Price of Oil
- Oil price scenarios are circulating on both sides of the Atlantic which point to oil touching $150 to $200 per barrel if petro-regimes get affected by new insurrections? Probability?
- Droughts, Floods and Food: We’re in the midst of a global food crisis, 2nd in three years.
- Brutal impact on world’s poor. More insurrections?Is a global 21st century version of the French Revolution emerging ever since capital markets’ 2008 crash & money printing by US, China etc?
- Rising food prices a problem in Saudi Arabia: In Middle-East’s largest economy, food inflation is expected to hit 9% this year. Impact?
- If Egypt’s revolution is a still born baby will the people of other Arab nations still carry on with their spontaneous insurrections?
- US President Obama has said Egyptians won’t permit an unresponsive government to fill Mubarak void without representation or free & fair elections.
- US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton warns of ‘perfect storm’: Rulers in Middle East must enforce political and social reforms or face backlash.
- What does this suggest about Egypt & Arab world? Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable! – JFK
- Gdansk, Beijing or Tehran? Hunt for Cairo parallels: Will Middle-East Governments melt away like 1979 or 1989 or stand firm like China?
- Which time feels like the present for Arab nations: 1776 US, 1789 France, 1848-50 Europe, 1917 Russia, 1979 Iran, 1989 China, 1989 Germany?
We are grateful to Prof Jean-Pierre Lehmann, founder of Evian Group — dedicated to an open world economy — from IMD Lausanne, Switzerland, for his submission to ATCA.
The 21st Century Arab Awakening?
Photo: 3arabaway, CC licence
Inspired by their Tunisian soulmates, Egyptian demonstrators adapt the same slogans from the original French – “Mubarak, degage,” or “Mubarak, push off” – and use the same technologies, Twitter and Facebook. Violent uprisings have erupted in Yemen. Yemenis are not only among the most impoverished and most oppressed among Arab countries, but also the most fertile. Today the population stands at 24 million, which will reach 40 million in 2030 and 50 million in 2045. As much of the world ages, in 2045 the average age in Yemen will be 18! What is happening in the Arab world may be a “digital revolution”; it is also a “demographic revolution”.Fire Spreads or Extinguishes?
The question is whether the fire of the Tunisian revolution will spread through the region, or be rapidly extinguished by formidable police power of the other states. Will Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution prove to be the Arab region’s “Gdansk moment” – the birth of Solidarnosc on 31 August 1980 that set off a chain of events ultimately culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall a decade later? A lot can happen in 10 years. Liberation from the oppressive suffocation that the Arab world has endured for decades need not be an impossible dream. But given the entrenched nature of the regimes and their propensity for violence, an Arab awakening may prove to be as turbulent, if not more so, than the collapse of the Soviet empire.
Stultifying Arab Economy
How to explain the seething masses and the stultifying Arab economy? When it comes to the transformations, China, opting after the death of Mao to “embrace” globalization, has emerged as a global leader. India, Vietnam, Brazil, Peru and South Africa are among the countries that chose a similar path. Arab countries, by mostly staying out of the global process, have earned the epithet: “the orphans of globalization.”
Weak Global Integration
By virtually any indicator, excluding oil, the Arab region’s global integration is weak. For example, 80 million Egyptians export less than 14 per cent of what 68 million Thais export. The Vietnamese, 89 million, only recently rejoined the global economy and their exports are more than double Egypt’s. Excluding fuel, the United Arab Emirates, 6 million people, account for more than 50 per cent of total Arab League exports. 10 out of the 21 members of the Arab League are not in the WTO and others (eg Saudi Arabia and the UAE) have only very recently joined. Foreign direct Investment is small. There a number of reasons, not the least because the region has not regionalized let alone globalized. Cross-border investments and trade between Arab League members are minimal. There is no Arab market.
Intellectual and Cultural Dimensions
Weak global integration refers not just to economics, but also to intellectual and cultural dimensions. More books are translated into Greek, population 11 million, than into Arabic. Whereas in the 1960s there were some 3000 books published annually in Egypt, the number has dropped to 300. This penury is ironic as the Islamic Caliphate and its House of Wisdom in Baghdad once translated into Arabic all the Greek and Latin classics, saving them for posterity. The first UN Development Programme Arab Human Development Report, published in 2002, compiled by Arab thought-leaders, highlighted three shortfalls – in freedom, knowledge and womanpower.
Orphans of Globalization
Being the orphans of globalization does not mean the region is independent of the outside world. Most Arab countries have a high proportion of their populations living and working abroad, in Europe, the Gulf states and North America – for example, 6 per cent of Tunisians live in France. Hence, the region’s economies are highly dependent on remittances. Tourism and foreign aid are also vital. All this reinforces the notion of the Arab region as a passive actor on the receiving end of the global economic stage.
The Arab region bifurcated from many other countries and regions in responding to globalization late last century. As the Lebanese author Saad Mehio commented: “while the rest of the world geared up to join the march of globalisation [after the end of the Cold War],” the Arab region experienced “more political oppression, more intellectual and cultural stagnation, and more economic and social despair.”
Exorbitantly High Youth Unemployment
Photo: upyernoz on flickr
There are a lot of “orphans” and most are young – 65 per cent of the population of the Arab League is under the age of 30. Youth unemployment rates are exorbitantly high – as high as 75 per cent in some countries like Algeria. While the informal economy provides partial compensation, this does not provide security; the Jasmine Revolution was triggered by the self-immolation of a young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, unemployed after police confiscated his wheelbarrow, used to make ends meet by selling fruits and vegetables.Corruption and Cronyism
When asked their greatest ambition, up to 40 per cent of young Arabs reply: to emigrate permanently. More oppressive than the lack of political freedom are pervasive corruption and cronyism. A bright former Egyptian student of mine explained why he was settling permanently in the US. He was from the minority Copt community – roughly half of whom are believed to have left Egypt – and from a lower middle-class family, hence lacking “wasta,” or connections; there were no opportunities for him in Egypt. Multiply that loss by millions, and one gets a sense of human capital flight from the region.
The forces for political change are strong and mounting, emerging mainly from young Arabs and facilitated by the digital revolution as highlighted by ATCA. The Jasmine Revolution may be the harbinger of change from within and by civil society, and may inspire forces in other authoritarian stagnant regimes. There have been a number of self-immolations following Bouazizi’s example, in Algeria, Egypt and Mauritania. The political atmosphere remains tense, to put it mildly, throughout the region. Arab leaders are not normally peacefully ousted at the ballot box. Following Jasmine, more unrest and revolution may come, from which democracy may emerge.
Iran Scenario and Alternatives
What would an Arab awakening look like? The political repression of the opposition and the ideological void provide fertile ground for the Islamists. Close connections between big business and dictators, huge amounts of wealth acquired by the elites, have tarnished liberal capitalism. Therefore, many fear an “Iran scenario.” There are alternative models, even among predominantly Muslim countries. The political transition in Indonesia is encouraging. Malaysia has managed the balance between economic growth, multi-ethnicity and politics reasonably well.
Turkey as Model
But the most relevant model and partner for the Arab region is Turkey. The combination of moderate political Islamism with a liberal market-oriented economy and the rise of new entrepreneurs transformed that country from a political and economic backwater for much of the 20th century to an increasingly global dynamic player in the 21st. Europe can play a constructive role by favouring the forces of awakening rather than siding with the forces of repression as France seemed to do in the early days of the Jasmine Revolution.
Glimmers of Hope
In the last century when dictators still ruled in Southern Europe and standards of living were low, the gap between North and South Mediterranean was narrow. In the last 25 years, however, the gap has become a deep chasm as the North democratized, prospered and globalized, while the South stagnated, or, in some cases, regressed. By cozying up to dictators, Europe must bear its share of responsibility; Europe could, indeed should, play a constructive role in narrowing the Mediterranean chasm. But ultimately the initiative must come from the Arabs themselves. As the world is painfully aware with Iraq, attempts to bring about regime change by foreign invasion result in mayhem. Just as the courageous Tunisians took to the street, inspiring the army to stand back, forcing the dictator to flee, so must similar scenarios elsewhere in the region. The Arab awakening is not an impossible dream. With Jasmine, we may be seeing early glimmers of hope.
We welcome your thoughts, observations and views.
All the best
Chairman and Founder: mi2g.net, ATCA, The Philanthropia, HQR, @G140
To connect directly with:
. DK Matai: http://twitter.com/DKMatai
. Open HQR: http://twitter.com/OpenHQR
. ATCA Open: http://twitter.com/ATCAOpen
. @G140: http://twitter.com/G140
. mi2g: http://twitter.com/intunit
— ATCA, The Philanthropia, mi2g, HQR, @G140 —
This is an “ATCA Open, Philanthropia and HQR Socratic Dialogue.”
The “ATCA Open” network on LinkedIn and Facebook is for professionals interested in ATCA’s original global aims, working with ATCA step-by-step across the world, or developing tools supporting ATCA’s objectives to build a better world.
The original ATCA — Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance — is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to resolve complex global challenges through collective Socratic dialogue and joint executive action to build a wisdom based global economy. Adhering to the doctrine of non-violence, ATCA addresses asymmetric threats and social opportunities arising from climate chaos and the environment; radical poverty and microfinance; geo-politics and energy; organised crime & extremism; advanced technologies — bio, info, nano, robo & AI; demographic skews and resource shortages; pandemics; financial systems and systemic risk; as well as transhumanism and ethics. Present membership of the original ATCA network is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members from over 120 countries: including 1,000 Parliamentarians; 1,500 Chairmen and CEOs of corporations; 1,000 Heads of NGOs; 750 Directors at Academic Centres of Excellence; 500 Inventors and Original thinkers; as well as 250 Editors-in-Chief of major media.
The Philanthropia, founded in 2005, brings together over 1,000 leading individual and private philanthropists, family offices, foundations, private banks, non-governmental organisations and specialist advisors to address complex global challenges such as countering climate chaos, reducing radical poverty and developing global leadership for the younger generation through the appliance of science and technology, leveraging acumen and finance, as well as encouraging collaboration with a strong commitment to ethics. Philanthropia emphasises multi-faith spiritual values: introspection, healthy living and ecology. Philanthropia Targets: Countering climate chaos and carbon neutrality; Eliminating radical poverty — through micro-credit schemes, empowerment of women and more responsible capitalism; Leadership for the Younger Generation; and Corporate and social responsibility.
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