This paper provides an update on the status of the SDR trading market and operations. For more than three decades, SDRs have exclusively been exchanged for freely usable currencies in transactions by agreement, primarily through the Voluntary Trading Arrangements (VTAs). Since the last annual update, SDR trading has continued to be dominated by SDR sales, although SDR acquisitions have increased significantly. From September 2022 to August 2023, SDR 17.9 billion were sold through the VTA market, of which SDR 8.9 billion were exchanged by 29 participants into currencies and SDR 8.0 billion were sold by the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) and the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) for liquidity management and to facilitate the investment of SDR contributions. On the purchase side, the volume and number of transactions increased from the previous year as more participants needed to replenish their SDR holdings to cover charges to the IMF, reflecting the rising SDR interest rate. The VTAs continue to have ample capacities to meet the demand for exchange of SDRs into currencies.
Employment informality is widespread across North Africa. This paper aims to shed light on the role played by the informal sector in labor market adjustments over the business cycle. It finds that the response of labor markets to output fluctuations is more muted in countries with higher informality levels, like the North African economies. The analysis also confirms that informal employment is countercyclical and acts as a buffer during economic downturns in countries with relatively higher informality. However, contrary to what took place in past recessions, informal employment contracted sharply during the 2020 pandemic recession in high informality economies, suggesting that it did not play its traditional countercyclical role. By contrast, employment informality tends to fall modestly or increase during economic upturns, including the post-pandemic recovery. This finding presages the persistence of a large informal sector in the post-covid era in medium- and high-informality countries.
Personal income taxes (PITs) play little or no role in the Middle East and North Africa, often yielding less than 2 percent of GDP in revenue—with the exception of few North African countries. This paper examines how PITs have evolved in recent decades, and what they might look like in the next 20 years. Top marginal tax rates on labor and business income of individuals have declined substantially, a trend that mirrors reductions in advanced and developing economies. Taxation of passive capital income has changed very little, and the revenue intake from this source remains low throughout the region (less than 1 percent of GDP on average and concentrated in oil-importing non-fragile states). Social security contributions (SSC) have increased in importance in nearly all MENA countries, and some countries have introduced additional payroll taxes. The combination of reduced marginal tax rates, light taxation of income from capital and business activities, and increase of SSC, have resulted in income tax systems that create disincentives to work and incentives for informality, and contribute little to government revenue and income redistribution. Given differences in economic and political structures, demographics, and starting points, the path to PIT/SSC reforms will vary across the region. Countries with relatively mature PIT/SSC systems, where revenue performance has improved in the past two decades, will increasingly need to balance the revenue and equity objectives against effciency objectives (in particular labor market incentives and infromality). Countries with no PITs will have to weigh whether a consumption tax/SSC system that mimic a flat tax on labor income is sufficient to diversify revenue away from oil and whether to adopt PITs to address rising income and wealth inequality. Finally, fragile states, who face more political volatility and weaker fiscal institutions, will have to focus on simplicity of tax design and collection to be able to raise revenue from PITs.