MENA Countries on the Road to Economic Recovery

Last June, the OECD reported that several MENA countries started launching economic recovery plans, based on the success of COVID-19 containment measures.

The OECD or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international organisation largely focused on helping countries formulate better policies for the betterment of lives, was apparently glad to announce that many countries in the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) made careful and progressive plans in gradually relaxing containment and lockdown measures, combined with strict enforcement of permanent preventive measures.

The governments of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, Algeria, Jordan and in some parts of Lebanon, have given commercial outlets and business establishments the go-signal to partially reopen since May. That was after gradually carrying out decontainment plans in the later part of April, 2020.

The gradual reopening was based on the success of their containment measures, like in Lebanon on which reopening depended on the status of the health crisis in the region, whether low or high risks. Iran color coded areas into white, yellow and red, using the numbers of cases and deaths as metrics.

Reopening still required safe distancing and wearing of face masks, where countries like the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain and Qatar impose not only heavy penalties but also imprisonment on violators.

How MENA Countries Managed to Control the COVID 19 Crisis

Generally, governments in the MENA region were quick to implement measures aimed at slowing down COVID 19 in their respective jurisdictions. OECD took note that there were countries that did not wait for results of medical tests.before taking decisive actions. Saudi Arabia for one, suspended Mecca and Medina pilgrimages as well as locked down religious sites in as early as February 26, 2020.

According to the OECD, many MENA administrations demonstrated capabilities for implementing prevention measures, and in preparing stimulus packages. The health crisis had emphasized the importance of transparency of government approaches in carrying out efficient public procurement, and in fighting government corruption, as those factors strengthened the trust and confidence of civil society.

Although health-system preparedness varies in levels across the MENA region, the OECD noted that generally, MENA countries were prepared; health management strategies were supported by strict implementation of containment measures.

However, the same could not be said for the developing countries in the North African or Levant region, as well as in conflict-torn countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and the Gaza Strip. Lack of testing equipment and hospital beds is still a major cause of concern in these nations.