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 […]
As world leaders head to New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly, there is still no end to the heart-breaking images of war-torn cities in the Middle East and North Africa, and of a massive exodus of people looking for sanctuary and opportunities to sustain a livelihood.
By Pritha Mitra
Aspirations for greater fairness were at the core of the protests that triggered the Arab Spring almost five years ago—and remain largely unfulfilled today. In our new paper, we show that tax reform can go a long way towards meeting those aspirations.
Taxation is a critical interface between the state and citizens. How much revenue is raised, how the tax burden is distributed, and how taxation is implemented can all powerfully affect both the reality and the perception of economic opportunities—and the degree of trust in government.
The gap between the rich and the poor is at its widest in decades in advanced countries, and inequality is also rising in major emerging markets (Chart 1). It is becoming increasingly clear that these developments have profound economic implications.
By iMFdirect editors
All happy countries are alike; each unhappy country is unhappy in its own way.
This twist on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina echoed through the seminars during the IMF’s Spring Meetings as most countries, while recovering, are struggling with the prospect of lower potential growth and the “new mediocre” becoming a “new reality.”
Our editors fanned out to cover what officials and civil society had to say about how to help countries pave their own path to happiness.
Leveling the legal playing field for women holds real promise for the world—in both human and economic terms. Unfortunately, that promise remains largely ignored and its potential untapped. In too many countries, too many legal restrictions conspire against women to be economically active—to work.
What can be done to remove these barriers? A new study done by IMF economists seeks to answer that question.
The bottom line? It’s about a fair, level playing field.
By Masood Ahmed
(Version in عربي)
The steep decline in global oil prices, by 55 percent since last September, has changed the economic dynamics of oil exporters in the Middle East and North Africa. Our update of the Regional Economic Outlook, released yesterday, shows that these countries are now faced with large export and government revenue losses, which are expected to reach about $300 billion (21 percent of GDP) in the Gulf Cooperation Council and about $90 billion (10 percent of GDP) in other oil-exporting countries.
Where prices will eventually settle is, of course, uncertain, making it hard for policymakers to gauge how much of the bane is temporary in nature and what share of it they should expect to last.
By Masood Ahmed
(version in عربي)
The International Monetary Fund released today a new paper entitled “Toward New Horizons—Arab Economic Transformation amid Political Transitions.”
The paper makes the case for the urgency of launching economic policy reforms, beyond short-term macroeconomic management, to support economic stability and stronger, job-creating economic growth in the Arab Countries in Transition—Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen.
These countries face the risk of stagnation if reforms are delayed further.Economic conditions have deteriorated from transition-related disruptions, regional conflict, an unclear political outlook, eroding competitiveness, and a challenging external economic environment.
As economic realities fall behind peoples’ expectations, there is a risk of increased discontent. This could further complicate the political transitions, impairing governments’ mandates and planning horizons and, consequently, their ability to implement the policies necessary to catalyze the much-needed economic improvements.
By Min Zhu
(Versions in عربي)
To almost all economists it is clear that the private sector is critically important in creating jobs and achieving strong growth. The public sector is already overburdened in most countries. But what is not clear is how to support the private sector for it to play this important role.
To shed some light on how to facilitate strong job creation and growth by the private sector in the Middle East and North Africa, we held a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in December 2013, jointly with the Council of Saudi Chambers and the International Finance Corporation.
As the date of the conference approached, registrations kept increasing, and by the time we opened the conference, the registration numbers had skyrocketed to more than 800! I can think of no better sign of the importance of this topic for the people in this region.