ERF is currently engaged in carrying out a number of programs that address questions where knowledge gaps about the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey are apparent.
The Country Profiles program represents an attempt to provide researchers in the region with an opportunity to present their own “home grown” point of view concerning the major developments in their own countries and identifying policies for reform. The Country Profiles program is coordinated by the Economic Research Forum (ERF) and the Institut de la MÈditerranÈe (IM) within the frame work of the FEMISE program supported by the European Commission. The program also receives funding from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. The program includes 10 Country Profiles for the South Mediterranean Countries. ERF coordinates five of those ten countries: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Palestine. Also, the Arab Fund supports the production of three more countries from the Gulf, namely: Oman, Bahrain and Yemen. The Country Profiles’ objective is to monitor the transition of the countries in question with an analytical view that could assist the policy-making community in designing their reform efforts. State-of-the-art methods of analysis are employed in order to assess performance, and suggest alternative trajectories and policy prescriptions for economically and socially sustainable growth. Also, the use of consistent sets of quantitative and qualitative data, whenever possible, ensures cross-comparisons among countries. The Profiles cover five thematic areas addressing, in an empirical and analytical manner, the following topics: (1) Macroeconomic and Fiscal Issues; (2) Financial Issues; (3) Trade Issues; (4) Governance and Institutional Issues; and (5) Labor and Human Resource Development Issues. Moreover, a comparative perspective is provided by comparing the position of the countries studied against established benchmarks using a multi-criterion analysis.
The country profiles are not a traditional publication by a group of researchers that ends up on a shelf. In fact, it was the subject of dialogue at different levels. First, it was a dialogue among its authors themselves; secondly, it was the subject of a dialogue and peer review by economists from the MENA region. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it has been the subject of a rich debate in national seminars, which brought together government ministers, representatives of the business community, members of Parliament and civil society representatives. The profiles are published in both Arabic, English and French to ensure maximum outreach.
It is hoped that this program and the modality of doing research in this way will provide a model for serious work that fills the gap between research and policy- making in our region.