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Colonial legacies of uneven state development in MENA

| October 2018

Harold Lasswell’s (1936) contention that politics is fundamentally a study of who gets what, when, and how neatly sums up current thinking on social policy in the MENA region. Scholars describe MENA states’ provision of welfare services like health and education primarily in terms of Lasswell’s “who gets what.” Scholars like Baylouny (2010) and Cammett (2014) have advanced our understanding of how welfare provision is targeted in weak or retreating states, but we know less about when and how states develop the capacity to deliver public services. A growing political economy literature suggests that historical legacies of state capacity are a productive point of departure for understanding downstream social policy outcomes.

Report - Project on Middle East Political Science

POMEPS Studies 31: Social Policy in the Middle East and North Africa

This spring, major protests swept through Jordan over economic grievances and subsidy reforms. In July, protestors took to the streets in the south of Iraq, demanding that the government address persistent unemployment, underdevelopment, and corruption. Meanwhile, earlier in 2018, Tunisians launched a wave of protests to oppose tax hikes on basic goods and increased cost of living. Such highly politicized responses to social policy concerns are the norm rather than the exception across the Middle East and North Africa.