COVID-19 Policy Tracker: Learning from MENA Government Responses to the Crisis

By Andreas Rechkemmer
Submitted to Session P6663 (Pandemics and Covid-19: Surveillance, Governance, and Control, 2021 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Arab States;
Public Policy;
LCD Projector without Audio;
We developed a comprehensive policy tracker of government responses (PTGR) to the COVID-19 crisis for 12 countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and the 6 Golf Cooperation Council states. Our PTGR is to some extent similar to ones developed by Oxford University (Blavatnik School, 2020), the OECD (OECD, 2020), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF, 2020) and is in a solid tradition of governance and policy indicators (Bouckaert & Van Dooren, 2016; Bradley, 2015; Davis, Fisher, Kingsbury, & Merry, 2012; Karabell, 2014; Maggetti & Gilardi, 2016; Merry, Davis, & Kingsbury, 2015; Pollitt, 2011; Rottenburg, Merry, Park, & Mugler, 2015; Kaufmann et al., 2009). However, the Oxford and OECD trackers provide very little coverage of the MENA region while the IMF tracker is very limited in scope. Therefore, our PTGR is a unique and precious resource of data on what governments in the region did, and are doing, to address and mitigate the crisis. Our project resulted in a tailored quantitative and qualitative dataset to advise policymakers and inform decision-making by providing a reliable knowledge base of policy interventions in the region.
The methodology focuses on three areas of government response, with qualitative and quantitative data for policy interventions in each area. The areas are: (1) public health (closings; travel restrictions; contact tracing; isolation and quarantine; testing; case trajectories), (2) economic (fiscal and monetary measures; support for businesses, employers and employees; investment in health; production and supply chain, trade restrictions/incentives, and food security), and (3) social (education system; protection of vulnerable groups; religious observance; social services and welfare). The data are drawn from official government sources, datasets from intergovernmental organizations, other official documents, reliable media sources, and peer-reviewed publications.
Policy trackers and governance indicators have grown in large numbers in the last decade (Arndt & Oman, 2008; Buduru & Pal, 2010; Pal & Ireland, 2009). This is a well-established field, but with virtually no real traction in the MENA region. The best of the indicators do have data on MENA, but only in very broad “governance” dimensions such as “government effectiveness.” Our project is unique and original in that it tracks and maps policy responses in the region to the COVID-19 crisis comprehensively and in real time.
Our research has produced the largest and most comprehensive and complete dataset on policies and government measures in response to COVID-19 in MENA.