Economies in Transition: International Donor Assistance after the Arab Uprisings

By Erin Snider
Submitted to Session P4977 (The Impact of External Actors on Political Economy, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
All Middle East; Arab States; Egypt; Morocco;
19th-21st Centuries; Foreign Relations; Globalization; Political Economy; Security Studies; Trade/Investment;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Questions about the economy and structure of economic power in the Arab region after the 2011 uprisings remain relatively unexplored by scholars. This project focuses on the economic dimensions of the Arab uprisings—both its antecedents and those that are shaping ongoing transitions in the region. What is the relationship between uprisings in the region and the economic interests of domestic and international actors? Why have governments in the region been reticent to reform social welfare policies? What influence have regional and international pressures had on the kind of domestic political transformations that have occurred thus far?
This paper bridges the fields of fiscal sociology, international relations, and political economy to understand the political economies of transition in the Arab world. I focus on the economic debates and positions taken by domestic actors in the region and responses by international actors including western donor states and those from the Gulf. Attention is given in particular to the aid strategies advocated by international actors and the domestic responses towards understanding the multitude of economic interests competing to shape a new status quo in the region. I examine the construction of foreign assistance and defence spending since 2011 from western donors to the region, the Gulf, and that from the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to examine the composition of that aid and its intended allocation within states in the region, with attention to the negotiations between donor and recipient states and civil society. I also focus on debates taking place within states towards understanding the incentive structure for governments in the region.
Research for this project draws on extensive fieldwork in Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt and interviews with activists, development practitioners, and diplomats engaged in transitional assistance projects in the region. This work builds on previous scholarship within international relations on aid and hierarchy and links that with the literature on transitions elsewhere, particularly in Eastern Europe to think about the role of aid in reinforcing power relations and coercing outcomes in what Lake (2012) has called “manipulating incentives” through aid to constrain state behaviour in building a new architecture of aid and security in the region. My findings underscore the importance of examining how elites, aid institutions, and experts are shaping the post 2011 environment with potentially perverse outcomes for those who have played an active role in pushing for alternative economic and political frameworks.