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).
Open almost any study of Egypt produced by an American or an international development agency and you are likely to find it starting with the same simple image. The question of Egypt’s economic development is almost invariably introduced as a problem of geography versus demography, pictured by describing the narrow valley of the Nile River, surrounded by desert, crowded with rapidly multiplying millions of inhabitants.
A 1980 World Bank report on Egypt provides a typical example. “The geographical and demographic characteristics of Egypt delineate its basic economic problem,” the book begins:
Three basic theoretical formulations frame the state of the health debate among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The biomedical/clinical framework is generally espoused by the majority of the medical and allied health care establishment, most of whom have been trained in the Western medical tradition. This biomedical framework views disease as a malfunction of systems and organs that can be corrected by technical intervention on the part of qualified health care providers. By this conception, medical care and healing occur almost solely within the limits of the clinic, the hospital, the laboratory and the pharmacy. Causal relationships are clear-cut and unidimensional. 
Health, along with food and shelter, is a fundamental element of every person's life. If we are in good health we may take it for granted, but when our health is bad — when we are ill or injured — it becomes central to our lives.
Ronald H. Chilcote and Dale L. Johnson, eds., Theories of Development, Mode of Production or Dependency? (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1983).
This is volume two of Sage’s series in “Class, State and Development,” and the answer to the question posed in the title of the book is “both.” That is, the editors take the position that the transformation of societies in Asia, Africa and Latin America is the dialectical product of the interaction between the indigenous evolution of classes and state institutions within these societies, on the one hand, and their integration on subordinate terms into the world capitalist economy, on the other hand. The lack of dogmatism is refreshing.
Egypt’s current debt crisis is one of the fruits of Camp David. Much of the principal and interest now in arrears or coming due was contracted in the heady days when oil prices were soaring and the treaty with Israel and military alliance with Washington certified Egypt as a credit-worthy customer for Western banks and governments. The United States in particular stepped up its economic and military lending to Cairo.
Bryan S. Turner, Capitalism and Class in the Middle East: Theories of Social Change and Economic Development (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1984).
The foreign debt of the less developed countries (LDCs) of the Third World now stands at around $600 billion. More than half of this—about $350 billion—is owed to private international banks. Events like the strikes and demonstrations in Brazil this summer, or the labor unrest that triggered the military coup in Turkey in 1980, demonstrate the critical relationship of the foreign bank debt to political developments within the LDCs themselves. The crisis, however, is not confined to the debtor countries alone.