Six Charts on Social Spending in the Middle East and Central Asia

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Boys returning home from school in Nabeul, Tunisia. Efficient social spending is key for strengthening education and boosting socioeconomic outcomes. (PHOTO: Lipowski/iStock by Getty Images)

Boys returning home from school in Nabeul, Tunisia. Efficient social spending is key for strengthening education and boosting socioeconomic outcomes. (PHOTO: Lipowski/iStock by Getty Images)

By Christoph Duenwald, Anastasia Guscina, and Koshy Mathai                IMF Middle East and Central Asia Department

September 29, 2020

Higher and more efficient social spending can significantly improve socioeconomic outcomes and help promote inclusive growth. 

Education, health, and poverty indicators in the Middle East and Central Asia have improved substantially over the past two decades. The rate of progress, however, has slowed, and these indicators remain weaker than in global peers. The level of social spending also is lower, though to a lesser degree.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the challenge of improving socioeconomic outcomes into stark relief. Our new paper finds that raising the level of social spending and improving the efficiency of that spending (getting more out from what’s put in) can each play an important role. The latter critically depends on strengthening institutions and improving governance and transparency.

Our main findings are illustrated in the following six charts.

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