Monday, July 11, 2011

Uprising Or Stability

By Fahed Fanek
The Arab Spring has highlighted the issue of reform through popular uprisings vs. stability.
The question is whether Arabs have to sacrifice their relative stability for the sake of radical reform that can put an end to dictatorship and corruption, or accept the status quo, bad as it may be, in order to maintain calm and stability.
Conventional wisdom had it that stability must be given priority. The American administration used to justify its alliance with, and support of, Arab dictators with the fact that maintaining stability in this vital region, is important because of its strategic position and because it supplies the world with its needs of petroleum, which should not be interrupted.
America’s position towards the Arab world is supposed to be led first by the US’ own interests and second by its values. Obviously, values were only given lip service.
The Arab Spring shows that people are aware that it is inevitable to sacrifice stability in order to achieve reform. Democracy, freedom and putting an end to corruption are deemed worth the human and economic price.
Some observers fear that in certain Arab countries people may lose stability and fail to achieve real democracy.
Leaderless revolutions may fail to achieve results and may end up with a new sort of dictatorship, thus being a jump into the unknown.
In each Arab country where a popular uprising to bring down the regime occurred, many lost their lives and both security and economic growth witnessed setbacks. Hopefully this state of affairs will be only temporary and stability will be restored on new, sound basis acceptable to the people.
Social unrest and lack of stability have taken their toll. The impact and consequences of social unrest were strong. For example, the rate of economic growth in Tunis, which was estimated before the revolution to be in the vicinity of 4.8 per cent, became 1.3 per cent. The rate of economic growth in Egypt, which before the uprising was estimated at 5.5 per cent, dropped to only 1 per cent. The growth rate in Syria was supposed to reach 5.5 per cent in 2011, but is not expected to exceed 2 per cent now. The same applies to Bahrain and Yemen, with varying degrees. The Libyan economy was ruined beyond repair.
Beside the devastating effects on the economy, companies’ shares in Egypt and Tunis lost 15 per cent of their value. In Syria, the loss reached 30 per cent. At the same time, the deficit in the budgets of those countries more than doubled. Tourism and industrial sectors were hit painfully.
These economic and social losses were the price that must be paid for the uprising and absence of stability.
There is, however, an ideal approach that was successfully adopted by Jordan. It may be able to achieve the desired reform peacefully, without having to sacrifice stability, lives and money. This approach could have been utilised if regimes had become aware of the seriousness of the situation at an early stage and chosen to be flexible, accepting the people’s demands and giving up their unlawful privileges. They should have realised that those who want to take everything may in the end lose everything.
Dictatorship, corruption and lack of justice, coupled with poverty, inflation and unemployment, are unsustainable phenomena. Change is a historical and social must. It has to happen, peacefully if possible, through revolution if necessary.
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 11/07/2011

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