Economic Development, Trade and Investment in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean Region

January 1, 2013

Despite its many advantages, the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean region remains relatively backward in economic and social terms and is rightly considered a potential source of social and political instability. Its average GDP per capita lags behind the global average and is increasing slowly due to weak economic policies, poor governance and rapid population growth. The region suffers from high unemployment (especially among women and youth), poor education, high levels of income inequality, gender discrimination, underdeveloped infrastructure, continuous trade protectionism, and a poor business climate. To overcome these development obstacles, MED countries should conduct comprehensive reforms of their economic, social and political systems with the aim of ensuring macroeconomic stability, increasing trade and investment openness, improving the business climate and governance system, and upgrading infrastructure and human capital.

The main economic and political partners of the MED countries, especially the EU, can actively support this modernization agenda through liberalizing trade in some sensitive sectors (like agriculture and services), adopting a more flexible approach to MED labor migration, and cooperating in mitigating climate changes, improving educational outcomes, and promoting science and culture. This will require renewed initiatives with dedicated technical assistance and continued and enhanced financial assistance, particularly to improve infrastructure. There is also a lot of room for improvement in intra-MED cooperation but this requires resolving the protracted political conflicts in the region and taking bolder steps to remove trade and investment barriers.