10 Reasons Why Arab Spring Happened and Continues a Year on

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July 14, 2012 00:25
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According to the Galbraith’s ‘theory of social balance’, consumption of private goods requires a facilitating or regulating mechanism from the public sector, for some form (or several forms) of public goods. The imbalance between the both, the leading American liberal economist argued, can create opulence on the one end and squalor on the other.

The reasons behind such imbalance could be due to several factors such as consumption outpacing production, better reputation of private enterprise compared to the public one and inefficiencies of the system.

Countries in the Middle East tend to have a large public sector that delivers most of the services to the masses. From health services to electricity and water supply to banks, governments in the region have a monopoly over access to public services and utilities. While the private sector exists, the public sector is the preferable choice of the majority as it provides cheaper service with more emphasis on wider public accessibility. Services offered by the private sector, on the other hand, are more expensive and focus on profits thus limiting public access.

The majority of the population in the Middle East lives on less than $2 a day and relies on government-run health, education, transportation, energy and food sectors due to affordable rates and universal accessibility. However, as governments adopted the neo-liberal economic policies in the last few decades, decided to scale down public spending and privatized its institutions, the services no more remained affordable and accessible by the large segment of the society as the new owners concentrated more on profits and growth rather than affordability and quality.

While the private sector made claims of bringing an improvement in health, education, transportation, energy and food production, the prices just went high while the income of the majority of the people failed to grow steadily. This social imbalance widened the gulf between the privileged and the under-privileged, stoking tensions between the different classes of the society.

yemen anti-saleh protestors

Anti-government protestors raise bread as a symbol of poverty during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen. The Yemeni autocrat has been in power since 1978. Photo - Muhammed Muheisen/AP

It is not uncommon that most of the people rely on poorly managed public services that suffer from under-investment and mismanagement. A comparison between the government-run and private hospitals, schools, trains and other companies will reveal the huge gap between the quality of the service and the contrasting state of the affairs between the both. If private sector flourishes due to heavy investment and efficient management, the public sector languishes due to under-investment and negligence, displayed by governments that have no political will to improve conditions.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and suffers from the widening gap between the rich and the poor and subsequent social imbalances. The country’s GDP per capita is just above $1,200 per annum with half of the population living under the $1 poverty line. People close to outgoing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power since the last 32 years, have grown mega rich while the majority of the country has witnessed a decline in their economic standing. As a result, the country tethers on the brink of collapse.

Flash points: Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Occupied Palestine.

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