When first surveying the economies of the Middle East it is easy to be so dazzled by the wealth of economic experience that the common aspects of development are overlooked. The variety of economic systems is enormous, ranging from economies relying largely on private initiative and market forces, such as Jordan and the Lebanon, to state-controlled economies organised on Marxist lines, such as South Yemen. Even the mixed economies functioning between these two extremes vary considerably, as the role of the state in economic management is entirely different in Baathist Socialist states such as Iraq and Syria, from its role in Libya, where for instance, the individual enterprise enjoys a much greater measure of local autonomy in determining its own production level and prices. Although many Arab countries profess to be trying to adopt a middle path between capitalism and communism, and like to refer to themselves as Arab Socialist states, this does not imply that there is any common set of guidelines for economic organisation. Thus while centralised planning has been fairly rigidly adhered to in Iraq and Syria, in Nasser’s Egypt only one plan was ever adopted, and this was never properly implemented because of the conflict with Israel. In Sadat’s Egypt, despite the country’s remaining nominally Arab Socialist, the encouragement given to foreign private investment through the ‘Open Door’ policy clearly marks a deviation from the direction in which the Damascus and Baghdad governments are aiming.
KeywordsIncome Inequality Saudi Arabia Middle East Consumer Durable Relative Earning
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