POLITICS AND PROSPERITY

When Egypt’s interim president Adli Mansour made his first visit outside the country on 7 October he chose Saudi Arabia as his destination. It was not hard to guess why and there was no attempt to disguise it. On his arrival in Jeddah he met with King Abdullah and promptly thanked his host for the support given to Egypt for what the Saudi Press Agency coyly referred to as the “economic crisis, which resulted from events that took place recently”.

Economic data coming out of the Middle East in recent weeks has highlighted once again the disparity between rich and poor countries. But these days the health of the various economies is not just a matter of whether a country has ample oil resources; political instability and violence is now just as important.

The likes of Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are set to outperform that regional average, but countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain are set to do worse than average. In fact most of the slowest growing economies are suffering political problems to a greater or lesser extent. Syria is worst placed as a result of its enormously destructive civil war, which is also pulling down the economies of Lebanon and Jordan. Sudan and Algeria have also suffered well-documented problems.

The issue of a two-speed region is not a new one for the Middle East, but the nature of it is changing. Instead of oil wealth being the determining factor, political stability now looks to be increasingly important in deciding a country’s economic health and wellbeing.

In this month’s edition of the magazine Dominic Dudley analyses the economic data coming out of the region.

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