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    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 ; Assen, 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.
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    World Development Report 2022: Finance for an Equitable Recovery
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2022-02-15) World Bank
    World Development Report 2022: Finance for an Equitable Recovery examines the central role of finance in the economic recovery from COVID-19. Based on an in-depth look at the consequences of the crisis most likely to affect low- and middle-income economies, it advocates a set of policies and measures to mitigate the interconnected economic risks stemming from the pandemic—risks that may become more acute as stimulus measures are withdrawn at both the domestic and global levels. Those policies include the efficient and transparent management of nonperforming loans to mitigate threats to financial stability, insolvency reforms to allow for the orderly reduction of unsustainable debts, innovations in risk management and lending models to ensure continued access to credit for households and businesses, and improvements in sovereign debt management to preserve the ability of governments to support an equitable recovery.
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    Lebanon Economic Monitor, Fall 2021: The Great Denial
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-01-24) World Bank
    The scale and scope of Lebanon’s deliberate depression are leading to the disintegration of key pillars of Lebanon’s post-civil war political economy. Monetary and financial turmoil along with surging inflation continue to drive crisis conditions. Public finances improved in 2021 as spending collapsed faster than revenue. Lebanon urgently needs to adopt and implement a credible, comprehensive, equitable reform plan if it is to avoid a complete destruction of its social and economic networks and immediately stop irreversible loss of human capital.
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    Tunisia Economic Monitor, Winter 2021: Economic Reforms to Navigate Out of the Crisis
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-01-20) World Bank
    The Economic Monitor examines four possible factors behind Tunisia’s slow recovery. First, the drop in mobility related to the pandemic may have been more harmful in Tunisia. However, mobility in Tunisia has dropped to a similar extent as other countries and it has now returned to pre-pandemic levels following the acceleration in the vaccination campaign since July. If anything, the mobility drop in Tunisia has resulted in a lower reduction in economic activity than in comparator countries as Algeria and Egypt. Second, it could be that the level of public support to the ailing firms and households may have been particularly low. However, at 2.3 percent of GDP, the Covid-19 stimulus package in 2020 was in the same ballpark as other comparators in the region. Third, the structure of the Tunisian economy, particularly its reliance on tourism, may have exposed it to the negative demand shock more than other countries. Indeed hotels, cafe and restaurant and transport are the sectors which have contracted the most since the start of the pandemic. The losses of these sectors explain a significant portion of the negative effects of the crisis in Tunisia, although they do not fully account for such slow recovery.
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    Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2022: Correcting Course
    (Washington, DC : World Bank, 2022) World Bank
    Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2022: Correcting Course provides the first comprehensive analysis of the pandemic’s toll on poverty in developing countries. It identifies how governments can optimize fiscal policy to help correct course. Fiscal policies offset the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in many high-income countries, but those policies offset barely one quarter of the pandemic’s impact in low-income countries and lower-middle-income countries. Improving support to households as crises continue will require reorienting protective spending away from generally regressive and inefficient subsidies and toward a direct transfer support system—a first key priority. Reorienting fiscal spending toward supporting growth is a second key priority identified by the report. Some of the highest-value public spending often pays out decades later. Amid crises, it is difficult to protect such investments, but it is essential to do so. Finally, it is not enough just to spend wisely - when additional revenue does need to be mobilized, it must be done in a way that minimizes reductions in poor people’s incomes. The report highlights how exploring underused forms of progressive taxation and increasing the efficiency of tax collection can help in this regard. Poverty and Shared Prosperity is a biennial series that reports on global trends in poverty and shared prosperity. Each report also explores a central challenge to poverty reduction and boosting shared prosperity, assessing what works well and what does not in different settings. By bringing together the latest evidence, this corporate flagship report provides a foundation for informed advocacy around ending extreme poverty and improving the lives of the poorest in every country in the world. For more information, please visit worldbank.org/poverty-and-shared-prosperity.
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    Distributional Impacts of COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa Region
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-11-22) Hoogeveen, Johannes G. ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys ; Hoogeveen, Johannes G. ; Lopez-Acevedo, Gladys
    COVID-19 is one of multiple crises to have hit the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in the decade following the Arab Spring. War, oil price declines, economic slowdowns and now a pandemic are tearing at the social fabric of a region characterized by high rates of unemployment, high levels of informality and low annual economic growth. The economic costs of the pandemic are estimated at about $227 billion, and fiscal support packages across MENA are averaging 2.7 percent of GDP, putting pressure on already weak fiscal balances and making a quick recovery challenging. Pre-pandemic MENA was the only region in the world experiencing increases in poverty and declines in life satisfaction. This Report investigates how COVID-19 changed the welfare of individuals and households in the region. It does so by relying on phone surveys implemented across the region and complements these with micro-simulation exercises to assess the impact of COVID-19 on jobs, income, poverty and inequality. The two approaches perform a complementary task by corroborating each other’s results, thereby making the findings more robust and richer. This Report’s results show that in the short run, poverty rates in MENA will increase significantly, and that inequality will widen. A group of “new poor” is likely to emerge that may have difficulty to recover from the economic consequences of the pandemic. The Report adds value by analyzing newly gathered primary data, along with projections based on newly modelled micro-macro simulations and by identifying key issues that policy makers should focus on to enable a quick, inclusive and sustained economic recovery.
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    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 ; Fan, Rachel Yuting ; Hatefi, Arian ; Nguyen, Ha ; Sautmann, Anja ; Sax, Joseph Martin ; Wood, Christina A.
    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.
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    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 ; Nguyen, Ha M. ; Alturki, Sultan Abdulaziz ; 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.
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    Breaking Out of Fragility: A Country Economic Memorandum for Diversification and Growth in Iraq
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2020-09-30) World Bank
    Iraq is at a crossroads. Almost two decades after the 2003 war, the country remains caught in a fragility trap, facing increasing political instability, growing social unrest, and a deepening state-citizen divide. Amid a multitude of crises—including an oil price shock, the COVID-19 pandemic, and recent instability and protests—coupled with poor economic policies, a lack of reforms, and an inability to tackle corruption, Iraq is having its worst annual economic growth performance in 2020 since the fall of the Saddam regime. But with every crisis comes an opportunity to reform. Iraq can embark on a long but much-needed path toward structural transformation, one that could leave its economy less dependent on oil and more driven by private sector activity. Such a path can no longer be avoided, as has been illustrated by the widespread protests since October 2019. This report highlights what Iraq can do to sustain future growth; it also shows why Iraq has not yet managed to achieve high levels of diversified growth alongside peace, stability, and a better standard of living for its people. Iraq’s high levels of fragility and conflict--reinforced by high oil dependency--hinder the country’s prospects for economic reform and growth. Despite Iraq’s existing sociopolitical and economic environment, three encouraging messages emerge from this report. First, there is a peace dividend in Iraq. Iraq’s per capita GDP was about one-fifth lower in 2018 than it would have been if not for the conflict beginning in 2014. Thus, maintaining peace can by itself be a strong driver of growth. Second, Iraq has latent export potential for a variety of goods that, if tapped, could diversify the country’s economy, raise living standards, and boost economic resilience. Third, Iraqi agriculture could be revived to serve as a pillar of a more diversified and private sector–led economy.
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    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.