29.09.2020 | DIE: Online debate: Economic reforms as an opportunity? A post-COVID social contract for the MENA region?

The Covid-19 pandemic has endangered fragile social contracts across the MENA region. The sharp economic downturn caused by the pandemic has reduced state revenues and had severe impacts on both formal and informal economic sectors. The demand for social protection has increased just as governments’ abilities to deliver has been undermined.

This could have a major impact on social contracts in many MENA countries, which are based on state provision of welfare, jobs and subsidies in return for the loyalty of citizens. This kind of social contract has of course been under major pressure for many years, and its weaknesses were exposed during the Arab Uprisings a decade ago. What impact is the pandemic having on economic reform efforts in the MENA region? How can MENA governments build on successful responses to the Covid-19 pandemic to create a compromise that shares the burden of economic reform between major political actors and interest groups? Are new windows of opportunity for international support for reforms opening? And what can external partners offer, in concrete terms, to support the emergence of new social contracts in key MENA countries?



  • Mustapha Kamel Nabli, Independent Consultant and CEO, North Africa Bureau of Economic Studies, former Governor, Central Bank of Tunisia
  • Ayat Soliman, MENA Regional Director for Sustainable Development, World Bank
  • Hans Frühauf, MENA Regional Director, GIZ

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Source: Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), 23 September 2020