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Could Growth and Prosperity Collapse the Middle East?
Israel - Middle East
Monday, February 07, 2011
Ed DeShields

Throughout the Middle East and elsewhere in the region its people are demanding change.  But from what?

The local economies in the region are brisk and the city markets in Tunisia and Egypt have shrugged off the woes of economic recession.  But the underlying worry of the people tells a different story. 

The current wave of discontent started in Tunisia when Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university graduate without a steady job, doused himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze.  If you listen to the main stream media you would think we’re watching a public aspiring to freedom and personal liberty.   However, if you peel away the news reports and examine the root cause of the recent riots in countries around the region it’s generally about employment, food and the cost of maintaining even the most modest lifestyle. 

Compared to the recent global recession, signs of a fragile economic recovery have returned to most countries south of the Equator – including the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Asia.  But this new growth is fragile and can be short-lived with many “hot spots” of trouble igniting ideological views of how to solve them. 

In the Middle East there are seventeen countries up for political change of leadership, including a host of other dictators hanging on to their power in the region.  Things might not end well as a new political region emerges. 

The region’s leaders are setting the stage for a boom-bust dynamic and, eventually, a hard landing.  With emerging markets now accounting for almost 40 percent of global consumption and more than two-thirds of global growth, an economic or political collapse  in these economies would deal a serious blow to the global recovery—and to the political balance of the entire world.

Growth in the region’s economy and a flood of outside capital is sparking inflation.  With growth comes a higher price of everything including oil and food which consumes about one-half of the average person’s income.       

The bulk of these countries produce most of the world’s liquid petroleum and are populations with a dominating Muslim population with political systems enforced by a dictator or a quasi-secular system of government.  In these emerging economies there is a clear risk to their economies overheating and a subsequent and rapid rise of inflation making a hard landing a real possibility. 

Hard landings don’t foster political stability.  In the near term, the risk to further growth is up, driven by higher commodity prices, scarcities and oil capital flooding the countries with cash.   

The populace’s revolt is going to be dependent on whether the region’s leaders fall behind the curve in responding to inflation and the accompanying overheating pressure.  If they fail, we’ve got a whole new ball game in the region. 

About Ed DeShields

Last article: Three Men and a Red Button

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