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The economic impact of COVID-19 on the Middle East: Recession, response, and recovery

The combined impacts of COVID-19 and the oil price collapse over the course of 2020 have resulted in the biggest economic contraction in the Middle East on record. These twin shocks have shut down economic activity and placed severe limits on fiscal resources available to cushion the socioeconomic impact and support recovery. Meanwhile, the decline in international remittances and transfer payments has created additional pressures on livelihoods and social safety nets. As a result, many low- and middle-income countries in the region have experienced sharp increases in unemployment, poverty, and socioeconomic vulnerability. With continued doubts about the course of the pandemic, the recovery of the global economy, including the Middle East, remains highly uncertain.

The Brookings Doha Center held a webinar on the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Middle East and the prospects for recovery in 2020/21. The discussion addressed the downturn’s impact on government finances, social protection, poverty, and inequality, focusing on the following questions: Where have policymakers succeeded in cushioning the impact of the recession and where have they failed? Which economic sectors and segments of the population are likely to experience long-term losses? And are the region’s economies prepared for a resurgence of the pandemic and the potential impact of a prolonged downturn on political instability and social unrest?



Khalid Abu-Ismail

Senior Economist - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

Bessma Momani

Professor of Political Science - University of Waterloo

Tim Callen

Chief of GCC Division, Middle East and Central Asia Department - International Monetary Fund

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