Political and Socio-Economic Change in the Middle East and North Africa: Gender Perspectives and Survival Strategies
By the lights of the international financial institutions, Tunisia and Egypt were the celebrated success stories of the Washington Consensus, or neoliberal reform, in the Arab Mediterranean and participated fully in the worldwide economic boom of the 2000-2008 period. Neoliberalism promised to shrink government and promote private enterprise as the engine of growth and new job creation. While fewer resources were provided to public investment and services like health and education, private investment did not fully compensate, even as most benefits of growth, liberalization and privatization were concentrated in the hands of a class of crony capitalists led by the ruling families. Throughout the 2000s, the underside of neoliberal growth became more glaring, including capital flight, the limited contributions of FDI and open trade to domestic development, growing regional disparities, multidimensional poverty, multidimensional inequality, and malfunctions of the labor market.
Social movements grew in opposition to this neoliberal polity and economy among both the middle and working classes. When the economic crisis of 2008-2010 caused a slowdown in economic growth and aggravated unemployment and poverty, the opposition movements grew stronger and more interconnected. To hold power, the ruling elite intensified electoral fraud and the often-brutal repression of opposition movements. The final insult was the maneuvering by the ruling families to convert their presidential systems to dynastic rule. By the end of 2010, these forces converged into a perfect storm that led to the overthrow of Presidents Ben Ali and Mubarak.
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Pfeifer, Karen, "Neoliberal Transformation and the Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt" (2016). Economics: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.