Revisiting Macroeconomic Management in Times of Crisis and Beyond

FromMar 26, 2022 To Mar 30, 2022

Online Webinar

ERF annually holds a highly visible conference that concentrates on issues of high relevance to economic policy in the region. This flagship event draws on the contributions of senior policy makers, distinguished academic researchers as well as referred open call papers to promote region-wide and international knowledge and evidence-based development and public policy debates and mentorship of promising researchers. 

The ERF Annual Conference, a tradition maintained since 1995, has become the premiere regional event for economists of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where new ideas are created and disseminated; where the community of researchers meet and where excellence is celebrated. Established in 1993, the primary mission of ERF is to build robust indigenous capacity for doing rigorous policy-oriented research and to deploy this capacity to inform development policy making. In this regard, the ERF Annual Conference has become the premier platform in MENA, connecting economic and other social science researchers from across the region. 

The Arab Fund has been generously sponsoring the ERF Conference for some 18 years. Thanks to this un-wavered commitment, ERF has been able to successfully deliver against its core mission and continue to convene this flagship event. 

This year the conference is held  under the theme of “Revisiting Macroeconomic Management in Times of Crisis and Beyond”. This is a timely topic in the light of the changes implied by the pandemic at the economic, social and digital levels.  This choice also reflects an overwhelming consensus among the ERF community of researchers and policy makers.

There will be three main plenary sessions, four special plenaries, one policy seminar and one policy roundtable which will feature presentations by leading economists, social scientists, and policymakers. The conference sessions will be composed of a larger number of diverse papers spanning cross-cutting themes selected on the basis of rigorous refereeing process in response to an open call for papers. 

 

Conference Theme

Main Questions:

Against this backdrop, the ERF 28th annual conference will ask the following fundamental questions:

  • How fiscal, monetary, and financial policies should be managed in times of mega crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, in order to deal with the ensuing consequences for oil and commodity prices, fiscal space, and debt management?
  • Beyond the pandemic, and from a structural transformation perspective, what are the reforms needed in order to cope with digitalization, climate change, and industrial revolution?
  • At the social level, in times of crisis and beyond, what should be the role of the State to make social policies more effective, more sustainable, and more inclusive? 

 

Conference Sessions

 

Celebrating Excellence: Check who won the Best Paper Awards 

Agenda

Special Session on Sustaining Global Value Chains in partnership with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

Date

24/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 3:00 pm To 4:30 pm

The report focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on value chains and the more long-term challenges to decarbonize. The session will aim to assess whether the model of China and its hub can be replicated to EU and South Med Countries, potentially Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan. The link between SDGs and GVCs is also highlighted in the report and is of high relevance for the MENA region given that the latter can integrate into GVCs that are not inclusive (in terms of job creation, job quality and environment).

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Speakers

Ahmed Ghoneim

Research Fellows

Ahmed Ghoneim

Professor, Economics Department, Faculty of Economics and...

Erik Berglof

Speakers

Erik Berglof

Chief Economist of the Asian Infrastructure Investment...

Jaime de Melo

Authors

Jaime de Melo

Professor Emeritus, University of Geneva

Chahir Zaki

Research Fellows

Chahir Zaki

Chaired Professor of Economics, University of Orléans

Leila Baghdadi

Research Fellows

Leila Baghdadi

Professor of Economics, ESSECT, University of Tunis

Videos

Date

24/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 5:30 pm To 7:00 pm

The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore many of the issues the Commission was already aiming to tackle, further highlighting the timely relevance and importance of digital transformations. Viewing digital transformations of health through the lens of UHC, the Commission found that countries’ approaches to digital health governance could be strengthened in five areas:

  • Most countries’ digital health strategies are not focused on maximizing the public value of digital health and data to tackle global health challenges and improve health for all.
  • Approaches to digital transformations in health and other areas are not sufficiently grounded in key principles—such as solidarity, human rights, equity, and inclusion, which could help to increase the public value of digital health and prevent technology and data from being used in harmful ways.
  • The views and needs of young people are almost never prioritized in digital health strategies, and young people are not adequately involved in policy or technology development.
  • Governments are not using their full powers to control the actions of technology companies so that they promote health, wellbeing, and human rights—especially for young people.
  • Despite the global nature of the internet and digital transformations, governments are slow to cooperate with other countries in creating common global governance frameworks for digital health and health data.

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The full report can be found here

Speakers

Vivian Baadan

Speakers

Vivian Baadan

Social, Political, and Cultural Psychologist

Rohinton P. Medhora

Authors

Rohinton P. Medhora

President of the Centre for International Governance...

David Bishai

Research Fellows

David Bishai

Professor, Department of Population and Family Health...

Sara Hassanain

Speakers

Sara Hassanain

Former Acting Minister of Health, Sudan

Videos

Agenda

Session on the FEMISE-CMI report on: Post Covid-19 Opportunities for Growth, Regional Value Chains and Mediterranean Integration

Date

26/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 4:30 pm To 6:00 pm

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The FEMISE-CMI report explores post-COVID opportunities for fostering growth and for deepening regional cooperation in the Mediterranean region, with a focus on five Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia). In three thematic chapters, the report brings forward the analysis on how to deepen EU-Med integration by prioritizing regional value chains (RVCs), improving food security capacities, strengthening and digitalizing the health sector, and further developing the pharmaceutical sector. The Covid-19 crisis has hit the economies of Mediterranean countries which were already struggling. The report focuses on the challenges essentially linked to the food security and health sectors and the obstacles leading to less than optimal private sector performance. The report also highlights the opportunities that are created within this crisis for deepening regional cooperation by identifying  potential “niches products” for economic integration for the EU-Med Region.

While the COVID crisis presented a challenge to the region, the post-recovery could present an opportunity to reset the priorities and move forward towards a sustainable and inclusive development. There is a common belief that the Mediterranean regional integration must go beyond the development of trade in goods and services, and the technical aspects of trade facilitation.  This session aims to answer the following questions:

1.     Now that we have identified the “niche” of potential integration” vs. a vs. the EU, how can the South Med countries capitalize on these opportunities following the re-designing of the Global Value Chain?

2.     What could be the role of the EU in this context to support the South Med integration? And what impact of the AfCFTA in facilitating  a ‘neighbours of neighbours’ relation?

3.     How to better engage the private sector in the GVC? What policies are needed in this context? How can the sector enhance its innovation /digitalisation capacity to serve the regional needs?

Speakers

Maryse Louis

Authors

Maryse Louis

FEMISE, General Manager

Blanca Moreno-Dodson

Speakers

Blanca Moreno-Dodson

Director, Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI)

Patricia Augier

Speakers

Patricia Augier

Professor, Aix-Marseille University (AMU)

Constantin Tsakas

Speakers

Constantin Tsakas

Senior Programme Officer, CMI-UNOPS

Bernard Hoekman

Senior Associates

Bernard Hoekman

Professor and Director, Global Economics, Robert Schuman...

Raed Safadi

Research Fellows

Raed Safadi

Chief Economic Adviser, Dubai's Department of Economic...

Bernard Ziller

Speakers

Bernard Ziller

Senior Advisory, the European Investment Bank

Videos

Date

26/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 4:30 pm To 6:00 pm

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How can income poverty be estimated using limited aggregate distributional statistics? How can absolute and relative poverty measurement be reconciled, and harmonized across countries and years? And how should poverty be projected under given forecasts of mean and inequality growth?
The fundamental aim of the panel session is to propose innovative methodologies to settle on meaningful quasi-absolute poverty lines comparable across space and time, and to forecast the impacts of growth and redistribution on household poverty rates. The second aim is to link this work on poverty measurement to wealth inequality in the region and discuss some policy implications.

Speakers

Asad Alam

Senior Associates

Speakers

Asad Alam

Regional Director, Equitable Growth, Finance & Institutions...

May Gadallah

Research Fellows

May Gadallah

Associate Professor, Departments of Statistics, Cairo University

Paul Makdissi

Research Fellows

Paul Makdissi

Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa

Khalid Abu-Ismail

Policy Affiliates

Khalid Abu-Ismail

Chief of Economic Development and Poverty Section,...

Hassan Hamie

Speakers

Hassan Hamie

Poverty Modeling and Forecasting Economist, UN ESCWA

Vladimir Hlasny

Authors

Vladimir Hlasny

Economic Affairs Officer, UN Economic and Social...

Videos

Agenda

Special Policy Session: Egypt in Focus – in partnership with Egyptian Center for Economic Studies (ECES)

Date

27/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 5:30 pm To 7:00 pm

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Two mega projects stand out recently, namely: the huge expansion in infrastructure all over Egypt, and the Hayah Kareema initiative. The first project was initiated in 2015 and is estimated to be the biggest in Africa, the latter started in 2021. The session aims to assess the two projects from an economic development perspective.

The presentation by ECES and discussions with panelists will attempt to answer the following key questions among others: 

  1. To what extent does the priority agenda of both projects meet the development needs of the country?
  2. What are the sources of finance for each project and to what extent it affects the debt situation?
  3. What is the reaction of the private sector to expansion in infrastructure? To what extent it represents an incentive for investment
  4. What is the level of involvement of civil society in the planning and implementation of Hayah Kareema?
  5. What is the system for monitoring and evaluation of the impacts of each of the two projects?
  6.  What is the needed policy infrastructure to complement the physical infrastructure in Hayah Kareema?

 

Speakers

Abla Abdel-Latif

Research Fellows

Abla Abdel-Latif

Executive Director and Director of Research, Egyptian...

Tarek Tawfik

Speakers

Tarek Tawfik

Deputy Chairman of the Federation of Egyptian...

Imane Helmy

Research Associates

Imane Helmy

Senior Economist at World Bank’s Poverty and...

Osama Okail

Speakers

Osama Okail

Prof. of Highway ,Traffic & Airport Engineering...

Mohamed Kassem

Speakers

Mohamed Kassem

Chair, World Trading Company

Videos

Agenda

Plenary 1:  Macroeconomic Management in Times of Crisis

Date

28/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 3:00 pm To 4:30 pm

The Coronavirus pandemic is now widely acknowledged to have created the most devastating economic crisis since the 1930s great depression. For the oil-dependent MENA economies, already reeling from regional conflicts and that instability, the consequences have been particularly dire. One the one hand, the resource-rich economies saw their public finances come under stress due to a secular decline in oil prices since 2014, prompting a serious re-think about their future fiscal sustainability and growth. One the other hand, oil-importing economies had to adopt expansionary fiscal policies to contain the negative economic impact of the pandemic, further aggravating an already limited fiscal space and looming debt crisis. Indeed, while the rise in debt is a global phenomenon, it is particularly challenging for MENA in view of serious economic development and governance failure.  First, the region has so far failed to achieve meaningful economic diversification for creating jobs, beyond the informal and low productivity sector.  Second, fiscal discipline is weak and often coupled with problematic governance of debt management. Third, in many cases, the accumulation of debt is often not solely driven by the increase in fiscal deficits, suggesting that below-the-line operations may often contribute to debt increases.

Subscribing to the above discussion, the first plenary session will identify the main tenets of the emerging macroeconomic framework for dealing with the new emerging challenges facing macroeconomic and development policy. Among other questions, the following five should merit particular consideration:

  1. What are the short-term and long-term effects of the surge in debt and the developments in oil prices?
  2. What kind of domestic reforms and global initiatives are needed to help MENA and other developing countries manage the emerging debt crisis and achieve debt sustainability, especially in view of the politics and political economy challenges associated with high social mobilization in several countries in the region?
  3. How might MENA and other developing countries enhance resource mobilization capacity, including through mainstreaming digital transformation in the tax systems?
  4. With the cyclical and secular downward pressure on oil prices, how resource-rich countries can manage their public finances in the times of crisis, including through drawing down from SWFs?
  5. In view of the likely need for a non-fiscal shock absorber, should countries currently pursuing heavily managed and pegged exchange rates consider more flex regimes?

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Speakers

Samir Makdisi

Senior Associates

Samir Makdisi

Professor Emeritus of Economics, American University of...

Ibrahim Elbadawi

Research Fellows

Ibrahim Elbadawi

Managing Director, Economic Research Forum

Carmen Reinhart

Speakers

Carmen Reinhart

Senior Vice President and World Bank Group...

Rania Al-Mashat

Research Fellows

Rania Al-Mashat

Minister of International Cooperation, Arab Republic of...

Majid A. Al-Moneef

Research Fellows

Majid A. Al-Moneef

Chairman of the International Advisory Committee of...

Raimundo Soto

Senior Associates

Raimundo Soto

Associate Professor of Economics, Pontificia Universidad Católica...

Videos

Date

28/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 5:30 pm To 7:00 pm

From a social perspective, while monetary and fiscal policies managed to relatively stabilize MENA economies, they failed to address structural and social issues. Indeed, there is now widespread recognition of the need to integrate macroeconomic management and social policies. While with limited success, macroeconomic management in MENA has focused on price stability and enhancing the role of the private sector as key drivers for economic growth, social policies were not sufficiently mainstreamed in the design of macroeconomic policies. Indeed, social policies were always “added-on” without being fully integrated in macroeconomic policies. Thus, thinking beyond the current crisis, it is pertinent to rethink the role of the state as provider of universal social protection in a world economy increasingly vulnerable to pandemics and other shocks. 

Among other issues, this session will ask the following questions:

  1. What is the role of the State in making social policies more inclusive and more sustainable? How macroeconomic policies can be equitable without being less efficient?
  2. Is universal social protection feasible in light of the limited fiscal space of MENA economies?
  3. How to align the political economy challenge for tax reform and enhancing the resource mobilization capacity of states in MENA and other developing countries?
  4. How social policies can be mainstreamed in macroeconomic management?

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Speakers

Nesreen Barakat

Speakers

Nesreen Barakat

CEO, Jordan Strategy Forum

Nada Eissa

Speakers

Nada Eissa

Associate Professor, Public Policy and Economics, and...

Alan Gelb

Speakers

Alan Gelb

Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

Najat El Mekkaoui

Research Fellows

Najat El Mekkaoui

Professor of Economics, University Paris-Dauphine

Hania Sholkamy

Speakers

Hania Sholkamy

Associate Research Professor, Social Research Centre, The...

Videos

Agenda

Plenary 2:  The Macroeconomics of Development Policies beyond the Crisis

Date

29/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 3:00 am To 4:30 am

While it is indispensable to address the negative effects of the crisis in the short term, longer term structural transformation strategies are needed in view of the major developments associated with the digital revolution and decarbonization. First, at the climate change level, with the low-carbon technology diffusion, the advancement in renewable energy and the unprecedented mushrooming of environmental agreements, the demand for fossil fuel is destined to decline, leading to an eventual “stranded assets” problem for MENA. A stranded asset can be defined as a resource that once had value or produced income but no longer does, usually due to some kind of external change, including changes in technology, markets and societal preferences. This is why, currently, the term “stranded assets” is most commonly used to describe oil and gas resources that have not yet been extracted, but which appear as assets on companies’ ledgers and a few countries’ balance sheets. Therefore, MENA economies need to undergo major restructuring and diversification away from their heavy direct and indirect dependence on fossil resources as the prime engine of growth. Second, with the new industrial revolution and the digital transformation the world is experiencing, a new development model should be adopted by MENA countries to better integrate into the global economy and to make their economies more competitive and more agile.

Against this backdrop, among other issues, this second plenary will consider the following three questions:

  1. Beyond the crisis, what are the deep reforms that are needed to improve the structure and the resilience of MENA economies
  2. What are the alternative development models for MENA economies to boost their industrialization and structural transformation
  3. How digital transformation and climate change can be mainstreamed in the design of a new macroeconomic model for developing countries? 

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Speakers

Hassan Hakimian

Research Fellows

Hassan Hakimian

Professor of Economics and Director, Middle Eastern...

Dani Rodrik

Research Fellows

Dani Rodrik

Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy,...

Ibrahim Elbadawi

Research Fellows

Ibrahim Elbadawi

Managing Director, Economic Research Forum

Mary Kawar

Policy Affiliates

Mary Kawar

Former Minister for Planning, Jordan

Atif Kubursi

Research Fellows

Atif Kubursi

Professor, McMaster University

Videos

Date

29/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 5:30 pm To 7:00 pm

Register here!

 

While the first plenary focuses the macroeconomics of social protection, it is crucial to examine their micro-foundations for two reasons. First, beneficiaries from social policies cannot be treated as a homogenous group given that there are stark differences between males and females, formal and informal workers, nationals and refugees, etc. Thus, this special plenary analyses the following questions:

1.     How can MENA economies handle social protection to reach workers in the informal economy?

2.     How the delivery of social protection can be improved for all beneficiaries?

3.     How States can adopt a more holistic approach in social protection in terms of removing financial barriers to quality health care, enhancing income security, and protecting incomes and jobs?

Speakers

Noha El-Mikawy

Research Fellows

Noha El-Mikawy

Dean, School of Global Affairs and Public...

Insan Tunali

Research Fellows

Insan Tunali

Associate Professor Emeritus, Koç University

Vladimir Hlasny

Authors

Vladimir Hlasny

Economic Affairs Officer, UN Economic and Social...

Massoud Karshenas

Research Fellows

Massoud Karshenas

Emeritus Professor of Economics, Department of Economics,...

Mona Said

Research Fellows

Mona Said

Professor of Economics, Economics Department, The American...

Videos

Agenda

Plenary 3: Macroeconomics and Finance in the Digital Age

Date

30/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 3:00 pm To 4:30 pm

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Macroeconomic policy challenges have been exacerbated by the digital finance revolution given that financial markets have been significantly affected by digitalization and technological change. Moreover, digital currencies, largely disconnected from the fundamentals and whether issued by central banks or elsewhere, are rapidly evolving and attracting numerous investors the fundamentals. Thus, with all the advantages and risks associated to these new products, central banks will have to adapt and cope in the middle of the new wave.

This session will attempt to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the local and global implications of digitalization on financial markets and monetary policy in the MENA region?
  2. How Central Banks and Sovereign Wealth Funds can adapt and benefit from these trends?
  3. To what extent these new trends can promote (thanks to newer financial products) or discourage (because of more uncertainty) trade flows?

Speakers

Hassan Aly

Research Fellows

Hassan Aly

Dean, Business School, Nile University

Franklin Allen

Authors

Franklin Allen

Professor of Finance and Economics and Executive...

Mine Cinar

Research Fellows

Mine Cinar

Director, Center for International Business, Professor, Quinlan...

Marwan Al-Zoubi

Policy Affiliates

Marwan Al-Zoubi

Professor, Germany Jordanian University

Wafik Grais

Research Fellows

Wafik Grais

Freelance Senior Economic Advisor

Videos

Date

30/03/2022

Location

Online Webinar

Time

From 5:30 pm To 7:00 pm

Register here!

 

As we have seen in previous panels, the current socio-economic situation is dire in most of the region. Everywhere, policy-makers face the triple challenges of macro-instability, low growth and job creation, and high levels of popular contestation. The triple challenge has been described as a trilemma between social stabilisation, financial adjustment, and structural reform. Action on any one front makes actions on the others more complicated.

The temptation for policy-makers in the face of a gridlock of difficulties is to lower expectations and get used to a “low equilibrium”, below society’s potential. In contrast, the alternative is to abandon a business-as-usual approach, and to let the crisis becomes a wake-up call and a harbinger of innovation.

The proverb – necessity is the mother of invention – appears already in Plato’s Republic. In the face of a stark situation, innovation becomes the only way out.

The policy question, in the face of the trilemma, thus becomes: How to create hope for a better future, that can sustain trust, and fuel the type of social cooperation that can generated long term progress.

The goal of the session is to examine initiatives from around the region that innovate in the face of adversity, and that have started to create hope that progress is possible. Policy innovation involves financial, social, and possibly political costs, in pursuit of gains that can start small but could become game changers over time.

Speakers

Ishac Diwan

Research Fellows

Ishac Diwan

Director of Research, Finance for Development Lab,...

Jihad Azour

Speakers

Jihad Azour

Director of the Middle East and Central...

Yousef Hamad Al-Ebraheem

Research Fellows

Yousef Hamad Al-Ebraheem

Former Minister of Finance, Kuwait

Fathallah Oualalou

Speakers

Fathallah Oualalou

Former Minister of Economy and Finance, Morocco

Ibrahim Elbadawi

Research Fellows

Ibrahim Elbadawi

Managing Director, Economic Research Forum

Arjan de Haan

Speakers

Arjan de Haan

Senior Program Specialist, International Development Research Centre...

Videos