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COVID-19 policy responses in the Arab region: Limited fiscal space and lack of effective social protection systems

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Introduction

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit the Arab region hard both in terms of human casualties and socio-economic ramifications. As of September 2021, about 131,000 mortality cases had been reported. By the third quarter of 2020, an estimated 15 million full-time jobs had been lost, and a study from early 2020 estimated that 8.3 million people in the region would be pushed into poverty. To mitigate the effects of the pandemic, countries had to rapidly find solutions despite resource limitations and challenging circumstances.

The present policy brief sheds the light on social protection interventions as part of wider fiscal support measures implemented by Governments in the Arab region to cushion the repercussions of the pandemic on private households. It focuses on intra- and cross-regional differences in social protection spending using information and figures of public announcements issued by Governments and tracked by the COVID-19 Stimulus Tracker of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).