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. […]
By Jihad Azour
January 18, 2018
Rising social tensions and protests in several countries across the Middle East and North Africa are a clear indication that the aspirations of the people of the region—for opportunity, prosperity and equity—remain unfulfilled. Their frustration is understandable, and precisely because of that, it would be a mistake if the economic reform process currently underway were to be thrown into reverse. […]
As a result of the oil price plunge, the major oil-exporting countries are facing budget deficits for the first time in years. The growth in the assets of their sovereign wealth funds, which were rising at a rapid rate until recently, is now slowing; some have started drawing on their buffers.
In the short run, this phenomenon is not cause for alarm. Most oil exporters have enough buffers to withstand a temporary drop in oil prices. But what will happen if low oil prices persist, and how will policymakers react?
(Versions in عربي)
Two days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Kuwait, a member country of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It was a whirlwind visit, with many places to see and people to meet, in a thriving corner of the global economy. Kuwait has extended to me its emblematic tradition of hospitality— a testament to its ancient and noble culture. I was awed by the magnificent artifacts of the al-Sabah collection, which I saw in the beautifully restored Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah cultural center.
Back to economics. The member countries of the council—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—have some of world’s highest living standards. The region has also become a major destination for foreign workers and a source of remittances for their families back home. And it is a financial center and a hub for international trade and business services.
By Masood Ahmed
Of all the regions in the world, the Middle East and North Africa region stands out as the one that relies the most on generalized energy subsidies. In energy-rich countries, governments provide subsidies to their populations as a way of sharing the natural resource wealth. In the region’s energy-importing countries, governments use subsidies to offer people some relief from high commodity prices, especially since social safety nets are often weak.
The question is: does this well-intended social protection policy represent the most efficient way to channel aid to the most vulnerable? The answer is no!