MENA Economic Update

34 items available

Permanent URI for this collection

This report is produced two times per year, reporting on the recent economic developments and short term outlook of the Middle East and North Africa region. It is produced by the Chief Economist's office of the region (MNACE). These reports highlight a particular theme (such as fuel subsidies, service delivery, oil prices). This series was formerly known as MENA Economic Monitor, and before that, Middle East and North Africa Regional Economic Update, and combines with the series Middle East and North Africa Quarterly Economic Brief.

Items in this collection

Now showing 1 - 10 of 34
  • Publication
    MENA Economic Update, October 2023 - Balancing Act: Jobs and Wages in the Middle East and North Africa When Crises Hit
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2023-10-05) Elmallakh, Nelly; Gatti, Roberta; Torres, Jesica; Lederman, Daniel; Lotfi, Rana; Suvanov, Ilias; Silva, Joana
    Covid-19. The Russian invasion of Ukraine. Commodity price volatility. The rise of global inflation and interest rates. Currency depreciations among indebted middle-income economies. And now, natural disasters. As a sequence of events, the consequences can be both tragic and long-lasting. After analyzing the macroeconomic prospects of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region, this edition of the regional Economic Update assesses the human toll of macroeconomic shocks in terms of lost jobs and deteriorating livelihoods of the people of MENA. Growth is forecast to decelerate in 2023 after experiencing an oil-price induced growth spurt in 2022 among the high-income oil exporters of the region. Yet as the region continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 shock and navigates the heightened volatility in its terms of trade, the region’s labor force is contending with the ramifications for their livelihoods of the inflationary pressures associated with currency fluctuations in some countries. The authors estimate that the macroeconomic shocks of 2020-22 led to an additional 5.1 million individuals becoming unemployed in MENA. Will these shocks permanently scar the hard-working people of MENA? The report answers this question by highlighting the trade-offs facing labor markets when facing macroeconomic shocks. A critical trade-off pertains to the loss of jobs versus decreases in real incomes, neither of which is desirable. The report advocates for maintaining the flexibility of real wages and discusses policy options to support the most vulnerable.
  • Publication
    Altered Destinies: The Long-Term Effects of Rising Prices and Food Insecurity in the Middle East and North Africa
    (Washington, DC : World Bank, 2023-04-06) Bennett, Federico R.; Gatti, Roberta; Andree, Bo Pieter Johannes; Lederman, Daniel; Assem, Hoda; Islam, Asif M.; Lotfi, Rana; Mousa, Mennatallah Emam; Andree, Bo, Pieter Johannes
    Growth is forecasted to slow down for the Middle East and North Africa region. The war in Ukraine in 2022 exacerbated inflationary pressures as the world recovered from the COVID 19 pandemic induced recession. The response by central banks to raise rates to curb inflation is slowing economic activity, while rising food prices are making it difficult for families to put meals on the table. Inflation, when it stems from food prices, hits the poor harder than the rich, thus compounding food insecurity in MENA that had been rising over decades. The immediate effects of food insecurity can be a devastating loss of life, but even temporary increases in food prices can cause long-term irreversible damages, especially to children. The rise in food prices due to the war in Ukraine may have altered the destinies of hundreds of thousands of children in the region, setting them on paths to limited prosperity. Food insecurity imposes challenges to a region where the state of child nutrition and health were inadequate before the shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic. The report discusses policy options and highlights the need for data to guide effective decision making.
  • Publication
    A New State of Mind: Greater Transparency and Accountability in the Middle East and North Africa
    (Washington, DC : World Bank, 2022-10-05) Belhaj, Ferid; Gatti, Roberta; Lederman, Daniel; Sergenti, Ernest John; Assem, Hoda; Lotfi, Rana; Mousa, Mennatallah Emam
    The MENA region is facing important vulnerabilities, which the current crises—first the pandemic, then the war in Ukraine—have exacerbated. Prices of food and energy are higher, hurting the most vulnerable, and rising interest rates from the global tightening of monetary policy are making debt service more burdensome. Part I explores some of the resulting vulnerabilities for MENA. MENA countries are facing diverging paths for future growth. Oil Exporters have seen windfall increases in state revenues from the rise in hydrocarbon prices, while oil importers face heightened stress and risk—from higher import bills, especially for food and energy, and the depreciation of local currencies in some countries. Part II of this report argues that poor governance, and, in particular, the lack of government transparency and accountability, is at the root of the region’s development failings—including low growth, exclusion of the most disadvantaged and women, and overuse of such precious natural resources as land and water.
  • Publication
    Reality Check: Forecasting Growth in the Middle East and North Africa in Times of Uncertainty
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2022-04-11) Gatti, Roberta; Lederman, Daniel; Fan, Rachel Yuting; Lotfi, Rana; Mousa, Mennatallah Emam; Nguyen, Ha
    The Middle East and North Africa economies face an uncertain recovery. The war in Ukraine presents significant challenges to the global economy and the MENA region. Inflationary pressures brought about by the pandemic are likely to be further exacerbated by the conflict. The potential for rising food prices is even higher, which is likely to hurt the wallets of the poor and vulnerable in the region. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cast a shadow. As the latest variant sweeps over the region, countries grapple with a host of problems depending on initial conditions and policy priorities. The region, like the rest of the world, is not out of the woods yet. Vaccinations remain the effective path out of the pandemic, leading to lower hospitalizations and death rates. Testing helps curb the spread. During times of uncertainty, it is important to not be overconfident about the region’s growth prospects. Growth forecasts serve as a significant signpost for policymakers to chart a path forward. Over the last decade, growth forecasts in the MENA region have often been inaccurate and overly optimistic, which can lead to economic contractions down the road due to ebullient borrowing. There is considerable room for the region to improve its forecasts that are largely hindered by opaque data systems, growth volatility and conflict. The MENA region lags considerably in the timely production of credible statistics. A key finding of the report is that the best way to improve forecasters is to provide forecasters with as much good quality information as possible.
  • Publication
    Overconfident: How Economic and Health Fault Lines Left the Middle East and North Africa Ill-Prepared to Face COVID-19
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-10-07) Gatti, Roberta; Lederman, Daniel; Nguyen, Ha; Sautmann, Anja
    This report examines the region’s economic prospects in 2021, forecasting that the recovery will be both tenuous and uneven as per capita GDP level stays below pre-pandemic levels. COVID-19 was a stress-test for the region’s public health systems, which were already overwhelmed even before the pandemic. Indeed, a decade of lackluster economic reforms left a legacy of large public sectors and high public debt that effectively crowded out investments in social services such as public health. This edition points out that the region’s health systems were not only ill-prepared for the pandemic, but suffered from over-confidence, as authorities painted an overly optimistic picture in self-assessments of health system preparedness. Going forward, governments must improve data transparency for public health and undertake reforms to remedy historical underinvestment in public health systems.
  • Publication
    Living with Debt: How Institutions Can Chart a Path to Recovery in Middle East and North Africa
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-04-02) Gatti, Roberta; Lederman, Daniel; Fan, Rachel Yuting; Islam, Asif M.; Rojas, Claudio J.
    Economies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remain in crisis. The World Bank estimates the regional output to have contracted 3.8 percent in 2020 and expects it to rebound by only 2.2 percent in 2021. The regional output is expected to be 7.2% below where it would be in 2021 without the pandemic. The region’s average GDP per capita is estimated to have declined 5.3 percent in 2020 and expected to rebound by only 0.6 percent in 2021. The number of poor people in the region—those making less than the $5.50 per day poverty line—is expected to increase from 176 million in 2019 to a conservative estimate of 192 million people by the end of 2021. The region’s public debt is expected to rise significantly. Most notably, MENA oil importers have the highest levels of debt. As the region copes with the economic consequences of the pandemic, most countries will face tensions between short-term needs and the long-term risks of debt-financed government spending. Countries must make tough choices along the road to recovery. During the pandemic, fiscal spending is arguably best used to support vulnerable families and invest in public health—such as disease surveillance, data transparency, and vaccinations. Public health investment as a short-term response to the pandemic could also bring long-term gains. As the pandemic subsides, there are good reasons to be cautious with additional fiscal stimulus, especially for countries with high debt, poor governance, and lack of transparency. After the pandemic, economic growth remains the most sustainable way to reduce the debt-GDP ratio, and this requires much-needed deep structural reforms. Strong institutions can chart a path to recovery. Investing in testing, disease surveillance, and data transparency can reduce the economic costs of the pandemic. As the pandemic subsides, effective and transparent pandemic surveillance would help boost demand from domestic and foreign sources. Good governance in public investment decisions can raise the effectiveness of public investment. Public debt transparency can help reduce borrowing costs. Institutional reforms can be implemented with limited fiscal costs and hold the promise of boosting long-run growth.
  • Publication
    Trading Together: Reviving Middle East and North Africa Regional Integration in the Post-COVID Era
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2020-10-19) Arezki, Rabah; Moreno-Dodson, Blanca; Yuting Fan, Rachel; Gansey, Romeo; Nguyen, Ha; Cong Nguyen, Minh; Mottaghi, Lili; Tsakas, Constantin; Wood, Christina
    The MENA Economic Update is a product of the World Bank's Office of the Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa. This presents the short-term, macroeconomic outlook and economic challenges facing countries in the region.
  • Publication
    Middle East and North Africa Economic Update, April 2020: How Transparency Can Help the Middle East and North Africa
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2020-04-09) Arezki, Rabah; Lederman, Daniel; Abou Harb, Amani; El-Mallakh, Nelly; Fan, Rachel Yuting; Islam, Asif; Nguyen, Ha; Zouaidi, Marwane
    Due to the dual shocks of the spread of the virus and lower oil prices, World Bank economists expect output of MENA to decline in 2020. This is in sharp contrast to the growth forecast of 2.6 percent published in October 2019. The growth downgrade of 3.7 percentage points is arguably a measure for the costs associated with the dual shocks of Covid-19 and the oil price collapse. These numbers are tentative. The true impact depends on future developments of the dual shocks, policy and society’s response, which depends on the transparent use of health and economic data. We recommend a two-step approach: It might be desirable to focus first on responding to the health emergency and the associated economic contraction. Fiscal consolidation and structural reforms associated with the persistent drop in oil prices and pre-existing challenges are also very important, but with proper external support, can wait until the health emergency subsides. Nevertheless, the MENA region has challenges that predate the crisis – it has been growing far slower than its peers. Had MENA’s growth of output per capita been the same as that of a typical peer economy over the past two decades, the region’s real output per capita would be at least 20% higher than what it is today. A large part of MENA’s low growth is arguably due to a lack of transparency. MENA is the only region that dropped in data transparency and capacity since 2005. We estimate that this has cost MENA 7-14 percent in GDP per capita losses since 2005. Lack of transparency hinders credible analyses of many important issues, two of which are highlighted in the report. First, lack of data transparency hampers credible analyses on the region’s debt sustainability – an important issue to examine after the crisis. MENA countries vary greatly in their debt reporting standards. World Bank economists and other external analysts do not have access to vital information about many types of public debt. Second, the unemployment and informality numbers in the region are debatable since MENA countries rely on varying definitions of employment with little harmonization across the region or with respect to international standards. This affects analyses of unemployment and informality.
  • Publication
    Middle East and North Africa Economic Update, October 2019: Reaching New Heights - Promoting Fair Competition in the Middle East and North Africa
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2019-10-09) Arezki, Rabah; Ait Ali Slimane, Meriem; Barone, Andrea; Decker, Klaus; Detter, Dag; Fan, Rachel Yuting; Nguyen, Ha; Miralles Murciego, Graciela; Senbet, Lemma
    Part I of this report discusses the short- and medium-term growth prospects for countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The region is expected to grow at a subdued rate of 0.6 percent in 2019, rising to 2.6 percent in 2020 and 2.9 percent in 2021. The growth forecast for 2019 is revised down by 0.8 percentage points from the April 2019 projection. MENA’s economic outlook is subject to substantial downside risks—most notably, intensified global economic headwinds and rising geopolitical tensions. Part II argues that promoting fair competition is key for MENA countries to complete the transition from an administered to a market economy. Part II first examines current competition policies in MENA countries and to promote fair competition calls for strengthening competition law and enforcement agencies. It also calls for corporatizing state-owned enterprises, promoting the private sector and creating a level-playing field between them. Any moves to reform MENA economies would be aided by professional management of public assets, which could tap into a new source of national wealth.
  • Publication
    Middle East and North Africa Economic Update, April 2019: Reforms and External Imbalances - The Labor-Productivity Connection in the Middle East and North Africa
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2019-04) Arezki, Rabah; Lederman, Daniel; Abou Harb, Amani; Fan, Rachel Yuting; Nguyen, Ha
    World Bank economists expect economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to continue at a modest pace of about 1.5 to 3.5 percent during 2019-2021, with some laggards and a few emerging growth stars. In late 2018, The World Bank called on the leaders of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to aim high. We called for a set of aspirational, but attainable, goals in the digital-economy space (Arezki and Belhaj 2018). If the economies of MENA achieve those goals, they will not only have leapfrogged many advanced economies in terms of coverage and quality of cellular and broadband services, they will register notable advancements in digital payments. This installment of the Middle East Economic Update series, published every six months by the MENA Office of the Chief Economist, makes a more subtle point about a slow moving emerging challenge for the region’s economies: reducing macroeconomic vulnerabilities in some economies is inextricably linked to an all-out effort to create an advanced digital economy (the so-called Digital Moonshot) and other structural reforms. The link, surprisingly, is aggregate labor productivity.