A report by the Commission on Stabilization and Growth in the Middle East and North Africa
- Date: Monday 17th October, 2022
- Time: 10:30 - 12:00 pm (EDT)
- Venue: Middle East Institute, Washington DC
Post-Covid-19, the challenge of adjusting to high fuel and food prices, and to rising global interest rates, is particularly hard for the oil importing countries of the MENA region. Public debts are rising fast towards unsustainable levels. Already, currency devaluation and inflation are combining to lower economic growth, increase poverty, and put more stress on a battered middle-class, leading to a rise of social unrest.
- How risky is the current development path in MENA, and especially in highly indebted Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia?
- How to avoid financial crises and neutralize the threat of falling into a vicious cycle of economic, social, and political decline?
- To initiate and begin to sustain a higher, more inclusive, and more sustainable growth path, what are the main challenges relating to: (i) Stabilization measures and debt workouts; (ii) Innovative economic, social, and climate-related reforms; and (iii) Political reform and government accountability?
- How can the regional and global communities best help?
Opening & Report presentation
Paul Salem, President & CEO of the Middle East Institute, opened the conference which started with a presentation of the report by Ibrahim Elbadawi (Managing Director, Economic Research Forum, Egypt) & Ishac Diwan (Research Director, Finance for Development Lab).
Ishac Diwan: "Growth is possible and needed and [it] is the only way out of the crisis. There are opportunities. It is eventually a political act."
The first panel looked at macro-economic risks and proposed solutions:
- Jihad Azour, Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department, IMF and former Finance Minister of Lebanon
- Ishac Diwan, Research Director, Finance for Development Lab
- Ibrahim Elbadawi, Managing Director, Economic Research Forum, Egypt
- Roberta Gatti, Chief Economist of the MENA region, World Bank
Jihad Azour: "the fund's programmes are short term in nature. All focus is on short term stabilisation and not so much on transformation. Transformation requires a couple of decades."
Roberta Gatti: "Countries in the region would be up to 30% richer in terms of GDP per capita had they grown (…) this is a region that, with its beauty, culture, & potential, lives inside that frontier of potential."
The second panel, moderated by Ishac Diwan, focused on issues beyond macro-economics:
- Masood Ahmed, President, Center for Global Development
- Hanan Morsi, Director of the Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research Department, AfDB
- Mustapha Nabli, Former Governor of the Central Bank, Tunisia
Masood Ahmed: "Take a minute to think about what the world is going to look like in the next 2 years. This is a bad year, next year will be worse. High inflation, interested rates, financial markets not very open to emerging markets, recession."