Socio-economic policies and the efficiency of democratic reforms

This post was written by Kaouthar Gazdar (PhD in Economics, University of Sousse), Hajer Kratou (PhD student in Economics, University of Carthage & University of Auvergne) & Zeinab Sabet (GDNet)

The fourth and last session of the workshop’s first day had a special focus on economic and social policies, and the efficiency of democratic reforms.

Eberhard Kienle (CNRS Paris/IEP Grenoble)

Eberhard Kienle (CNRS Paris/IEP Grenoble)

The session introduced two papers by Eberhard Kienle (CNRS Paris/IEP Grenoble) and Pierre-Guillaume Méon (Université Libre de Bruxelles). In his paper, Kienle examines the economic and social policies in Tunisia and Egypt in the aftermath of authoritarianism. Despite the intricacy of the Arab spring, it seems fair the assumption that large scale popular protests and the related transformation of political regimes were prompted by a combination of socio-economic and political factors. In a nutshell, authoritarian government had over years and decades prevented numerous actors to articulate their grievances in ways that would have allowed alleviating and addressing them effectively. Many of these grievances were related to socio- economic developments that widened the gap between income and opportunities on the one hand; and expectations based on past experience, official propaganda and comparisons with the outside world on the other.

Kienle challenges the idea according to which democratic regimes guarantee that such potential is actually translated into practice. In fact, and alike authoritarian regimes, democracies may fail to meet the expectations of the ruled. Less repressive by nature, they may even be challenged more quickly and more easily than their authoritarian predecessors or counterparts. According to him, the most important challenge for elected rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, besides the establishment and consolidation of democratic rules, is the formulation and implementation of economic and social policies that avoid past errors, and improve or secure the welfare of all within a broadly accepted framework of social justice.

Read more of this post

Advertisements

The political economy of transformation in the Arab region: Between cronyism and dualism

This post was written by Kaouthar Gazdar (PhD in Economics, University of Sousse) & Hajer Kratou (PhD student in Economics, University of Carthage & University of Auvergne)

The second session of the ERF workshop on “The political economy of transformation in the ERF region” introduced two important papers by Ishaq Diwan (Harvard Kennedy School) and Ragui Assaad (University of Minnesota, USA).

Entitled “Crony capitalism in Egypt”, Diwan’s study analyzes the nature and extent of Egyptian “crony” capitalism by comparing the corporate performance and the stock market valuation of politically connected and unconnected firms, before and after the 2011 popular uprising that led to the end of President Mubarak 30 years rule.

Ishac Diwan (Harvard Kennedy School, USA)

Ishac Diwan (Harvard Kennedy School, USA)

By looking closely at capitalism in Egypt, the paper is an attempt to understand why Arab capitalism has not been very dynamic; in other words the reasons behind the low performance and innovation of firms.

Diwan addresses the question of corruption in Egypt while analyzing the performance of politically connected firms which benefited from facilities regulations, government contracts, licenses access, protection from foreign and domestic competitions, as well as from subsidies energy under the Mubarak regime. “Egypt could have performed much better in terms of economic growth and job creation if the privilegies and exclusions were not as much”, he stated.

Read more of this post

Democratization in the Arab region: The role of geopolitics and origins of political change

ERF’s workshop and policy seminar on “The political economy of transformation in the ERF region” kicked off with its first session dedicated to discuss the rise and fall of representative political institutions in the region on the one hand, and the factors that brought about political and economic change in the region on the other.

In his presentation, Sami Atallah (Lebanese Center for Policy Studies) shed the light on the importance of historical geostrategic routes from India to England and how it affected the rise of contemporary political institutions in the Middle East. According to him, a glimpse at the countries on the geostrategic route, and their comparison to the rest of the world (except Europe and North and South America), shows how countries on the route are more authoritarian than other countries which are not geographically on the route. By going back to history, in 1798 when Napoleon invaded Egypt, Sami argues that British interference in the political institutions, which derived from their need to secure trade, was detrimental to the evolution of political representative institutions in the region. As a matter of example, the British intervention to remove the Consultative Council in Egypt in 1866 or to prevent the creation of a Consultative Council in Dubai in 1930 affected the rise and evolution of political representative institutions in both countries. Introducing democratic institutions in such countries, which are on the geostrategic route, was much harder in the aftermath of their independence.

Read the paper “Connecting England to India: How Geostrategic Routes Shaped Political Institutions in the Middle East

Watch our interview with Sami Atallah

Read more of this post

The political economy of transformation – Determinants of democracy in the Arab countries

By Moamen Gouda (University of Marburg, Germany) and Zeinab Sabet (GDNet)

ERF’s workshop and policy seminar on “The political economy of transformation in the ERF region” kicked off this morning. The workshop aims at discussing a number of draft papers, submitted in response to a call launched by ERF under the theme of the workshop, among authors and experts in order to improve its final output.

Panel session 1

Panel session 1

The ERF call for papers comes amid speculations regarding the direction the transformation process in the Arab spring countries is heading to and its final destination. Although the workshop refers in its title to ‘ERF region’, the majority of papers to be presented throughout the busy two days of October have to do more or less with Arab spring countries, with a special focus on Egypt. This morning session shedded new lights on the determinants of democracy in the Arab countries.

Sami Atallah (Lebanese Center for Policy Studies) argued that the legacy of British colonialism significantly affects contemporary political institutions and the prevailing authoritarian regimes existing in the Arab countries, particularly the Gulf ones. Looking at the importance of geostrategic routes between England and India, Hadi attempts to show their impact on the rise of political institutions in the Middle East. According to him, interference in the political institutions due to the British need to secure the trade was detrimental to the evolution of political representative institutions in the region. Introducing democratic institutions on the route countries was hence much harder in the aftermath of the independence of such countries.

Read more of this post

The political economy of transformation in the Arab region

Almost three years after the Arab spring uprisings kicked off in Tunisia in late 2010, the Arab region’s politico-economic transition remains complex. Although some uprisings have succeeded in bringing down regimes when others were the source of mass violence and violations, their economic and political outcomes are still unclear. Political and economic transformations are interacting more than ever before throughout the region’s transition. But the question is what kind of economic and political outcomes are being produced?

In an attempt to provide a better understanding of the impact of recent political changes on the economy of the region, the Economic Research Forum (ERF) launched a call for papers under the research theme of “Political Economy of Transformation in the Arab World”. 6 out of 16 research proposals were selected under this competition and following a peer-review process.

Read more of this post

Inequality of opportunity and outcomes in the Arab Region

By Eman El-Hadary (Economic Research Forum)  and Rana Hendy (Economic Research Forum)

Rana Hendy, ERF

Rana Hendy, ERF

Despite the long negligence of inequality research for the benefit of economic growth, rising attention is paid to inequality and its possible contribution to the uprisings in the region. However, it is important to highlight that the Arab Region is characterized by predominant data scarcity for decades. Data are either unavailable or inaccessible by the research community due to political constraints. Nevertheless, the Economic Research Forum (ERF) is currently carrying out an important initiative through its partnership with statistical offices around the region making micro data accessible to the public by collecting, harmonizing and documenting the data. Building on these efforts, ERF has recently launched the Open Access Micro Data Initiative (OAMDI) that consists of dissemination micro data. This initiative has already started to bear its fruits as 17 datasets from three Arab countries namely Egypt, Palestine and Jordan are now accessible via the new ERF data portal.

Read more of this post

Les défis de la transition démocratique en Tunisie

Prof. Moez Labidi, Professeur d’Economie a l’Université de Monastir en Tunisie, était l’un de nos invités au séminaire politique « The Road to Democracy : the Arab Region, Latin America and Eastern Europe ». Lors de son exposé, Moez Labidi  a présenté les facteurs ayant été à l’origine de la révolution tunisienne. Il a également relevé les différents défis et obstacles ralentissant le processus de la transition démocratique, parmi lesquels figurent la lutte contre le chômage, la liquidité sur le secteur bancaire et le financement extérieur.

Regardez notre entretien avec Moez Labidi

Arab region, Latin America and Eastern Europe – Different experiences with common aspirations

In an attempt to assess the prospects for democratic transition in the Arab region against the experience of other regions, part of the GDN-AUB Panel Discussion on « The Road to Democracy : the Arab Region, Latin America and Eastern Europe » was dedicated to the Eastern and Central European democratic transformation experience.

In his presentation, Prof. Boris Vujcic, Deputy Governor, Croatia National Bank and GDN Board of Directors, addressed the Eastern and Central European experience with a focus on Croatia. He stressed on transitional justice and good governance being vital for the people’s trust in the new structure, as well as for the universal confidence in the country. According to him, the three regions have several commonalities, and thus a lot to learn from each other.

Watch remarks by Prof. Boris Vujcie:

Democratic transition: Looking for a balance between material and political needs

I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Rami Khoury, Director of Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, who was our discussant at the GDN-AUB Panel Discussion on « The Road to Democracy : the Arab Region, Latin America and Eastern Europe ».

According to him, the road to democracy is a very complicated process involving many dimensions, among which political, economic, social, judicial and historical. It is obvious that action has to be taken on each of them, but a balance is needed between all of them.

Watch highlights from our interview with Mr. Rami Khoury, Director of Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs

Democracy vs. social justice: Which one comes first ?

The GDN-AUB Policy Seminar was not just an expert meeting, but rather a brainstorming session providing a comparative analysis of the transition processes in three different regions.

One of the main issues addressed was the causality between democracy and social justice. Whether one should start with democracy, social justice or whether both should be addressed simultaneously remain a big question mark relative to the nature of the democratic process. According to the panel, the democratic transition in the Arab region requires that both are addressed at once.

Watch remarks by Dr. Gerardo della Paolera, GDN President: