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The way forward

The way forward

There's an opportunity for Middle Eastern states in the unrest engulfing the region, argues this Arab News editorial. But they must do more to address the economic problems of their people.

February 21, 2011 12:24 by

It is no coincidence that most countries affected by what is being termed as the Berlin Wall moment of the Middle East are those that have been battling unemployment, poverty and a strong dissident movement demanding greater political freedom. While economic deprivation, unemployment and lack of basics have been the driving force behind the current unrest across the region, there’s no doubt that an absence of political empowerment and participation has also contributed to some of the anger that one sees on the streets today, from Sanaa to Tehran.

Just a cursory look at the Arab human development report issued by the United Nations after the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt would offer an amazing insight into the issue at the heart of the current turmoil. While some states in the region have consciously invested in the infrastructure, education, health and well being of their people, most do not have a very impressive record in providing good governance and delivering on the basics like jobs, education and health. No wonder many of them today have their young people out in the streets angrily demanding change. Of course, Bahrain is an exception. Its problem is apparently more complex.

Others cannot afford to be complacent though. The Middle East can no longer remain stuck in a time warp while the world around it has moved on. Arab states will have to do more to address the economic problems and aspirations of their people. They must reform for their own sake, if nothing else.  Institutional ineptitude, internal conflicts and regional rifts cannot be an excuse for governments to neglect their fundamental responsibility — the well being of their people.  History will not forgive the Middle East’s leaders and elites if they fail to respond to the winds of change sweeping the region. There’s an opportunity for them in this unprecedented crisis.

–          Arab News

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