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Mr. Philip Barrett
This paper updates the Reported Social Unrest Index of Barrett et al (2020), reviewing recent developments in social unrest worldwide since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. It shows that unrest was elevated during late 2019, coincident with widespread protests in Latin America. Unrest then fell markedly during the early stages of the pandemic as voluntary and involuntary social distancing struck. Social unrest has since returned but generally remains below levels seen in 2019.
Nordine Abidi, Mehdi El Herradi, and Sahra Sakha
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented shock to firms with adverse consequences for existing productive capacities. At the same time, digitalization has increasingly been touted as a key pathway for mitigating economic losses from the pandemic, and we expect firms facing digital constraints to be less resilient to supply shocks. This paper uses firm-level data to investigate whether digitally-enabled firms have been able to mitigate economic losses arising from the pandemic better than digitally-constrained firms in the Middle East and Central Asia region using a difference-in-differences approach. Controlling for demand conditions, we find that digitally-enabled firms faced a lower decline in sales by about 4 percentage points during the pandemic compared to digitally-constrained firms, suggesting that digitalization acted as a hedge during the pandemic. Against this backdrop, our results suggest that policymakers need to close the digital gap and accelerate firms’ digital transformation. This will be essential for economies to bounce back from the pandemic, and build the foundations for future resilience.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

A year into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the race between vaccine and virus entered a new phase in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the path to recovery in 2021 is expected to be long and divergent. The outlook will vary significantly across countries, depending on the pandemic’s path, vaccine rollouts, underlying fragilities, exposure to tourism and contact-intensive sectors, and policy space and actions. 2021 will be the year of policies that continue saving lives and livelihoods and promote recovery, while balancing the need for debt sustainability and financial resilience. At the same time, policymakers must not lose sight of the transformational challenges to build forward better and accelerate the creation of more inclusive, resilient, sustainable, and green economies. Regional and international cooperation will be key complements to strong domestic policies.

International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

Countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (MENAP) region and those in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with swift and stringent measures to mitigate its spread and impact but continue to face an uncertain and difficult environment. Oil exporters were particularly hard hit by a “double-whammy” of the economic impact of lockdowns and the resulting sharp decline in oil demand and prices. Containing the health crisis, cushioning income losses, and expanding social spending remain immediate priorities. However, governments must also begin to lay the groundwork for recovery and rebuilding stronger, including by addressing legacies from the crisis and strengthening inclusion.