Office of the Chief Economist for Middle East and North Africa
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Macroeconomics, Economic growth, Trade policy
Office of the Chief Economist for Middle East and North Africa
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Last updated January 31, 2023
Lili Mottaghi is a Senior Economist in the office of the Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region of the World Bank. She leads the work on regional macroeconomic outlook and has developed two semi-annual flagship publications MENA Economic Monitor and MENA Quarterly Economic Brief which presents the World Bank Group’s views on regional economic developments and prospects, growth forecast, and policy challenges. She also leads the impact evaluation research in the newly established MNA Gender Research Hub at the World Bank. Ms. Mottaghi is the author and co-author of numerous publications including articles published in international journals and World Bank reports. Her research covers a wide range of topics in macroeconomics and development including inclusive growth, technology, and the digital economy, commodity market forecast, inequality, forced displacement, and conflict. Before joining the Bank, she worked at the Management and Planning Organization in Iran where she held senior positions in the areas of economic growth, development, and macroeconomic modeling. Ms. Mottaghi received her Master and Ph.D. degrees in Economics from Claremont Graduate University and University of Tehran.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 11
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2016-02-03) Devarajan, Shantayanan ; Mottaghi, LiliThis report estimates economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to fall short of expectations, at 2.6 percent in 2015, below the 2.8 percent predicted in October. Being constrained by war, terrorism and to some extent cheap oil, short term growth prospects in MENA remain “cautiously pessimistic.” Not only have the civil wars caused untold damage to human and physical capital, in Yemen the number of poor people has almost doubled after the war, but they have created one of the biggest forced displacement crises since World War II. The report examines the different ways in which civil wars are affecting the economies of the region, including the important channel of forced displacement. We also explore how economic fortunes will turn around if there is peace. A peace settlement in the war-torn Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen could lead to a swift rebound in oil output and exports, allowing them to increase fiscal space, improve current account balances and boost economic growth in the medium term with positive spillovers to the neighboring countries.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2016-04-11) Devarajan, Shantayanan ; Mottaghi, Lili ; Do, Quy-Toan ; Jelil, Mohamed AbdelThe short term economic outlook for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remains “cautiously pessimistic”. A combination of civil wars and refugee inflows, terrorist attacks, cheap oil, and subdued global economic recovery is expected to keep average growth in the MENA region around 3 percent in 2016, for the fourth year in a row. Furthermore, the humanitarian and economic situation in the war torn countries keep deteriorating. In this report we will explore ways in which a strategy of reconstruction of Syria—the most war-ravaged country in the region—could help foster a sustainable peace. This report argues that the impact of the civil war on the Syrian society will be persistent, and the challenges facing the country need to be addressed now. The report calls for the international community to be the guarantor of an inclusive reconstruction strategy that not only makes peace sustainable tomorrow, but makes it happen today: peace and reconstruction are two sides of the same coin.
Middle East and North Africa Economic Monitor, April 2017: The Economics of Post-Conflict Reconstruction in MENA(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2017-04-17) Devarajan, Shantayanan ; Mottaghi, LiliPlagued by war, violence and low oil prices, economic activity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remained subdued between 2013 and 2015, but the situation is expected to improve and growth to surge above 3 percent over the forecast period. Though still below potential, the improvement in growth offers hope. We see signs of "green shoots" in some countries in the region, therefore we have upgraded our short-term prospects for MENA from "cautiously pessimistic" to "cautiously optimistic" over the forecast period. The prospects of peace in Syria, Yemen and Libya are one of the keys to resuming growth over the next decade. But realizing that potential depends crucially on how the post-conflict reconstruction is conducted. On the one hand, a well-managed process could help these war-tom countries rebuild their shattered economies and re-integrate their people so that the region as a whole, and possibly the rest of the world, benefits. On the other hand, a badly managed process can risk a recurrence of conflict, continued stagnation and suffering, and perpetual fragility. The economics of postconflict reconstruction, therefore, is critical to the future of MENA's economies.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-03) Mottaghi, LiliThe latest MENA Quarterly Economic Brief estimates growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region to fall short of expectation at 2.6 percent in 2015, about 0.2 percentage points below the October 2015 forecast. The World Bank expects the economic outlook to remain “cautiously pessimistic” in the short term. The recent poor performance of several MENA economies, and their dim prospects for the future, are partly driven by the civil wars that have created death, destruction and significant growth shortfalls in both conflict countries; Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya and their neighbors. This Quick Note summarizes the findings of the report including the important channel of forced displacement, which has become a crisis.Overall, millions of Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis and Libyans have been forced to flee their homes or displaced with in the country. They are in need of urgent humanitarian and financial assistance. According to the United Nations (U.N.) for Syria only, it will take US 7.7 billion dollars to meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable people in 2016.
Publication( 2016-03) Mottaghi, LiliCivil wars and violence have significantly damaged human, social and physical capital in the war-torn countries of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. The results on educational attainment are devastating. Estimates by the UN show that more than 13 million children are out of school in these countries.The World Bank is currently undertaking a similar assessment for Yemen with the collaboration of UN agencies, the European Union, the Islamic Development Bank, and country authorities. The preliminary estimates, based on data as of October 31, 2015, show the damage in four cities--Sana’a, Aden, Taiz and Zinjibar-- over six sectors – education, energy, health, housing, transport, and water and sanitation-- to be in the range of USD 4.0 – 5.0 billion.An end to the conflicts in MENA will improve macroeconomic indicators through restoring security, increasing investment, and the commencement of reconstruction activity. Social indicators will also improve with growth as well as by the shifting of public resources from military expenses to education and health. All in, a peace settlement in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, therefore, could lead to a swift rebound in oil output and exports, allowing them to increase fiscal space, improve current account balances, increase foreign reserves, and boost economic growth in the medium term. This can bring positive spillovers to the rest of the region.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2018-04-16) Arezki, Rabah ; Mottaghi, Lili ; Barone, Andrea ; Fan, Rachel Yuting ; Kiendrebeogo, Youssouf ; Lederman, Daniel ; Barone, AndreaAfter a sharp fall in 2017, economic growth in MENA is projected to rebound to 3.1 percent in 2018, thanks to the positive global outlook, oil prices stabilizing at relatively higher levels, stabilization policies and reforms, and recovery and reconstruction as conflicts recede. The outlook for MENA remains positive, and the growth rebound is expected to gain momentum over the next two years, exceeding 3 percent in 2020. While stabilization policies have helped economies adjust in recent years, .a second phase of reforms is needed should be transformative if the region is to reach its potential and create jobs for hundred million young people who will enter the labor market in coming decades. In this report, we explore the role that public-private partnerships can play. not only in providing an alternative source of financing but in helping change the role of the state from the main provider of employment to an enabler of private sector activity. Studies have shown that the gap between MENA economies and fast-growing ones is the performance of the services sector. The disruptive technology offers new opportunities for boosting private-sector-led growth through enhancement of high-tech jobs in the services sector. The report argues that combining the region's fast-growing pool of university graduates and a heavy penetration of social media and smartphone, could serve as the foundation for a digital sector that could create much-needed private sector jobs for the youth over the next decade.
Middle East and North Africa Economic Monitor, October 2018: A New Economy for Middle East and North Africa(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2018-10) Arezki, Rabah ; Mottaghi, Lili ; Barone, Andrea ; Fan, Rachel Yuting ; Harb, Amani Abou ; Karasapan, Omer M. ; Matsunaga, Hideki ; Nguyen, Ha ; de Soyres, FrancoisGrowth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is projected to rebound to an average of 2% in 2018, up from an average 1.4% in 2017. The modest rebound in growth is driven mostly by the recent rise in oil prices, which has benefitted the region’s oil exporters while putting pressure on the budgets of oil importers. The rebound also reflects the impact of modest reforms and stabilization efforts undertaken in some countries in the region. The report forecasts that regional growth will continue to improve modestly, to an average of 2.8% by the end of 2020 while there is the ongoing risk that instability in the region could worsen and dampen growth. Despite recovery, the slow pace of growth will not generate enough jobs for the region’s large youth population. New drivers of growth are needed to reach the level of job creation required. The report offers a roadmap for unlocking the enormous potential of the region’s large and well-educated youth population by embracing the new digital economy. Broader and bolder reforms will be needed to achieve this goal, along with critical investments in digital infrastructure. It will require the reorientation of education systems toward science and technology, the creation of modern telecommunications and payments systems, and a private-sector driven economy governed by regulations that encourage rather than stifle innovation.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2016-07-28) Devarajan, Shantayanan ; Mottaghi, LiliThis issue of the World Bank MENA Quarterly Economic Brief seeks to understand the factors behind the new normal of the oil market to discern the evolution of world oil prices in the future, and their implications for the economies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Our findings show that the oil price crash of 2014 was preceded by a significant increase in the size and frequency of volatility of oil prices. This volatility in turn contributed to the accumulation of oil inventories, attributing to the decline in oil prices. Noting that, historically, oil price slumps have lasted longer than spikes, we suggest that the current situation in the oil market may persist because of the changing behavior of market players, and the fact that overall oil demand is weak and not expected to rebound anytime soon. We expect the world oil market to work through its current oversupply and rebalance in early 2020 at market-clearing prices that are close to the marginal cost of the last producer (US shale oil producers). Oil prices are likely to be in the range of $53 - $60 a barrel and stay there for several years. The new normal for oil prices will prove difficult for MENA oil producers and could end up overhauling the existing social contract.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2018-04) Mottaghi, LiliThis brief discusses about the refugees welfare in Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Refugee flows can significantly alter the social and economic fabric of host communities, with the impact depending on initial conditions in labor markets, access to resources, demographics, labor laws, and the policy responses of host governments. Most refugees are concentrated in relatively fragile countries, many relatively small and economically vulnerable, including Kenya, Lebanon, and Jordan. To recognize the global public good that Lebanon and Jordan provided by opening their borders to Syrian refugees, in April 2016, the World Bank, the United Nations, and Islamic Development Bank, in close collaboration with the donor community and a range of international partners, launched the Concessional Financing Facility (CFF). The CFF focused on helping Jordan and Lebanon address the impact of Syrian refugees without having to increase their debt levels. As of April 2018, the renamed Global Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF) has leveraged concessional financing to Lebanon and Jordan for ten projects.
Middle East and North Africa Economic Monitor, October 2016: Economic and Social Inclusion to Prevent Violent Extremism(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2016-10-05) Devarajan, Shantayanan ; Mottaghi, Lili ; Do, Quy-Toan ; Brockmeyer, Anne ; Joubert, Clement ; Bhatia, Kartika ; Abdel-Jelil, MohamedThe year 2016 appears to be one of the toughest for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as their governments face serious policy challenges. The biggest challenge for oil exporters is managing their finances and diversification strategies with oil below $45 a barrel. Fiscal consolidation in a difficult sociopolitical environment and spillovers from conflicts are creating challenges for oil importers as well. Real GOP growth in MENA for 2016 is projected to fall to its lowest level since 2013 -- 2.3 percent -- lower than last year's growth by half a percentage point and about one percentage point lower than predicted in April 2016. It is clear that the disappointing performance of the MENA economies, and possibly the global economy, is partly due to the rise of terrorist attacks and spread of violent extremism. In this report, we attempt to shed light on the underlying causes of this phenomenon by applying an economic perspective to the demand for and supply of violent extremists. Looking at a dataset on foreign fighters joining Daesh, we find that the factors most strongly associated with foreign individuals' joining Daesh have to do with a lack of inclusion -- economic, social and religious -- in their country of origin. Promoting greater inclusion, therefore, could not only bring down the level of violent extremism, but it could improve economic performance in the MENA region.