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Iraq and Syria: Revolution Without Renaissance

  • Rodney Wilson

Abstract

Political factors are often observed to be of paramount importance in determining the pace of economic development, and nowhere in the Middle East is this better illustrated than in the case of Iraq and Syria. During the 1950s and 1960s both countries experienced frequent domestic political upheavals, often of an extremely violent nature, and the consequent policy changes and attendant uncertainty hardly provided favourable conditions for economic advance. The lack of continuity was demonstrated by the ambitious development plans that were being adopted by each incoming regime, only to be scrapped or changed out of all recognition by succeeding governments. Under such unstable conditions, planners found it impossible to take a five-year time horizon, when it was difficult even to be certain from one annual budget to the next.1 Government employees found themselves always trying to fit in with the policy whims of their political bosses, and this could take up a major part of their working hours. At the same time the countrys’ rulers, preoccupied with their own immediate survival, scarcely had time to deal with more than the most pressing current issues, and seldom looked far ahead.2

Keywords

Middle East Land Reform Retail Prex Royal Dutch Shell Iraqi Government 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    A standard source on economic planning in Syria is Khaled A. Shair, Planning For a Middle Eastern Economy: Model For Syria (Chapman & Hall, 1965). Chapter 1, on the economic background, discusses the basic problems on pp. 3–19.Google Scholar
  2. For an account of planning in Iraq up to 1965 see Ferhang Jalal, The Role of Government in the Industrialisation of Iraq 1950–1965 (Cass, 1972) Chapter 3, p. 32 ff., especially.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    In Iraq between 1957 and 1965 there were 265 armed attacks, and in Syria 9 coups in the first 25 years of independence after 1946. See Galal A. Amin, The Modernisation of Poverty (Leiden: Brill, 1974) pp. 45–6.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    E. R. J. Owen, ‘The Economic Aspects of Revolution in the Middle East’, in P. J. Vatikiotis (ed.), Revolution in the Middle East (Allen & Unwin, 1972) p. 49.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For analysis of their impact on the Iraqi economy see Abbas Alnasrawi, Financing Economic Development in Iraq (New York: Praeger, 1967) Chapter 3, pp. 35–94;Google Scholar
  6. IBRD, The Economic Development of Iraq (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1952) Chapter 3, p. 33 ff. especially;Google Scholar
  7. K. Haseeb, The National Income of Iraq, 1953–1961 (Oxford University Press, 1964) Chapter 5, p. 79 ff.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Economist Intelligence Unit, Quarterly Economic Review of Iraq, Annual Supplement (1976) pp. 9–10.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Nasir Gaylani, The Capital Absorptive Capacities of Iraq and Kuwait: A Comparative Study, M.A. thesis, University of Durham (1977) Chapter 4, provides details of Iraqi government revenue.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Economist Intelligence Unit, Quarterly Economic Review of Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus, no. 1 (1911) p. 9.Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    Jawad Hashim, Development Planning in Iraq: Historical Perspective and New Directions (Baghdad: Planning Board, July 1975) pp. 14–16.Google Scholar
  12. For a detailed description of landownership in Iraq and Syria prior to the reforms see Doreen Warriner, Land Reform and Development in the Middle East (Oxford University Press 1957) where Syria is discussed on p. 82 ff, and Iraq on p. 139 ff.Google Scholar
  13. 23.
    For an uncritical account of the 1958 reform see A. W. M. Al-Dahiri, The Introduction of Technology into Traditional Societies and Economies (Baghdad: Al-Ani Press, 1969) p. 178 ff., which uses Iraq as a case study.Google Scholar
  14. 33.
    Ministry of Planning, Annual Abstract of Statistics, (1975) Table 7/13, p. 188; Table 7/1, p. 176; and (1971) Table 91, p. 154. The official indices have 1963 = 100 for consumer prices, and 1962 = 100 for wholesale prices.Google Scholar
  15. 34.
    Ministry of Planning, Annual Abstract of Statistics (1973) Table 141, p. 271 ff.Google Scholar
  16. 35.
    United Nations, Past Developments and Growth Prospects in the Agricultural Sector of Syria, Tables 10 and 11, p. 39. The predecessor of the Agricultural Co-operative Bank was the Agricultural Bank. For details of its activities in the 1950s see Edmund Y. Asfour, Syria: Development and Monetary Policy (Harvard University Press, 1959) Table 32, p. 118.Google Scholar
  17. 37.
    Syrian Arab Republic Central Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Abstract (Damascus, 1976) Table 31/17, pp. 926–37, and 32/17, p. 928–9.Google Scholar
  18. 38.
    I.M.F., International Financial Statistics (Washington, May 1976) pp. 420–1.Google Scholar
  19. 39.
    For a brief account of Iraq’s religious and ethnic divisions see Uriel Dann, Iraq Under Qassem: A Political History 1958–1963 (Jerusalem: Praeger/ Pall Mall, 1969) pp. 1–2.Google Scholar
  20. 41.
    A point the Kurds themselves naturally emphasise. See Information Department of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, On the Kurdish Question at the United Nations (Helsinki, June 1974) pp. 15–17.Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    For a useful account of the economic interpretation of Arab Socialism see Z. Y. Hershlag, The Economic Structure of the Middle East (Leiden: Brill, 1975) p. 56 ff. Iraq’s experience is outlined on pp. 64–6, and Syria’s on pp. 66–7.Google Scholar

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© Rodney Wilson 1979

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  • Rodney Wilson

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