The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged crisis
No compromise so far..

Why did the Western media report today that Morsi has compromised his position? As far as I can see the MB has softened its language (with vague promises of "national dialoge") but not its position. See Ikwhanweb's increasingly bitter Twitter feed: "no turning back,decree is staying, those not willing to reach to a point of stability will be held accountable to God & history."

And speaking of Ikhwanweb, where do they get off describing the protesters as "liberals, secularists and filuls"? I guess you just need to take one look at this crowd of mostly veiled women to know they're all that. 

Not that the opposition doesn't have some blindspots of its own. The longer the protests last and the bigger they get, the more maximalist the protesters' demands become (another familiar phenomenon). Now some say they want the declaration rescinded, a new constituent assembly, and Morsi to step down (the last demand in particular makes little sense). Tempting as it is to dream of pushing a "Restart" button on the whole deeply flawed process, I don't think it's realistic, or fair to the Islamists and their supporters. Let's just focus on limiting Morsi's dictatorial powers and re-establishing judicial review. Then start negotiations -- again -- on a more representative constituent assembly. 

Thoughts on the current crisis

* The Brotherhood has badly misread the national mood and its own popularity. In these volatile times, it continues to practice politics as judo -- looking for a sudden, stunning move with which to overpower its opponents and impose its will. Hence a constitutional declaration hatched in secret and sprung on the public. How could the Brotherhood think there would be no backlash -- in a country that has just ridden itself of three-decade-long dictator -- to the overwhelming concentration of power in the hands of a new president? 

* There is great disingenuousness and suspicion on both sides of the current confrontation. The Brotherhood has alleged that the protesters are being manipulated, are thugs, and that they didn't pray on Friday. Meanwhile, it's hard to stomach some of the most egregious Mubarak era figures grandstanding about the need to protect democracy and the independence of the judiciary.

* Sacking the corrupt public prosecutor and re-trying police and regime figures were indeed revolutionary demands. The real problem with Morsi's declaration is its second half (where Morsi sets himself, the consitutent assembly and the Shura council above the law and gives himself sweeping leeway to take measures to defend the revolution). The opposition should make it clear. 

* There is no doubt in my mind that, yes, filul and elements of the so-called deep state -- the ones that supported Shafiq, and have the most to lose from a reform or restructuring of the state bureaucracy -- must be joining in and fomenting the current conflict. One of the difficulties of the current moment is how many different and murky agendas are at play at once. Both sides are convinced that what they are doing is for the greater good. The Brotherhood has stumbled badly but will not admit it; its opposition, while suddenly having found momentum, still lacks cohesion or even clarity. 

* The repeating pattern of events is arresting. I continue to think that calling the Freedom and Justice Party "a new NDP" is lazy and inaccurate. But once again we have a president who is either incapable or unwilling of reigning in his own Ministry of Interior. We have a wall at the end of Kasr El Aini street, and the offices of the ruling party going up in flames. We have rock-throwing 14-year-olds with nothing to lose (their enervated revolt has been the engine of the uprising but the physical and emotional fallout of these cycles of violence will also be its price for many years to come). Tomorrow, we will have rival rallies, parallel narratives and mutual accusations. It is all so strangely familiar. 


IMF: Midde Eastern economies are buffering global shock
From the Transcript of a Press Conference on the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook, a bit on the outlook for the Middle East:

"QUESTION: We talked almost about all the world's economy. We did not talk about the Middle East. So what's the outlook for the Middle East? And what do you expect them--what kind of role you're expecting for them to play? And if you have time, also I would like to talk about the Lebanese example, because I think if not the only country, like one of the fewest country that was not--they were not affected by the financial crisis. So Mr. Blanchard or anyone.
Thank you.

MR. DECRESSIN: Yes, we see growth in the Middle East slowing from around 6 percent in 2008 to 2.5 percent in 2009 and 3.5 percent in 2010. So, this is a much better scenario than the one that we have for the euro area or the U.S., for example.
So what's happening in the Middle East? You have first the oil price decline which is affecting the economies; and, second, the general decline in global trade. And then for some countries in the Middle East, also the financial crisis. There are some instabilities in some banking systems.
Now, the governments have, in our view, reacted very forcefully. They had large fiscal surpluses during the oil price boom in 2008 and 2007 and so they've built up large asset positions. And what they are now doing is they are basically running large deficits to support the economies. And in that sense, they will soften the decline that is going to happen to non-oil activity, and we think that this is very important. Saudi Arabia, I think, among the G-20 is the country that gives the largest fiscal stimulus, and rightfully so.
At the same time, countries have also pulled all the stops with respect to monetary easing that they can pull, lowering reserve requirements, for example, and so forth. They have also injected liquidity in their banking systems. Countries have put money on the table for recapitalization. So on the whole, it's a pretty strong policy response, and I think this validates our forecast of a decline in the growth rate, but still positive growth of around 2.5 percent this year.
Now, as to Lebanon, Lebanon has been a financial center, and our reading is at least that the country will be quite heavily affected. They've had growth of around 8.5 percent in 2008, and they're going down to 3 percent. So they've been growing a little more than the average in the Middle East in 2008, and they are falling down to approximately the same level as theaverage in terms of growth rates. And there the financial sector is playing a big role as well because it's a big part of the economy, and with generally lower activity everywhere in the Middle East, that will also reduce the financial flows from other Middle Eastern countries to Lebanon, and it will reduce the profitability of the banking sector."

Since Lebanon is kept afloat by financial flows from elsewhere in the region and beyond, one should keep in mind how this will affect the political climate post-elections. When the pie shrinks, there's more fighting for a slice...

Note that in chapter two of the IMF's report on the global crisis, there is a section called "Middle Eastern Economies Are Buffering Global Shocks". So basically Middle Eastern countries, esp. oil producers, are providing relief for the advanced economies of Europe and North America whose financial irresponsibility caused this crisis. And many of these countries, even when they have a lot of petrodollars, are poor. (Not to mention whatever kind of pressure is being put on major OPEC producers to keep oil prices low during the recession, beyond falling demand.)