Equity markets continue to grow
The role of the financial sector in promoting economic growth anywhere in the world is no longer in doubt. The evidence suggests a strong correlation between higher growth rates and a large competitive banking sector, coupled with active equity and debt markets operating according to market principles.
By promoting efficiency in allocating investments, mature financial markets contribute to productivity in five ways. They identify productive projects and efficient firms, improve the management of risk, promote corporate governance, mobilize savings and minimize the adverse effects of financial shocks.
Over the past quarter of a century, annual real per capita growth in the Middle East and north Africa (MENA) has averaged only 0.5%, in contrast to an average of nearly 2% in the developing world as a whole. Research indicates that the main reasons for such poor growth levels are large governments, weak institutions, underdeveloped financial sectors, and inadequate and inefficient investment.
MENA growth rates can be improved by greater private sector credit and by reformed capital markets, as well as through institutional and political reform. The volume and efficiency of investment can be enhanced by the development of financial markets, which in turn will also boost growth rates. Financial system stability in the region will be improved by achieving a balanced distribution of the three channels of financial intermediation – banking, bonds and stocks.
The good news is that there is strong evidence that MENA governments are recognizing that higher growth rates depend on financial sector reform.