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Egypt and the Economic Implications of the Arab Spring

From one the first days of protests in Egypt January 25st 2011 in Tahrir Square, it was more than apparent change was coming. Over a year after 30-year reigning President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, who knew lasting changes would feel so… slow? Parliament was dissolved, the constitution was suspended, and the Armed Forces of Egypt assumed power. But according to Esraa Abdel Fattah the “Facebook Girl”, the “Mubarak regime” lingers and life is not better in the country compared to last year (Staff 2011).

While fair elections were held, the Muslim Brotherhood came out on top of the elections. As this replacement parliament works on drafting a new constitution, violence against peaceful protests and conflicts continue in the streets.  Unrest at this point is waiting to be sparked by anything; one such flicker is due to ruling generals (Scaf) unwilling to surrender power. The balance of power in Egypt may leave many citizens, especially women between a rock and a hard place.  The presence of the Muslim Brotherhood will keep a dominating Islamic residual meaning that state will still favor religious influence and the two will not be separated. On the other hand, military control as experienced for nearly ten months after Mubarak was forced to resign his position became an evil at the behest of “supra-constitutional principles” putting military control before civilian politics (Staff 2011).

Since these protests, over-takings, disbandings, and violence are not unique to Egypt as the macro economic effect of the Arab Spring on the region has been very noticeable. Egypt’s GDP in mid-2011 was expected to see a 2.5% fall, in addition to Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen GDP contractions (Martin 2011).  The only country expected to have expanding GDP growth was Bahrain with a 2.5% increase, its slowest pace of growth since the 1990’s (Martin 2011).

The biggest hit on any of Egypt’s sectors is to tourism, which accounted for 6% of GDP in 2010. More importantly, this sector accounts for between 10 and 15% of employment in the labor force (AFP 2012). Due to violence, protests, and fear, tourism has seen significant decreases in visitor arrivals (down 33%), duration of time spent in Egypt (down 23% from 141 million nights in 2010 to 114 million in 2011), and dollars spent per day while visiting (down to $72 per day compared to $85 in 2010) (AFP 2012).

This hit to the tourism sector has been a part of the significant increase in unemployment over the past year. Beginning January at about 9% unemployment in October 2011 has been measured at 11.9% (www.tradingeconomics.com 2011). What I believe is not represented in any of this data is the unemployment of day workers in these major cities, lower class citizens that receive unmeasured benefits from high levels of tourism for various reasons.

Egypt’s deficit was expected to be 12.5% of GDP in 2011, and expected value of the Egyptian pound to decrease by 20%.

This inflation has been addressed by the Central Bank of Egypt, which stepped in and used significant reserves to prop up the value of the pound, rather than let it fall to its real value (Salah-Ahmed and Daily News Egypt 2012). While the allocation of reserves has been denied by some; it may be a smart (short-term) move in order to keep relative prices from rising too quickly. As long as inflation is still occurring, steep increases will lead to shoeleather costs from reduction in individual daily cash holding, as well as menu costs that can affect the variability of relative prices in the long run and create inefficient allocations of resources.

While it will undoubtedly take a long time to regain a stable economic environment, the most significant help will come from an established and widely supported government.

Yemen: the Economy and Social Unrest

Early 2011, following the Tunisian and Egyptian uprising “thousands of Yemenis have been demonstrating in the capital Sanaa, calling on Ali Abdullah Saleh, president for 30 years, to step down.”[1] Amidst all the clamor of the Arab spring uprisings, “trade and industry grind to a halt, tourism dries up and the economy in general stagnates and normal economic life ceases to function.”[2]

Social turmoil is only the climax of the country’s persistent long-term economic decline. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, with an income of $1,300; almost half of Yemeni population lives on less than $2 per day. The country also has a bad record on the human development front with a 54% literacy rate and a 62-year life expectancy. Its unemployment rate stands at 16.5% but is estimated to be much higher with almost half the youth unemployed.[3] Its economy is weak and has been dependent on oil, “petroleum accounts for 25% of GDP, 70% of government revenue, and more than 90% of Yemen’s exports.”[4]

“The economy is in shambles and that is not a temporary crisis. But there is something fundamentally wrong with the economy, especially when Yemen is running out of oil and water,”[5] says Marina Ottaway, a democracy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. On top of which, is the reality that Yemen is a country that imports its food and according to the World Food Programme (WFP), “the price of wheat flour has almost doubled in the past month. And while food shortages are not an immediate danger, aid agencies worry fewer people will be able to afford basic food.”[6]

With the heightening social unrest and uprisings, Yemen becomes a high-risk environment for investors. Couple that with the threat of civil war about to break at any time and what happens is “people are hoarding. They are buying supplies for two months ahead just in case.”[7] Food prices are rising, and with too much money chasing too few goods, the inflation rate becomes higher. Since the majority of the population is involved with protests, the result would be a decreasing labor-force participation rate. And with oil running out, government revenue decreases. Ultimately, national income is hurt in all sides of the equation.

While the Arab Spring may have made the country’s economic situation worse, with an economy that is already staggering upon its heels in the first place, its people have little incentive to remain subdued. As the analysts from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace had concluded, “it’s not surprising that Yemen has failed to achieve political legitimacy and establish a productive economy.”[8]

[1] “Yemen Protests: ‘people Are Fed up with Corruption’,” BBC News, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12298019 (accessed February 17, 2012).

[2] Sally Kelly, “The Economic Impact of the Arab Spring On the Region,” The Palestine Telegraph,http://www.paltelegraph.com/economics/world-economics/9410-the-economic-impact-of-the-arab-spring-on-the-region.html (accessed February 17, 2012).

[3] “Yemen: Economic Roots of Social Unrest in Yemen,” LA Times,http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/03/yemen-economic-roots-unrest-social-yemen-president-saleh-protests-arab-.html (accessed February 17, 2012).

[4] “Yemen: Economic Roots of Social Unrest in Yemen”

[5] Mohamed Elshinnawi, “Political Stalemate Threatens Civil War For Yemen,” Voice of America,http://www.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Political-Stalemate-Threatens-Civil-War-for-Yemen-131600608.html (accessed February 17, 2012).

[6] “Yemen Revolt: Collapsing Economy ‘is Major Threat’,” BBC News, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12976946 (accessed February 17, 2012).

[7] “Yemen Revolt: Collapsing Economy ‘is Major Threat’,”

[8] “Yemen: Economic Roots of Social Unrest in Yemen”

The Arab Spring and its Impact on Bahrain’s Economy

Zikibayeva, in December 2010, stated that Mohamed Bouazazi’s self-immolation in protest of the police corruption in Tunisia sparked numerous demonstrations that spread revolutions across North Africa and Middle East. “The revolutionary spirit that spread to the neighboring countries Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco, Jordan, raised questions of a possible spillover in other regions of the world.”(Zikibayeva ).

The tension that arose led to various economic unrests which are continuing even today. A major loss to Bahrain’s economy and prestige was the cancellation of the 2011 Formula 1 Grand Prix races which were originally scheduled to take place during March. “Efforts were made to reschedule the event in June and then later in October or November 2011, but were left unsuccessful. The next Formula 1 race has been rescheduled to take place during November 2012.” (www.marcopolis.net). The adverse effects on the economy via the cancellation and rescheduling of the grand prix due to the tensions that arose because of the Arab Spring will be discussed in the subsequent paragraphs.

Formula 1 had contributed to the Bahrain’s economy significantly through the revenues gained through the sale of tickets, TV coverage, basic transportation, food and beverages and numerous other activities.  However, with the continuous cancellations and rescheduling of the Formula 1 events in 2011, Bahrain has had to incur serious losses in the form of huge expenses to the economy.

Since 2004, the Grand Prix has always been held annually in March as the major event in the racing season. However, with the current tensions and cancellations, “Bahrain will be losing its premiere position in the holding the Grand Prix in March and will now have to hold the events close to the end of the season.”(www.marcopolis.net). This means that there will be a loss in terms of the audience as more people would have gone to the races at the start of the season rather than towards the end. At the present time, there will be a 32 month long gap between the last F-1 event which had been held in March 2010 and the present event which was scheduled to take place during November 2012.

According to the online source, macropolis.net, besides Formula 1, other sporting events would also have been cancelled or rescheduled due to the overhanging unrests presently. The Golf European Tourney at the Royal Golf Club which was supposed to take place in Bahrain (during this year) was moved to the Southern Hemisphere at the Fancourt Golf Resort. Thus, we are seeing that most of the highlighted sports for the current year have either been cancelled or relocated because of the rising tensions and revolutions in the Middle East.

Aside from expenses incurred due to the withdrawal of the event, losses to the economy also appeared in the form of lost tourism. With the current state of affairs, tourism has been highly affected in Bahrain. Tourism, which brought in substantial amounts of revenue especially during the F-1 season, was adversely impacted by the revolution. Income generated in the merchandize and souvenirs, food and beverage, and accommodation market took a big hit.

“Esam Fakhro, chairman of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), has estimated that the direct economic loss to the economy from the unrest has been over US $2 billion”.(www.marcopolis.net). This loss in the economy was mainly seen in the tourism sector (hospitality and events) and it resulted in the reduction in the consumer spending in the retail sector.  Further “results of the revolutions in the Middle East, Standard and Poors (a US based financial company) lowered the Bahrain’s long term and short term sovereign rating one notch and placed it in the Ratings Watch Negative list.” (www.marcopolis.net). This move adversely affected not only the Bahraini banking structure but also the Bahraini government who would now have to pay and/or charge higher interest rates on debts. This would be affecting Bahrain’s long term status as a regional and global center for banking and finance.

The Arab Spring has severely affected the countries associated with North Africa and the Middle East especially Bahrain. The revolutions and unrests in the country have affected the economy adversely. In Bahrain and Syria, the clash was mainly between the Shi’a and Sunni groups. “In late March, the Russian foreign minister’s spokesperson even declared that the events that were of an internal matter and that the matter must be solved though dialogue alone”.(Zikibayeva )



  1. http://www.marcopolis.net/economic-effects-of-the-crisis-in-bahrain-direct-economic-loss-to-reach-us-2bn.htm
  2. Zikibayeva, A. “What does the Arab Spring Mean for Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.” (2011): n. page. Print. <http://csis.org/files/publication/110912_Zikibayeva_ArabSpring_Web.pdf>.
  3. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/fia-ecclestone-keen-for-bahrain-gp-to-go-ahead/230870-5-24.html

Algeria and the Impact of the Arab Spring

Although the Algerian government was not overthrown in the Arab Spring, and remains in place today, the country was greatly impacted by this time of demonstrations and revolutions.  There were protests in Algeria, against the high prices of food, and the high rate of unemployment. The Algerian government saw what happened in other countries, and worried that it might happen to them as well, so began to take steps to limit the discontent of the population. As this discontent as due in a large part high food prices and a high unemployment rate, the government took steps to help improve the economy.  Thus, the Arab Spring had an important impact on Algeria.

In early January 2011, riots broke out in Algeria over the increase in the cost of food, which had greatly increased, and become difficult to afford. [1] To counter these protests, and placate the population, the government instituted some protectionist policies, subsidizing important food staples such as milk, sugar, oil and flour. [2] Subsidies are a complicated part of a policy maker’s toolbox. On one hand, they protect and nurture domestic business, preventing them from being dominated by competitors on the international market.  From an economic realist’s perspective, this is very good, because then in a time of crisis, the security of your state won’t be dependent on others, and what they chose to import to your country. However, they are not popular in the eyes of other countries, who may want more free and open trade, so their industries can dominate where they have a comparative advantage. Because of these twofold implications, this is a tool that must be used carefully.

As well as instituting subsidies, the government also greatly increased general public spending in 2011. [3]  That year, government spending went up by around 27%.[4]  Government spending is one way the economy can be stimulated, as it is one of the components that comprise GDP. An increase in government spending can also go towards providing important services to those in the populace who need them.

In 2012, the government is concentrating on improving public services, as well as trying to increase wages.[5]   For civil servants in the public sector, wages went up by 34%.[6]  This could greatly help the economy by creating more consumption. When people have more income, they are more likely to spend it. This could help stimulate the economy and lead to an increase in the demand for workers, to help cope with the new, increased demand for more goods.

In the aftermath of the protests of the Arab Spring, the government is greatly focusing on one of the large problems facing Algeria today, unemployment. This was an issue at the heart of many of the riots and demonstrations that shook the country. According to the official government figures, the unemployment rate is around 10%, although some international estimates double this figure.[7] The youth unemployment rate is also incredibly high, at with nearly a quarter of all young people between the ages of 15 and 24 unemployed.[8]  The Algerian government is spending 178 billion dinars on supporting employment in Algeria.[9]  Many international observers believe that to effectively grow the economy, the government needs to diversify, as the oil and gas sectors that form a huge part of the Algerian economy provide too few jobs.[10]

The Algerian government broke up protests with force, and then tried to break the will of the protestors with some economic concessions.[11] They put subsidies into place, and increased spending with a $268 billion dollar five year economic plan.[12] They also increased wages in the public sector, and poured billions of dinar into job creation. While the foundations for some of these actions may have been laid in the past, these policies were all implemented as a direct result of the Arab Spring, and the government’s need to placate its population to keep them from rebellion.

[1] Roberts, Hugh. “Algeria’s National ‘protesta’.” Forgien Policy. January 10, 2011. <http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/01/09/algeria_s_national_protesta.>

[2] Salhi, Hamoud. “Is Algeria Immune from the Arab Spring?” BBC. July 27, 2011. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14167481.>

[3] Arieff, Alexis. “Algeria: Current Issues.” Congressional Research Service. January 18, 2012. <http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RS21532.pdf.>

[4] “Loi De Finances2012: Des Mesures Pour Developper La Production Nationale.” Ministère Des Finances. http://www.mf.gov.dz/article/2/A-la-Une/199/Loi-de-finances2012:-des-mesures-pour-developper-la-production-nationale.html.

[5] Ibed.

[6] Salhi, Hamoud

[7] Background Note: Algeria.” U.S. Department of State. January 23, 2012. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/8005.htm.>

[8] Arieff, Alexis.

[9] Loi De Finances2012: Des Mesures Pour Developper La Production Nationale.”

[10] “Algeria Must Tackle Youth Unemployment: IMF| Reuters.” Reuters.com. January 26, 2011. <http://af.reuters.com/article/investingNews/idAFJOE70P0IT20110126.>

[11] Arieff, Alexis.

[12] Ibed.

Yemen: Will freedom lead to economic freedom?

Removal of Mr. Saleh was a prerequisite for economic reforms in Yemen. In this article, I will try to explore how regime change altered direction of some Macroeconomic variables such as Government Spending, Investment Freedom, Financial Freedom and Monetary Freedom. In order to make a case, I am using data from World Heritage Foundation which provides an index for each of these variables and also provides change in trends from preceding years.  In order to better understand the economic trends, I will individually look at these indexes, define what is captured in these indexes and provide my analysis for why particular economic variables choose to move in certain direction.

During the Arab Spring Government Spending decreased significantly. Heritage Foundation quantifies as Government Spending. According to Heritage Foundation Government Spending considers the level of government expenditures as a percentage of GDP. Government expenditures, including consumption and transfers, account for the entire score. One of the reasons for declining Government Spending as quoted by The Economist is attacks by angry tribes on oil pipelines that made it more expensive to produce and transport food and water. The government had to import fuel, doubling its monthly import bill to around $500m. The tax take, never large, has vanished. Central bankers are under pressure to raid reserves, said to be around $4.5 billion. Factories were shut because they lack fuel. Countless casual jobs have been lost.”

Since most of Yemen National Income was coming from oil revenue, the Arab Spring made it impossible to use these resources amidst civil disobedience. After the crisis, we did not only saw an increase in Government Spending but also that most of it was moderately fair. As data suggests, Couple of years before the Arab Spring, Government Spending remained between 50-60 points. After 2011, there was a sharp increase in government spending which currently stands at 62.4 points and is considered “moderately fair”.

Investment Freedom in Yemen has decreased during and after the Arab Spring. There was a decline from 50 to 45 points. In early 2000’s the Investment Freedom in Yemen was at a low of 30 points falling under repressed category. Individuals and firms were not allowed to move their resources freely and quickly into specific industries both internally and across borders. The key factors that provide constrain to investment freedom are political security, infrastructure, capital transaction, and labor regulations. With the advent of Arab Spring most of these variables were driven down in negative direction specifically political security and infrastructure which decreased investment freedom in Yemen. Some of the implication of this will be that there will be less Investment making the economy less stimulus and rather static.

Financial freedom during and after the Arab Spring remained at the same level. The Index scores an economy’s financial freedom by looking into the following five broad areas:

  • The extent of government regulation of financial services,
  • The degree of state intervention in banks and other financial firms through direct and indirect ownership,
  • The extent of financial and capital market development,
  • Government influence on the allocation of credit, and
  • Openness to foreign competition.

Since the index score remains the same, it can be argued that during the Arab Spring, there have been no structural changes in the government or financial institutions. With the changes in the government, we might see the graph rise in the long run.

The monetary freedom during the Arab Spring increased significantly. There was a jump from 65.1 to 82.2. The score for the monetary freedom component is based on two factors:

  • The weighted average inflation rate for the most recent three years and
  • Price controls.

Considering the crisis, the weighed inflation is expected to increase due to bad business conditions in Yemen. There also seems to be less price control on goods and services as inflation drives up prices. It is also interesting to notice that as soon as crisis are over, there is a sharp drop in Monetary Freedom showing stabling conditions of the economy.

Over all, there are two important indications of economic trends in Yemen. Economic variables that depend on individual and free market operations have seen an upward trend. Variables that are dependent on government or structural reforms have either remained the same or moved in negative direction. In order to address these challenges, revolutionary energy needs to be converted into structural rebuilding of the economic model.


Usman Shabbir.

Impact of Arab Spring on Bahrain

On February 14, 2011, people in the United States were giving chocolate and flowers to their loved ones. They bought Hallmark cards with sappy poems. In Bahrain the mood was much different; it was the first of the Arab Spring protests. Hallmark does not make cards celebrating ones first protest.

The first demonstration, known as a “Day of Rage” was organized by activist through social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter. They were protesting discrimination against the Shias by the Sunni dynasty and the disrespect for human rights. The activists wanted a new constitution and a democratically elected government. Police forces responded to the protestors by firing teargas and rubber bullets.

Within one year after that first day of protesting, 1,600 peaceful protestors were arrested, more than 100 people convicted, and 35 people died due to violence from police responses (http://www.crin.org/violence/search/closeup.asp?infoID=26590). Of all the riots in the Arab world in 2011, Bahrain’s government was the only one to temporarily succeed through force. However, doing so may have destroyed the society’s sense of a single community and the dozens of protests hurt Bahrain’s economy.

There has been a direct loss to the economy. The chairman of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Essam Fakhro, estimates that Bahrain has lost over $2 billion. The GDP and public finance have decreased $391 million and $690 million, respectively (http://www.geopolicity.com/upload/content/pub_1318911442_regular.pdf). The cost of the Arab Spring to Bahrain’s economy is relatively low because of its stable oil production, which contributes 30% to the GDP. Public expenditure increased by $2.1 billion because the government gave each family $2,660 in an attempt to improve living standards and compensate for the declining economy (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/daily-mix/cost-of-arab-spring-more-than-55-billion/article2201119/). However, by giving families money, inflation will rise because the money supply increases. The compensation will hurt the Bahrain family and their economy in the long run more than it will help.

Due to the unrest, many events were cancelled. Most noticeably, the Bahrain Grand Prix, which was scheduled for March in 2011, was cancelled (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/06/bahrain-formula-1-boss-says-grand-prix-postponed.html). The Bahrain Grand Prix is a Formula One championship race and is the first to take place in the Middle East. Since the first race in 2004, it has greatly contributed to Bahrain’s economy. The race generates around $220 million through ticket sales, television coverage, transport, accommodation, food, and merchandise. There was no Grand Prix in 2011, which means Bahrain did not get the money they anticipated.

In 2010, Bahrain had extremely high economic openness (http://arabnews.com/economy/article477485.ece). Its economy was open to trade and inflows and outflows of international investment. After the uprisings in 2011, Bahrain’s degree of openness decreased because other countries did not want to interact with them. The smaller a country, the more open its economy should be. Small countries must specialize in the production of few goods or services to be competitive and attain optimal scale. Therefore, they must export those goods and import the goods they do not produce. An open economy is needed for these transactions.

The Arab Spring created uncertainty for the economy. Bahrain suffered dramatically from the protests and unrest and it will require a lot of effort from the government to recover. It is widely believed to rebound in the near future; however, a full recovery may not be possible if the citizens continue their anti-dynasty protests. Bahrain may never be a financial hub again.

The Syrian Oil Sector

The Syrian Oil Sector

Since Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father in the presidency of the Syrian Arabic Republic, his regime has attempted to reform its centrally planned economy so as to, among other things, reduce dependency on the oil sector.  For instance, it sought to increase foreign investment in the service sector by lowering interest rates[1].  Foreign direct investment did increase substantially between 2001 and 2010, from 110,000,000 USD to 1,469,196,863.5 USD[2], but by 2009 the economy was still heavily dependent on oil production and exports.  According to the most recent data, in 2009 Syria’s oil revenue accounted for 25% of GDP, and 35% of government income[3].

Prior to the chaos which began in 2011, Syria was able to garner important investment from China.  The two largest investment ventures made by China were in the Al Furat Petroleum Company (20.3% share) and the Syria Shell Petroleum Development (35% share)[4].  Today, considering the international investment and export embargo Syria faces, Chinese investment in Syria’s oil sector plays a critical role in determining the course of its economy.

Since the first protests of January 26, 2011, conservative estimates have it that 5,400 Syrians have been killed while 70,000 have been displaced[5].  In response to President Asad’s humanitarian crimes and his continued unwillingness to compromise with the United Nations in terms of policy change, the U.S., the European Union and the Arab League have implemented economic sanctions targeting, in particular, the Syrian oil sector.  Not coincidentally, it is on Syrian oil production and exports that the sanctions have been particularly devastating.  On August 17, 2011, President Obama signed Executive Order 13582, prohibiting the importation of Syrian oil[6]. The E.U. followed suite on September 2, targeting government owned oil companies[7].  In December, the E.U. sanctioned additional state owned oil companies as well as Syria’s largest producer, the joint venture company Al Furat Petroleum Corporation (AFPC)[8].  Foreign investors own 50% of AFPC: 29.7% by Shell, and 20.3% by China’s CNPC.  Shell has ceased its share of production in compliance with E.U. sanctions[9]. Whether CNPC will continue production is largely dependent on ongoing political relations with the U.S., the E.U., and Russia.

Compared with U.S. sanctions, those implemented by the E.U. had far more catastrophic consequences for Syrian oil exports and production; in 2010, 99%[10] of Syrian crude oil exports (109,000b/d) went to members of the European Union[11]. Though the regime wants to keep a positive face on things so the populace doesn’t redeposit all its cash in foreign banks, some ministers tell it how it is.  Later on in December, after the E.U. castrated AFPC and Shell complied with the embargo, Syrian Oil Minister Sufian Alao lamented the effects the sanctions have had on the economy: “We have reduced our production by 30 to 35% until we resume exports.” [12]  He also noted that current oil output had fallen to about 260,000 b/d.  Last month, the Syrian Minister of Petroleum estimated that international oil exportation sanctions have depleted government coffers by $2 billion[13].

In 2009, Syria’s oil revenue accounted for 25% of GDP, and 35% of government income[14].  Given that the tourism industry (another major sector of the Syrian economy along with agriculture) is dead, the contribution of oil revenue to GDP and government revenues is even more critical.  Syria must find buyers to compensate for the 99% gap in oil exports left by the E.U. countries.

Before the protests, the rebellion of the Free Syrian Army, the ensuing slaughter of innocents by the regime and the E.U. sanctions, the oil sector was heavily dependent upon foreign investment, particularly that of China National Petroleum Corporation  (CNCP).  Syria’s ‘Arab Spring’ has seen oil exports drop dramatically because of sanctions.  Critically, China retains its portion of Al Furat Petroleum Corporation and Syria Shell Petroleum Development, and is effectively (while Damascus still searchers for new importers) the Assad regime’s life blood.  If China were convinced by the west to join the embargo, the regime would fall more quickly and with less blood spilt.  While it is the case that China follows noninterventionist policies, either way Syria’s fate hangs on that of its oil sector.




[1] U.S. Department of State, “Background Note, Syria,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

[2] The World Bank,”World Bank Search, Syria,” http://search.worldbank.org/data?qterm=Syria&_topic_exact%5B%5D=Economic+Policy+%26+Debt&os=10, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

[3] U.S. Department of State, “Background Note, Syria,”  U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

 [4] China National Petroleum Corporation, ”CNCP in Syria,” CNCP, http://www.cnpc.com.cn/en/cnpcworldwide/syria/, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

 [5] The New York Times, “World, Syria”, The New York Times, http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/syria/index.html?scp=1-spot&sq=syria&st=cse, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

 [6] U.S. Department of the Treasure, “Presidential Documents, Blocking Property of the Government of Syria and Prohibiting Certain Transactions With Respect to Syria”, U.S. Department of the Treasure, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/syria_eo_08182011.pdf, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

 [7] Official Journal of the European Union, “Corrigendum to Council Regulation (EU) No 878/2011 of 2 September 2011 amending Regulation (EU) No 442/2011 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria ( OJ L 228, 3.9.2011 ),” European Union, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CONSLEG:2011R0442:20111014:EN:PDF, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

 [8] Day Press News, “Shell to apply EU sanction on Syria,” Day Press News, http://www.dp-news.com/en/search_en.aspx?cx=001721001860200103495:mz6crj7jewo&cof=forid:9&ie=utf-8&q=al%20furat&siteurl=http://www.dp-news.com/en/search_en.aspx, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

 [9]Javier Blas, “Shell to quit Syria after EU extends sanctions,” Financial Times, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/bc9dae8a-1cd1-11e1-a134-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1mc631N00, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

 [10] Syria Today, “Syria to Barter Wheat for Oil and Phosphate,” Syria Today, http://www.syria-today.com/index.php/business/18447-syria-to-barter-wheat-for-oil-and-phosphate-, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

 [11]U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Countries, Syria, Background”, U.S. Department of Energy,, (accessed February 17, 2012.)

 [13]U.S. Department of State, “Background Note, Syria,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm, (Accessed February 17, 2012.)


Arab Spring Libya and Unemployment

The Arab Spring, a wave of revolutionary protests and demonstrations that has swept much of the Arab world since late 2010, has been a test to the stability in the Middle East region. Motivations behind the social movements have varied, including dissatisfaction with the governing institution (i.e. dictatorship, absolute monarchy), human rights violations, government corruption, economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and demographic structural factors (i.e. youth dissatisfaction despite high education rate). Manifestations of discontent have also ranged in extremity from outright revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, a civil war in Libya, civil uprisings in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria, major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman, and minor protests in Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara. Apart from the strategic importance the region holds, the Arab Spring has garnered the attention of the international community for the role contemporary factors, such as social media, has played into the movement’s progression.

It is inevitable that, despite the desired egalitarian focus that resides in the uprisings’ intentions, the social movements have, for the most part, translated into domestic instability, which poses problems to a state’s political and economic spheres. Not only does political instability alter the relations the nation-state has with other states in the global system, but economically, the instability of a state harms its balance of trade among, which, in turn, affects other economic factors. Among those include commodity prices, employment conditions, human capital retention, wages, investment, and consumption. The following is a discussion on the impact the Arab Spring has had on the state of employment and human capital in Libya.

Characteristic of Middle Eastern states, Libya is no exception as an oil rich state. It is a member of OPEC and holds the largest proven oil reserves in Africa. The Libyan economy is centrally planned, and is dependent on revenues from the petroleum sector, which account for approximately 95% of export earnings, 25% of GDP, and 60% of public sector wages. Despite favorable growth rates due to its primary commodity sector, it has been proven to be unsustainable as the country has reluctantly faced the consequences of economic recessions (falling oil prices) and international sanctions (export decline). To exacerbate potential economic instability, despite the government’s recent market orient reforms to diversify sectors and privatize some government owned companies, the state’s centrally planned tradition has resulted in three quarters of the workforce employed in the public sector, whereas a meager 2% investment in the private sector emphasizes the imbalance. The problem of unemployment would be exacerbated from this unsustainable economic system, which would be one of the underlying motivations for the Arab Spring to take root in Libya.

The Arab Spring in Libya came to focus with the 2011 Libyan Civil War. This was an ongoing armed conflict between those loyal to then leader Muammar Gaddafi and his regime, and those that sought to overthrow him. Dissatisfaction with the governing institution and lack of transparency, human rights violations, and economic decline with growing rate of unemployment, especially with the educated youth demographic, highlighted the persistent issue of unemployment in Libya. Although it is difficult to acquire the official unemployment rate in Libya, it was last estimated to be 20.74% in 2009, with over 50% unemployed under the age of 20. It is foreseeable that the Arab Spring has intensified the unemployment rate under the instability that resulted after the toppling of the Gaddafi regime and the subsequent transition of control under opposition forces, resulting in decline of capital investment and human capital flight. Part of the problem with Libyan unemployment is a result of a mismatch between education and productivity within its citizens. This has resulted in a demand for expatriate workers, whether less skilled or more qualified according to productivity level. While the Libyan government is transitioning, its approach to economic restructuring would determine whether the persistent problem of unemployment would be ameliorated.

The economic impact of the “Arab Spring” in Bahrain

The Arab Spring is a series of revolutionary demonstrations that started in December 2010. These demonstrations have been in multiple Arab counties. These countries include Tunisia, EgyptLibyaBahrain, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, IraqJordanKuwaitMorocco, and OmanLebanonMauritaniaSaudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara. In this blog I am going to focus on Bahrain and how the Arab Spring has impacted its economy.

Bahrain’s economy depends heavily on oil. Petroleum production and refining account for more than 60% of Bahrain’s export receipts, 70% of government revenues, and 11% of GDP (exclusive of allied industries). Other major economic activities are production of aluminum – Bahrain’s second biggest export after oil – finance, and construction. [www.cia.gov]

Due to the Arab spring the economy of Bahrain has been affected as GDP has decreased, debt has increased, current account balance has decreased, government spending has increased, consumption has increased, and investments have decreased. [www.cia.gov]

According to the equation, GDP= C+I+G+ (X-M), GDP depends on consumption, Investments, government spending and net exports. If there is a change in these factors then GDP is also affected. Bahrain has a decrease in GDP per capita from $27500 in 2010 to $27300 in 2011. It also has a decrease in GDP growth rate from 4.1% in 2010 to 1.5% in 2011 [www.cia.gov]. This means that the Arab Spring has caused changes in the other four variables that determine nations GDP. [www.cia.gov]

Due to these demonstrations people are not able to invest as much as it were in a peaceful country.

The current account balance of Bahrain has decreased from $770 million in 2010 to $617.4 million.  Government revenues, $7.93 billion, are less than government expenditures, $8.297 billion, in 2011, and there is a -1.4% of GDP budget deficit in 2011. Public debt has increased from 60.1% in 2010 to 75.3% in 2011. External debt has also increased from $14.58 billion in 2010 to $15.2 billion in 2011. Imports have increased from $11.19 billion in 2010 to $16.8 billion in 2011. These show that government spending has increased. Exports have increased from $13.83 billion in 2010 to $20.23 billion in 2011 but the money that Bahrain is earning is not enough since it still has a deficit in its budget. [www.cia.gov]

In conclusion, the standard of living in Bahrain has decreased due to the Arab spring. The comparison of Bahrain’s 2010 and 2011 statistics show this decrease in standard of living and the negative impact on Bahrain’s economy.









CIA world factbook:



US department of state:


Syria-Effect of Sanctions on the Economy

One of the myriad of ways in which the Arab Spring has been affecting the economy of Syria is through the sanctions that have been imposed by outside organizations as a result of the government’s response to protesters. The  violent government crackdowns in the currently restless nation of Syria have in turn led to increasing international pressure  on the Syrian government. Many international organizations have condemned the crackdowns as vicious human rights violations and subsequently have called for the stepping-down of the Assad family, the dictatorial family that has ruled Syria for multiple generations (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/26/world/la-fg-syria-economy-20120127). The European Union and the United States have already instituted sanctions, including the freezing of Syrian assets, and stopping trade with the area. Many viewed these Western groups as former colonial powers meddling in the Middle East and called for a regional solution rather than international condemnation. Recently, however, the Arab League has developed and initiated various sanctions as well, showing that the problem is being taken seriously within the region as well (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17065056). The agency has been working hard in Cairo to try to find a solution that will get the middle and upper-classes to “break publicly with the regime.” This is maneuver is important in a number of ways. As a matter of national pride, Syria has often seen itself as the heartland of “Arabism,” so the fact that the Arab League has taken action against them is a sort of psychological  slap in the face (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/world/middleeast/arab-league-prepares-to-vote-on-syrian-sanctions.html?pagewanted=all).  Yet another possible insult is the Arab-requested and led resolution being voted on in the United Nations  General Assembly at the time of writing.  The resolution condemns the violence being taken and calls for the resignation of Bashar al-Assad.  At the same time, the delegations to the Arab League are trying to find a solution that hurts the wealthy but makes it possible for the middle and lower classes to still get the crucial items they need, such as lamp oil (for light) and food. Regardless of various exclusions, these sanctions have the potential to be extremely effective, as “Economists estimate that about 50% of Syria’s exports go to the Arab World, and 25% of its imports originate there, much of that from its immediate neighbors” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/world/middleeast/arab-league-prepares-to-vote-on-syrian-sanctions.html?pagewanted=all). Despite these efforts, various Syrians, when questioned, provided criticisms, arguing that the wealthy will be fine, and that sanctions will only serve to hurt the average citizen (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/26/world/la-fg-syria-economy-20120127).

The respective roles of Iran and especially Russia, will be important in determining at least in part whether or not these sanctions work. In the United Nations, China and Russia vetoed the resolution put forth by the General Assembly, with Russia concerned over forced regime change and the possible military commitments that may entail. Others share similar worries, and an unnamed government official from the Middle East was quoted in the New York Times as saying that the “war” against Syria would take place economically rather than militarily (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/world/middleeast/arab-league-prepares-to-vote-on-syrian-sanctions.html?pagewanted=all). However, in terms of the sanctions, Iran and Russia are “posed to provide aid to Syria to compensate for lost government revenues” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17065056). If these funds are supplied, the regime will be able to hold on for even longer. Whatever economic action taken by international bodies needs to be as unified as possible.

Looking at the sanctions more generally  is interesting because it reflects how different goods and services have sometimes drastically different levels of importance certain commodities have in different regions. In our macroeconomics class with Dr. Moledina we talked about the consumer price index, and how to compare the results. Although there can be either fixed or changing baskets over time, there is also important geographic and cultural differences to take into consideration. For example, if we were to consider what is important to those living in the United States, lamp oil would not be anywhere near the top of the list. Similarly, however, such a thing as gasoline is probably not important to the average  Syrian citizen if they do not have a car. Another way to approach the effects economically is to look at the supply and demand curve, and the subsequent shifts that could possibly take place because of the sanctions.  For example, if the supply of lamp oil suddenly faces a drastic decrease since Egypt will no longer be trading it, the demand would move upward (since the supply had shifted left) and the prices would skyrocket. Although discussing such things is akin to modeling from our removed perspective, these questions are very real and very important to anyone with involvement or assets in the Syrian economy.


Works Cited

MacFarquhar, Neil, and Nada Bakri. “Isolating Syria, Arab League Imposes Broad Sanctions.” The New York Times 27 Nov. 2011: n. pag. The New York Times. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

“Syria crisis: UN assembly adopts Arab-backed resolution.” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17065056>.

Zavis, Alexandra, and Alexandra Sandels. “Crisis takes toll on Syria economy.” The Los Angeles Times 26 Jan. 2012: n. pag. The Los Angeles Times. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.