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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) Gatti, Roberta ; Lederman, Daniel ; Elmallakh, Nelly ; Torres, Jesica ; Silva, Joana ; Lotfi, Rana ; Suvanov, IliasCovid-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.
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) Gatti, Roberta ; Lederman, Daniel ; Islam, Asif M. ; Bennett, Federico R. ; Andree, Bo Pieter Johannes ; Assem, Hoda ; Lotfi, Rana ; Mousa, Mennatallah Emam ; Andree, Bo, Pieter JohannesGrowth 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(Washington, DC : World Bank, 2022-10-05) Belhaj, Ferid ; Gatti, Roberta ; Lederman, Daniel ; Sergenti, Ernest John ; Assem, Hoda ; Lotfi, Rana ; Mousa, Mennatallah EmamThe 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.