Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The failure of governance in the Arab world

Protests in Tunisia and Algeria are part of a rising tide of popular dissatisfaction with illiberal, unreformed Arab rule

Simon Tisdall, Tuesday 11 January 2011

"The official response to unrest on Tunisia's streets comes straight out of a tyrant's playbook: order the police to open fire on unarmed demonstrators, deploy the army, blame resulting violence on "terrorists" and accuse unidentified "foreign parties" of fomenting insurrection. Like other Arab rulers, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali seems not to know any better. For this murderous ignorance, there is less and less excuse.....

Despite Ben Ali's assertions, there is no evidence so far of outside meddling or Islamist pot-stirring. What is abundantly plain is that many Tunisians are fed up to the back teeth with chronic unemployment, especially affecting young people; endemic poverty in rural areas that receive no benefits from tourism; rising food prices; insufficient public investment; official corruption; and a pseudo-democratic, authoritarian political system that gave Ben Ali, 74, a fifth consecutive term in 2009 with an absurd 89.6% of the vote.

In this daunting context, Ben Ali's emergency job creation plan, announced this week, looks to be too little, too late.....

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, has problems that dwarf Tunisia's but are basically similar: the population is booming, 60% are under 30, youth unemployment is soaring, 40% of citizens live on under $2 a day, and one third is illiterate......"

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