Policy brief

Economic Crisis in the Middle East and North Africa

In the 2010s, the economic outlook of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa region deteriorated, with numerous long-term socio-economic an

Publishing date
21 January 2021

The authors thank Maria Demertzis and Nicolas Véron for their comments.

In the 2010s, the economic situation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) deteriorated as a result of lower oil and other commodity prices, a new round of domestic political instability, continuous intra-regional conflicts, stalled economic and governance reforms and, finally, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growth of real GDP, which slowed after the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, further decelerated in the second half of the 2010s and became negative in 2020 as result of the COVID-19 shock. Fiscal balances have deteriorated, even in the oil-exporting countries, and public debt has grown rapidly.

MENA countries continue to face numerous long-term socio-economic and institutional challenges including high unemployment (especially youth unemployment), low female labour-market participation rates, the poor quality of education, costly and ineffective public sectors, high military and security spending, high energy subsidies and trade protectionism. Only comprehensive long-term reform programmes can address these challenges.

The European Union is MENA’s second largest trading partner after the region itself, and is one of two main sources of foreign direct investment and a major aid donor. However, given the critical importance of the MENA region to its own security and stability, the EU’s engagement in conflict resolution and in supporting economic and political transformation of the region is insufficient and should be intensified. The EU should also update and upgrade its existing association agreements with the countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, including their free trade provisions.


Recommended citation

Dabrowski, M. and M. Domínguez-Jiménez (2021) ‘Economic crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, Policy Contribution 02/2021, Bruegel

About the authors

  • Marek Dabrowski

    Dr. Marek Dabrowski is a Non-Resident Scholar at Bruegel, co-founder and Fellow at CASE - Centre for Social and Economic Research in Warsaw and Visiting Professor at the Central European University in Vienna.

    He was Chairman of the CASE Supervisory Council and its President of Management Board (1991-2011), Chairman of the Supervisory Board of CASE Ukraine in Kyiv (1999-2009 and 2013-2015), Member of the Board of Trustees and Scientific Council of the E.T. Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy in Moscow (1996-2016), Professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow (2014-2022), and Fellow under the 2014-2015 Fellowship Initiative of the European Commission – Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs. He is a former First Deputy Minister of Finance of Poland (1989-1990), Member of Parliament (1991-1993) and Member of the Monetary Policy Council of the National Bank of Poland (1998-2004).

    Since the end of 1980s he has been involved in policy advising and policy research in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Somali, Syria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Yemen, and in a number of international research projects related to monetary and fiscal policies, growth and poverty, currency crises, international financial architecture, perspectives of European integration, European Neighborhood Policy, trade policy, and political economy of transition.

    He has also worked as a consultant in a number of EU, World Bank, IMF, UNDP, OECD and USAID projects. Marek is the author of several academic and policy papers, and editor of several book publications.

  • Marta Domínguez-Jiménez

    Marta Domínguez Jiménez was a Research Analyst at Bruegel. Her research focuses primarily on monetary policy, financial systems and international trade and capital flows. She has published on these issues for Bruegel, in academic journals and European Parliament and Commission reports, among others.

    She holds a bachelor from the University of Oxford, where she specialised in international macroeconomics and monetary economics, and a Master's from the College of Europe in Bruges. Before joining Bruegel, she was an Analyst within the Markets division of Citigroup in London, where she worked on the structuring of bespoke fixed income products and developing systematic quantitative investment strategies.

    Marta is fluent in Spanish and English, and proficient in German and French

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