Mohammed Bouazizi's final act of hopelessness -- setting himself ablaze in front of a government building in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on Dec. 17, 2010 -- touched off a wave of civil unrest that toppled two governments, threatens to bring down at least three others, and has redefined the relationship between the ruler and the ruled across the Arab world. But the protests, which were spurred by rising food prices and unemployment, have bequeathed a cruel irony to their makers: A worsening of the very same conditions that sparked the Arab Spring.
The economies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia are projected to shrink by a collective 0.5 percent this year, reversing 4.4 percent growth in 2010, according to a report published by the Institute of International Finance in May. In Yemen and Libya, which are still in turmoil, the numbers will likely be worse; and the growth forecast for the North African region as a whole has fallen from 4.5 percent in 2010 to less than 1 percent this year, according to the African Central Bank.
Even among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, some of which enjoyed revolution-induced oil windfalls, the Arab Spring has produced economic losers. Bahrain, in particular -- which sent capital and bank employees scuttling when it violently quelled protests, killing at least five demonstrators, and declared a three-month state of emergency earlier this year -- could potentially forfeit its position as one of the region's financial hubs. As Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Foreign Policy, many of the international banks that were headquartered in Bahrain "have just pulled up and gone. And they are probably not going to come back."
Capital flight has also hamstrung other Arab countries. Jordanian Finance Minister Mohammed Abu Hammour recently estimated that $500 million is "leaving the Arab world" every week as a result of the unrest. But not all the economic news is bad. Before the revolution, governments across the region were playing an "impeding role" in the economy, said Ossama Hassanein, senior managing director of Newbury Ventures, who argued that macroeconomic growth in the old regimes "came at the cost of great corruption and inefficiency." Today, he estimated that the number of entrepreneurs in the Middle East has multiplied by a factor of ten, fueled by "interest in promoting a private economy led by entrepreneurship and innovation."
The revolutionary fervor of the past year has no doubt affected the Arab word's diverse economies differently. Here is a look at some of the Arab countries that were hit the hardest during this revolutionary season -- and some that seem to have weathered or even gained from the storm.
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