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Status Quo Camouflaged: Economic and Social Transformation of Egypt and Jordan

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Examining reforms in Egypt and Jordan, this article calls for rethinking the relationship between economic reform and governance. Conventional analyses of economic and governance reforms overlook the complex relationships between social, political and economic factors within a country that affect reform success. This is quite evident by contrasting the extensive literature praising the "successful" reform progress achieved by countries such as Jordan and Egypt with the failure to achieve significant institutional and legislative reforms that would lead to more effective governance, as well as persistent inequality. Both countries have achieved high GDP growth over the last decade; however, no new social or political forces have been drawn into a new social contract. Instead of reforms being transformative, a complex interplay between political and economic agents has sustained a status quo based on weak governance institutions. The paper suggests that this is the outcome of the international community's unwillingness to press real reforms, as well as cautious domestic elites. Consequently they maintain a Pareto Efficient balance, proclaiming reform while seeking to maintain political stability. The article aims not merely to provide evidence of a contradictory scenario of unsuccessful reforms, but rather to advocate for a more careful reading into governance indicators and deeper understanding of the context for governance reform in the Middle East.

Affiliations: 1: Secretary General, Economic and Social Council of Jordan, Amman, Jordan; 2: Carnegie Middle East Center, Beirut, Lebanon


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