Highlights from the ERF’s 19th Annual Conference

The Mena region has definitely changed in the aftermath of the Arab uprising. Although the ascendance of Islamist parties to power might not be to the satisfaction of some, there is no doubt that it has become a reality.

The question is what kind of economic policies Islamist parties are going to come up with and whether their visions are the right ones for development.

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A Glimpse Into the Crystal Ball

The ascendance of Islamist parties to power following the Arab uprisings might not be to the satisfaction of some, but there is no doubt that it has become a reality.  The question is, are they managing the economies they inherited? And to what extent are they likely to adjust and steer their countries towards a better and more robust economy and an effective and democratic political system.

Plenary session 3 - Outlook and Possible Scenarios

Plenary session 3 – Outlook and Possible Scenarios

Following up on discussions held in the previous sessions, on the Causes of the Arab Uprisings and the Rationale for the Rise of Islamist Parties to Power & Comparative Economic Performance in Islamist-Governed Countries, the third and last plenary session was dedicated to discussing the possible scenarios that may result from the Islamist party rule.

The session explored the different paths Islamist parties are likely to follow, as well as the challenges and opportunities they are facing and their ability and willingness to achieve a balance between then neo-liberal economic programs they appear to support and the need for a social justice and income distribution that would respond to the peoples’ demands and expectations following the uprisings. The transition Islamist political parties are experiencing from opposition to ruling power was also discussed at during the session.

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Has Politics Failed the Environment?

Among the most controversial regional questions of our age are how serious is environmental degradation in the MENA countries and why? Simply put, it is because the countries of the MENA region have exhausted their share of natural resources, well beyond the sustainable levels. Environmental problems in the region range from water scarcity, water quality, air pollution, and land degradation to over exploitation of marine resources. Not only do these problems injure the environment but also they has a inverse relationship to inequality and poverty levels.

ERF dedicated a session of the 19thannual conference to a book launch for an extraordinary new publication: Economic Incentives and Environmental Regulations edited by Hala Abou-Ali. Published by Edward Elgar, in cooperation with ERF, this book explores challenges related to water sanitation and hygiene, air pollution, and land degradation in a diversified portfolio of MENA countries. These countries have very different socio-economic profiles, yet they all share the same environmental problems.

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الدين والتنمية الاقتصادية

Original English post by Salma El Meligi, translated by Ramage Nada

إن الربيع العربي منح مكاسب سياسية كبيرة للإسلاميين في كلٍ من مصر وتونس. فقد استفادت الأحزاب الإسلامية من كونها الأكثر تنظيماً، بجانب ما لها من سمعة في كونها بعيدة عن الفساد، ولكنها تواجه الآن تحديات متعلقة بالحكم. إن الحكومات التي تم الإطاحة بها في كل من تونس ومصر، كانت تطبق برامج ليبرالية مع حماية القطاع العام المتضخم وتوجيه الإقراض المصرفي الحكومي. والتساؤل الآن هو ما إذا كانت الحكومات الإسلامية سوف تحيد كثيراً عن هذا البرنامج.

ناقشت الجلسة العامة الثانية للمؤتمر السنوي بعنوان مقارنة للأداء الاقتصادي في البلدان ذات الحكم الإسلامي القضايا التالية: ماذا يحدث عند وصول الأحزاب الإسلامية إلى السلطة؟ هل يمكن لهذه الأحزاب أن تطور  خصائص محددة لسياسات التنمية الاقتصادية؟ وهل ستكون نتائج التنمية مماثلة؟ وما الدروس التي يمكن استخلاصها من هذا التحليل المقارن لدول الربيع العربي؟

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ERF About to Launch Open Access Micro Data

ERF took the opportunity to launch one of its most important projects at the Annual Conference: its Open Access Micro Data project. It is impossible to do state of the art microeconomic research without access to data. Open data provides a low cost distribution technology. It is a right to be demanded by populations to enhance transparency and accountability as such.

Major progress in the MENA region has been achieved to make data available and accessible to the public. This is considered a huge opportunity for researchers to make use of this data to analyze questions, provide evidence and come up with solutions to current issues of our time; argues Nemat Shafik, International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Religion and Economic Development

The Arab Spring has led to significant political gains for Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia. Islamist parties initially benefited from being the most organized and having a reputation for being incorruptible, but are now faced with the challenges of governing. The toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt had been following neoliberal agendas while protecting bloated public sectors and directing state bank lending. The question is whether the Islamist governments can deviate substantially from this agenda.

The second plenary session of the 2013 ERF annual conference titled Comparative Economic Performance in Islamist-Governed Countries, examined questions as: what happens comparatively when Islamist parties attain power? Do these parties develop defining characteristics as far as economic development policies are concerned? Are the resulting development outcomes similar? What lessons can we draw from this comparative analysis for Arab Spring countries?

In her presentation, Michele Dunne (Atlantic Council), focused on the situation in Egypt and Tunisia. As both countries are going through a period of economic and political transition, Michele argued that it is not possible for Egypt and Tunisia to get through the many years of political transition without being undermined by economic collapse.

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صراع نحو الديمقراطية، ما هي احنمالات تطور الأوضاع في المنطقة العربية؟

Original English post by Shahira Emara, translated by Ramage Nada

بعد مرورعامين على ما يعرف بالربيع العربي، أصبح هناك حاجة متزايدة لوضع إطار هيكلي لفهم التطورات الإقليمية. لا تزال هناك أسئلة لم يتم الرد عليها، وتفسيرات غير حاسمة، ومحاولة مبدئية لتحقيق التنمية. فمن الواضح الآن أنه لن يكون هناك قرارات سريعة في الوقت الذي لا تزال تعاني فيه المنطقة من التعامل مع تداعيات الثورة. ومن تلك التداعيات صعود الإسلام السياسي إلى السلطة.

يناقش المؤتمر السنوي التاسع عشر لمنتدى البحوث الاقتصادية القضايا الراهنة حول التنمية الاقتصادية في إطار صعود الأحزاب الإسلامية. تثير الأحزاب الإسلامية التي تمكنت من الوصول إلى السلطة في دول مختلفة عدة تساؤلات، من حيث تاريخهم، وقدرتهم على الحكم واحتمالات مرور الفترة انتقالية بسلاسة في المستقبل.

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