The Maghrib: A Comparative Political Economy of Tunisia and Morocco: On the outside of Europe Looking In

By Henry, Clement M. | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview
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The Maghrib: A Comparative Political Economy of Tunisia and Morocco: On the outside of Europe Looking In


Henry, Clement M., The Middle East Journal


A Comparative Political Economy of Tunisia and Morocco: On the Outside of Europe Looking In, by Gregory White. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2001. xii + 171 pages. Notes to p. 212. Bibl. to p. 237. Index to p. 252. $62.50 cloth; $20.95 paper.

Gregory White presents a provocative analysis of North Africa's development dilemmas: the challenge is not so much globalization in the abstract as Europe's self-centered policies that, however unintentionally, victimize their weak southern neighbors. A major strength of this book is its careful description and documentation of the relevant European Union (EU) policy changes since the latter's founding as the European Community in 1957. The giant economic powerhouse to the Maghrib's north has encouraged and then discouraged agricultural imports, guest workers, and even the textile industry (p. 76); and the twists and turns, especially with the enlargement in 1981-86 to include Greece, Spain, and Portugal, have hit the Moroccan and Tunisian economies hard. Tunisia is smaller and more trade dependent than Morocco, but both countries face a major dilemma "from the outside looking in" to the EU. The author makes a good case for arguing that the external developments have major policy implications, "whether [or not] the domestic actors are aware [of them]" (p. 77). The North African leaders need to preserve political stability yet also structurally to adjust their respective economies to free and open markets, if they are to be attractive to foreign investors as well as to tourists. Their economic openings unfortunately seem to promote economic inequality and to exacerbate Islamist and worker oppositions. The regimes preserve an image of stability by cracking down on the oppositions, especially in Tunisia, which has treaded further out on its political tightrope without yet falling off. The violence in Algeria since 1992 is used to justify Tunisia's policing methods to the regime's domestic and European audiences.

Morocco and Tunisia share a common legacy of French rule that facilitates a tight comparative analysis. Each received independence from France in 1956, and now indeed seem more dependent than ever on the EU, although the United States also maintains a discreet presence and influence in security as in other matters in both countries. Professor White does not, however, take sufficiently into account some of the significant differences in the historical trajectories of the two countries. They did not start adjusting from a common starting point, and consequently this book tends to exaggerate the pace of reform in both countries. In 1970 Morocco was already relatively more adjusted than Tunisia, in the sense of having a relatively liberal economy, because King Hassan II of Morocco had engaged very prudently in economic decolonization, whereas President Bourguiba had rushed these processes in Tunisia in efforts to keep up with Algeria. By 1970 Tunisia had consolidated a command economy of Tunisian state-run enterprises. They included not only new (and largely uneconomic) heavy industrial complexes but also the remnants of colonial enterprises that had been "Tunisified." Despite changes of economic policy in 1970, Tunisia still retained a strong public sector, price controls, credit controls, and high tariff walls.

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