This book examines the relationship between demographic growth and economic development in eight Arab countries. Despite a slowdown in demographic growth, as a result of the change in the age structure of the population, the labor force is increasing rapidly. In other parts of the world, similar developments have enhanced economic growth. In the Arab world, however, many of the opportunities presented by demographic transition are being lost, resulting in serious threats to the political stability of the region. The main reason for this is that the region has missed out on industrialization. The book goes beyond conventional analysis to ask two closely related questions. The first is, why were governments so slow in tackling stability? The second is, why has the response been similar in apparently different economies? Answers are provided using new literature in economics and economic history.
1. Introduction; 2. Demography and economics; 3. The constraints of history; 4. Comparative economics: the Arab world, East Asia and South America; 5. Egypt: the submerged giant?; 6. Iraq: after destruction; 7. Jordan: from rents to market?; 8. Morocco: reforms that did not cure; 9. Palestine: the making and unmaking of a state; 10. Saudi Arabia: oil wealth and unemployment; 11. Syria: lost potential; 12. Tunisia: unhappy leader; 13. Conclusions: the Arab equilibrium.
"Rivlin’s analysis of the Arab economies is the most thorough and astute available today, offering exceptional insights into the interactions of history, politics, and economics across the region. Rivlin focuses our attention on how the Arab world has squandered the ‘demographic gift’ of a rapidly growing work force and shrinking portion of dependents. He shows how political conservatism has not only been supported by oil revenues and remittances, it has blocked the reforms needed to promote modern education and rapid industrialization. As a result, rapid labor force growth has not been a source of rising productivity, but of rising unemployment, political restiveness, and radicalism." – Jack A. Goldstone, George Mason University
"Rivlin’s book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the causes and consequences of the poor economic performance of the Arab economies. It presents a coherent and comprehensive analysis of the economic, social, and political factors that hinder economic development and prevent political changes in this important part of the world." – Avner Greif, Stanford University
"Once home to major commercial centers, the Arab world is now a minor player in the world economy. In this nicely crafted book, Paul Rivlin lays out the relevant facts and figures with close attention to variations across countries. He also offers a bold interpretation that centers on institutions, demographic trends, and constraints rooted in religion. The research is imaginative and the synthesis both original and provocative." – Timur Kuran, Duke University
"Rivlin skillfully addresses in comparative context the vital issue of how Arab political economies are dealing with their ‘youth bulge.’ His investigation of their failure adequately to capitalize on this potential human resource asset sheds valuable new light on both this specific topic and the more general one of Arab economic development." – Robert Springborg, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey
"Rivlin's strength is in placing contemporary developments in a long historical perspective. He is particularly interested in labor market trends, such as job creation and unemployment for the youth bulge produced by high past population growth.... Recommended." - Choice