Inflows of foreign investment to the MENA region have surged in recent years. The area attracted some US$14 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2003, and has more than quadrupled this figure in only three years, bringing in almost $60 billion in 2006. During the same period, real GDP in the MENA region increased steadily and the employment rate grew at an impressive 4.5% per year from 2000 to 2005.(660 words)
The 9th International Film Festival of Marrakech takes place on 4-12 December. The festival is a major annual event, drawing in stars from around the world, as well as home grown talent like Moroccan actress and singer, Sana Mouziane, seen here at the 2007 edition. The jury that year was led by Czech film maker Milos Forman; Iranian director and Cannes Palme d'Or winner, Abbas Kiarostami, will fill the role this year. Presided by His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Rachid, Morocco has every reason to take the festival seriously, not just for art's sake, but because of its economic potential too.(428 words)
Your article on Islamic banking ("Islamic banking: an asset of promise?" No 272 April 2009) suggests that financial temperance is still possible. The ratio of assets leveraged against capital cited in the article, 20 to 1 in US banks, 30 to 1 in Europe, yet only 10 to 1 in Islamic banks reveals just how much the financial system has made greed systemic.(311 words)
In the current economic climate, in which early signs of recovery give grounds for optimism, the countries of the MENA region are keenly aware of the common challenges that must be met through stronger principles of good governance and economic freedom, consolidation of the rule of law and democracy, the fair distribution of wealth and compliance, and respect for the environment.(525 words)
The world is going through hard times. Though there are some signs of an economic recovery, global confidence remains fragile. From the economic and social crisis to climate change, natural disasters and conflict, rarely in modern history have we faced such a testing period.
The crisis has taught us many lessons, about our policies, our practices and our ways of life. But if there is one lesson that stands out, it is the importance of international co-operation to help us overcome the challenges we face.(782 words)
Oil-producing MENA countries can expect steep drops in their current account balances in 2009 due to falling crude oil prices and lower global demand during the economic crisis. Non-oil producers' balances should remain steadier, albeit negative, according to recent statistics.(231 words)
Unemployment at historic highs, declining oil prices, plummeting government budgets and low investment due to persistent political uncertainty-one or more of these barriers to progress exist in many MENA states, but add them all and combine the security concerns in the aftermath of war and that is the unique challenge for Iraq. For years, arms and oil have been the major trade activity, but with security improvements being implemented in tandem with political, legal and regulatory reforms, investors are once again beginning to view the Mesopotamian cradle of civilisation also as a cradle of investment.(316 words)
Through the ages, the countries of the Middle East and North Africa have been known for their great feats in engineering. The marvels are legion, from the Mesopotamian irrigation systems to the Great Pyramid. But did you know that the first concentrated solar steam engine was built near Cairo in 1914? A century later, solar energy is again putting the region on the cusp of new exploits, this time in renewable energy.(1470 words)
A salmon would find it a hardscrabble life in the waterways of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Not because of dried riverbeds, overfishing or pollution, but because the region has more dams per cubic metre of water than any other place on earth.(588 words)
The Maghreb coastal corridor links Morocco to Egypt by road and from there connects to the Arab countries of the Mashreq. Much of the 31,000 km of planned roads are in place. Part of a major road plan that some hope will one day link much of the African coastline, the corridor embodies a future of promise.(1947 words)
The Egyptian government is focusing on several regulatory reform and improved governance priorities. An initiative now underway, ERRAD, aims to collect and review all legislation and ministerial decrees in the areas of investment, trade and industry. A Transparency and Integrity Committee was also formed to help establish a national strategic plan for governance in civil service. Special attention is also given to reforming the social security system.(265 words)
Investment is essential for development, but not all investment brings the wide benefits it promises. This is because the impact of investment on development depends on many things. The type of investment is one factor, but more important is the way in which businesses conduct their activities. This also largely depends on whether the policy and regulatory environment provided by governments encourages or discourages responsible business conduct.(288 words)
The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which entered into force 10 years ago this December, was the first global instrument to fight corruption in cross-border business deals. To date, 30 OECD member countries and eight non-member countries-Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Estonia, Israel, Slovenia and South Africa-have adopted the convention.(303 words)
10 years ago this December the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Deals entered into force. The Anti-Bribery Convention requires that its signatory countries make it a crime to bribe a foreign public official in exchange for obtaining, or retaining, international business. Of the 38 countries around the world that have ratified the convention to date, not one is part of the MENA region.(1456 words)
Small and medium-sized enterprises may be the flavour of the moment in development policy, but the potential role of large multinational firms, or MNEs, should not be overlooked. After all, there is some evidence of MNEs having a positive effect on employment and wages, as well as plugging local suppliers into international markets, which boosts skills, technology and productivity.(524 words)
State building is governance writ large. Seen from without, the accomplishments of a nascent state stand in harsh juxtaposition to the fine-tuning of politically and economically stable governments. One is a stone mason and the other a builder, confident the foundations will support his project.(602 words)
The University of Al-Karaouine is located in Fez, Morocco. Founded in 859, it is regarded by many as the oldest university in the world. Today, as countries in the Middle East and North Africa region begin to compete more vigorously in the global economy, they are again focusing more concertedly on how to rekindle their great, historic asset: human capital.(1315 words)
Since antiquity, governments, emperors, kings and queens have been providing traders and investors with special sites offering respite from normal import-export tax regimes and regulations in return for a steady stream of much needed revenue for the public purse. Before modernity, such places were concentrated in the Mediterranean basin, at Delos in Greco- Roman times, and in Venice, Genoa and Marseilles during the Middle Ages. By the 19th century, they had spread to Southeast Asia. But it was not until the latter half of the 20th century that so-called free zones made their mark as deliberate tools of economic development, most notably in China in 1979 when one of the most famous free zones of all was set up at Shenzen.(1816 words)
Hana Barqawi realised her dream of opening her own children's furniture store two years ago in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Ms Barqawi is part of a wave of female entrepreneurs that has swept across the Middle East and North Africa area over the past decade or more. She is not surprised: "Arab women are well-educated, openminded, open to new ideas, new cultures, new challenges," she says. Nor has she found cultural attitudes to be a major problem, with Jordanian men accepting the new female business presence. But Ms Barqawi notes that while servants and nannies are available to help with childcare, balancing work and family life has now become a daily juggle for many women like her. But to what extent do Ms Barqawi's experiences reflect those of other women across the Middle East and North Africa region?(1932 words)
The global crisis and how to get growth and development back on track led the agenda as ministers from MENA and OECD countries gathered at Marrakech in Morocco on 23 November 2009. In our ninth OECD Observer ministers' roundtable, we asked representatives from four MENA countries-Morocco (as hosts of the ministerial meeting), Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen-and from three OECD members-Italy, Korea and Spain: "What action is your government taking to help improve development prospects in the MENA region?"(2536 words)
The countries of the Middle East and North Africa stand at a crucial stage in their development. Though several of them had until recently witnessed high growth-Morocco's economy expanded by over 5% in 2008, Egypt's and UAE's by over 7%-the global crisis has finally dealt a blow.(1699 words)
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