Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: The Cost of the Arab Spring is Half a Trillion Dollars | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia’s report stated that the Arab Spring led to a net loss of $613.8 billion in economic activity in countries involved in it. This is equivalent to 6 per cent of the region’s GDP in the period between 2011 and 2015.

Nevertheless, the unforeseen losses are bigger than all of this as the revolutions failed with regards to almost everything that they promised: democracy, individual rights and freedoms, transparency, development, stability, securing jobs and raising the standard of living and economic prosperity. Absolutely none of these things were achieved and in all cases, they declined dramatically.

Those who believe that change comes in stages and that the revolutions of the Arab Spring that started in 2011 are just experiencing a setback that will be followed by hurricanes will not be able to see even a little progress made in the societies where the revolutions took place. I do not mean physical improvement but rather intellectual change. Not only that, but the principles that the revolutions were supposed to have instilled into society have been hit by a terrible setback as a result of the frustration, despair and shock that followed the operations of change.

No one can defend the Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi or his rule. His people revolted against him in a genuine and popular revolution and it continued until his regime was destroyed and he was killed at the hands of angry citizens in a brutal manner. Gaddafi was a model of an insane and bad dictator who squandered his country’s wealth, left it poor and mistreated his citizens. Although we thought that it was impossible for any alternative to Gaddafi to be worse than him, the result is that Libya has become worse than before and is being governed by extremists and tribal leaders who are more repulsive than he was. The country is in deep chaos, and political and community leaders have been killed or exiled instead of being allowed to rule and achieve the desired change. The situation in all the other countries where the Arab Spring took place is no better at the moment.

Some may consider Libya to be an extreme case compared to the birthplace of the Arab Spring, its neighbour Tunisia. It is true that Tunisia is experiencing better stability than Libya, that only one political system governs there, and that there is some public participation and freedom. However, Tunisia was better off socially and economically. The situation in Tunisia is still subject to the control of its politicians and the protection of its military which is not guaranteed.

The problem is structural and the values of a modern state have still not been introduced. That includes the elite that failed to put aside their idealistic proposals that suit their political positions, the Islamists who insisted on controlling everything and the leftists who wasted their chance in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.

What has been achieved in accordance with the standards of reform and development or slogans of the revolution itself, even in a stable country like Egypt? Nothing, and it will take a long time to recover from the wounds that it sustained due to the Arab Spring uprising.

There are those who deny the failure of the revolutions of change and consider what happened as just an exercise that will be followed by change! There are those who admit failure but shift the blame to others and claim that the revolutions have been subject to conspiracies to end them.

In my opinion, a culture of change towards sophisticated systems that have modern values does not exist as we imagine it. There are bread revolutions but not revolutions of freedom.