Omer Karasapan's blog
When the Arab Spring broke out and regimes began to fall under the pressure of their own citizens, a revolution on social media also took hold. During this critical period, the use of Facebook and Twitter was ubiquitous, especially in Egypt and Tunisia. Social networks and cell phones played an important role.
Three of the six books to receive the 2013 English PEN Award for outstanding writing in translation are by Arab authors. This award goes to works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry supporting inter-cultural understanding and freedom of expression. These are the three: The Silence and the Roar by Syria's Nihad Sirees; Writing Revolution: The Voices from Tunis to Damascus edited by Lebanon's Leyla Al-Zubaidi, and Matthew Cassel and Nemonie Craven Roderick; and Horses of God by Morocco's Mahi Binebine.
I finally had a chance to look over the latest Global Competitiveness Report (2012-2013), an annual publication of the World Economic Forum and I thought it would be interesting to see how the participating Arab countries were doing. So, what do these rankings actually mean and how did the Arab countries do? Well, as in all things, it varies by country and groupings of countries.
Unemployment, cronyism, bad governance and lack of transparency and accountability were factors that have contributed to the Arab Spring. However, worries over employment stem beyond the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the challenges facing southern Mediterranean countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal and other troubled EU economies. A Gallup poll provides a global perspective on this issue
A recent poll from Gallup (Summer 2012) entitled “After the Arab Uprisings: Women on Rights, Religion, and Rebuilding" makes for interesting reading and provides surprising results. While there are many commonalities among the Arab countries surveyed (Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen), some of the findings also underline significant differences. This leads to some surprising poll results as the questions address broader terms like religion, the Sharia, gender equity, etc.
As we all watch the events unfolding in the Middle East, transfixed by the politics and social and economic ramifications of it all, it occurred to me that it might not be a bad idea to look at what the Arab World was reading by way of fiction. I could not locate a best-sellers list covering the region but work on putting together such a regional list is ongoing. So I turned to the 5th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), a literary prize managed by the Booker Prize Foundation in London, and funded by the Emirates Foundation in Abu Dhabi. The prize is for prose fiction by Arabic authors, very much like the Man Booker Prize in the UK.
In 2010, the European Commission undertook a pilot project to explore the possibility of establishing “an inter-institutional system identifying long-term trends in major policy issues facing the EU.” The pilot’s findings are included in Global Trends 2030: Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World. The report identifies three major global trends: 1) The growing empowerment of individuals driven by a growing middle class; 2) Stronger human development trends but persistent challenges in inequality, climate change and resource scarcity; and 3) An increasingly polycentric world that is faced with governance gaps as interstate mechanisms fail to respond to global public goods.
It is difficult to imagine a book more timely and relevant to the Arab revolutions than Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson's "Why Nations Fail."Indeed they focus on Egypt in their preface. As they sum it up "To Egyptians, the things that have held them back include an ineffective and corrupt state and a society where they cannot use their talent, ambition, ingenuity, and what education they can get. But they also recognize that the roots of these problems are political. All the economic impediments they face stem from the way political power in Egypt is exercised and monopolized by a narrow elite.
Tourism is one of the world's largest and fastest growing sectors, making up 5% of the world's GDP and 30% of the global export of services (over $1 trillion). In 2010 alone, there were some 1 billion tourists worldwide, 60 million of whom traveled to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. International Tourism receipts amounted to $900 billion - MENA's share making up roughly 6% of the total, around $50 billion. Overall, MENA tends to underperform slightly, not only in terms of the number of visitors and monetary inflows, but also in its potential to generate employment.
Since my Blog on regional integration, I have been thinking about the possible role of an Arab Development Bank in the region, especially but not exclusively to spur regional and global integration. Colleagues who know a thing of two about the region, economic development and Arab organizations had mixed views. Some liked the idea, others thought the idea not very useful, especially since it is often voiced and then shot down. The feeling was that yet another institution would be confusing and redundant.