Chatham House Expects 2018 to be a Year of ‘Civil Unrest’ for MENA Region

The worsening economic conditions and the lack of structural reforms to improve the living standards of the population is auguring ill for the MENA region, which should brace for a surge of civil unrest in 2018 says an analysis published on the website of the UK’s leading Think Thank, Chatham House.

The analysis, signed by Claire Spencer, Chatham House Senior Research Fellow, draws attention to a set of protests that have rocked the MENA region countries on the backdrop of failing economic policies.

The year began with the Iranian protests in full swing. Then, for the first two weeks of January, thousands of people took part in sporadic protests across a number of Tunisian towns and cities against the apparent indifference of the government towards the impact of austerity.

She said that the MENA region’s governments are running out of quick fixers as they are grappled with rising public account deficits and debts, offering little to mitigate the inflationary pressures on foodstuffs and basic services that new taxation and cutbacks inflict disproportionately on the poor.

The MENA region’s citizens have borne the brunt of IMF-backed economic reforms as the countries struggle to regain economic balance seven years after the Arab Spring, she said.

In Egypt, she went on to say, “the promising economic growth projections just released by the government – of up to 5.5 per cent by 2019–20 – could provoke a backlash on the basis of public expectations: inflation has been brought down to 21 per cent from a 33 per cent high last summer, but needs to reach single digit figures for escalating food prices to be curtailed.”

The demographic factor adds to economic pressures, the analyst noted. “Many of the economic reforms currently being introduced from Morocco to Saudi Arabia reflect a long-standing need to restructure economies on a completely different basis from the years, which preceded the explosion in the region’s youth population.”

She concludes her analysis with a pessimistic tone stressing the need for political leadership in communicating and delivering a clear set of strategic objectives for the region’s economies.

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