Arab Spring cost region half a trillion dollars

Arab Spring cost region half a trillion dollars

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
The most recent report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia stated that the countries involved in the Arab Spring and related conflicts in the Middle East cost the region $613.8 billion, or 6 percent of its total GDP, in lost economic growth between 2011-2015.
Nevertheless, the unforeseen losses are greater than all of this since the movements failed in almost everything they sought. There has been no resulting democracy, individual rights and freedoms, transparency, development, stability, jobs, or raising the standard of living and increasing economic prosperity. Not one of these aims were achieved; quite the contrary, there was no real progress toward any of them.
Those who believe that change happens in phases and that the Arab Spring is only facing a setback will not be able to find even one small development in the countries that underwent revolutions, not even on the intellectual level. At the same time, the values that the revolutions should have instilled into people, were hit hard as a result of frustration, despair and shock at the post-revolution change.
No one can defend the rule or the character of former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. He faced a genuine popular revolt that led to his execution at the hands of his country’s angry citizens. Gaddafi was indeed an insane dictator who wasted his country’s resources, created poverty and mistreated Libyan citizens.
Before the revolution, we thought nothing could be worse than Gaddafi, but we see now that Libya has become worse than ever, governed by people such as religious extremists and tribal leaders who are more brutal than the man they overthrew. The country is in deep chaos that has killed or exiled its genuine political and community leaders instead of allowing them to take the country to a safe harbor. Some might consider Libya an extreme case if compared to the birthplace of the Arab Spring, neighboring Tunisia.
Indeed, Tunisia enjoys greater stability than Libya. It has one governing political system, some public participation and some freedoms. However, Tunisia was better off socially and economically. The situation in Tunisia is still subject to the control of its politicians and the protection of its military, which is not guaranteed and which is not completely stable.
The main problem is in the lack of structure; we don’t see any model or ideas for a modern state. This includes the elites who failed to leave aside their unrealistic ideals, the Islamists who insisted on not sharing power, and the leftists who threw away their chances in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.
For example, we don’t see any reform or development, or any other slogans of the revolution even in a stable country such as Egypt? The wounds of the Arab Spring will take some time to heal. Some are still in denial about the failure of the revolutions, and think that they are just setbacks that will be followed by changes! And there are those who admit to failure, but put the blame on others and suggest conspiracies. In my opinion, the culture of change toward a sophisticated system with modern values never existed. There are revolutions, which seek bread rather than freedom.

• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran journalist and internationally acclaimed columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel and ex-editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.
* Originally published in Asharq Al-Awsat
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