A set of reasons led to the decline in the value of the local currencies of those countries against the dollar, including the state of political and security instability (Al-Jazeera)
Abdul Hafez Al-Sawy
10/25/2022|Last update: 10/25/202201:18 PM (Mecca)
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The negative economic repercussions of the Corona pandemic and the Russian war on Ukraine revealed the extent of the fragility of the economic structure of most Arab countries, and the economic conditions appear worse in Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, and Sudan, Yemen and Syria suffer similarly to those countries, if not greater.
There is a set of indicators indicating the decline in the economic and social situation in these countries.
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Why did the value of the currencies of Arab countries fall against the dollar?There are a number of reasons that led to the decline in the value of the local currencies of these countries against the dollar, including the state of political and security instability. Over the past decade, the economic environment and investment climate in these countries were not prepared to encourage local investments, as well as their inability to attract foreign investments.
Moreover, these countries are classified as significantly dependent on rentier revenues, as well as access to foreign aid, and have not succeeded over the past decades in transforming their status into productive economies. For example, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Syria depend mainly on tourism revenues and remittances of workers abroad. .
Egypt's dependence increases, compared to other countries, on two other rentier sources, namely oil exports and Suez Canal traffic revenues. These countries gather that the majority of their merchandise exports are raw materials exports, or at best traditional exports.
The data lag is understood in Sudan, Yemen and Syria, due to the unstable security and political conditions, in which it is difficult to engage in economic activities of this kind, as well as the deficit related to data production.
Lebanon, Sudan, and Yemen have also been dependent on regional and international aid mainly for decades, and they cannot do without it, either now or in the coming years.
How affected are the currencies of those countries during crises?The impact differed from one country to another, according to the repercussions, and the dependence of each country on the outside.
The price of its currency against the dollar was 15.6 pounds during 2021, but after these two crises, the dollar situation was greatly affected, due to the exit of hot money and the tourism sector, which led to Egypt resorting to requesting a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
The exchange rate of the Egyptian pound has been affected by these events since March 2022, and in October 2022 it reached 19.6 pounds to the dollar on the official market, and there are estimates that the dollar is at the price of 23 pounds on the black market.
The conditions of political instability affected the economic conditions, and the two crises of Corona and the Russian war on Ukraine left their impact on the exchange rate of the local currency there, so the dollar exchange rate became 3.29 dinars, after it was 2.7 dinars in 2021, and the negative impact of other factors on the exchange rate is not hidden. Tunisia, from a decline in growth rates, an increase in the public budget deficit, as well as an increase in public debt.
The economic crisis was a trigger for street anger, after the government failed to pay its obligations towards dollar bonds at the end of 2019, and the repercussions of Corona and the Russian war on Ukraine added another burden that contributed to a significant decline in the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound.
With the economic crisis coinciding with the political crisis in Lebanon, and the failure to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound jumped, from 1,500 pounds to the dollar in 2019, to more than 40,000 pounds to the dollar on the black market, and more than 24,000 pounds to the dollar on the market. official.
The exchange rate of the dollar jumped from 45 pounds in 2019, to more than 500 pounds to the dollar, and what increased the crisis of the Sudanese pound, the decline in the political situation, and the occurrence of a large difference between the civil and military components, as well as the suspension of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund, and the freezing of most foreign aid programs .
The war is still casting a bad shadow on the economic reality, and the crisis is clearly visible on the exchange rate of the Syrian pound, as the price of the dollar in October 2022 amounted to more than 5,000 pounds in the informal market, and about 2,800 pounds in the official market.
- To whom
The exchange rates of the local currency of Yemen reflect the extent of the political and economic crisis in the country. There are two exchange rates inside the country, one in Aden and Hadhramaut, which is estimated at 1132 riyals to the dollar, and another rate in Sana’a at 558 riyals to the dollar, after the price of the dollar in 2015 was around 230 riyals. .
What is the impact of the depreciation of the currencies of those countries on their citizens?The decline in currencies is one of the reasons that led to the increase in the burden of living for the citizens of these countries, due to the increase in inflation rates, and thus the decrease in the value of the wealth of individuals.
There are other negative effects that are achieved due to the decline in currencies, such as the increase in the value of merchandise imports, and the slowdown in economic activity of enterprises that depend on importing production requirements, tools and machinery, as well as the delay in the arrival of necessary commodities.
What harms the economies of those countries due to the devaluation of their currencies is the prevalence of the phenomenon of dollarization, which is very tangible in all the countries we referred to in these lines, so the dollar has become the currency adopted in evaluating any economic activity, if not a tool for payment and settlement of financial and economic transactions.
Hence, we find that currency trading on the black market is widespread in these countries, and all these bad effects are due to the citizen, especially the low-income and the poor, whose number has increased significantly in the recent period.
government policyThe observer of economic affairs in all Arab countries in general, and the countries we referred to here in particular, finds that there is a case of insistence on the part of the governments of those countries, that the situation remains as it is of dependence on the outside, and the continued import of many goods, and the failure to adopt a development project linked With a timetable and accountability, as happened in many emerging countries.
Social protection programs are absent from Arab governments, and if any, they are limited to government employees, the public sector, and the organized private sector, while the majority of employment is in the unorganized labor market, and these programs are also limited to meager monthly cash assistance, without health or social insurance programs Which suffers from the absence of the majority of the population.
What increases the negative effects of the behavior of Arab governments on citizens is that these governments do not have an economic policy concerned with achieving a state of balance between wages and prices, and they are not willing to adopt programs to raise the minimum wage for all workers in the labor market.
Recourse to the IMFDuring the past months, the media indicated that Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon were seeking to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund regarding their economic situation, in order to obtain loans, and that Sudan's status was suspended by international institutions until the crisis between civilians and soldiers was resolved.
As for Syria and Yemen, it is difficult to talk about the possibility of concluding agreements between them and the International Monetary Fund because of their political and security situation.
In general, and through previous experiences, all Arab countries that concluded agreements with the International Monetary Fund, failed to solve the problems of the productive sectors, and the correction programs were limited to monetary and financial aspects, so the financing crisis is renewed every period, due to neglect of reform in the productive sectors, and Fund loans are The international monetary system, as well as other loans based on the IMF loan, are just palliatives, not radical solutions to the crisis-ridden economies of the Arab countries.
Distressed financial conditionsThe financial indicators of any country are reflected on its economic performance, and in general, the countries whose economies depend on rentier sources, remain in the classification of underdeveloped or developing countries, even if they are in good financial position, while the economies that depend on sources of production and high additional value, are those that are classified as developed countries.
If we look at the financial conditions of the aforementioned countries, we find that they all suffer from a deficit in the balance of payments, according to the figures of the World Bank database. The deficit in the balance of payments in Egypt in 2020 amounted to about 14.2 billion dollars, in Sudan 5.8 billion dollars, and in Lebanon 2.9 billion dollars, In Tunisia, $2.5 billion.
As for Yemen, its balance of payments deficit was $2.4 billion in 2016, and Syria's balance of payments deficit was $367 million in 2010.
The last of these data is on inflation, as these countries occupy a list of high inflation rates, especially in countries that suffer from armed conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Sudan, where inflation rates in Sudan were 387% during 2021, and in Syria the inflation rate reached during the first nine months of the year. In 2022, about 130%, and in Lebanon the inflation rate was 211% during June 2022, in Yemen the inflation rate was 14.5%, and in Egypt 15.3%.
In conclusion, there remains the hope for a radical change - the signs of which have not yet emerged - that will rescue the citizens of these countries from their economic and social crisis.