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Mohamed A. El-Erian and Ms. Susan Fennell


Unprecedented opportunities have opened up for the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to transform their economies through accelerated economic growth. The opportunities are many and varied: prospects for continued rapid expansion of international trade; increasing globalization of world financial markets; closer economic links to the European Union; and an improved, although still very fragile, regional environment. The potential benefits to the region are enormous, but for the benefits to become reality the MENA countries themselves must ensure the necessary conditions.

Amer Bisat, A. El-Erian Mohamed, El-Gamal Mahmoud, and Mr. Francesco P Mongelli


How to achieve a better economic growth is the major economic policy challenge facing the countries of MENA. Sustained high growth is needed to improve living standards, reduce unemployment, and provide jobs for the growing labor force. During the 1970s and early 1980s, favorable developments in MENA’s external environment stimulated growth. This was no longer the case in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s and the region’s per capita income stagnated and fell short of that achieved by developing countries as a group. Looking forward, the external environment is expected to remain broadly neutral with significant downside risk, particularly related to developments in the international oil market. Sustained economic growth will therefore depend primarily on domestic policy efforts.

Ms. Sena Eken, Mr. Thomas Helbling, and Adrian Mazarei


Governments in the countries of the MENA region have traditionally played a dominant role in their economies, especially in terms of the resources that they command, their contribution to output, and their impact on economic incentives. While government involvement has been important in many respects, such as in developing infrastructure and providing public services, expenditure has not always been directed toward efficient and productive uses, and has often been out of line with the revenues available. As a result, until recently, the MENA region has been characterized by large fiscal imbalances.

Mr. Nigel A Chalk, Mr. Abdelali Jbili, Mr. Volker Treichel, and Mr. John F. Wilson


Strong and dynamic modern financial institutions and systems are important prerequisites for MENA countries to compete in the global economy and achieve full integration into world financial markets. While most MENA countries have undertaken financial sector reforms over the past two decades and have made progress in financial deepening, financial sectors remain generally underdeveloped compared with the fast-growing developing countries. As a broad measure, M2 in MENA has remained on average around 60 percent of GDP, significantly lower than the high-performing Asian economies, but somewhat better than countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Furthermore, the regional indicator is biased upward by the high level of financial deepening in the Mashreq (particularly in Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon; see Chart 1).1 Progress in financial sector reform now is more urgent than ever if the region is to reap the full benefit of reforms undertaken in other areas, raise significantly the levels of domestic saving and investment, and promote higher economic growth and employment creation.

Alonso-Gamo Patricia, Fennell Susan, and Sakr Khaled


The MENA region, with the exception of the GCC countries, remains one of the most protectionist in the world. Furthermore, despite the remarkable growth in international trade over the past few decades, MENA has become even less integrated in the world economy in terms of its trading activities. World trade grew by about 9 percent in 1994 and 1995—more than twice that of world output in those years—and is estimated to grow by some 6 percent annually over the next decade. This, together with the opportunities presented by the recent multilateral trade arrangements—the Uruguay Round and the European Union’s Mediterranean Basin Initiative—have opened up new growth opportunities for countries in the MENA region.

International Monetary Fund


Countries in the Middle East and North Africa region have unprecedented opportunities for transforming their economies through accelerated economic growth, but the countries themselves must ensure the necessary conditions. This study, by the Middle Eastern Department, focuses on four areas that are fundamental to growth-enhancing structural changes: improving the region's investment performance, fiscal reform, financial sector reform, and trade liberalization.

Mr. Harald Finger and Ms. Daniela Gressani

The changing political landscape in the Arab world has created opportunities for economic transformation by tackling long-standing economic issues. Nevertheless, three years after the onset of political transition, implementing necessary economic policies has proven to be challenging. This paper lays out key elements of economic policy reform for Arab countries in transition.

Mr. Christopher J. Jarvis, Ms. Gaelle Pierre, Mr. Benedicte Baduel, Dominique Fayad, Alexander de Keyserling, Mr. Babacar Sarr, and Mariusz A. Sumlinski
This IMF Departmental Paper presents the key areas in which countries of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus and Central Asia (MECA) can enhance governance and fight corruption to achieve their economic policy goals. It draws on advances that have already taken hold in the region.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Tunisia’s macroeconomic situation has recovered from the post-revolution trough, but fiscal and external buffers have been eroded. Prudent management of monetary policy is crucial for short-term macroeconomic stabilization goals and to build external buffers. The challenges arise from social and economic disparities and high youth unemployment. The economic reform agenda appropriately aims at addressing these challenges through short-term stabilization goals while laying the foundations for supporting growth. Executive Directors commend the government’s commitment to maintaining an appropriate fiscal stance while making space for critical spending priorities and repayments of arrears.

International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARYContext. On June 7, 2013, the Executive Board approved a 24-month Stand-By Arrangement in an amount equivalent to 400 percent of quota (SDR 1.146 billion or about $1.75 billion). To date, SDR 716.25 million, equivalent to $1.1 billion, has been disbursed.Background. Tunisia is completing a successful political transition to democracy while navigating a challenging environment marked by high social and security tensions, slow growth in trading partners, and spillovers from regional conflicts. At the same time, large external and fiscal imbalances, high unemployment, and increased banking fragilities remain the main challenges.Program implementation has been mixed. All quantitative performance criteria have been met. However, progress on the structural reform agenda has been slow, with considerable delays in the recapitalization of public banks and the legislative agenda on the tax, investment and bank asset recovery fronts.Program strategy. The focus should continue to be on short-term macroeconomic stabilization and laying foundations for higher and more inclusive growth, including by moving forcefully on banking reforms. Prudent fiscal and monetary policy, along with improved budget composition and greater exchange rate flexibility, need to be directed to containing high imbalances and anchoring inflationary expectations. Recapitalizing public banks in line with good international practices is urgent in view of mounting risks to financial stability, and is also important in light of its impact on financial intermediation and growth. Progress on structural reforms is necessary to generate the conditions conducive to private sector–led and inclusive growth and protect the most vulnerable.Risks to program implementation are important. The main risks relate to regional and domestic security tensions, delays in forming a new government, shortfalls in official and market financing, or a further deterioration of the international economic environment. The implementation of program policies will continue to be tested by opposition from vested interests; however, support for the reform agenda among the authorities and a broad spectrum of political parties represents a key risk-mitigating measure.The completion of the fifth review will make SDR 71.625 million (about $110 million) available.