Reduced Poverty = Political Harmony? Think Again…

Protests in Algeria

At a recent Brookings Institution event on ‘Global Cooperation and the Least Developed Countries’, Laurence Chandy spoke optimistically about the current levels of poverty and “unparalleled declines in global poverty figures over the past few years”.  In his recent Brookings report, Chandy and Gertz update World Bank’s official $1.25 a day poverty estimates from 2005 for 95% of the developing world.  They estimate that between 2005 and 2010, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 1.3 billion to 900 million.

The CGD MDG Progress Index shows that on a scale of 1 to 8, countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Iran have fared  well, and Tunisia has achieved a particularly high score of 7.  The Human development Index, measuring GNI, life expectancy and education, shows Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco to have fared well in recent years also.

The commonly accepted theory that conflict is closely associated with unrest cannot be applied as confidently in the cases of these countries.  Dani Rodrik suggests that because economic growth causes economic and social mobilization,  unless political institutions mature at the same rate, political stability will not prevail.  As a recent Guardian ‘Poverty Matters’ blog suggests, unrest in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, show that as societies develop and become urbanized, aspirations grow causing people to expect more from their governments.

What emerges from the above is clear, as Dani Rodrik points out, recent events in Tunisia and Egypt send “a sobering message to China and other regimes around the world: don’t count on economic progress to keep you in power forever”.

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