Islam, Asif M.
Development Economics, Enterprise Analysis Group
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Development Economics, Enterprise Analysis Group
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Last updated April 6, 2023
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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, MarwaneDue 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.
Data Transparency and Long-Run Growth(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-12) Islam, Asif Mohammed ; Lederman, DanielFor centuries states have engaged in collecting data to serve various interests. In modern times, a data gap has emerged between developing and developed economies, with the latter having more advanced data systems. The authors explore the effects of data transparency on longrun growth for a sample of mostly developing economies. Data transparency is defined as the timely production of credible statistics as measured by the Statistical Capacity Index. The paper finds that data transparency has a positive effect on real gross domestic product per capita, implying a statistically significant impact on transitional growth to a higher potential level of gross domestic product per capita. The estimates indicate an elasticity of the magnitude of 0.03 percent per year, which is much larger than the elasticity of trade openness and schooling in the estimation sample. The empirics employ a variety of econometric estimators, including dynamic panel and cross-sectional instrumental variables estimators, with the latter approach yielding a higher estimated elasticity. The findings are robust to the inclusion of several factors in addition to political institutions and exogenous commodity-price and external debt-financing shocks.
Taming Private Leviathans: Regulation versus Taxation(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-01) Arezki, Rabah ; Islam, Asif ; Rota-Graziosi, GregoireThis paper explores the interplay between concentration of wealth and policies, namely regulation and taxation. The paper exploits variation in exposure to international commodity prices. Using a global panel data set of the net worth of billionaires, the results point to a positive relationship between commodity prices and the concentration of wealth at the top. Regulation especially pertaining to competition is found to limit the effects of commodity price shocks on the concentration of wealth, while taxation has little effect. Moreover, commodity price shocks crowd out non-resource tax revenue, hence limiting the scope for income transfers and redistribution. The results are consistent with the primacy of ex ante interventions over ex post ones for addressing wealth inequality.
Data Transparency in the Middle East and North Africa(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2023-03) Islam, Asif M. ; Islam, Asif M.Data transparency about critical economic issues may be key to driving growth and enhancing trust in government in the Middle East and North Africa. Several knowledge products and technical analyses on the region have been greatly constrained by the lack of availability of detailed data, and the relatively outdated nature of many available datasets. The goal of this study is to ascertain the state of data systems in the Middle East and North Africa region. Through analysis of several indicators, with their limitations in mind, the study uses descriptive analyses and uncovers six stylized facts of the region: (i) developing economies in the Middle East and North Africa have poor data ecosystems, largely due to the prevalence of conflict; (ii) developing economies in the Middle East and North Africa as a group have experienced the largest deterioration in data systems over time; (iii) data systems in richer economies in the Middle East and North Africa region underperform relative to their income peers; (iv) Gulf Cooperation Council economies underperform in data openness, especially online access, despite having the resources for online features; (v) the regulatory framework for data (data infrastructure) is poor throughout the region, especially in Gulf Cooperation Council economies; and (vi) the dispersion of source data scores – a measure of availability and timeliness of micro data – in the region suggests that national statistical offices in the region could learn from each other. Furthermore, the study summarizes data availability and timeliness for specific macro, micro, and public health indicators for countries across the region. The need for forging a social contract for data is discussed, as well as the role international institutions can play through a statistics compact for the region.