Tunisian and Moroccan Economic Realities
Imagine a government license was required to start a debate club, or to coach a student for free or for pay. Actually, that’s not so hard to imagine. Any city council that could ban Spencer’s “Little Free Library” could as easily ban “little” debate clubs and coaches. (Spencer has an tentative okay for now from the City Council.)
Across the Middle East authoritarian governments are still making life and enterprise difficult for millions of entrepreneurs.
Emmanuel Martin and Dalibor Rohac, in the June 5, 2014 issue of Foreign Policy, report on progress, or the lack of it, since the Arab Spring uprisings:
While the situation on the ground is not idyllic, most would agree that Tunisia’s post-Arab Spring governments have made a concerted and commendable effort to establish democracy. But, as in other countries in the region, Tunisia’s 2011 uprising was just as much about jobs and economic growth as it was about political representation. Yet three years later, successive governments have made only modest progress on the economic front. (Put Tunisians Back to Work, FP)
Entrepreneurs trying to launch and expand enterprises still face state restrictions, note Martin and Rohac:
Close to 95 percent of the country’s economic landscape consists of micro-enterprises, and these face formidable barriers to entry and growth. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business report, starting a business has become more difficult compared to previous years. Obtaining a simple construction permit requires 94 days and costs close to 256 percent of average annual income in the country.
In this World Review article Emmanuel Martin looks at Morocco and discusses how its ties to the west helped it avoid the Arab Spring violence that swept other North African and Middle East countries.
What is the 20th Century U.S. experience in Morocco and Tunisia? The first part of the movie Patton is about U.S. forces in Morocco and Tunisia in the beginning of WWII.
Later, with the invasion of Italy, Patton is quoted as saying “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” I mention this quote to remind readers that capable military generals might naturally think of military action as a way to deal with Middle East problems, such as Islamist forces in Syria/Sunni Iraq, or, earlier, Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Economists, on the other hand, see legal and economic reforms as the key to stability and prosperity in developing countries. U.S. policies toward Middle East countries that promote or demand voting, free speech, or other civil liberties issues miss the key economic realities that keep people frustrated and poor. U.S. policies in Iraq after the invasion could have focused more on advancing economic freedoms and less on voting, nation building, and religious power-sharing. The U.S. invaded Iraq and then gave all economic power to the new Iraqi government and encouraged them to work together.
What kind of Constitution would have helped the Iraqi people? P.J. O’Rouke suggested we could have given the Iraqis our U.S. Constitution…since we’re not using it any more.