Two years into the Arab revolutions, much of ERF’s region is still in search of a new social contract and state rebuilding. The original demands of those revolutionaries remain largely unmet. One of these demands is eliminating corruption. In contribution to this debate, ERF’s 18th Annual Conference, held in Cairo, March 2012, was devoted to the topic of Corruption and Economic Development. This Conference Proceedings Volume contains a selection of the conference papers.
The starting point for the debate was that endemic corruption marked many of the former regimes in the Arab Spring countries. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, only three countries in ERF’s region score above 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. The vast majority of countries fell in the bottom third.
The key questions addressed by the conference participants were related to the link between corruption and economic development, the causes of corruption as well as its possible remedies.
In Part 1, Lisa Anderson discusses The Determinants of Corruption. From a political scientist’s perspective, she covers three things: Firstly, modern corruption has a specific historical origin and secondly it comes in many forms. Finally, the discourse of corruption in the Arab world (and in many other places) today conflates its moral and public dimensions in ways that often confuses policy responses and may privilege political actors who deploy a religious idiom in politics. Her paper is followed by Jeffrey Nugent’s: Detecting Corruption and Evaluating Programs to Control It: Some Lessons for MENA. It assesses the seriousness of corruption in the MENA region and how it might have developed over time.
Izak Attiyas kicks off Part 2 with a paper on Enhancing Competition in a Post- Revolutionary Arab Context: Does the Turkish Experience Provide Any Lessons? The paper explores the possible role of a regulatory environment in enhancing competition and reducing corruption in the post-revolutionary Arab societies. Drawing on the Turkish experience, he focuses on how state power can be used to maximize citizens’ welfare rather than the welfare of state elites and/or their constituencies. His paper is followed by another by Imane Chaara, who looks at influence of another sort; that of religion. Under the title of Pro-Women Legal Reform in Morocco: Is Religion an Obstacle? she looks at the delicate balance between religion and development. She asks whether modern law can trigger social change, reaching some surprising conclusions.
Finally, the volume wraps with a paper by Saifedean Ammous on Arab Corporatism. Ammous traces the emergence of “corporatist” political regimes, the result of free market reforms meant to transform former socialist market economies into free capitalist market ones. Instead, what emerged were omnipresent police states and unaccountable rentier governments dependent on foreigners, not citizens, for their financing.
All in all, we feel the volume makes for engaging and challenging reading. We hope you agree.
The volume would not have been possible without the valuable contribution of many people, including the authors of the papers, their discussants and members of the refereeing committee. I would also like to acknowledge the financial support that ERF received from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development both for the conference itself and for the publication of this volume.
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