After the Spring: Economic Transitions in the Arab World

After the Spring: Economic Transitions in the Arab World

After the Spring: Economic Transitions in the Arab World

After the Spring: Economic Transitions in the Arab World

Synopsis

The Arab Spring constitutes perhaps the most far-reaching political and economic transition since the end of communism in Europe. For too long, the economic aspirations of the people in the region, especially young people, have been ignored by leaders in Arab countries and abroad. Competingviews as to how best to meet these aspirations are now being debated in the region. The outcome will shape Arab societies for generations to come.The authors of this book argue that significant economic reforms must accompany the major political transitions that are underway. Although each country has a different economic structure and history and must make its own way forward, there are spill-overs from trade and investment linkages, thecontagion of news cycles, interaction of people and sharing of expectations that are too great to ignore. Some common foundation of the new Arab economies is needed. Towards that end, this volume addresses four central challenges of economic reform in the Arab world. First, with two-thirds of thepopulation under the age of 30, the disproportionate burdens of unemployment and poor education can no longer be heaped on youth. Second, while some government policies may have improved the living standards of Arab citizens in the past, they have also entrenched cronies, enriched a small elite, andbecome unaffordable. Third, if Arab economies are to compete in the 21st century they cannot depend solely on oil and gas money, remittances, and tourism, but will require active, independent private sectors. And finally, the relative isolation of Arab economies-both from each other and from theworld-must end.Rather than providing specific lists of recommendations, this book sets forth a set of guidelines and priorities for reformers who will begin creating new opportunities for youth, rebuilding the institutions of the state, diversifying the private sector, and cooperating with each other andintegrating with the world economy.

Excerpt

The ongoing transitions in the Arab world are among the most dramatic events since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. But months after the events in Tunisia that began the Arab Spring in December 2010, it seemed that the bulk of world’s attention remained focused on the usual mix of global security, regional politics, and Middle East peace implications of what was transpiring in the Arab world. Underlying economic problems, by contrast, received scant consideration. Seeking to correct this, a few of the authors of the present volume wrote short pieces on employment, labor markets, public services, corruption, and other issues that seemed relevant but ignored in coverage of the Arab Spring.

What was missing, however, was an overall analysis of the central economic reforms needed to sustain the transition. Toward that end, the Global Economy and Development program of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2011, convened a diverse group of scholars, specialists, and former officials to discuss the economic consequences of the Arab Spring, as well as the broader economic imperatives in the region. This jointly authored volume is the outcome of that workshop.

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