Learning to Live with Cheaper Oil in the Middle East

masood-ahmedBy 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.

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Mideast Braces Itself for a Multi-Year Transition

My core takeaway from all these events is that the underlying sense of optimism in the promise of the Arab Spring is very much there, but there is also a growing recognition that managing the short-term transition will be even more difficult with the persistence of economic pressures and rising social expectations.

By | October 26th, 2011|Economic outlook, International Monetary Fund, Middle East|4 Comments

The MENA Jobs and Growth Challenge: How Can Finance Help?

Most policymakers in the Middle East and North Africa agree that stronger economic growth is a crucial component of any strategy to address the region’s persistently high levels of unemployment and raise its living standards. One question that arises is: What role can the financial sector play? It is well known that a dynamic and vibrant financial sector will improve economic outcomes for a country, leading to faster and more equitable economic growth. The key to answering this question, therefore, is to look to the past and examine how the financial sector has contributed historically to growth in the region. Unfortunately, the experience in the Middle East and North Africa has not been as successful as in other regions. How, then, can policymakers in the region enhance the financial system’s contribution to growth?

More than 18 Million Jobs Needed!

For the six oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa region—Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia—high unemployment is a chronic problem. Averaging above 10 percent for the past two decades, unemployment rates here are among the highest in the world. And, youth unemployment is even more alarming at over 20 percent. Given the enormous economic and social costs of unemployment, the region can no longer afford the status quo. These countries need to create about 18? million full-time jobs over the next decade to provide employment for young people looking for their first job and to bring down unemployment. But, why is unemployment chronically high? And what needs to be done to fix it?

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