Suggested New Books

MENA

 

Jobs or Privileges: Unleashing the Employment Potential of the Middle East and North Africa. MENA Development Report. The World Bank.

This report maintains that Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries face a critical choice in their quest for higher private sector growth and more jobs: promote competition, equal opportunities for all entrepreneurs and dismantle existing privileges to specific firms or risk perpetuating the current equilibrium of low job creation. The report shows that policies which lower competition in MENA also constrain private sector development and job creation.  Chapter one analyzes the dynamics and determinants of job creation and tests whether the fundamentals of job creation in MENA are similar to those in fast growing developing and high income countries. Chapter two shows how different policies in MENA countries shaped private sector competition and thus the firm dynamics associated with job growth identified in chapter one. Chapter three documents past industrial policies in MENA and compare the experiences in MENA with the experiences of East Asian countries, highlighting how the differences are linked to policy objective, design, and implementation.  Chapter four analyzes how privileges to politically connected firms result in policy distortions that undermine competition and constrain private sector growth and jobs in MENA.  The report concludes by laying out the implications for policy of the various findings and lays out the specific areas for policy reform to the roadmap for more private sector growth and jobs in MENA.

 

Islamic Banking Opportunities across Small and Medium Enterprises in MENA. International Finance Corporation, IFC Advisory Services in MENA.

There is a huge demand for Islamic products by SMEs in the MENA region and, according to this study, approximately 35 percent of such businesses remain excluded from the formal banking sector because of a lack of Shariah-compliant products. In order to reach out to SMEs demanding Islamic products, and as part of IFC’s initiative to enhance its SME investment and advisory services offerings to Islamic financial institutions, we needed to better understand the market from both the demand and supply sides in order to identify any gaps or niches where IFC could assist and add value. IFC commissioned a study in nine countries of the MENA region to better understand the demand and supply for Islamic banking products (both asset & liability products and other banking services) in the SME sector. The countries chosen for this study are: (1) Iraq, (2) Pakistan, (3) Yemen, (4) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, (5) Egypt, (6) Lebanon, (7) Morocco, (8) Tunisia, and (9) Jordan. The scope of the study was to: (i) identify the countries in the MENA region facing gaps in financing and banking needs of SMEs in the Islamic products space; (ii) conduct a supply side benchmarking to review current capacity of financial institutions to offer Islamic products to this sector; (iii) conduct a demand side benchmarking to identify key SME customer needs for Islamic products and see how well they are currently being served; and (iv) review the current enabling environment and readiness levels of banks in terms of the regulatory framework and Shariah compliance. The study reiterates several of the now well researched and documented reasons for the lack of access to finance for SMEs. However, more importantly, the study reveals that, there is a potential gap of $8.63 billion to $13.20 billion for Islamic SME financing, with a corresponding deposit potential of $9.71 billion to $15.05 billion across these countries. This is due to the fact that several un-served and underserved SMEs do not borrow from conventional banks, owing to religious reasons. This potential is a “new to bank” funding opportunity, which is still untapped, as banks and other financial institutions lack adequate strategic focus on this segment to offer Shariah-compliant products.

 

Regional Economic Outlook: Middle East and Central Asia—Learning to Live with Cheaper Oil amid Weaker Demand. International Monetary Fund.

A large and possibly persistent decline in oil prices, and slower-than-projected growth in the euro area, China, Japan, and Russia, have substantially altered the economic context for countries in the Middle East and Central Asia. The appropriate policy response will depend on whether a country is an oil exporter or importer. A common theme, however, is that these developments present both an opportunity and an impetus to reform energy subsidies and step up structural reform efforts to support jobs and growth.  Lower oil prices have weakened the external and fiscal balances of oil exporters, including members of the Gulf Coperation Council (GCC). Large buffers and available financing should allow most oil exporters to avoid sharp cuts in government spending, limiting the impact on near-term growth and financial stability. Oil exporters should prudently treat the oil price decline as largely permanent and adjust their medium-term fiscal consolidation plans so as to prevent major erosion of their buffers and to ensure intergenerational equity.  Outside the GCC, a source of risk in Algeria’s banking system is the public banks’ extensive and direct exposures to large state-owned enterprises in various industries, which are subject to fiscal strains as a result of lower oil prices. Yemen is at high risk because its banks are highly exposed to government debt against the backdrop of a weak fiscal position and limited financing options. Selected oil-importing countries (such as Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon) for which remittances are a major source of liquidity could experience tighter liquidity conditions if remittances decline.  

 

The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know®,
2/e, by James L. Gelvin. Oxford University Press.

Voices of the Arab Spring: Personal Stories from the Arab Revolutions,
by Asaad AlSaleh. Columbia University Press.

The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East
Edited by Marc Lynch. Columbia University Press.

Gaza: A History. 
By Jean-Pierre Filiu. Oxford University Press.

Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present. 
By Christian C. Sahner. Oxford University Press.

The Libyan Revolution and Its Aftermath,
edited by Peter Cole and Brian McQuinn. Oxford University Press.


 

Governance and General Economics

 

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy. Francis Fukuyama. This is the second volume of the bestselling landmark work on the history of the modern state.  Taking up the essential question of how societies develop strong, impersonal, and accountable political institutions, Fukuyama follows the story from the French Revolution to the so-called Arab Spring and the deep dysfunctions of contemporary American politics. He examines the effects of corruption on governance, and why some societies have been successful at rooting it out. He explores the different legacies of colonialism in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and offers a clear-eyed account of why some regions have thrived and developed more quickly than others. And he boldly reckons with the future of democracy in the face of a rising global middle class and entrenched political paralysis in the West.

The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned and Still Have to Learn from the Financial Crisis. By Martin Wolf. Penguin Press. From the chief economic commentator for the Financial Times, The Shifts and the Shocks is the tour d’horizon of the new world economy. Wolf is one of the most farseeing and imaginative economic commentators. Wolf makes us see how partial and confused our view of the economic events of the last five years has been. No other book offers such a thoroughly global perspective, nor one that understands the connection between the macroeconomics and the financial system with Wolf’s level of sophistication and insight. It is not a book for those looking for a cheerful prognosis on the future of the European Union, or any number of other vital issues hanging fire, and it offers solutions that will seem extremely radical to some, but neither is it without hope. The new global economic order is lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty and creating new winners and losers at an unimagined scale and pace. It’s simply high time, indeed past time, for our economics to keep pace with our economy. Now, with The Shifts and the Shocks, it has.

The Great Recession: Lessons for Central Bankers. 
Edited by Jacob Braude, Zvi Eckstein, Stanley Fischer, and Karnit Flug. MIT Press.

Life after Debt: The Origins and Resolutions of Debt Crises. 
Edited by Joseph Stiglitz and Daniel Heymann. Palgrave Macmillan.

In the Wake of the Crisis: Leading Economists Reassess Economic Policy. Edited by Olivier Blanchard, David Romer, Michael Spence, and Joseph Stiglitz.  MIT Press.

Strengthening Governance Globally: Patterns of Potential Human Progress. Volume 5, by Barry B. Hughes, Devin K. Joshi, Jonathan D. Moyer, Timothy D. Sisk and Jose R. Solorzano. Paradigm Publishers.

The G-20 Summit at Five: Time for Strategic Leadership. Edited by Kemal Dervis and Peter Drysdale. Brookings Institution Press.

Towards a Better Global Economy: Policy Implications for Citizens Worldwide in the 21st

Century, by Franklin Allen, Jere A. Behrman, Nancy Birdsall, Shahrokh Fardoust, Dani, Rodrik, Andrew Steer and Arvind Subramanian. Oxford University Press.