Arab Elites Defend Economic Models that Gave Rise to Arab Spring, but Made Them Rich
In Pt2 RAJA KHALIDI says in spite of people's urgent demand for economic change, Arab elites have not altered their dealing with the IMF and are trying to keep a lid on the region as a whole - January 25, 2013
Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here
The Real News needs your support. Make a $10 donation by texting realnews to 85944 from your mobile phone. Works in US only
Thank you, The Real News does an excellent job - FedupwithR
Log in and tell us why you support TRNN
Raja Khalidi has spent most of his professional career with UNCTAD, where he is currently Chief, Office of the Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies. He holds a B.A. from Oxford University and M.Sc. from University of London SOAS. From 2000-2006, Mr. Khalidi was Coordinator of UNCTAD's Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian people, which combines the analytical and operational expertise of the UNCTAD secretariat in an integrated manner. His assignments at UNCTAD have also dealt with Debt and Development Finance, the global economic crisis and institutional development and strategic management reform. His own publications include a book on the dynamics of Arab regional economic development in Israel and contributions on Palestinian economic development issues to the Palestinian Encyclopedia, the Journal of Palestine Studies, edited volumes, as well as Jadaliya online and Palestinian, Israeli and international media. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.We're continuing our interview with Raja Khalidi. He's at the UNCTAD in Geneva. That's the UN Conference on Trade and Development,where he's currently chief, Office of the Director, Division on Globalization and Development Strategies. He speaks here today with his ownopinions, which are not necessarily those of UNCTAD.Thanks for joining us again.RAJA KHALIDI, SENIOR ECONOMIST, UNCTAD, GENEVA: Nice to be back.JAY: So let's just continue our discussion. As things unfold in Palestine and in the other countries in the Middle Eastâwe can start withPalestineâthere's a tremendous role being played by Qatar and Saudi Arabia in virtually all of the countries that had an Arab Spring. They'revery involved in Syria, arming the opposition. They're doing this in cooperation with the United States. There also seems to beâTurkey seemsto be part of this plan, at least as far as Syria goes. And when you look at what kind of Middle East they have in mind, I guess it's a reflectionof what kind of countries Qatar and Saudi Arabia are, to a large extent, although some of these countries are going to have elections, andthey're hoping the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power in these countries through the electoral process. But what kind of economies do theywant to build?KHALIDI: Well, in the region, we haven't really seen from these new governments any significant change in their posture towards theireconomicâtowards how they're going to go about resolving the economic problems that in some cases I suppose you could say brought themto power. In Tunis, perhaps less so than in Egypt (it's been more pronounced in Egypt), negotiations of the IMF led to a renewal ofâwe're notsure of all the details, but the renewal of some of the same conditionalities that perhaps in someâin our view, at least, led to or contributed tothe buildup of the socioeconomic pressures that contributed to the whole uprisings of last year.We haven't seen governments yet adopt a different posture in terms of their dealings with the international community. And of course theywantâ it's reasonable that these transitional situations, you don't want to scare off investors, you want to maintain whatever trade you'vegot set up as a result of, many years of liberalization in all of these countries. So I don't think that there's, however, any realization yet amongpolicymakers.I think there's a lot of discussion in the media among experts, even among international organizations, of the extent to which differentpolicies are required, different, in some cases significantly, to those that characterize the regimes of the past 20 years [incompr.] But I don'tsee that trickling through toâseepingâ penetrating yet into any of the policymaking that we've seen among Arab governments in the last twoyears.JAY: I mean, the way it appears to me is you have Qatar and Saudi Arabia, together with Turkey, but especially inâother than Syria, it seems,mostly Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and then to a large extent Qatar, managing these Arab Spring revolutions from Libya to Egypt in a way thatbrings to power forces that will essentially carry on kind of neoliberal economic policy, so privatization and open the markets to foreigncapital and such, except instead of being done, for example, in Egypt under the dictatorship of Mubarak, it's now going to be done with somekind of democratic form, but with the faceâthe face of it will be the Muslim Brotherhood, and perhaps not only in Egypt.KHALIDI: Look, I don't think the alliances that have been built so far between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries in general, and thenew Muslim brethren dominated governments of Tunisia and Egypt are really predicated so much on the survival of an economic model. Ithink the survival and the endurance of the economic model comes from much deeper causes, in a sense.I mean, it's partly because you don't have policymakers in place who know anything else. This is the way that they've always dealt withthe world, and they haven't yet internalized the extent to which the demands that continue to come upâand you've seen it even in theconstitutionalâin the current showdown betweenâin Egypt.The economic and social demands continue to be, increasingly more urgently voiced in some cases, because, nothing has been done to evenindicate that a different approach is going to be taken to dealing with them. And so I think there's that.I think the problemâwhat I'm trying to say is that the political alliances that you've mentioned are to do with other things. They're to do withideology.JAY: Do you not think this is partly about the Arab Spring kind of let loose a lot of democratic forces whose demands were not just aboutpolitical democracy but were also about more economic democracy, and wanted to question, how is stuff owned and how is the wealth of thecountry distributed? And do they not want to keep a lid on that?KHALIDI: I don't think they're worried about that. I think they're just worried about losing power, to be honest. I'm talking about now theregimes who have yet to be challenged, the monarchies in particular. That's what their main concern is, and keeping a lid on the region as awhole. I don't think that when they've promoted, be it in Syria or in Egypt or Tunisia, political or other forces allied to them, it's been so muchbecause they're assured that these people continue to run the same economic policies. I think the economic policies come along with otherthings.In Arab politics, the economics, economic policies, of course it's important, and of course they want to maintain the models that have madethem, a lot of elites in the region very rich, through illegitimate as well as otherâeven sometimes sanction forms of pillaging, if you wish, ofnational resources. There's no doubt about that, that there are a lot of forces that want to keep that system in place and that know that this isbeing challenged widely.On the other hand, I think that, at least inâmoneyâin Saudi Arabia, at least, there was a majorâand in some of the other Gulf countries, asthe first Arab Spring, realâthe original Arab Spring, if you want to call it that, erupted, by the summer of last year, of 2011, they had handedout some, I don't know, at least $50 billion in extra payments, transfer payments to households.So, in a situation where you have no organizedâeither at the national level in many of these countries or regionally, not only no organizedopposition, but there's no real leadership for the Arab Spring movements, if you wish. There are different contenders to the thrones or to thattitle, but in general this is still a very disparate movement, and each country has very different components, constituents, and demands. So, Idon't think they need to worry too much about those demands turning into new pressure.I think the issues that are beingâ that are being hotly debated are, unfortunately, to do with sectarianism, that sort of anâethnic differences,and obviously, political, constitutional liberties and all that as well. Those are determining the agendas of the political alliances of the region.The other thing I wanted to say, though, was that, from the PLO'sâthe perspective of the history of the PLO as a revolutionary movement inthe region, which, maybe it hasâit is no longer, but it certainly was in the '60s and the '70s, into the '80s, one could say, the PLO spent manyyears fending off Arab governments' intervention, to the extent that they actually officialized it by having an executive committee that hadfactions, supported by Iraq, by Syria, etc.So it's nothing new to revolutionary movements in the region for governments, regimes who, even if they'reâthese are notâin the Palestiniancase, it wasn't a revolutionary movement against the Arab regimes, but of course the Arab regimes, certainly at the time and for many years,wanted to make sure it didn't become one. So it was better for them to rally around and, one could argue, at different times divert, etc., thePLO's course that it would haveâ. And as a result of which, the issue of the independence of the Palestinian decision, which is something thatYasser Arafat, was famous for, always reaffirming as a way of implying, I'm not subservient to any of the governments, etc., it's somethingthat even Mashal the other day, the head of Hamas in Gaza, reiterated.So what I wanted to makeâthe analogy, I think, that is pertinent is that the Arab uprisings, as I mentioned, without leaders clearly identified,without, organization even to represent them in any way, are even at greater risk of intervention. And it's only natural that the governmentsof the region will want to suppress, divert, hijack, ride the wave, whatever. And we're seeing it in some cases. But we're also seeing it continuein Egypt. And I think even in the Palestinian case we're seeing a continued popular, broad social base movement that is continuing to insiston the things that we've heard even, from Tahrir in the very first months of this whole episode of the last two years.JAY: Okay. In the next segment of our interview we're going to talk more about Palestine. Please join us for the next segment of our interviewon The Real News Network.EndDISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannotguarantee their complete accuracy.
Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address.
Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name.
If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org