On the half trillion dollars’ cost of the Arab Spring

Arab Spring revolutions have failed to achieve almost everything they promised

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said the Arab Spring revolutions have cost the region $613.8 billion in lost growth since 2011, which is equivalent to 6 percent of the region’s total GDP between 2011 and 2015.

Truth be told, unforeseen losses are much more than this figure. Arab Spring revolutions have failed to achieve almost everything they promised in terms of democracy, civil rights, freedom, transparency, development, stability, providing employment opportunities, raising the standard of living and economic prosperity. None of this has been achieved as all of the latter greatly deteriorated in almost all Arab Spring countries.

Those who believe change comes in phases and that Arab Spring revolutions, which erupted in 2011, are just a beginning will not be able to detect any progress whatsoever in the societies that witnessed these revolutions. I am not talking about financial improvement here, but about intellectual change. The principles which the revolutions were supposed to spread among people suffered from a serious setback as a result of the frustration, desperation and shock of the results which followed the change process.

No one can defend the era or character of late Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi which sparked a popular revolution and lasted until his regime was brought to an end, and until he was brutally killed by angry rebels. Qaddafi was the model of the mad and bad dictator who squandered his country's fortunes, put the country through poverty and mistreated his citizens. Before the revolution there we thought it's impossible for any alternative to Qaddafi to be worse.

Arab Spring revolutions have failed to achieve almost everything they promised in terms of democracy, civil rights, freedom, transparency, development, stability, and providing employment opportunities

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The result is that Libya has become worse than before and it's now governed by men who are worse than him, from military men to religious extremists and tribesmen. The country is in continuous chaos that resulted in eliminating or excluding wise social and political figures who are supposed to govern and achieve the aspired change. And the situation in other Arab Spring countries is not any better.

Some may consider Libya an extreme case by comparison to other Arab Spring countries such as Tunisia. It’s true Tunisia has more and better stability than Libya and that there’s one political regime in power and a relative amount of political participation and freedoms but before the revolution, Tunisia had this "relative" amount of participation and freedom in a better social and economic extent. The situation in Tunisia is still subject to politicians' control and the military's protection, and both are neither guaranteed nor fully secure.

Values of a modern state

The problem is structural as these countries still don't have the values of a modern state. This goes for the elite which during the revolutions failed to amend the ideal plans which suit their political stances. The Islamists insisted they govern alone, and so did the leftists until they wasted their chance in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.

What has been achieved as per the standards of reform or development or according to the revolution's slogans in stable countries like Egypt? Nothing and it still needs a long time to heal itself of the wounds it suffered from during the Arab Spring uprising.

There are those who deny that these revolutions failed to achieve any change and think that what happened is a practice that will be followed with change! And there are also those who do admit failure but they blame others for it and claim that these revolutions faced conspiracies that aimed to abort them.

I think the culture of change towards developed systems that believe in modern values does not exit like we thought it did. There are bread and not freedom revolutions.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 15, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.