Education and Key Academic Training

  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Harvard University (US)
  • Ph.D. in Economics, Paris School of Economics, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne  (FR)
  • M.A. in Applied Economics, Johns Hopkins University (US)
  • M.Sc. in International Finance, Cass Business School, City University London (UK)


Research Papers

  • Economic Shocks and Skill Acquisition: Evidence from a National Online Learning Platform at the Onset of COVID-19, (with Ina Ganguli, Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Samuel W. Stemper, and Basit Zafar), National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 29921.
    • Abstract: We study how large shocks impact individuals’ skilling decisions using data from the largest online learning platform in Saudi Arabia. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a massive increase in online skilling, and demand shifted towards courses that offered skills, such as telework, likely to be immediately valuable during the pandemic. Consistent with a model where individuals trade off reskilling costs with their expectations of future labor market conditions and their duration of work, we find that shifts into telework courses were largest for older workers. In contrast, younger workers increased enrollments in courses related to new skills, such as general, occupation-specific, and computer-related skills. Using national administrative employment data, we provide suggestive evidence that these investments in skills in early 2020 helped users maintain employment over the course of the pandemic.
  • Internalization of Externalities in International TradeEmpirical Economics, July 2022, Vol. 63(1), pp. 469-497.
    • Abstract: Using disaggregated customs data about exporters from nine countries, I demonstrate that informational externalities are determinants of entry, survival, and growth of exporters at the product-destination market level. I show that exporters who optimize entry decisions and internalize informational externalities survive longer and grow faster. Then, I conceptualize why exporters enter certain international markets and why not all exporters from the same origin survive and grow in these markets. I incorporate the interaction between the performance and number of peers in a given market to identify a potential learning externality that exporters may be exposed to. Also, I highlight that, even without the formation of formal networks, the observation of the actions of peers in export markets can deliver implications for export flows: exporters may not need to start small in new markets if the actions of peers in those markets reveal enough information. By helping to explain how export relationships survive and grow, I complement the literature on the determinants of export diversification and signal to export promotion agencies the importance of internalization of informational externalities by exporters. 
  • Political Connections Reduce Job Creation: Firm-Level Evidence from Lebanon, Journal of Development Studies, July 2021, Vol. 57(8), pp. 1373-1396, with Ishac Diwan.
    • Abstract: Using firm-level data, we document that politically connected firms (PCFs) create more jobs than unconnected firms in Lebanon. We observe, however, that the presence of PCFs in a sector is correlated with lower job creation. Although causality is difficult to establish due to endogeneity issues, we find that PCFs expand, and non-PCFs retract, more around elections. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that unfair competition by PCFs hurts unconnected competitors so much that aggregate employment growth in the sector is affected negatively.               

                 Featured in: The EconomistLe Monde, Le Commerce du Levant, and VoxEu-CEPR

  • How Did Egypt Soften the Impact of Covid-19?, in Shaping Africa’s Post-Covid Recovery (edited by Rabah Arezki, Simeon Djankov, and Ugo Panizza), Centre for Economic Policy Research (C.E.P.R.), February 2021
    • Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically disrupted people’s lives, livelihoods, and economic conditions around the world. The global shock has resulted in a tourism standstill (Djankov 2020), significant capital flight (Djankov and Panizza 2020), and a slowdown in remittances (Nonvide 2020), resulting in an urgent balance-of-payments need. Egypt responded to the crisis with a comprehensive package aimed at tackling the health emergency and supporting economic activity. The Ministry of Finance acted swiftly to allocate resources to the health sector, provide targeted support to the most severely impacted sectors, and expand social safety net programmes to protect the most vulnerable. Similarly, the Central Bank of Egypt adopted a broad set of measures, including lowering the policy rate and postponing repayments of existing credit facilities. This chapter highlights the experience of firms in Egypt following these policies.               
  • Late-Movers Outperform First-Movers in Export Markets, Economics Letters, November 2020, Vol. 196.
    • Abstract: Using exporter-level data from Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Guatemala, Jordan, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, and Senegal, as well as controlling for supply and demand shocks, I find that late-movers outperform first-movers in product-destination export markets.

         Featured in: VoxEu-CEPR

         Featured in: Foreign PolicyPeterson Institute for International EconomicsInternational Business Times, and La Tribune

            Featured in: Wall Street JournalWashington Post, and VoxEu-CEPR

    • Bridging Iranian Exporters with Foreign Markets: Does Diaspora Matter?, Journal of Economic Integration, September 2016, Vol. 31(3), pp. 609-630, with Seyed Hossein Mirjalili.
      • Abstract: After matching a rich micro-level Iranian customs dataset with a macro-level cross-country database on Iranian diaspora stocks, we establish that diaspora matters for dynamics of Iranian exporters. We document the extent to which Iranian emigrants foster exports through both intensive and extensive margins at the micro-level. We show that destinations with more emigrants from Iran attract more Iranian exporters and allow them to survive longer and grow faster. One plausible explanation is that the diaspora channel reduces the fixed cost of exporting that Iranian exporters incur to enter a destination, those related to creating distribution channels, and those associated with learning about market demand. Our results add firm-level insight to the burgeoning literature on the channels through which emigration could impact economic integration. As Iran is now trying to integrate more with the global economy, these results suggest that Iranian embassies across the world have a role to play in bridging the gap between Iranian diaspora and exporters through trade promotion exhibitions and workshops to encourage greater trade between Iran and the rest of the world.
    • Can the Euro Survive?The World Economy, March 2015, Vol. 38(3), pp. 553-567.A
      • Abstract: One of the fascinating aspects of the European debt crisis has been the resilience of the euro. For much of 2011, the euro was a key reserve currency, oblivious to the chaos ravaging European economies. Now, however, the gravity of the crisis is finally dragging down the euro. As the Euro zone debt crisis enters its third uncertain year, the question about whether the euro can survive rises. This paper argues that the euro can survive given policymakers still have in hand various tools. These tools include creating exit rules, implementing new stabilisation rules and instruments, adopting new fiscal policy, introducing conditional Eurobonds, using inflation differentials and providing more independence to the European Central Bank.
    • Trade Facilitation and Country SizeEmpirical Economics, December 2014, Vol. 47(4), pp. 1441-1466, with Mohammad Amin.

      • Abstract: It is argued that compared with large countries, small countries rely more on trade and therefore are more likely to adopt liberal trading policies. The present paper extends this idea beyond the conventional trade openness measures by analyzing the relationship between country size and the number of documents required to export and import, a measure of trade facilitation. Three important results follow. First, trade facilitation does improve as country size becomes smaller; that is, small countries perform better than large countries in terms of trade facilitation. Second, the relationship between country size and trade facilitation is nonlinear, much stronger for the relatively small than the large countries. Third, contrary to what existing studies might suggest, the relationship between country size and trade facilitation does not appear to be driven by the fact that small countries trade more as a proportion of their gross domestic product than the large countries. 

    • The Impact of Business Regulatory Reforms on Economic GrowthJournal of the Japanese and International Economies, September 2012, Vol. 26(3), pp. 285-307.

      • Abstract: I investigate the link between business regulatory reforms and economic growth in 172 countries. I create a 5 year dataset on business regulatory reforms from the World Bank’s Doing Business reports. Then, I test the hypothesis that business regulatory reforms increase economic growth, using data on micro-economic reforms. These data do not suffer the endogeneity issues associated with other datasets on changes in economic institutions. The results provide a robust support for the claim that business regulatory reforms are good for economic growth. The paper establishes that, on average, each business regulatory reform is associated with a 0.15% increase in growth rate of GDP.

    • Trade and Productivity: Self Selection or Learning-by-Exporting in IndiaEconomic Modelling, September 2012, Vol. 29(5), pp. 1766-1773.

      • Abstract: Recent literature tried to explain the Indian growth miracle in different ways, ranging from trade liberalization to industrial reforms. Using data on Indian manufacturing firms, this paper analyzes the relationship between firm's productivity and export market participation during 1991–2004. While it provides evidence of the self-selection hypothesis by showing that more productive firms become exporters, the results do not show that entry into export markets enhances productivity. The paper examines the explanation of self selection hypothesis for total factor productivity differences across 33,510 exporting and non-exporting firms. It uses propensity score matching to test the learning-by-exporting hypothesis. In line with the prediction of recent heterogeneous firm models of international trade, the main finding of the paper is: more productive firms become exporters but it is not the case that learning by exporting is a channel fuelling growth in Indian manufacturing.

    • The Cost of Registering Property: Does Legal Origin Matter?Empirical Economics, June 2012, Vol. 42(3), pp. 1035-1050, with Mohammad Amin.

      • Abstract: There is a large literature that finds that common law countries perform better than civil law countries in various aspects of the institutional environment. This article extends these findings to another dimension of institutional quality--the cost of registering property. In a sample of 121 countries, we find that the cost of registering property is lower by 26 percent of the world average in common law compared with civil law countries, a result largely driven by differences in non-notary costs of registering property. We provide plausible explanations for these findings.

    • Currency Crises Transmission through International TradeEconomic Modelling, March 2012, Vol. 29(2), pp. 151-157.

      • Abstract: The Eurozone recent crisis has shown how balance of payments problems in less developed European Monetary Union (EMU) member countries can affect EMU trading partners, spreading the crisis to a larger group of countries. This paper introduces a three-country dynamic general equilibrium model to analyze whether and how terms of trade effects can generate a spillover effect or a currency crisis transmission between countries. Specifically, using a two period model, it incorporates world market clearing conditions for tradables into a new theoretic model, analyzes net capital flow movements between countries, and establishes cross-border macroeconomic linkages. This paper shows how a currency crisis can transmit through the real (trade) sector channel of the economy.

    • Sovereign Credit Risk in the Euro Zone, World Economics, The Oxford Institute for Economic Policy, March 2012.

      • Abstract: What is the current state of sovereign credit risk across the Eurozone? Does the recent fiscal crisis extend to other (non-Eurozone) countries? Is Greece the centre of the problem? How did the current fiscal crisis in the Euro area start? Who is behind it? How can it evolve? How can it be addressed? And, is a fiscally challenged country likely to want to leave the Eurozone? This article addresses these questions, argues that a fiscally weak country is better off in the Eurozone than outside it, and finds that a feasible policy tool can be a bailout associated with tough fiscal conditionality. It also shows that sovereign credit risk adjustment in the Eurozone can happen, using various measures, but not without fiscal pain.

    • Currency Valuation and Purchasing Power Parity, World Economics, The Oxford Institute for Economic Policy, September 2011.

      • Abstract: This paper aims to highlight key limitations of The Economist magazine's Big Mac Index (BMI). The Economist markets the BMI as a tool to determine valuation of currencies. This paper shows that the BMI is a misleading measure of currency valuation for economies whose markets are structurally different from the benchmark currency countries.

    • Investor Protections and Economic GrowthEconomics Letters, April 2009, Vol. 103(1), pp. 1-4.

      • Abstract: Using objective measures of investor protections in 170 countries, I establish that the level of investor protection matters for cross-country differences in GDP growth: countries with stronger protections tend to grow faster than those with poor investor protections.


    Policy Publications



    • Referee: American Economic Journal: Economic Policy; Review of Economic Studies; Review of Economics and Statistics; European Economic Review; Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics; Journal of Comparative Economics; World Development; World Economy; Economic Modelling; Economic Systems; Journal of Applied Economics; Journal of Economic Policy Reform; Quarterly Review of Econonmics and Finance; Development Policy Review; International Economics; Global Policy
    • Co-organizer: Growth Lab Research Seminar Series, Center for International Development, Harvard University (September 2016 - June 2018)