At the spring 2013 meetings, World Bank President Jim Young Kim set 2030 as the target date for eradicating extreme poverty, defined as subsistence on less than $1.25 per day, across the globe. In line with this goal, the United Nations created a New Global Partnership to lift the 1.2 billion poorest people out of penury in the same time frame. The New Global Partnership or Post-2015 Development Agenda replaces the eight Millennium Development Goals declared in 2000 and calls for a “data revolution” that demands development goals be based on internationally compatible measures.
“We should make it up to the peasants,” Muhsin al-Batran, erstwhile head of the economic affairs unit in Egypt’s Ministry of Agriculture, told the official daily al-Ahram two months after the toppling of Husni Mubarak in 2011. “Make it up” — why? And what is it that needs to be made up?
Ray Bush and Habib Ayeb, eds. Marginality and Exclusion in Egypt (London: Zed Books, 2012).
Marginality and Exclusion in Egypt is an insightful volume addressing the various forms of inequality that plague Egyptian society, with particular focus on the poor and working classes. With few exceptions, the chapters have a strong structuralist undertone; many use a political economy approach to describe class conflict. The volume’s title notwithstanding, most chapters treat the concepts of marginality and exclusion as afterthoughts, and only a few grapple with marginality as a theory.
When a project mixes the feel-good words of jobs, economic development and Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, how can anyone complain? These things are some of what the international community has been promising to deliver through the construction of industrial free trade zones in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The free trade zone model has been promoted locally and globally by powerful third parties like the United States, France, Germany, Turkey and Japan for two decades, but none has much to show for the enormous efforts and amounts of money spent to bring these zones to life. Nonetheless, the project’s proponents expect the zones to constitute the economic foundation for a future Palestinian state. They hope that, by bolstering Palestine’s economy, the zones will make Palestinians less prone to social upheaval, less insistent on their national rights and more amenable to the status quo. The idea is that a peace agreement with Israel will ensue.
As the year 2000 approaches, humanity has passed an important milestone, one that has nothing to do with the new Millennium, but which may have many more consequences than the Y2K bug. On October 12, the world’s population officially passed six billion. While pundits debated whether this was cause for concern or celebration, it is worth noting how we got here and where we’re headed. Population issues are particularly relevant in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where the population has more than doubled in size since the mid-1960s and will likely increase by another 50 percent by the year 2025. 
Beshara Doumani, Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995)
Like other recent neo-nationalist mobilizations of diasporas, a Yemeni government-sponsored gathering of émigrés this May sought to harness the newly perceived wealth and influence of Yemen’s diaspora towards national ends. Ethnic mobilization of émigré capital is nothing new. Early this century, Japan, understanding its weakness as an insufficient financial and colonial presence in transnational space, actively promoted emigration and remittances. The combination of an expanded concept of economic space and a restrictive concept of ethno-national political identity was considered key to catching up with developed Western powers.
Asia’s developing economies pose challenging questions for the left’s conception of the relationship between the state and development in this era of global capitalism. Neoliberals often cite East Asian economies as proof of the validity of their laissez faire development theories because they achieved high growth and technological development in a market framework. But a combination of state intervention and market discipline was actually behind the relative successes of these economies.
This issue of Middle East Report presents critical — and timely — analysis of the impact of neoliberal economic policies in the Middle East and North Africa. Authors representing a variety of disciplines and viewpoints explore the dilemmas confronting progressive forces searching for alternative programs to restore growth and promote equity.
Upon hearing a Dutch diplomat recite a dismal litany of statistics indicating the current social and economic plight of most Middle Eastern states, a Jordanian academic heaved a sigh. “This is a triple tragedy,” she said. “Not only are the figures bad, but they have to be collated by foreign agencies while governments in the region keep people in the dark.”
Ayman wanted a job in tourism. But he did badly on his high-school language exams and spent two years at a school in Luxor, across the river from his village, struggling to master enough rudimentary English and German to get into the hotel school at Qina. His most vivid memory from his two years in Qina was the night when he and the other front-desk trainees played the role of guests in a restaurant for the final exam of the student waiters and cooks.
As the cancellation of Algeria’s electoral process reaches its third anniversary this January, the conditions for a political settlement between the Islamist groups and the army-backed government are becoming exceedingly complicated. Even if the “moderate” voices within both the established order and the Islamist groups prevail, reconciliation may still not be attainable.
The early 1990s saw a period of renewed urban popular uprisings in Iran, unprecedented since the 1979 revolution. From August 1991 to August 1994, six major upheavals took place in Tehran, Shiraz, Arak, Mashhad, Ghazvin and Tabriz, and there were frequent minor clashes in many other urban centers. Most of these incidents involved urban squatters concerned with the destruction in their communities. This was the case in Tehran, Shiraz, Arak, Mashhad and Khorramabad.
Berch Berberoğlu, The Political Economy of Development: Theory and the Prospects for Change in the Third World (SUNY, 1992).
Timothy Morris, The Despairing Developer: Diary of an Aid Worker in the Middle East (I. B. Tauris, 1991).
“Development” is a quintessentially American concept, smacking of the optimistic faith in change and material progress that characterized US culture from the period of expansion across the continent in the nineteenth century to the expansion around the globe in the twentieth.
There was a short period, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the shape of the emerging post-Cold war system seemed quite clear. The disintegration of the Eastern Bloc would be complemented by further economic and political integration of Western Europe according to the Maastricht Treaty timetable. Other new blocs, like the North American Free Trade Area, were in the making. The whole system was to be regulated by a US-dominated order based on such international institutions as the UN Security Council, the World Bank and a revised General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).