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William Oman

2019-11-13T11:57:29-05:00August 28, 2019|

William Oman is an economist in the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department. Previously, he was in the IMF Europe Office in Paris, working on the euro area and France. His research focuses on macrofinancial linkages, international macroeconomics, monetary and macroprudential policy, and climate change. He holds a PhD in economics from Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and an MPA from the London School of Economics.

 

 

Latest Posts:

Every Woman Counts: Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries

2019-03-25T16:07:34-04:00May 13, 2017|

By Christine Lagarde

May 13, 2017

Versions in عربي (Arabic), 中文 (Chinese),  Français (French),  本語 (Japanese), Русский (Russian), and Español (Spanish)

Finance ministers and central bank governors from the G7 countries met in Bari, Italy, this weekend to consider global economic issues, including steps to maintain economic stability and improving gender equality as important agenda items.

Women’s economic empowerment has long been an international priority, of course. The G6—as it was then—was first created in 1975, a year named “International Women’s Year” by the United Nations to help more women worldwide realize their full potential. Mountain climber Junko Tabei masterfully demonstrated this potential when she became the first woman to conquer Mount Everest in that year. However, as the world dealt with the aftermath of the first oil shock and the end of the fixed exchange rate system, global economic stability and women’s empowerment were rarely part of the same conversation.

Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mount Everest and the “Seven Summits”—the highest mountains across seven continents (photo: John van Hasselt/Corbis/Getty Images)

How times have changed. Today, in discussions on the global economy, female economic empowerment is almost always on the agenda. (more…)

Digital Solutions for Small Businesses in the Middle East and North Africa

2020-09-22T13:45:41-04:00September 22, 2020|

By Inutu Lukonga

عربي, Français

Small and medium-sized enterprises dominate the business landscape in the Middle East and North Africa region. These enterprises account for more than 90 percent of the region’s businesses and, in some countries, contribute as much as 50 percent of employment and 70 percent of GDP.

Yet they face impediments to growth, and their contribution to employment is below potential. In much of the region, small and medium-sized enterprises are handicapped by limited access to credit, unfavorable business environments, and talent gaps.

Digital technologies present new opportunities for these businesses to achieve faster growth. Emerging technologies and broadband internet can facilitate operational efficiencies, innovation, access to markets and finance, and can enable firms to operate remotely during lockdowns. The flexibility of remote working can help integrate women and youth in the labor market.

But so far, small and medium-sized enterprises in the region have been slow to embrace digital technologies and e-commerce, and businesses trail governments and consumers in internet usage.

As consumers rapidly shift to online shopping and increasingly prefer rapid and convenient services, smaller businesses will need to adopt digital solutions to remain competitive and survive.

Because small and medium-sized enterprises hold the key to employment generation, governments can help expedite their digital transformation by developing and implementing national strategies that address both supply and demand constraints standing in the way of digitalization.

On the supply side, priority should be given to removing barriers to competition and increasing investment in information and communications technology to ensure universal access to affordable high-speed internet. Currently, while all countries have easy access to international fiber optic networks, many maintain barriers to entry such as government monopolies or restrictions on foreign participation and network peering. These, coupled with high capital investment requirements, have slowed deployment of advanced network technologies and internet exchange points. Apart from the Gulf Cooperation Council states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (GCC), many countries have limited access to high speed broadband internet, and internet services are often slow, unreliable, and unaffordable, constraining use of the internet for business creation.

Educational and labor market reforms are needed to reduce the digital skill gaps. Digital skills are in short supply across the Middle East and North Africa region and some countries with high levels of digital expertise, such as Lebanon and Egypt, sometimes suffer brain drain to higher income countries, including the GCC. Mandating science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects and providing technical and vocational education and training through public-private partnerships can increase supply of tech skills in the medium term. At the same time, easing labor restrictions to facilitate expatriates in highly technical areas can reduce the skill gaps in the near term.

Reforms are also needed to improve E-commerce logistics and reliability of electricity, without which the Internet cannot function. Deficiencies in E-commerce logistics—unified address systems, area codes, postal service, land and customs clearance—currently delay delivery and increase costs for online trading.

Regulatory and other reforms are also essential to facilitate development of digital financial infrastructures. Digital financial services currently do not provide a strong foundation for digital transformation as the infrastructure and instruments for accepting electronic payments—such as point-of-sale terminals, credit and debit cards—have limited penetration, and payment systems are mostly not interoperable.

Digitalization of government services and procurement can incentivize small and medium-sized enterprises to follow suit given the significant size of the public sector in most countries and the pervasiveness of making payments to, or receiving payments from, governments.

On the demand side, the digital usage gap—the disparity between people who live in areas covered by broadband but who are not using internet—is several times the coverage gap. This suggests that demand is being constrained for reasons other than the non-availability of internet access.

To increase demand for digital services, governments should develop digital literacy and awareness programs as well as foster consumer trust by strengthening frameworks for cybersecurity, digital identification, data privacy, and consumer protection. Across the region, consumers reportedly do not trust websites to handle their information and are unaware of their consumer rights. In some countries, consumers are not well equipped to adopt digital solutions as large segments of the populations are not connected to the internet and are unbanked. In parts of the region, including North Africa and Iran, ownership of smartphones and other internet-enabled devices is below the global average.

Finally, for digital benefits to materialize, the digital strategy must be underpinned by financial sector and business environment reforms, particularly strengthening financial infrastructures—credit registries and bureaus, modernized bankruptcy laws, collateral registries—and business support, all of which will help SMEs access credit.

On Board with More Women in Leadership

2020-03-06T14:00:15-05:00March 3, 2020|

By Kristalina Georgieva and Louise Levonian

عربي, 中文, Español, Français, 日本語

Where are all the women? It is a question we shouldn’t have to ask in 2020. But we do. Why? Because there are simply too few women in leadership positions all over the world. On the eve of International Women’s Day and as we approach the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote here in the United States, the time is right to get a handle on the problem. (more…)

Fiscal Policies For Women’s Economic Empowerment

2020-02-19T15:04:00-05:00February 18, 2020|

By Stefania Fabrizio, Daniel Gurara and Lisa Kolovich

Making sure that opportunities to enter the workforce are fair and rewarding for women benefits everyone. Yet, the average female workforce participation rate across countries is still 20 percentage points lower than the male rate, largely because gender gaps in wages and access to opportunities, such as education, stubbornly persist. (more…)

Ensuring the Benefits of Capital Flows in the Middle East

2020-01-15T15:04:34-05:00January 15, 2020|

By Jihad Azour and Ling Zhu

عربي, Français

Since the global financial crisis of 2008, emerging market economies have experienced a surge in capital flows in response to significant monetary easing by major central banks. Gross capital inflows to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have remained high compared to other emerging markets, but their composition has changed significantly, with a surge in portfolio flows (equity and bond instruments) and a decline in foreign direct investment. (more…)

Cybersecurity Threats Call for a Global Response

2020-01-15T16:07:45-05:00January 13, 2020|

By David Lipton

عربي, 中文, Español, Français, 日本語, Português, Русский 

Last March, Operation Taiex led to the arrest of the gang leader behind the Carbanak and Cobalt malware attacks on over 100 financial institutions worldwide. This law enforcement operation included the Spanish national police, Europol, FBI, the Romanian, Moldovan, Belarusian, and Taiwanese authorities, as well as private cybersecurity companies. Investigators found out that hackers were operating in at least 15 countries.

(more…)

Top 10 Charts of the Week for 2019

2020-01-06T17:16:30-05:00December 30, 2019|

By IMFBlog

The decade is over and with it goes another year of insightful, thought-provoking, and dare we say clever, charts of the week brought to you by the IMF.

Everyone likes a great chart, right? So to get the new year started on the right foot, take a minute and look back at what caught your eye (or what you might have missed) in 2019. (more…)

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