Gatti, Roberta

MENA Chief Economist Office
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Last updated May 17, 2023
Roberta Gatti is the World Bank’s chief economist of the Middle East and North Africa region and former chief economist of the Human Development Practice Group, where she led the SDI and the Human Capital Index initiatives. She joined the World Bank in 1998 as a Young Professional in the Development Research Group. Her research includes theoretical and empirical contributions to labor and household economics, political economy, growth, and social inclusion. She has authored multiple World Bank flagship reports, including Jobs for Shared Prosperity and Being Fair, Faring Better. She has taught at Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University.

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Now showing 1 - 7 of 7
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    Does Access to Credit Improve Productivity? Evidence from Bulgarian Firms
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2006-05) Gatti, Roberta ; Love, Inessa
    Although it is widely accepted that financial development is associated with higher growth, the evidence on the channels through which credit affects growth on the micro-level is scant. Using data from a cross section of Bulgarian firms, the authors estimate the impact of access to credit (as proxied by indicators of whether firms have access to a credit or overdraft facility) on productivity. To overcome potential omitted variable bias of OLS estimates, they use information on firms' past growth to instrument for access to credit. The authors find credit to be positively and strongly associated with total factor productivity. These results are robust to a wide range of robustness checks.
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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 ; 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.
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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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    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 ; Islam, Asif M. ; Wood, Christina A. ; 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.
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    A Primer on Human Capital
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2018-01) Flabbi, Luca ; Gatti, Roberta
    This note summarizes some of the key contributions in the macro- and micro- economic literature on the pathways linking human capital and income growth. Rather than completeness, the objective of this work is to distill some of the most relevant threads in the evolution of these literatures using a human capital lens, with a view to provide a useful yet parsimonious conceptual framework and an update on empirical results. The note first describes the human capital model (section 1). It then outlines the main theoretical elements of growth theory and presents empirical results from the cross-country regressions and development accounting literature to gauge to what extent human capital affects growth at the aggregate level (sections 2, 3 and 4). The note then reviews the micro empirical literature estimating labor income returns of human capital investments (sections 5 and 6). The conclusion draws comparisons between the two empirical approaches and provides a brief critical assessment on how to interpret the empirical results. Investing in human capital is a promising strategy to attain stable and positive growth. The magnitude of the effects is country-specific and varies depending on the population of interest, the policy under consideration, and the human capital component considered.
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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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    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
    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.