In this paper we estimate gravity models to see whether trade volumes of countries in the MENA region are significantly lower than what would be expected given their economic, cultural and geographical characteristics. Our empirical results show that the variables used in standard gravity models cannot explain a significant part of MENA's trade performance, particularly on exports. We then go on to 'augment' the standard gravity model with relevant variables from the World Bank's Business Enterprise surveys. Our results further show that these variables, and in particular transport constraints and inefficiencies in customs clearance processes, are important in explaining the MENA region's underperformance in trade.
Samya Beidas-Strom, Weicheng Lian, and Ashwaq Maseeh
This paper examines housing finance and housing price dynamics in selected emerging Middle Eastern economies over the past two decades. It finds that (i) mortgage markets have experienced rapid development, which has led to lower private per capita consumer spending volatility this decade; (ii) a downward price correction occurred in the housing market after 2007, which appears to have bottomed out; (iii) the rental market appears to be largely determined by region-specific economic fundamentals-a youthful working-age population and wealth variables; and (iv) a segregation between self-owned house and rental price dynamics exists in this region, rendering the former more sensitive to the business cycle.
The paper investigates whether the market size of a regional trade agreement (RTA) is a determinant of foreign direct investment (FDI) received by countries participating in the RTA. This hypothesis is tested on a sample of 71 developing countries during the period 1980-99. Evidence is found that the RTA market size had a positive impact on the FDI received by member countries, even more so in the 1990s when such agreements were revived and became more widespread. The size of domestic population also seemed to matter, possibly because of its effect on the availability of the labor supply. It appears, however, that not all countries in the RTA benefited to the same extent from the RTA: countries with a relatively more educated labor force and/or a relatively more stable financial situation tended to attract a larger share of FDI at the expense of their RTA partners. This evidence suggests it is essential for all RTA countries to improve their business environment to the best available in the region. Finally, a partial negative correlation between the FDI received by RTA countries and that received by non-RTA countries possibly reflects a diversion of FDI from non-RTA to RTA countries. As an illustration, FDI benefits are simulated from the creation of a regional trade agreement between Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Ms. Rina Bhattacharya, Tarik Yousef, and Mr. Pierre Dhonte
The working age population is expected to grow faster in the Middle East than in any other region in the world between now and 2015—rising annually by 2.7 percent, or 10 million people. This demographic explosion presents the region with a major challenge in terms of providing jobs, incomes, and housing for the growing population, but the expanding labor force can also be seen as an opportunity to generate higher per capita income growth on a sustainable basis. The paper concludes by emphasizing the importance of market-friendly institutions in turning the challenge into opportunity.
In recent years, the IMF has released a growing number of reports and other documents covering economic and financial developments and trends in member countries. Each report, prepared by a staff team after discussions with government officials, is published at the option of the member country.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
This paper analyzes how increasing population will impact the lives of people in the world in 2000. It underscores that in 2000, there will be more people, many living in crowded towns, suffering from even greater difficulties of transport and urban sprawl, both upward and outward. The provision of satisfactory housing for the mass of the population will be difficult, because, without subsidy, its construction would demand rentals equal at least to the occupant’s annual income, while to subsidize so many tenants would be impossible.