Perspectives from Middle East and North African Countries
Edited by Carlo Altomonte and Massimiliano Ferrara
MENA countries: economic and political perspectives in the aftermath of the Arab Spring - an introduction
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region's economies have always been characterized by economic volatility and social disparities. A long history of state-driven development led to a rise in human development, reducing poverty, but it also exacerbated social exclusion. Notwithstanding the reforms introduced in the 1980s and 1990s, the problem of social exclusion has not been solved in the subsequent decades. Such reforms, indeed, included large-scale privatizations and reduction of barriers to trade and, together with the increase in oil prices, they stimulated growth in the Arab region, but only a small politically connected elite was able to access the benefits of the growth process. This same sense of economic exclusion and social injustice fuelled recent episodes of violence and protests characterizing the so-called Arab Spring. Between 2010 and 2011 the first mass mobilizations overthrew the government in Egypt and in Tunisia, while a wave of popular protests spread all over the MENA countries, although with different intensities and outcomes. In the short term, the so-called Arab Spring has increased political uncertainty and instability in the region, further exacerbating those socioeconomic problems that were among the root causes of the protests, causing the economic outlook in the region to deteriorate. In the long term, however, the effects of the Arab Spring are still uncertain.