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The fundamental development challenge in the Arab region is one of economic transformation or, more pertinent, a lack thereof. Heavy sectoral weights of extractive industries lead to dependence on global oil prices, even in oil-producing countries. The structure of production limits employment generation for skilled and semi-skilled labour. Low-skill services and informal activities then absorb the labour force, with corresponding harm to aggregate productivity and living standards. The slow emergence of manufacturing capacities distinguishes the economies of the Arab region from other developing countries. Compared to suitable aggregates or, more poignant, the successful Asian emerging economies, manufacturing exports from the Arab region do not contribute sufficiently to growth. Concurrently, growth is volatile and saving and investment rates are significantly below what is required to undertake this economic transition. This paper by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) approaches fiscal space by asking: What barriers to the creation and use of such fiscal space must be removed in order to undertake such a transformation? In posing this question, the paper seeks to clearly demarcate its treatment of the fiscal space issue from that of the fiscal fundamentalist: its concern is to ensure that fiscal space is created
not in the abstract for an unspecified purpose.