Greater concentration and relative erosion of wealth in the Arab region: the legacy of COVID-19?

ESCWA Publication: E/ESCWA/CL2.GPID/2022/TP.10

Country: Arab region

Publication Type: Information material

Cluster: Gender Justice, Population and Inclusive Development

Focus Area: 2030 Agenda

Initiatives: Governance and institution building

SDGs: Agenda 2030

Keywords: Covid-19, Wealth, Income distribution, Economic gap, Economic growth, Income policy

Greater concentration and relative erosion of wealth in the Arab region: the legacy of COVID-19?

March 2022

Despite the economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Arab region’s economic elites have further increased their grip on the region’s assets, both in terms of their share and in absolute value. While most economic groups in the region saw their holdings eroded to some degree between mid-2019 and end-2020, and those in the lower middle and the bottom of the wealth pyramid plainly backslid in terms of their holdings, a large number of individuals broke through the $1 million or higher wealth marks. From a global perspective, half of the 16 countries with the highest increase in wealth inequality have been Arab countries. Consequently, a third of the 20 most unequal countries today are Arab countries.

Development has been unequal across all Arab subregions, but especially in Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Arab low-income and conflict-affected countries. Reducing inequality and vulnerability to poverty calls for an integrated approach based on a portfolio of complementary measures. This entails assisting the poor in alleviating their socioeconomic challenges, as well as working with the rich to put their wealth to the best social use, in a sustainable and equitable manner. The effective implementation of fiscal reforms should be grounded on solid governance and accompanied by wide social dialogue.

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