges posed by demographic change, reflecting the world’s concerns about run-away population growth. Global population growth rates had peaked at more than two percent a year in the late 1960s and the incredibly high average fertility rates of that decade – almost six births per woman – provided the momentum to keep population growth rates elevated for several decades (Fig 1). Indeed, the population and development zeitgeist spawned works such as Ehrlich’s 1968 book “Population Bomb,” which painted apocalyptic images of a world struggling to sustain itself under the sheer weight of its people. The policy discussion of the WDR 1984 reflected these concerns, focusing on how to feed the growing populations in the poorest and highest fertility countries, while also presenting a case for policies that would reduce fertility.

The road not shared: Turning to the arts to help increase pedestrian safety

Patrick Kabanda's picture

The Creative Wealth of Nations is a series of blogs related to Patrick Kabanda's forthcoming book on the performing arts in development.

It was a scene I still can’t forget.
A few years ago on a busy Kampala intersection, cars zoomed by while pedestrians braced themselves to cross a road. They lurched back and forth, like a fence being blown hither and tither by heavy winds. In frustration, a voice of a woman with a baby tucked on her back cried out: senga no wabawo atusasira. “I wish someone would be kind to us.”

​Open skies over the Middle East

Russell Hillberry's picture
Thirty years ago, most international travel was routed through national “gateway” airports in cities like New York, London or Tokyo.  Someone travelling between secondary cities such as Atlanta and Manchester would typically make two plane changes en route.  Due in part to changes in international aviation policies, travelers from those same secondary cities now have direct flights to many more international locations.

How to Reverse the Post-Crisis Slowdown of Growth in Emerging Economies?

Aristomene Varoudakis's picture
Growth in emerging economies has slowed over the past three years, something being discussed with urgency at the G20 meetings in Istanbul, Turkey. Part of the slowdown is cyclical, but a significant part reflects sluggish potential growth. Using new empirical evidence, this column argues that ambitious structural reforms can fully offset the slowdown of potential growth in emerging economies. Reforms that remove barriers to open markets and improve access to finance play a key role in revitalizing total factor productivity growth and boosting private investment.

Income Inequality and Inequality of Opportunity: Cues from Egypt’s Arab Spring

Lire Ersado's picture

On October 8, President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree pardoning all ‘Arab Spring’ political prisoners. While the decree, if implemented, marks a milestone in Egypt’s hard-fought 21-month-long revolution, the quotient of inequality that contributed to setting it off still remains.

From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, inequality has risen to the top of social agenda.  However, our measures of inequality are often limited to final outcomes, such as income, wealth, and educational achievement, which do not distinguish between the impact on inequality of personal responsibility and that stemming from factors beyond the scope of individual responsibility.

Who is Deprived? Who Feels Deprived? Labor Deprivation, Youth and Gender in Morocco

Paolo Verme's picture

Work is central to people’s lives and identity. For many, participating in the labor market is important beyond its obvious economic rewards as it also provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Conversely, labor deprivation impedes economic growth and leads to a feeling of emptiness and exclusion.

Yet, it is not uncommon to see large differences in attitudes towards employment across social groups. Urban residents, for example, are typically louder in voicing their labor market complaints than rural residents, even though living conditions in rural areas are known to be worse.

Beyond tumult to transformation: Whither the MENA region

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

Countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are a cauldron of wrenching social change. For years pundits have attributed the region's tense social fabric to relatively high population growth rates, a lack of economic diversity, autocratic governments, and, in many countries, on an over-reliance on oil.

Howard Pack, eminent business and public policy Professor at the Wharton School, came to the World Bank earlier this week to share his views on the question of why MENA countries never came close to the equivalent of an East Asian miracle and how they might get on a more successful economic path.

Views from the Economic Research Forum in Egypt

Ahmed Galal's picture

Ahmed Galal is currently Managing Director of the Economic Research Forum, a regional research institution covering the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey.

As someone who values the role of knowledge and strong endogenous research capacity in advancing the cause of development, I was very impressed by the speech Robert Zoellick, World Bank President, gave on September 29 at Georgetown University. The speech, on development economics research and the role of the World Bank, stimulated an interesting debate, with Dani Rodrick being favorable, Bill Easterly critical and Nancy Birdsall somewhere in between.


From my perspective, the speech is refreshingly critical of the “one size fits all” approach to reform, honest about the evolution of thinking within the Bank, and open-minded about the new research agenda for development. It hits target by advocating research that is policy relevant. And it calls for “Democratization of Research” and a new role for the Bank as a knowledge broker and facilitator. All these are in line with the views of many researchers in the developing world, myself included.