International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This Selected Issues paper studies the inefficiencies related to the electricity sector and assesses the potential impact of the 2019 reform plan. Electricity shortages are the second constraint to competitiveness reported by businesses in Lebanon, based on the Enterprise Survey conducted by the World Bank. Lebanon’s electricity sector performance is worse than other similar countries in the region. Many businesses must rely on costly private generators. Income inequalities are exacerbated by both the geographical disparities in Electricité du Liban’s (EdL) electricity provision and its tariff structure. The most vulnerable households are the small consumers located in regions with little electricity provision from EdL. A new electricity plan was approved by Cabinet on April 9, 2019 and ratified by Parliament on April 17, 2019. Although it is critical that the plan is decisively implemented, it is also important that it is enhanced further to fully restore EdL’s viability. Introducing well-targeted measures, such as cash transfers, would help protect the most vulnerable households from the tariff increase. As planned in the reform package, consumer tariffs should be indexed on the evolution of input prices to guarantee that it will not be negatively impacted by future developments in fuel or gas prices.
Mishel Ghassibe, Maximiliano Appendino, and Samir Elsadek Mahmoudi
This paper offers empirical evidence that greater financial inclusion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can promote higher economic growth and employment, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia regions. First, we show that countries with higher SME financial inclusion exhibit more effective monetary policy transmission and tax collection. Second, we find substantial employment and labor productivity growth gains at the firm level from access to credit, gains that are higher for SMEs. We also obtain evidence of a substantial positive impact on SME employment and labor productivity growth from improved credit bureau coverage and insolvency regimes. Finally, cross-country aggregate evidence confirms the employment and growth gains from SME financial inclusion, which appear larger in the Middle East and Central Asia than in other regions.
Mr. Benedicte Baduel, Carolin Geginat, and Ms. Gaelle Pierre
This paper examines the extent to which firms in selected MENA countries reported being constrained by the business environment around the time of the Arab Spring and the extent to which these constraints affected their employment performance. The results suggest that small firms in MENA faced more structural constraints than similar firms in other regions. We also find that MENA firms’ weaker job creation can be explained in great part by the macroeconomic environment and structural constraints. Low GDP growth, falling external competitiveness, corruption, lack of access to finance and poor access to electricity are found to explain a significant part of the lack of employment growth in MENA firms compared to their peers.
Using narrative-based country-case studies, war episodes in the Middle East were examined to assess their economic impact on conflict and neighboring economies. The paper found that conflicts led to a contraction in growth, higher inflation, large fiscal and current account deficits, loss of reserves, and a weakened financial system. Post-conflict recovery depended on the economic and institutional development of the country, economic structure, duration of the war, international engagement, and prevailing security conditions. The net economic impact on neighboring countries varied according to their initial economic conditions, number and income level of refugees they hosted, economic integration, and external assistance.
Lebanon’s credit growth in 2008–10 has been concentrated in trade and services, household loans, and the construction sector. These sectors accounted for almost 80 percent of all new loans extended since 2008. Real estate lending in particular has been increased substantially. On the demand side, a renewal in confidence following an improved political environment in 2008 led to a rebound in economic activity that, together with a real estate boom, fueled credit demand.
In this paper we contribute to the empirical literature on growth in the MENA region by attempting to quantify the impact of the various constraints faced by local businesses highlighted by the World Bank’s Business Enterprise surveys. To the best of our knowledge this dataset has not been used in any empirical analysis looking at the main constraints on growth in the MENA region. Our empirical results suggest that the key direct constraints to growth in the MENA region are difficulties in access to finance, labor skill mismatches and shortages, and electricity constraints.
Based on data collected on a wide range of financial sector indicators, new indices of financial development for countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are constructed, encompassing six themes: development of the monetary sector and monetary policy, banking sector development, nonbank financial development, regulation and supervision, financial openness, and institutional quality. The paper finds that the degree of financial development varies across the region. Some countries have relatively well-developed banking sectors and regulatory and supervisory regimes. However, across the region, more needs to be done to reinforce the institutional environment and promote nonbank financial sector development. Based on a subset of indicators, the MENA region is found to compare favorably with a few other regions, but it ranks far behind the industrialized countries and East Asia.