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Mr. George T. Abed and Mr. Hamid R Davoodi

Abstract

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is an economically diverse region that includes countries with a common heritage, vastly different levels of per capita income, and a common set of challenges (see Box 1). Historically, dependence on oil wealth in many countries and a legacy of central planning in other countries have played major roles in shaping the region’s development strategies.

Mr. George T. Abed and Mr. Hamid R Davoodi

Abstract

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is an economically diverse region. Despite undertaking economic reforms in many countries, and having considerable success in avoiding crises and achieving macroeconomic stability, the region’s economic performance in the past 30 years has been below potential. This paper takes stock of the region’s relatively weak performance, explores the reasons for this out come, and proposes an agenda for urgent reforms.

Amer Bisat
Sustaining a high rate of economic growth is the major policy issue facing the Arab economies. A detailed analysis of growth, investment, and savings for the period 1971-96, including through a growth accounting exercise, shows that increasing long-run growth requires improvements in both investment and domestic savings. In the past, the Arab region’s growth was overly reliant on volatile external sources of funding, and total factor productivity growth was too low. The paper discusses the policy priorities to overcome the legacy of poor growth.
Zidong An, Tayeb Ghazi, Nathalie Gonzalez Prieto, and Mr. Aomar Ibourk
This paper investigates the relationship between economic growth and job creation in developing economies with a focus on low and lower middle-income countries along two dimensions: growth patterns and short-run correlations. Analysis on growth patterns shows that regime changes are quite common in both economic growth and employment growth, yet they are not synchronized with each other. Okun’s Law—the short-run relationship between output and labor market—holds in half of the countries in our sample and shows considerable cross-country heterogeneity.
Ms. Dalia S Hakura
This paper analyzes the weak growth performance in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region during 1980-2000 using an empirical model of long-run growth. The relative importance of the factors affecting growth is shown to vary across 16 MENA countries. In GCC countries, where oil revenues are significant, large governments appear to have been a key factor stifling private-sector growth and impeding diversification. In other MENA countries poor institutional quality has held back growth. Political instability is also shown to have played a role. While the MENA region's growth differential with east Asia is explained well in the 1980s, this is less so in the 1990s.
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.
Khalid ElFayoumi, Anta Ndoye, Miss Sanaa Nadeem, and Gregory Auclair
Institutional and market frictions impose costs on the reallocation of labor from low to high productivity sectors, leading to suboptimal allocations and a loss in aggregate labor productivity. Using cross-country sector-level data, we use a dynamic panel error correction model to compute the speed of sectoral labor adjustment, as well as the contribution of structural reforms in governance, labor and product markets, trade and openness, and the financial sector to lowering the costs of labor reallocation. We find that, on average, sectoral employment shares converge towards equilibrium allocations, closing about 13.7 percent of labor productivity gaps each year; this speed of labor adjustment varies across sectors and income groups. On structural reforms, we find a significant association between more efficient labor reallocation and financial market liberalization, less bureaucracy, strong judicial and regulatory environment, trade liberalization, better education and more flexible labor and product markets.
Amer Bisat, Mr. Mohamed A. El-Erian, Mr. Mahmoud El-Gamal, and Mr. Francesco P Mongelli
The paper considers investment and growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Notwithstanding cross-country differences, investment as a whole has been too low, too heavily tilted toward the public sector, too highly dependent on external influences, and less productive than in many other regions. Improving the region’s investment performance is critical if policymakers are to succeed in increasing the region’s economic growth rate. After discussing the relationship between investment and growth, the paper analyzes the investment responsiveness of various countries in the region and notes the policy priorities for strengthening the basis for rapid and sustained economic growth.
Ms. Sena Eken, Mr. Abdourahmane Sarr, Mr. Jacques Bouhga-Hagbe, and Jérôme Vandenbussche (all MCD)

This Selected Issues paper on Morocco analyzes Morocco’s growth performance over the past thirty-five years with a special focus on the more recent past. The paper presents stylized trends in growth; it first puts the overall growth performance of Morocco in an international perspective, including an analysis of the evolution of growth volatility, and then decomposes growth by major sectors to retrospectively identify patterns of structural transformation as well as the most dynamic sectors. The paper also analyzes accumulation of factors of production and total factor productivity growth through a growth accounting exercise.

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

On September 29 at the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings in Dubai, Abdlatif Y. Al-Hamad, Director General and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and former Kuwaiti Finance Minister, delivered the 2003 Per Jacobsson Lecture, “The Arab World: Performance and Prospects” His remarks are summarized below; the full text is available at http://www.perjacobsson.org.