This blog is edited by Ahmed Goher (Economic Research Forum)

The Economic Research Forum (ERF) announced that is inviting proposals for papers to be presented in ERF’s 22nd Annual Conference, which will be held in Cairo, Egypt, March, 2016. Authors who wish to submit proposals, should be engaged in research on the ERF region (the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey), regardless of their affiliation to ERF. Previously published papers or those accepted for publication may not be submitted. The deadline for submitting proposals is June 15, 2015.

The authors of accepted papers (one author per paper) will be invited to present and take part in the deliberations of the conference at ERF’s expense. If the paper is accepted for publication in a refereed journal within two years of the conference, the author(s) will receive an honorarium of $1,000. In addition, the refereeing committees will select six papers—one per each of the six parallel session themes—for the Best Paper Award. Winning papers are evaluated on the basis of their contribution to knowledge, rigor and policy relevance. The Awards will be announced at the Closing Plenary of the conference and each winning paper will receive an extra $1,000. Finally, the editors of ERF’s Middle East Development Journal (MEDJ) will select worthy papers for possible inclusion in the journal, following the journal’s refereeing process.

The 22nd Annual Conference provides a unique opportunity for regional researchers to interact with international peers and with each another. It also provides a venue for the presentation of multiple research papers, both in the plenary and parallel sessions, with stimulating discussions and feedback. In addition, the conference features special events, the presentation of selected research projects and celebrates excellence in research.

The theme of the plenary sessions this year is A Post Arab Awakening Development Agenda. The themes of the parallel sessions are always varied enough to accommodate diverse research interests. Submissions for presentations in the parallel sessions may be made under the following areas:

1. Macroeconomics
2. Finance
3. International Economics
4. Labor and Human Development
5. Microeconomic and Sectoral studies
6. Institutional Economics/Governance

To read more about the timetable and guidelines for proposals»

ERF’s 21st Annual Conference Nearing

This blog is written by Ahmed Goher, Economic Research Forum

From 2010 to around mid-2012, uprisings swept MENA in what has come to be known as the ‘Arab Spring.’ While bread was at the forefront of the demands of protestors, shouts for freedom and social justice were also heard across the region. It is with this in mind that many countries of the region embarked on messy democratization processes with the tacit understanding that democratic regimes are more conducive to development.
ERF 21st Annual Conference

Both theory and empirical evidence, however, are inconclusive when it comes to the impact of democracy on economic growth and distribution, on the one hand, and the impact of growth and distribution on democracy, on the other. For one thing, conceptions of democracy are not uniform, but often take different forms with varying repercussions on policy-making and development when they materialize.

In this context, the Economic Research Forum (ERF) announced that it will hold its 21st Annual Conference in Tunisia, March 20-22, under the theme of ‘Democracy and Economic Development.’ The conference has come to be recognized as the premier event for economists in the Middle East, bringing together over 150 policymakers, economists and political scientists.  Through a number of plenary sessions, participants at the conference will seek to uncover and understand the link between democracy and development, the possible impact of different forms of democracy on development and how to best navigate the transition towards democracy in the Arab world.

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Macroeconomics, Iran and Egypt experiences

Hoda Selim was the discussant for two papers falling under the macroeconomic theme at the ERF 20th Annual Conference. The first paper entitled ‘Iran’s inflation Experience: Demand Pressures, External Shocks, and Supply Constraints‘ co-authored by Magda Kandil and Ida Mirzaie, showcased the Iranian inflation experience, pressures, shocks and constraints. Although Iran is an oil producing country, and oil brings in a lot of liquidity and money from outside to the domestic market, inflationary pressures have heightened.


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The issue of capture and the failure of free public services

Day Two of the ERF 20th Anniversary Conference explored comparative experiences of social justice and provided participants with a highly informative and enriching second plenary session. Chaired by Heba Handoussa (Egyptian Network for Integrated Development and ERF), participants heard presentations by Shantayanan Devarajan (World Bank), Mahmoud El-Gamal (Rice University and ERF) and Carlos Eduardo Vélez (Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia).

The first speaker, Shantayanan Devarajan presents the issue of capture and the failure of free public services.

Around the world, countries establish constitutional rights and conditions governing the welfare of the poor. Those who are rich can get such rights without constraints largely due to increased political advantage and the ability to ‘capture’ the distribution of public goods. Shantayanan Devarajan presented case studies that highlight how the nature of free public services promote elite capture in the developing world – a key cause of breakdown in provision. His presentation focused mainly on African and Asian countries, namely Mali, Gabon, India and Indonesia respectively.

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Social justice, neo-liberalism and Islamic thought

Mahmoud El-Gamal, the second speaker in today’s plenary session, tackled themes at the very heart of this year’s conference. Asking what do we mean by social justice, El-Gamal examined theories of neoliberal economics and concepts of social justice from classical economics and Islamic thought.  Addressing whether or not neo-liberalism is compatible with Islamic law and Islamic thought, El-Gamal challenged the assumed incompatibility between the two. He argued that this was no longer compelling.

El-Gamal proposed that the majority of Muslims view Islam as favouring redistribution as a form of social justice, saying that “if the core theme in Christianity is love, in Islam it is justice”. He enhanced this argument by explaining that this was not simply a call for more equality of income, but rather that the very rich should contribute more and the state should play a greater role in redistribution and provision of public goods.


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Income inequality: the Latin American experience

As part of the second plenary looking at ‘Comparative Experiences of Social Justice‘ Carlos Vélez (Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia) presented a case on inequality in Latin America. Despite relatively high levels of income inequality when compared with other regions, data has revealed a fall in levels of inequality in Latin American countries. These improvements have mostly been witnessed in the last decade. In his opinion, the key factors driving inequality are changes in the distribution of human capital and policy variables such as transfers, subsidies and taxes that are not sufficiently ‘progressive’ in Latin America.


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Welcome Dinner: a celebration of people and powerful ideas

The Welcome and 20th Anniversary Celebration Dinner was held on the first evening of the conference, with  Raed Safadi in place as the Master of Ceremony. He set the tone by picking up on the theme of ‘the power of ideas’ and reflecting that ERF started out as “an idea that turned into a conversation, and then became a leading institution for a region more known for its challenges than its successes.”

He invited Galal Amin to give the keynote speech on this theme. Amin took the audience on a reflective journey, starting on a light note: “I suspected an ulterior motive when  Galal asked me to present on this topic. Only a few days ago, he was in a position of power, and then he moved to a place (ERF) where ideas are being produced. Of course he is very anxious for someone to say that it is, after all,  ideas that have the power….”

Galal Amin, invited speaker at Welcome Dinner on Day One ERF Conference

Galal Amin, invited speaker at Welcome Dinner on Day One ERF Conference

Amin borrowed from Karl Marx in drawing an analogy between the role of intellectuals in generating ideas, and midwives in delivering babies.  “The midwives neither create the baby nor cause it to be born, but simply facilitate the birth.” Speaking of his own generation of intellectuals, he said;  “We all accepted the role of midwife in our desire to see the revolution”.

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