Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean



Covid to explode the number of poor in Mena countries

Patricia Augier, Professor of Economics at Aix-Marseille University (photo: F.Dubessy)
Patricia Augier, Professor of Economics at Aix-Marseille University (photo: F.Dubessy)
MEDITERRANEAN. On the occasion of a round table organised in Marseille on Tuesday 1 December 2020, in the context of the Mediterranean of the Future, Patricia Augier, Professor of Economics at Aix-Marseille University, sounds the alarm about the situation in the countries of the Mena zone (North Africa, Middle East). According to her, the average GDP will fall by 5.2% in 2020. The cost of the pandemic represents 3.7% of the GDP of these countries. These figures are significantly lower than those observed in Europe. But for Patricia Augier, "this crisis is adding to vulnerabilities that are already present".
Thus, in Tunisia, before Covid, the unemployment rate exceeded 16% and rose to 36% for young people. The activity rate in the Mena zone is generally less than 50%. "One person in two of working age is inactive and is not looking for a job. The informal sector accounts for 30 to 40% of GDP. Before the crisis, only a third of the population was integrated into the economic system," continues Patricia Augier.
Mediterranean countries have significantly reduced their poverty rates, but remain very vulnerable according to the economist. "The number of poor people will increase considerably. The rates will return to those of the 1990s, a return to 30 years ago. The estimates are chilling. Tunisia and Morocco already have 20% of poor people, Lebanon 45%, Gaza 90%. The context of political instability and the rise of extremism should encourage Europeans to stop turning a blind eye to this situation and to help the southern Mediterranean countries return to growth".
For Patricia Augier, employment is the top priority for the post-Covid era. "The crisis has shown that Europe is dependent on Asia, including in strategic sectors. It is necessary to relocate, to regionalise certain productions, to secure value chains and develop short circuits. To do this, we must identify the priority sectors, analyse why they are not present in the southern Mediterranean countries, and put in place the necessary measures to make up for these shortcomings".


Gérard Tur

Wednesday, December 2nd 2020

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