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Global Assembly of the CADTM Network, Rabat, 20-22 May 2013
Some elements of the Arab world’s situation in 2013
by ATTAC/CADTM Morocco
5 November 2013

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 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 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 and the G20 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 and the World Bank 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 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 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.


membre du réseau CADTM, l’Association pour la Taxation des Transactions en Aide aux Citoyens au Maroc (ATTAC Maroc) a été créée en 2000. ATTAC Maroc est membre du réseau international du Comité pour l’annulation de la dette du tiers monde (CADTM) depuis 2006 (devenu Comité pour l’abolition des dettes illégitimes depuis juin 2016). Nous comptons 11 groupes locaux au Maroc. ATTAC veut être un réseau aidant à l’appropriation par les acteurs engagés dans l’activité sociale, associative, syndicale et plus largement militante des enjeux de la mondialisation sur les problématiques de résistance sociale et citoyenne.

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