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International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

Countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (MENAP) region and those in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with swift and stringent measures to mitigate its spread and impact but continue to face an uncertain and difficult environment. Oil exporters were particularly hard hit by a “double-whammy” of the economic impact of lockdowns and the resulting sharp decline in oil demand and prices. Containing the health crisis, cushioning income losses, and expanding social spending remain immediate priorities. However, governments must also begin to lay the groundwork for recovery and rebuilding stronger, including by addressing legacies from the crisis and strengthening inclusion.

Ms. Inutu Lukonga
Policy makers in the MENAP region have been formulating policies and designing programs to develop small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with a view to create jobs and achieve inclusive growth. But while the programs have helped increase the number of enterprises, growth of SMEs continues to face barriers to growth. As a result, microenterprises predominate and SMEs contribution to employment remains below potential. Partial implementation of reforms explain some of the underperformance, but frictions in strategy design also played an important role. Sustaining current reforms is, therefore, not sufficient to achieve inclusive growth. Digital technologies have potential to boost SMEs productivity and growth and economies are rapidly digitalizing, thus SMEs need to embrace digital solutions to compete and survive. Therefore, for SMEs to be effective engines of inclusive growth, a rethinking of the SME development strategy is needed that makes SMEs’ digital transformation a priority.
Vahram Stepanyan, Gohar Abajyan, Anta Ndoye, and Ms. Marwa Alnasaa
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a cornerstone of Arab economies, accounting for over 90 percent of all businesses and providing a major source of new job creation. Governments across the Arab World recognize the important role that SMEs can play in delivering higher and more inclusive growth. Many have rightly placed SME development at the center of growth and jobs strategies to meet the needs of young populations. Authorities have initiated policy interventions and schemes to support SME development. But progress so far has been patchy, and more comprehensive policy action is needed. Fostering vibrant and competitive SMEs that contribute to employment opportunities and high value-added output requires various stakeholders to deliver on a broad range of factors. Arab governments need a holistic policy approach that addresses the gaps in access to finance, creates an enabling business environment, and upgrades human capital and infrastructure. The approach should also promote an entrepreneurial mindset.
Mr. Benedicte Baduel, Carolin Geginat, and Ms. Gaelle Pierre
This paper examines the extent to which firms in selected MENA countries reported being constrained by the business environment around the time of the Arab Spring and the extent to which these constraints affected their employment performance. The results suggest that small firms in MENA faced more structural constraints than similar firms in other regions. We also find that MENA firms’ weaker job creation can be explained in great part by the macroeconomic environment and structural constraints. Low GDP growth, falling external competitiveness, corruption, lack of access to finance and poor access to electricity are found to explain a significant part of the lack of employment growth in MENA firms compared to their peers.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This paper discusses Jordan’s Second Review under the Extended Arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility, Requests for a Waiver of Nonobservance of Performance Criterion, an extension of the arrangement, and rephasing of access. Discussions highlight that the Jordanian authorities have preserved macroeconomic stability, maintain a prudent monetary policy, and ensured a sound financial system. Jordan faces a challenging environment—including low economic growth, high unemployment, and elevated public debt—underscoring the importance of swiftly implementing policies and reforms to bring public debt on a downward path, boost investment and productivity, and enhance inclusive growth. The enactment of long needed growth-enhancing reforms is encouraging, including the secured transactions law, the bankruptcy law, and the business-inspections law. The international community has strongly supported the new government’s commitment to maintain the reform momentum, strengthen growth, and reduce public debt. The London Initiative in February 2019 has helped unlock essential budget grants and concessional financing to support the authorities’ reform program.