Key note speech: Foreign debts, reforms and the change of the social pact in the Arab World in the 1980’s

The key note power points

Foreign debts, reforms and the change of the social pact in the Arab World

Samir AITA

Key note speech at Workshop

The Making of the Washington Consensus in the Middle East and North Africa. Negotiating international assets, debts and power (1979-91)


The 1970’s set the bases for major changes that reshaped later in the 1980’s the relations between the Arab countries and with the rest of the world, as well as the proper structures of their State institutions and power systems. The Arab “solidarity” during the 1973 war led to immense wealth flows to the Gulf countries, Iraq and Libya transforming the regional equilibria, remodeling the States’ functions, roles and “ideological trends”.

The Iranian “revolution” of 1979 may be considered a major trigger for these changes, as much as Egypt President Sadat visit to Israel a year earlier. The 1980’s isolated Egypt, the most populated Arab country, from its other “brothers” and drained Iraqi and Arab financial and human resources in the millions of victims’ Iraqi-Iranian war, and to a lesser extent in the Lebanese civil war and the countering of the Israeli invasion.

The generous financial grants from the Gulf countries to the low and middle-income were replaced by loans increasing foreign debts, or even by sanctions in the case of Syria which took the “wrong” Iranian side. But more importantly, the State institutions of the Arab countries slipped to be no more that which emerged from independence, aiming to bring education, health, electricity, public services to all its population, as well as equity as a general “ideological” tendency. Instead, the model of State of the Gulf countries spread aiming mainly to divert financial resources to the consolidation of a strongly stabilized “power system” ruled by a royal family or a President.

This was obtained at the expense that the State became more vulnerable to external and internal shocks. The raise of foreign debt with little increase of a counterpart in public assets made the countries more vulnerable to strong variations in oil prices and to the world economic environment. The exceptionally stable political “power system” broke the post-independence social pact and failed to reform to adjust with the more demanding “youth bulge”. International financial institutions acted in a way aggravating this deadlock that only a major social explosion can bring change and reforms.

7 Modulo Nota Spese English


Wednesday 10th October, 2018
Opening Welcome: 15:00-15:30
Filippo Andreatta, Director of the Department of Political and Social Sciences
Massimiliano Trentin, Duccio Basosi, Mauro Campus, Research-Project Units Leaders
First Session: Debating the economics and politics of foreign debt in the Middle East and
North Africa, 15:30-17:00
Discussant: Arrigo Pallotti, University of Bologna
• Alessandro Romagnoli, University of Bologna: The emergence of the debt crises in nineteen
seventies MENA economies: from a provisional trouble to a development model crash.
• Massimiliano Trentin, University of Bologna: Debating and framing the “Debt problems of
developing countries” at the UNCTAD (1976-1991).
Keynote Speech, 17:00-18:30
Samir Aita, Cercle des economistes arabes: Foreign debts, reforms and the change of the social
pact in the Arab World.
Thursday 11th October, 2018
Second Session: Case-Studies from Western-linked States, 9.30-11.00
Discussant: Mauro Campus, University of Florence
• Adel A. Beshai, American University in Cairo: Egypt: A case study of a heavily indebted
country in the 1980’s which emerged a solvent one. How and Why?
• Erhan Dogan, Marmara University, Istanbul: From Import substitution to Export promotion:
economic policies that governments developed to overcome the acute economic crises of
Turkey since 1960s.
STRADA MAGGIORE 45 – 40125 BOLOGNA – ITALIA – TEL. +39 051 2092500 – FAX +39 051 239548
Third Session: Case-Studies from the Non-Aligned Movement in the Mediterranean, 11:30-
Discussant: Duccio Basosi, Ca’ Foscari University Venice
• Manon-Nour Tannous, Université de Reims: La dette syrienne ou le pouvoir du débiteur.
• Francesco Privitera, University of Bologna: Foreign debt as catalyist for crisis in
Fourth Session: Exploring Algeria, 14:30-16:00
Discussant: Corrado Tornimbeni, University of Bologna
• Siham Chérif, Université d’Algiers 2: L’endettement algérienne et la crise des années 90.
• Francesco Saverio Leopardi, University of Bologna: Algeria and the Washington
Consensus: survey of a shifting relation.
Final Remarks, 16:00-17:00
Massimiliano Trentin, Duccio Basosi, Mauro Campus

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