The first policy panel of the conference focused on the role of data in and on the region’s trade performance. Mustapha Nabli chaired a session which heard four decision-makers talk about the need for real time and ‘granular’ data to both understand trends and inform good decisions across the region.
Samir El Gammal, from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Egypt began by declaring his love of data and warned of the dangers of misinterpretation of ‘even legitimate data sources’.
Caroline Freund, from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, welcomed decision-makers who understand data well enough ‘to know when making a decision based on incomplete data is better than not making a decision because you’re waiting for the perfect dataset’.
Ahmed Hammad, from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Jordan presented an overview of trade with Jordan and the panel finished with a rousing presentation from Shantayanan Devarajan from the World Bank. Devarajan talked about the need to ‘be honest’ about why, even when there is compelling evidence that trade subsidies and restrictions aren’t working, policies do not act on this evidence. “Data should be our microphone “, he said; “Use it to broadcast to many people who can exert pressure on the politicians to make change.”