Palestinian Trade Unions and the Struggle for Independence

by Graham Usher
published in MER194

Not so long ago, to visit the Erez checkpoint on Gaza’s “border” crossing with Israel was to witness a modem slave market. Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers would wake up at 3 am and gather at Erez for the privilege of working in their occupier’s economy, predominantly in construction and agriculture, undertaking the “dirty work” that Jewish workers would not do, for a wage on average a third less than their Jewish peers. At least 30 percent of Gaza’s GNP derived from wages earned in Israel.

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Economic Deterioration in the Gaza Strip

by Sara Roy
published in MER200

On February 25, 1996, following several Hamas suicide bombings in West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel imposed a heightened closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. [1] This most recent heightening of the closure has severely damaged the already precarious economy of the Gaza Strip and caused immense hardship and suffering to the local population. The overwhelming majority in the Gaza Strip have been left with no source of daily income. Many can no longer adequately feed their children. The struggle -- no longer against Israel or even the Israeli occupation -- is now against hunger and humiliation.

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Bread Riots in Jordan

by Jillian Schwedler , Lamis Andoni
published in MER201

On August 13, the Jordanian government lifted its subsidies on wheat. When bread prices immediately doubled, residents of the southern town of Karak demonstrated against the move, calling for a reversal of the policy and the resignation of the prime minister. The protests deteriorated into riots that lasted two days and ended only when the army occupied the town and enforced a strict curfew.

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Thwarting Palestinian Development

by Jennifer Olmsted
published in MER201

The preamble of the Protocol on Economic Relations between the Government of the State of Israel and the PLO, signed on May 4, 1994, states:

This protocol lays the groundwork for strengthening the economic base of the Palestinian side and for exercising its right of economic decision making in accordance with its own development plan and for exercising its right of economic decision making in accordance with its own development plan and priorities.” [1]

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Street Vendors

by Karim El-Gawhary
published in MER202

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Private Capital and the State in Contemporary Syria

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER203

Throughout the late 1980s, Syria’s economy suffered persistent difficulties. Shortages of imported machinery and spare parts led to underproduction and quality control breakdowns in the country’s larger factories. External indebtedness rose to some $4.9 billion by 1988; payments on foreign loans fell more than $100 million into arrears by early 1989 and about $210 million behind by the winter of 1989-1990. Foreign exchange became so scarce in the spring of 1989 that the central administration started rationing its meager stockpile of hard currency, giving priority to those enterprises most likely to generate export earnings, particularly the assembly of light manufactured goods and agricultural commodities.

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"Nothing More to Lose"

Landowners, Tenants and Economic Liberalization in Egypt

by Karim El-Gawhary
published in MER204

Economic liberalization is now hitting the Egyptian countryside. After decades of Nasserist regulations favoring small land tenants, a new law will “reform” the relationship between landowners and tenants in favor of the first. It will more fully integrate the Egyptian countryside into the global market because it gives owners the right to dispose of their land as they see fit. These rights constitute a precondition for modernizing production methods in the countryside and planting more risky export crops. With agrobusinessmen able to invest and extract more income from the land, economists hope that Egypt will be able to decrease its annual agricultural deficit of $2.7 billion.

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The End of the Counterrevolution?

The Politics of Economic Adjustment in Kuwait

by Yahya Sadowski
published in MER204

Over the last 50 years, a massive infusion of petrodollars enabled the new monarchies of the Gulf to engage in impressive experiments in counterrevolution. During the 1970s, King Faysal of Saudi Arabia attempted to preserve the traditional social hierarchy of his country by modernizing without industrializing. A decade earlier, the Shah of Iran staged a preemptive strike against demands for change by launching his own “white revolution.” Yet the most successful counterrevolution in the Gulf was the massive and successful program of the Sabah dynasty in Kuwait to preserve its power by building the region’s first modern welfare state.

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The Contradictions of Economic Reform in Israel

by Michael Shalev
published in MER207

Half a century ago Israel was a poor new state hopelessly indebted to the outside world. Fifteen years later, it could be described as a rapidly growing developing country undergoing successful industrialization. By the early 1980s, it was an extreme case of an economically overburdened state incapable of stemming stagnation and spiraling inflation. But as the century comes to a close, the guardians of the “Washington consensus” laud Israel as a model of economic liberalization and successful adaptation to globalization and technological change.

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Dreamland: The Neoliberalism of Your Desires

by Timothy Mitchell
published in MER210

Neoliberalism is a triumph of the political imagination. Its achievement is double: While narrowing the window of political debate, it promises from this window a prospect without limits. On the one hand, it frames public discussion in the elliptic language of neoclassical economics. The collective well-being of the nation is depicted only in terms of how it is adjusted in gross to the discipline of monetary and fiscal balance sheets. On the other, neglecting the actual concerns of any concrete local or collective community, neoliberalism encourages the most exuberant dreams of private accumulation -- and a chaotic reallocation of collective resources.