Global Assembly of the CADTM Network, Rabat, 20-22 May 2013

Some elements of the Arab world’s situation in 2013

5 November 2013 by ATTAC/CADTM Morocco

CC - Collin David Anderson

The revolutions and people’s uprisings in the Arab world have always had similar political, economic and social causes. The peoples of the region are victims of despotic regimes and predators flouting civil liberties, plundering wealth and damaging economic and social rights. They have now risen in a wave which was born in Tunisia and Egypt and which has won virtually every country in the Arab world, from Morocco to Yemen and Bahrain via Libya.

The fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak provided a considerable momentum to uprisings across the region, with hopes for dignity, democracy and social justice, but the new regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have not broken away from the previous economic model. They are trying to get a hold on these aspirations and confine them within an Islamic fundamentalist model that undermines democracy and resort to the same liberal dogmas advocated by international financial institutions.

The last-mentioned have played, and continue to play, a key role in major strategic choices and structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).

programmes which have given rise to economic and social underdevelopment and the dependence of the regional countries. It meant deregulation of the economy; reduction of government intervention and its social function; encouragement for private investment, free trade, privatization of public enterprises and public services; and increased debt. The region of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) can be distinguished by the acute nature of its developmental crisis. Its average annual growth rate of GDP GDP
Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product is an aggregate measure of total production within a given territory equal to the sum of the gross values added. The measure is notoriously incomplete; for example it does not take into account any activity that does not enter into a commercial exchange. The GDP takes into account both the production of goods and the production of services. Economic growth is defined as the variation of the GDP from one period to another.
in 2000-2008 was 4.7%, much lower than that across the Third World countries. It also beat the records in terms of poverty, insecurity, unemployment and inequality.

After the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the IFIs, the G8 G8 Group composed of the most powerful countries of the planet: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA, with Russia a full member since June 2002. Their heads of state meet annually, usually in June or July. and the G20 G20 The Group of Twenty (G20 or G-20) is a group made up of nineteen countries and the European Union whose ministers, central-bank directors and heads of state meet regularly. It was created in 1999 after the series of financial crises in the 1990s. Its aim is to encourage international consultation on the principle of broadening dialogue in keeping with the growing economic importance of a certain number of countries. Its members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, USA, UK and the European Union (represented by the presidents of the Council and of the European Central Bank). dumped the responsibility on non-democratic regimes that failed to solve their social problems. They announced their intention to grant aid so that reforms could be carried out for the benefit of people and stable economies. The U.S. have signed an agreement of “economic and social cooperation” with Tunisia (September 2011) and are pressing for a free trade agreement with Egypt. The EU launched negotiations for a powerful and global free trade agreement with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia (December 2011) and accorded the status of a privileged partner to Tunisia (November 2012) following Morocco and Israel. The International Monetary Fund IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
and the World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

continue to emphasize the relevance of neoliberal choices “that have not been applied by the failed and corrupt regimes,” and the need for reforms which will facilitate private capital: they encourage private investments (less control, less taxes ...), an expansion of liberalization in Financial sectors and services, open competition, more flexible work etc. In return, the two institutions will grant new loans under “development policy lending”. Already, in the wake of popular uprisings of 2011 that overpowered Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s external public debt rose to $ 35 billion. Zine el Abidine Ben Ali left behind a debt of $ 15 billion for the Tunisian people. And the same route is being followed. The IMF has granted a loan of $ 4.5 billion to Egypt and $ 1.7 billion to Tunisia as a precautionary measure.

In fact, the great powers and global economic institutions coordinate their efforts to stop the revolutionary process and to ensure their neo-colonial interests of political domination and pillage of the wealth, the financial sectors and the multinationals. They are increasing their aid to current Islamist regimes willing to carry out these tasks-those that will lead their people to a new despotism and obscurantism if given the opportunity. The power of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, like Tunisia’s Ennahda, is trying to establish its “Islamic morality”. This will give rise to women’s oppression, inflame hate speech against all critical opposition and facilitate the restriction of all liberties, justifying the decisions in the name of religion, all the while remaining under the auspices of the G8 and other international financial institutions. Regional reactionary powers spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, continue their role as major sponsors of Islamist movements and the regional spread of imperialism. Thus the Islamist enemy created from scratch to justify intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan returns as a force to reckon with, which will see that the neo-colonial domination is maintained.

In Algeria, the same liberal measures practised by the Bouteflika regime ultimately led the country to an impasse despite unparalleled financial resources. Since 2004, Algeria, aided and abetted by improved revenues from oil exports, initiated a process of debt reduction. In 2012 the rate of her gross external debt was estimated at 2.4% of GDP. In October 2012, Algeria paid $ 5 billion to the IMF / loaned. Therefore, this financial godsend had neither been used to improve the daily lives of Algerians, nor to cut down the dependence. She only let a section of bureaucrats and soldiers get rich.
In Syria, the revolutionary process, which is now in its third year, is genuinely a people’s democratic movement that began peacefully with appeals for reforms, but the regime responded with an all-out violence and repression (nearly 100 000 deaths ) . The armed resistance of the Syrian people articulates their right to defend themselves against the repressive regime and has allowed the popular resistance to continue. Imperialism avoids military intervention so that the country totally collapses and the opposition is broken. This will make it easy for imperialism to handle a transition which will ensure its interests. Regional and international solidarity, entwined in geopolitical considerations and complex tactics, completely overlooking the sufferings and aspirations of the Syrian people, is too weak to ensure any efficient and effective support to the rebels.

There is no doubt that the bloody stalemate of the Syrian revolution hangs over the revolutionary atmosphere throughout the region. Still the social resistance and people’s movements in Tunisia and Egypt continue. People do not hesitate to take to the streets as soon as their new governments take actions that neither satisfy nor effectively exercise real popular control. But on the other hand, they do not have revolutionary political projects which can offset the power of Islamist organizations. The Islamic counter-revolution and the liberal opposition front-which has defenders of the old regime too- are trying to conceal the transformative power of these revolutions, to reduce them to mere compliance of formal democracy, and to prevent the continuation of protests for real causes.

The front of popular forces has just begun to take shape but it remains too weak to change the balance Balance End of year statement of a company’s assets (what the company possesses) and liabilities (what it owes). In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds. of power in its favour. The birth of Tunisia’s Popular Front, despite its political heterogeneity, will no doubt strengthen the people to defend the revolution’s accomplishments and the radical reforms, truly satisfying the interests of the masses. The Mediterranean meeting against debt held in Tunis (23rd-24th March, 2013) calling for the cancellation of debt and the WSF in Tunis (26th-30th March, 2013) provided strong support. Initiatives against the odious debt Odious Debt According to the doctrine, for a debt to be odious it must meet two conditions:
1) It must have been contracted against the interests of the Nation, or against the interests of the People, or against the interests of the State.
2) Creditors cannot prove they they were unaware of how the borrowed money would be used.

We must underline that according to the doctrine of odious debt, the nature of the borrowing regime or government does not signify, since what matters is what the debt is used for. If a democratic government gets into debt against the interests of its population, the contracted debt can be called odious if it also meets the second condition. Consequently, contrary to a misleading version of the doctrine, odious debt is not only about dictatorial regimes.

(See Éric Toussaint, The Doctrine of Odious Debt : from Alexander Sack to the CADTM).

The father of the odious debt doctrine, Alexander Nahum Sack, clearly says that odious debts can be contracted by any regular government. Sack considers that a debt that is regularly incurred by a regular government can be branded as odious if the two above-mentioned conditions are met.
He adds, “once these two points are established, the burden of proof that the funds were used for the general or special needs of the State and were not of an odious character, would be upon the creditors.”

Sack defines a regular government as follows: “By a regular government is to be understood the supreme power that effectively exists within the limits of a given territory. Whether that government be monarchical (absolute or limited) or republican; whether it functions by “the grace of God” or “the will of the people”; whether it express “the will of the people” or not, of all the people or only of some; whether it be legally established or not, etc., none of that is relevant to the problem we are concerned with.”

So clearly for Sack, all regular governments, whether despotic or democratic, in one guise or another, can incur odious debts.
incurred under dictatorships are also being launched in Egypt.

The CADTM has already taken these initiatives into account, but we are still deficient in the area of effective coordination which can contribute to the growth of these initiatives and more generally to the development of solidarity with the peoples fighting for democracy and social justice.

Our immediate task is to show that without a clear break from the neoliberal economic model and the submission to the dictates of imperialism, popular aspirations for democracy, freedom, dignity and a better life will not be fulfilled. And our task is to combat the debt spiral in which the IFIs are trying to imprison the new regimes.


member of the CADTM network, the Association pour la Taxation des Transactions en Aide aux Citoyens au Maroc (ATTAC Morocco) was founded in 2000. ATTAC Maroc has been a member of the international network of the Committee for the Cancellation of Third World Debt (CADTM) since 2006 (which became the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts in June 2016). We have 11 local groups in Morocco. ATTAC aims to be a network that helps those involved in social, associative, trade union and more broadly militant activity to take ownership of the challenges of globalisation on issues of social and citizen resistance.

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