After the ‘Arab Spring’: Development Challenges and Solutions

Since the extraordinary events of early 2012, living conditions for the majority of the  working  population  in  the  Arab  world  have  not  changed for the  better,  and indeedif anything have worsened. Food prices are at their highest since 2008, the standards for resource allocation are the same and several civil wars are ongoing in the region. Changes in the allocation and redistribution arrangements would require a restructuring of the group, the social agency or the classes that characterize social formations.  Income inequality in the Arab World has risen at a rate which actually makeseconomic  growth  unattractive  to  the  mass  of  the  working  population. Whereas in the immediately post independence era, the income of working people grew faster than the incomes of the rich, by 1980, the income of the richer classes was growing at a rate that undercut the incomes of the poor.The incomes and shares of total income of the working poor declined and fell. On the institutional level, private undertakings have siphoned resources from the public sphere and put less back in than they took out. The social rift that came to exist between the public and   the   private   spheres   after   twenty   or thirty   years   of   liberalization   was unbridgeable under the old ideological setting.  Now, more than two years after the uprisings, in the countries that have so far managed to escape collapse and civil war, the social and economic agenda seems to differ little from its predecessors.

What is to be done?  A decade ago, long before the Arab uprisings, Middle East development specialists drew our attention to key weaknesses in the areas such as  education, employment, gender, and institutional capacity.  Now, four years after the Arab uprisings, there is much more turbulence and uncertainty in the political and social order.  Egypt in particular faces daunting problems.  The first day of the MEI conference will strive to examine the economic and social underpinnings of the uprisings, document the changes in economic and social conditions since 2011, and critique the reform efforts in post-­‐uprising governments.  The second day will focus on  solutions  to  three  critical  problems:  growing  gender  inequities,  increasing societal inequities, and the deficiencies of the neoliberal development model.    The MEI  conference  contributors  will  be  asked  to  offer  practical,  policy-­‐relevant strategies for dealing with these issues in hopes of furthering human development in the region.

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