The political economy of debt and adjustment in Tunisia, Egypt, and Lebanon
In partnership with:
April 14, 2023
10:00 am - 11:30 am
Several countries in the MENA region have been facing financial crises of unprecedented gravity. The MENA Commission on Stabilization and Growth Report describes how debt ratios started rising after the Arab Uprisings as fiscal policies became more expansionary, and how this was further precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, and the rise in global interest rates. The financial crises are especially acute in Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia, where external shocks have exacerbated deeply embedded structural weaknesses. The three countries have lost access to international capital markets, and financial pressures are leading to devaluation, fiscal austerity, and inflation.
The discussion will focus on the politics of internal and external adjustments. How are these countries managing the crisis and considering distributing the burden of adjustment internally? What is the role of international financial institutions in these cases? How has the rise of the GCC impacted the oil importers in the region? What effects are adjustment policies having on state-society and state-business relations? What are the geopolitical implications of the debt crisis for the region? The Middle East Institute and the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center are pleased to invite an expert panel to discuss the latest report from the Finance for Development Lab and probe these questions.
Director of Research, Finance for Development Lab, Paris School of Economics
Deputy Director, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
Mirette F. Mabrouk
Senior Fellow and Founding Director of the Egypt Program, Middle East Institute
Fellow, Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center
Paul Salem, moderator
President & CEO, Middle East Institute
Detailed speaker biographies
Ishac Diwan is the Director of Research for the Finance for Development Lab, a new institute located at the Paris School of Economics, where he also teaches economics, and a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School. Until recently he held the Chair Socio-Economy of the Arab World at Paris Sciences et Lettres. Diwan was the World Bank’s Country Director for Ethiopia and Sudan (2002-2007), and then for Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Guinea (2007-2011). He led several ambitious initiatives, such as theProductive Safety Net and Protection of Basic Services Program in Ethiopia, as well as initiatives in West Africa to support commercial agriculture, natural resources development, and the creation of jobs for youth. Diwan frequently consults with governments and international organizations, working recently on policy issues in Sudan, Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. He directs the Political Economy program of the Economic Research Forum, where he runs two projects on the study of crony capitalism and the analysis of opinion surveys. His current research interests focus on the political economy of the Middle East, in addition to broader development issues.
Mirette F. Mabrouk
Mirette F. Mabrouk is an MEI senior fellow and founding director of the Institute's Egypt Studies program. She was previously deputy director and director for research and programs at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council. Formerly a fellow at the Project for U.S. Relations with the Middle East at the Brookings Institution, Mabrouk moved to D.C. from Cairo, where she was director of communications for the Economic Research Forum (ERF). Before being appointed associate director for publishing operations at The American University in Cairo Press, Ms. Mabrouk had over 20 years of experience in both print and television journalism. She is the founding publisher of The Daily Star Egypt (now The Daily News Egypt), at the time the country’s only independent English-language daily newspaper, and the former publishing director for IBA Media, which produces the region’s top English-language magazines. Her writing has appeared in publications like Foreign Policy, The Hill, and HuffPost, and she has been quoted and appeared on the BBC, VOA, Sky News, The Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor, among others. She recently authored "And Now for Something Completely Different: Arab Media’s Own Little Revolution," a chapter in a book on the Arab transitions, Reconstructing the Middle East, and is the editor of a multi-author report, Rethinking Egypt’s Economy.
Hamza Meddeb is a fellow at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, where his research focuses on economic reform, political economy of conflicts, and border insecurity across the Middle East and North Africa. Meddeb is also an assistant professor at the South Mediterranean University (SMU) in Tunis. Prior to that, Meddeb was a research fellow at the Middle East Directions Program at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) from September to December 2016, and a Jean Monnet fellow at EUI from 2013 to 2015, where he focused on political transition and inequality in Tunisia. Meddeb’s research interests lie at the intersection of political economy, security studies, and sociopolitical dynamics in Tunisia and North Africa. He also covers EU-Mediterranean relations and the growing activism of non-Euro-Mediterranean actors in the Mediterranean. Among his latest publications are Precarious Resilience: Tunisia’s Libyan Predicament (MENARA Future Notes, 2017), Peripheral Vision: How Europe Can Help Preserve Tunisia’s Fragile Democracy (ECFR, 2017), and Smugglers, Tribes and Militias: The Rise of Local Forces in the Tunisian-Libyan Border Region.
Timothy E. Kaldas is the Deputy Director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. He is also an adjunct professor of international relations at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, where he is pursuing his PhD. His current research interests focus on the political economies of MENA countries, regime competition and survival strategies, and Egypt’s foreign policy. He lived in Cairo, Egypt for 12 years, from 2008 to 2020, where he worked in several fields, including as a visiting professor of politics at Nile University, a wedding photographer, an independent risk consultant, a consultant at UN Migration, and Director of Communications at the Munathara Initiative. His writing has been published by Mada Masr, Bloomberg, Foreign Policy, CNN, World Politics Review, and a number of other publications and institutions.
Paul Salem, moderator
Paul Salem is president and CEO of the Middle East Institute. He focuses on issues of political change, transition, and conflict as well as the regional and international relations of the Middle East. Salem is the author and editor of a number of books and reports including Escaping the Conflict Trap: Toward Ending Civil Wars in the Middle East (ed. with Ross Harrison, MEI 2019); Winning the Battle, Losing the War: Addressing the Conditions that Fuel Armed Non State Actors (ed. with Charles Lister, MEI 2019); From Chaos to Cooperation: Toward Regional Order in the Middle East (ed. with Ross Harrison, MEI 2017); Broken Orders: The Causes and Consequences of the Arab Uprisings (In Arabic, 2013); "Thinking Arab Futures: Drivers, scenarios, and strategic choices for the Arab World," The Cairo Review Spring 2019; “The Recurring Rise and Fall of Political Islam” (CSIS, 2015); Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World (1994); and Conflict Resolution in the Arab World (ed., 1997). Prior to joining MEI, Salem was the founding director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon between 2006 and 2013. From 1999 to 2006, he was director of the Fares Foundation and in 1989-1999 he founded and directed the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanon's leading public policy think tank.