It has been a long time since one calendar year witnessed so many changes and upheavals. This year, 2011, will be remembered for a long time as the year when the spirit of freedom and the need for democracy swept much of the Arab world as nation after nation demanded regime change and unseated long-standing dictatorships. It will also be remembered as the year when young Europeans and Americans turned to their Arab counterparts for guidance on challenging the status quo.
In this charged atmosphere, the theme for ERF’s 17th Annual Conference—Politics and Development—seemed particularly prescient. This relevance was reflected in the discussions in the plenary sessions of the conference and is now reflected in this edition of the conference proceedings volume.
The papers selected for this volume relate to the conference’s core theme. There are five of them: the first two by John Wallis and Samir Makdisi, discuss the underpinnings of the relationship between politics, economics, violence and democracy. Wallis explores the nexus between governments and economies and the nature of their interactions, while Makdisi asks a vital question: will the uprisings which swept the region actually usher in democracies?
The remaining three papers step beyond broad discussions. Nargess Boubakri, Jean-Claude Cosset and Houcem Smaoui dissect the relationship between politics and economics, questioning how political institutions affect sovereign spreads. Esra Çeviker Gürakar and Emin Köksal take a look at how divergent economic policies provide very different results in two countries with very similar political roots, while Ibrahim Elbadawi and Raimundo Soto argue for the importance of sound fiscal rules in any political setting. Taken as a whole, it is a compelling glimpse at how politics and economics intersect in the region.
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. To them goes our gratitude and thanks. 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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