10 Scenarios for the MENA region in the year 2050

10 Scenarios for the MENA region in the year 2050

Bracing for MENA’s Future: 10 Scenarios for the Year 2050

10 Scenarios for the MENA region in the year 2050 as elaborated and written by @Eubulletin | Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Scenarios are imagined futures that can demonstrate how current actions may lead to dramatically different outcomes, but also serve as useful tools to help guide strategy and shape the future. This analysis lays out long term scenarios (2050) for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). These conclusions point towards greater conflict and contentious state-society dynamics, regional fragmentation and shifting centres of gravity, the region’s embeddedness in global rivalries and disruptive socio-economic and environmental international trends.

Unstoppable Climate Change

By 2050 climate change will be a decisive global reality, but its impact will differ from one region to the other. The countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will be among the most affected: the effects will be felt across the region in the form of extreme weather phenomena, heat waves and droughts, desertification, severe water shortages and a rise in sea level. One of the most vulnerable areas will be the Nile Delta, where a sea-level rise of about 50 cm could force 4 million Egyptians to resettle to other areas. The region’s governments and societies will have to deal with scarcity of natural resources, including food, price volatility and the risks associated with new pandemics.

Post-Oil World

By 2050, a post-oil world order will be in place due to profound changes in the global energy market. Such a new order will not be triggered by a lack of supply: on the contrary, fossil fuel production may even increase for a time, thanks to the exploitation of new reserves, innovative investments in oil and tar sands, the popularization of LNG and fracking development projects beyond the United States. Prices may remain relatively low for some time despite the high demand from emerging economies. But in the longer term, the main driver of decarbonisation will be the gigantic steps forward in technological innovation for renewable energy production and storage capacities, which will be more popular due to global awareness of the climate change.

An Urbanized Region

The MENA region is characterized by high urbanization. Some 60 percent of the population was already urban by 2018 and this trend will not be reversed by 2050. While we are already familiar with “Mega Cities” such as Cairo and Istanbul, new ones will surpass the 10 million people benchmark. Baghdad and Khartoum, each with 15 million inhabitants, will be two of the fastest-growing cities in the region. The capacities of urban spaces to accommodate this new reality will depend on the pace of growth but even more on the resources deployed by local and national authorities to upgrade basic infrastructures such as public transport, sanitation and housing.

Digitalization and Automation

Technologization will be a global megatrend by 2050. Automation and Artificial Intelligence will radically transform job markets in most countries. The MENA region will be particularly affected by those trends due to the already high (and seemingly persistent) unemployment and underemployment rates, particularly among young people. While the Gulf region and Israel may adapt more easily to these changes, other countries, with large working populations, strained job markets and insufficient governance could face major social problems. Infrastructural investment, business culture, education and regulation will also determine the ability to adapt to these megatrends.

Religiosity, Individualization and Citizenship

Societal trends in the MENA in 2050 will result from the complex interplay between endogenous and exogenous variables. Fragmentation and centrifugal dynamics are likely to shape both the religious and the secular camps as well as societies as a whole. Individualization processes, among which the fact that religious or non-religious choices will be the result of each person’s preferences, and the contestation of intermediate authorities (such as religious bodies) will further fragment each camp. In any case, attitudes towards religion will continue to be a major driver of societal and political dynamics and remain a highly contentious issue.

Strong or Fierce States

Attempts to erode or complement the role of states in the region will continue. This is likely to happen by efforts to curtail their size and prerogatives. Next to this, challenges to the authority of states will prompt analysts and pundits to speculate on the weakening or outright collapse of the state system and the redrawing of the regional order. Yet, MENA states could prove more resilient than some expected. By 2050, controlling the state will remain the main and often only guarantee for elite survival. State agents (state elites, the public sector, security apparatuses) and the dynamics revolving around them (clientelism, state capitalism) will remain predominant in the region compared with other parts of the world.

Managing the Effects of Today’s Conflicts

It is impossible to determine which of the conflicts current today will be solved by 2050 and which will still be in place – let alone to predict new ones that may emerge. Nevertheless, we can take it for granted that the effects of today’s conflicts will continue to be felt in the MENA countries in 2050. Even in those cases where effective solutions have been put forward, the post-conflict trauma will mark one or more generations. In addition, new drivers of conflict are very likely to come to the forth, but all these phenomena can turn into either sources for risks or opportunities depending on how they are managed by regional and international actors.

China: Primus Inter Pares

By 2050, China is likely to be the world’s largest economy. Its annual growth rate will have remained considerably steady, keeping in check internal tensions associated with inequality and governance deficits. After almost four decades since its inception, the Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to drastically transform the socio-economic landscape of the Asian continent and of the MENA region. On the basis of the positive returns of China’s initial investments in the 2020s, the MENA authorities’ willingness to engage with China will further increase.

Game-Changing Africa

By 2050, the African continent could be home to 2.5 billion people. This is twice as many as in 2019. Nigeria’s population will have reached 400 million and may rank 14th among the world’s largest economies. The number of African workers will have already surpassed that of China. African mobility will be a major issue, both in terms of rural exodus and international migration. Africa’s weight in global affairs will be one of the game-changers of the following decades. The MENA region will naturally look southwards, both in terms of opportunities and risks. Not only will the MENA care more about African affairs, African leaders will also have a say in the evolution of the Middle East and the Maghreb.

Europe and the MENA Region: A Family Issue

Geographic proximity will remain a key factor in the relations between Europe and the MENA region. What is likely to change is the intensity of the societal bonds between these two spaces and what governments and the people make of it. By 2050, the proportion of Europeans with some sort of MENA background will be much higher than it is today. Such people will no longer be perceived as second- or third generation migrants but as Euro-Arabs, Euro-Turks, Euro-Kurds and Euro-Amazighs. This diversity will not only be present at the level of the general population but also among the two generations of new political and economic elites. The intensity of the connections between the EU and the region could further grow if some countries of the MENA region become members or reinforce their association with the EU.

Advertisements
Revival of the Arab Maghreb Union

Revival of the Arab Maghreb Union

The Maghreb with 99,380,000 inhabitants with a $375.6 billion GDP in 2017 is in north-west Africa, as delimited to the north by the Mediterranean and to the south by the Sahara, in the west by the Atlantic Ocean and by Egypt in the East. A revival of the Arab Maghreb Union, despite its huge development potential and common cultural and linguistic ties, “the Maghreb is one of the least integrated regions in the world”. Studies have shown that the removal of barriers in the region could have significant economic benefits, support efforts to combat instability and help address several regional challenges including socio-economic development, combating climate change, protecting the environment and developing clean, sustainable energy.

Part 1 – Realities and perspectives

The total area of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) is 5.8 million km², representing 4.3% of the world’s area and exceeding almost 80% of the area of the European Union is mostly desert. On February 17, 2018, the AMU celebrated its 30th birthday. At the end of November 2018, its Secretary-General was requested by Algeria to arrange a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in order to revive the notion of a Maghreb together and the reactivation of its bodies. The purpose of the contribution that follows many international contributions on this subject is to draw up the balance sheet and look at prospects.

The Maghreb is confronted with the emergence of a globalised economy and society to numerous challenges.  On the one hand, the nation states have difficulties in coping with the world economy’s upheavals and on the other, to face the international institutions as a unified front.

Governments across the AMU’s nation-states per the current crisis are almost unable to fulfil their missions as a result of the complexity of modern societies and the emergence of the multitude of fragmented subsystems. The uncertainty feeds on the crisis of political representation, hence the need to integrate more into a larger ensemble in order to be able to respond to new global concerns is dragging on.  A centrepiece in the Euro-Mediterranean and African region, the Maghreb as the origin of the new migratory flows is fast becoming a geostrategic and economic issue for the European Union, the USA and China in the context of a competition.  Three countries of the UMA, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria have signed their “Euro-Mediterranean Association” agreements that go well beyond the simple trade liberalisation as initiated as early as the end of the years 1960 in the framework of the first Euro-Maghrebin trade agreements.  It is commonly acknowledged that the results of this association agreement are mixed. However, since then, we have a new data which is that of the Union for the Mediterranean which tends to be supplanted at present by the 5 + 5 Summit which enshrines economic cooperation and Maghreb integration as a priority.  This principle of economic integration (by the market) of the Maghreb countries, the idea came during the two conferences of ministers of the economy of the Maghreb, the first on 26 September 1964 and the second on 26 November of the same year in Tangier (Morocco).  These two conferences culminated in the establishment of the Maghreb Consultative Standing Committee (MCSC).  It is responsible for studying all problems associated with economic cooperation between the North African countries.  After three years of trials and errors, the Maghreb community issue is precise, and in 1967, the MCSC produced a report in which three types of solutions were put forward from the integrationist perspective.  These are:

  • The maximum resolution would imply the signature of a treaty establishing the Maghreb Economic Union on the model of the Treaty of Rome. It would mean the fixing of a timetable for the elimination of customs duties and quota restrictions, establishment of a standard exterior tariff, harmonisation of economic, fiscal and monetary policies and finally the establishment of joint institutions with decision-making powers;
  • The minimum solution which would make the gradual creation of an economic union a mere declaration of intent, the only legal commitments limited to the periodic participation in negotiations on tariff concessions or the choice of places of new industries;
  • The intermediate solution based on the interaction between trade liberalisation and technical harmonisation should cover a period of 5 years during which the Maghreb countries would commit: too linear reductions (10% for example per annum) of customs duties and quantitative restrictions on traded products, to the establishment of a list of industries to be approved and whose products would be guaranteed free movement and franchising on the Maghreb market, the creation of a Maghreb integration bank to finance projects of common interest and promote this simultaneous and equitable industrialisation, the possible establishment of a union of payments and finally the harmonisation of their trade policies with regard to third countries in order not to jeopardize later the establishment of a standard external tariff system.

The set of principal axes highlighted previously, were taken up at the Maghreb Summit, which was held in Zéralda (Algeria) in 1988 and the second Maghreb Summit held on 19 February 1989 in Marrakech, saw the adoption of the Treaty of the U. M. A. which defines the modalities of a Maghreb construction and its development strategy. Various sectoral committees have worked very cyclically to try to establish a free trade area gradually, assuming the free movement of products between the partners — a customs union and therefore new standard management instruments such as the unification of tariffs and the elaboration of unified policies, aiming at defining the usual rules to enable the implementation of a regulatory system economic development in the region. The objective to be achieved at these summits as a last resort was to establish a common market and a progressive and comprehensive economic unit, a prelude to the best complementarity between the five countries in the region. The declaration of the Heads of State on the establishment of the AMU, adopted at the Marrakech summit, marks for its part the will of the member countries to translate into reality the dream of the Maghreb’s generations to build a viable union. It can be seen in their declaration that it should be perceived as “a complementary community that cooperates with similar regional institutions, a community that participates in the enrichment of dialogue and putting its potential at the service of strengthening the independence of the States parties of the Union and safeguarding their achievements, working with the international community to establish a world order in which justice, dignity, freedom, human rights and where relations are imbued with sincere cooperation and mutual respect.

Professor of universities and international expert, Dr Abderrahmane Mebtoul, ademmebtoul@gmail.com

Algeria, a major player for the stability of the Euro-Mediterranean

Algeria, a major player for the stability of the Euro-Mediterranean

According to the official Algerian News Agency APS, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini will visit Algeria this week for bilateral consultations that are to include the European New Policy (ENP), and promote a new dynamic in the bilateral relations, likely to reflect effectively the strategic links between both parties through mutual concrete and balanced interests. Thus the ENP reinforces the notion of the role of Algeria, a major player for the stability of the Euro-Mediterranean and North Africa. The ongoing negotiations on the free trade agreement, according to information gathered from the EU, insist on a win / win partnership for shared prosperity,and subject to Europe no longer considering Algeria as a market and  Algeria  deepening its structural reforms, the agreement framework would likely be the same. (1)

Federica Mogherini of the EU

It would be for Algeria, as guarantor of stability in the region, to encourage the development of freedoms in all areas, political, economic, social and cultural therefore set up mechanisms of the rule of law and democratization at the internal level in order to achieve sustainable development for its people.

On the international political situation, Algeria is invited by the Union European to become a member of the Conventions open to third countries, encouraging it to begin a dialogue on legal migration and mobility, traffic of migrants, readmission, voluntary return, regional cooperation for border management, the treatment of the mixed migrant flows and international protection of those in need and improvement of the contribution of Europe domiciled Algerian citizens to the development of Algeria.

On climate change, purpose of the international COP21 conference held in Paris in December 2015, the EU notes with satisfaction that the Algerian party submitted its national plan on climate, demonstrating its readiness to accompany the Paris Agreement. It is in this context that confronted with the depletion of its resources but commanding significant potential, the mini-meeting of the Council of Ministers of February 22nd, 2016 held that the development of renewable energy would be a strategic objective.

As far as the cooperation in security and judicial fields is concerned, this is deemed “essential” by the EU that wants to establish a “targeted and comprehensive dialogue” with Algeria, after positively noting its commitment in the process of revision of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and takes note of the informal document (‘non-paper’) developed in Algiers, whilst following with interest the dialogues that Algeria is also having with NATO and the OSCE.

It welcomed the constructive role for peace and security of Algeria within the African Union’s and supports and encourages the involvement of Algeria in instances such as the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, including the 5 + 5 dialogue with the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA). Sharing Algeria’s concerns about the threats facing the region including the Sahel, the EU wishes to fully acknowledge whilst endorsing the mediation of Algeria and supporting its efforts to find a solution to the crisis in Mali, through development in the region as well as international cooperation in the areas covered by the new regional plan of action for the Sahel.

The same applies in the case of Libya where the EU welcomed the diplomatic initiatives undertaken by Algeria. On the Western Sahara issue, the EU supports the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and of his Personal Envoy seeking to achieve a just political solution that is lasting and mutually acceptable to all and in accordance with the resolutions of the Security Council.

Recalling that the last review of the ENP dates back to 2011 and so in view of the changes experienced by the countries in the neighbourhood since that date, it was decided to conduct a comprehensive review of the assumptions that underpin this policy, as well as its scope of application and how to use its instruments, according to a press release of the Commission. For this purpose, the EU launched a consultation on the future of the ENP on March 5th, 2015.

For Algeria, Europe must take into account, in its neighbourhood policy, its assets including that managed actively by Algeria in its fight against terrorism, regional security against organized crime and the pacification of the Sahel-Sahara southern edge through various mediation, but also of its economic assets including through the supply of Europe in gas for decades and on a strictly commercial basis.

In the Algerian context, the promotion of the movement of people, ideas, and the protection of third countries legally established Nationals in the EU, must be taken into account in the new ENP in order to contribute to the achievement of Algerian priorities with respect to the economic diversification of export promotion of non-hydrocarbon, to food security, the strengthening of human capacities institutional and political, economic and social governance.

Both vertical and horizontal Algeria/Europe cooperation must be based on a win-win partnership for shared prosperity far from any spirit of domination. Algeria in its cooperation with Europe has three main comparative advantages, namely: its effective contribution on equity on the process complex and costly peacekeeping and security in the Sahel-Sahara strip that would benefit the European neighbours in terms of fight against terrorism, organized crime and illegal migration, not to mention the economic impacts.

It is within this framework that Algeria has decided to participate in the ENP, initiated in 2004, and revised in 2009 with concrete proposals in which it has contributed with proposals in the “Green Book” of the European commission on March 4th, 2015, such as the principles of flexibility and ownership, as the basis for the new ENP. Algeria is well underway as part of cooperation offered by the revised neighbourhood policy (Europe 11443) since the latter requires more to establish a plan of action, deemed binding in Algiers, in addition to the lifting of all political conditionalities.

So Algeria is a key player in the region and any destabilization would have a negative impact on the entire Mediterranean and African region (see our interviews to the American Herald Tribune and French daily La Tribune.fr en December 2016.

The Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the US State Department, Justin Siberell recently announced that Algeria is a key partner of the United States in the area of security by referring to a new era of cooperation between the two countries.

Also, facing a world in perpetual motion, both in terms of foreign policy, in economy as well as in defence, related actions with the latest happenings in the Sahel, on the borders of Algeria, with what is happening in the Middle East, in Libya, the urgency of the strategies of adaptation and international and regional coordination would be introduced, in order to act effectively on major events. These new challenges for Algeria exceed in importance the challenges it has ever faced so far.

Called upon and solicited, Algeria legitimately queries its role, and the place or the interest of such option or this frame would hold whether it is in the Mediterranean dialogue of NATO or of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, whether in its economic or security dimensions. Adaptation is the key to survival and pragmatism a highly appreciated modern management tool in relationships with others, Algeria whose future is in undoubtedly in the Euro-Mediterranean and African space must do with what reason and its interests command.

In summary, the future strategy of Algeria would in order to ensure its safety be to quickly lay down with a reorientation of its economic policy, as a diversified economy in the context of international values, away from the illusion of hydrocarbons eternal earnings and to carefully ponder the recent statement of the Italian Economic Development Minister, Carlo Calenda.

This last announcement, that the gas supply through pipeline contract signed between Algeria and Italy that expires in 2019 will not be renewed, giving “a deficit of 14 billion cubic meters for Italy by 2019-2020 and Italy’s gas supply will be by a long-term contract with the Netherlands by 2020, then with Norway in 2026, not to mention Russia, Iran’s re- entrance, and shortly Libya competitor of Algeria not forgetting the recent agreement of Europe – Israel for the procurement of large volumes of gas through the construction of a new pipeline.

And what will become of the future supply contracts of Algeria, all expiring between 2018 and 2019 at the time when the increase in spot markets, knowing that more than 33% of all revenues of Algeria are from natural gas making it unable to compete with Qatar, Iran and Russia, not to mention the American Shale oil/gas

 (1) study of Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul, published in the International (IFRI Paris, France) titled “Maghreb-Europe cooperation the geostrategic challenges” , November 2011 – chapter III – “The strategy of the European Union and NATO in the face of the geo-strategic tensions in the Mediterranean”.

11th EU and Algeria Association Council Session

11th EU and Algeria Association Council Session

Avoiding rushing to the conclusion that a total accumulated loss of $7 billion, was consequent to Algeria’s association with the European Union (EU),  we must look long and hard at the amounts of each year loss. According to the Algerian Customs statistics, the shortfall in duties, as a result of the EU and Algeria Association Agreement was worth $1.27 billion in 2015 and $1.09 billion in 2016.  A 11th EU and Algeria Association Council Session will be held in Brussels on Monday March 13, 2017.

What prospects will there be at this Association Council session? 

I have recently been recipient of the latest version of the partial revision proposed by the European Union following the Algerian revisions that comforts some Algerian proposals considered being not questioning nor amending the agreement framework.

This confirms the recent statement of an Algerian Department of Foreign Affairs official to whom the document containing 21 recommendations, would no doubt revive cooperation between Algeria and the EU so as to allow both sides to develop economic relations further and place these at the center of this cooperation, to give importance to this agreement and use its huge potential in its three components, e.g.: political, economic and human aspects.

As recalled in several of my contributions and echoing my conference at the European Parliament, after some concern of the international community following some Algerian media speculating on the end of this agreement, Algerian officials were clear in their response that for Algeria, it is not question of breaking the Association Agreement but only negotiating a win-win partnership,  By the way and in addition to a good number of obvious questions, the above lowering of the Customs duties has on the other hand eased the import to consumers generally.

It will be to resolve any misunderstanding for a shared prosperity. At different occasions in both Algiers and in Brussels, the Algerian and European parties reaffirmed their common determination to enhance relations to maych their proclaimed ambitions.

The will would be to “densify” cooperation, according to the Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who “claimed by Algeria that its evaluation process is not intended to about questioning the Agreement, but instead, to use it fully in the sense of a positive interpretation of its provisions thus allowing a re-balancing of the cooperation links,

On the European side, the talk was ‘constructive’ and bilateral relationships, in both the areas of energy as well as in the activity of business and trade, have unexplored, even if the potential were encumbered by red tape and persistent political decisions.

However, the situation in the country remains dependent on the evolution of the oil markets with sales that the country gets most of its revenues, recalling that energy cooperation, based on a specific Protocol, is at the center of the cooperation with the EU.

It is as such, that the Council of Ministers on October 6th, 2015 considered necessary to reassess the economic and commercial aspects of the Association Agreement with the EU that has not achieved the expected objectives for European investments in Algeria.

What is the evolution of trade between Algeria and Europe?  And what can Algeria export outside its hydrocarbons that make up to more than 60% of its exports to the EU and ditto to Africa in the light of the embryonic state of its productive sector.

Officially, all exports declined to $28.88 in 2016 against $34.66 billion in 2015, or a fall of 16.7% whereas non-oil, of which more than 50% are derivatives of hydrocarbons fell to $2.06 billion in 2016 against $2.58 billion in 2015 (20,1%).

As for imports, these have also declined but at a lower rate to $46.72 billion in 2016 from $51.7 billion in 2015, down 9.62% giving a deficit in the balance of trade of about $18 billion; the amount of which there is need to add services and legal capital transfers.  The balance of payments is the unique reference between 2014 and 2016.

It is a matter of deepening the reforms.

For Algeria, negotiating from a balanced position, would involve it changing its bureaucratic mentality. In this 21st century, it is the role of the State to regulate, and to reconcile economic efficiency with a deep social justice, investors and operators alike are driven by the logic of profit.

Concerns being certainly legitimate because tariff cuts are a shortfall in the short-term depending on sources between $1.5 and 2 billion a year as a result of the Tariff Relief, but we ought to think in terms of dynamic comparative advantages in the medium term.

Invoking the mono exporter situation of Algeria is no road holding; the majority of OPEC countries are members of the WTO. The great challenge for Algeria is to accelerate all comprehensive reforms for comparative benefit from inclusion in the international division of labour.

To benefit from the positive effects of the Agreement with Europe as much as from a possible accession to the WTO, a first clean-up of the Algerian economy would be necessary. The brakes to the overall reform are due to the fact of moving authority segments around that could explain the decline of the productive fabric. Any operational analysis should connect the advance or the brake to the reforms by analyzing the strategies of social presence; Government policy forces lying fluttered between two conflicting social forces. These are the rentier logic supported by proponents of import (actually only 100 controlling more than 80% of the total) and the informal sphere that is unfortunately dominant and the minority entrepreneurial logic.

This would explain that Algeria is in an interminable transition, neither a competitive social market economy nor an administered economy. The progress of reforms being inversely proportionate to the oil price and the value of the Dollar; reforms can only tentatively be made with inconsistency when only the price decline.

This explains also that despite successive devaluation of the Dinar, DZD5 in 1974 for a Dollar to DZD110 / Dollar in 2016 at the official rate, it has been impossible to boost non-oil exports showing that all blocking was and still is systemic related.

It is that 80% directly and indirectly from the growth rate of GDP mainly from Building and Infrastructure development and so is employment rate, that are all pulled by public expenditure coming from oil revenues that gives public or private wealth creation enterprise (often in debt to state banks) a negligible part.

Infrastructure being only a means, the unfortunate recent experience of Spain that bet on this segment must be carefully meditated by the Algerian authorities. Also, in order to attract investment, the latter should implement regulatory mechanisms to attract promising investors, avoiding periodic changes in legal frameworks, bureaucratic administrative actions not transparent source of demobilization and potentially scaring investors whether they are local or foreign.

In short, unlike some pessimistic forecasts predicting a worst-case scenario for the year 2020, Algeria, subject to good governance and a reorientation of its economic policy, has the ambition of its choice. For this reform of structures must intend to encourage creative added value investing through the overhaul of the system property, financial, customs, tax administration, and a new social regulation for the benefit of the poorest. There is urgency to specific objectives and a new institutional organization in order to give more coherence and visibility; otherwise we will always see the extension of the informal sphere to ever widening circles.

The macroeconomic framework relatively stabilized in Algeria would be fleeting without deep structural reforms, especially with the drop in the price of hydrocarbons, and the risk of exhaustion of the Regulatory Fund of foreign exchange reserves.

Paris, March 12, 2017 

Implications of Brexit for democracy?

Implications of Brexit for democracy?

An article written by Dhruva Jaishankar on June 29th, 2016 for the Huffington Post has attracted our attention and we reproduce it here for our friends of the MENA region and elsewhere.  The obvious interest in such article is not only that of the Brexit representing the first major casualty of the ascent of digital democracy over representative democracy but also the fundamental fact of a majority expressing itself like this time against the wishes of the elite with however the help and / or assistance of the contemporary digital media.

Brexit: The first major casualty of digital democracy  . . .

Dhruva Jaishankar writes that with all the questions about what happens next, there’s a bigger question worth asking: What are the implications of Brexit for democracy? Arguably, Brexit represents the first major casualty of the ascent of digital democracy over representative democracy. This piece was originally posted by The Huffington Post.

In the aftermath of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, we are left with more questions than answers. What kind of relationship will the UK now forge with the EU, and how will that affect economic relations and migration? Will Scotland and Northern Ireland opt to leave? What is the future of British politics, given turbulence within both the Conservative and Labour Parties? Will a successful Brexit set a precedent for other EU members — perhaps even some eurozone members– to leave the union? What are the long-term economic consequences of the resulting uncertainty? Will Brexit even happen at all, given the absence of a clear post-referendum plan, the apparent unwillingness of ‘Leave’ campaign leaders to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and the fact that the referendum was advisory and non-binding? Answers to these questions will make themselves evident in the coming weeks, months, and years.

[D]igital democracy… has contributed to polarization, gridlock, dissatisfaction and misinformation.

But there’s a bigger question worth asking: What are the implications of Brexit for democracy? Arguably, Brexit represents the first major casualty of the ascent of digital democracy over representative democracy. This claim deserves an explanation.

When historians look back at the world of the past 25 years, they will likely associate it not with terrorism or growing inequality but with the twin phenomena of the “rise of the rest” (particularly China and India) and of globalization. Globalization involves the easier, faster and cheaper flow of goods, people, capital and information. One big enabler of globalization is the internet, the global network of networks that allows billions of people to cheaply and easily access enormous amounts of digital information. The rise of service and high-technology industries, trade liberalization, container shipping, and the development of financial markets have also been important enablers, as is the increased ease and lower cost of travel, particularly by air.

Many technology optimists have assumed that globalization would lead to the democratization of information and decision-making, and also greater cosmopolitanism. Citizens would be better informed, less likely to be silenced, and able to communicate their views more effectively to their leaders. They would also have greater empathy and understanding of other peoples the more they lived next to them, visited their countries, read their news, communicated, and did business with them. Or so the thinking went.

Read more on Brookings.edu

Europe Algeria Association Free Trade Agreement

Europe Algeria Association Free Trade Agreement

According to the European Commission, The EU-Algeria Association Agreement was signed in April 2002 and entered into force in September 2005.  This Europe Algeria Association Free Trade Agreement sets out a framework for the EU-Algeria relationship in all areas including trade.

In 2012 Algeria and the EU launched consultations on an Action Plan that will set out anticipated actions and priorities over a five-year timeframe.  It will serve to support co-operation and further exploit the potential of the Association Agreement.

Algeria is in the process of accession to the WTO, with strong support from the European Union.

An interview of Dr. A. Mebtoul, an Algerian university professor by Radio France Internationale (RFI) was broadcast on Saturday 27 February 2016 and following that an essay in French of the professor was published on RFI’s website. 

Here is the English translation of that article.

No failure in the Free Trade Agreement of the Europe – Algeria Association

By Professor Dr Abderrahmane Mebtoul, ademmebtoul@gmail.com

  1. After some real concern of the international community and many Algerian operators, according to information sourced from the most senior level of the Algerian authorities,  “Algeria having always due respect for its international commitments, will comply with the rules governing international trade providing for quantitative restrictions (licenses) when a member country of the balance of payment have difficulties.  There is no question of breaking the Association Agreement which binds it to Europe, its main economic partner is in negotiations for a win / win partnership.  “The latest measures come within the framework of strict respect of the commitments which the Algerian government signed with Sovereignty. According to reports invalidations, deductibles considered “obsolete are those that focus exclusively on products listed in both open mind” of import licenses. It is therefore of vehicles, concrete reinforcing bars, cement and some agricultural and food products. Other products under the franchise of duty are not concerned. ” Algeria is a key partner of the international community with the geopolitical tensions in the region. There is no question that it is isolated as the postulate some Algerian currents loss and bad publicity seeking to destabilize Algeria. According to information collected in from many European and US officials, the stability of Algeria affects the stability of both the Mediterranean that Africa
  2. The information I gathered from the Algerian government, provide the following information to avoid confusion on the part of the rent of tenants misleading as the Algerian population yardstick weak economic culture as local operators that foreigners are not the terms of the old import licenses. Algeria intends to respect its international commitments and comply with the rules governing international trade, including those of the WTO provide for quantitative restrictions when a member country of the balance of payment difficulties.
  • The Freedom of trade and industry, non-public distinction private sector is the foundation of economic and commercial policy of the Algerian government, consecrated by all the provisions of Algerian law provisions contained in the new Algerian constitution
  • In this context, this legislation along the lines of what is provided by the legislation of several open economies in Europe and elsewhere, the possibility to use in specific and predefined cases, transition to upgrade the productive, import licenses or export neutral in application and administered in a fair and equitable way to handle exceptions to the freedom of trade and in accordance with WTO rules.
  • The first law reaffirms the freedom to import and export products, without prejudice to the rules on public morality, safety and public order, the protection of human health, as well as ‘the preservation of the environment and the historical and cultural heritage.
  • The grounds for establishment of import or export licenses including the restriction of trade in certain exhaustible natural resources guarantee for the domestic industry to the availability of processing locally produced raw materials, supply market products that would be felt shortage and safeguarding the external financial balances of the country. “
  • It’s In this context that the government amended the Ordinance 03-04 of 19 July 2003 on general rules applicable to the importation and exportation of goods, amendments to enable to upgrade the legislation in accordance the rules of an open economy.
  • Unlike the restrictive licensing system previously applied in the 1970s, for importation, these licenses are defined as administrative procedures in the WTO rules and are designed to ensure better quality and product safety to protect human health, animal and plant.
  • Reference to the WTO, the texts stipulate that import licenses are administrative procedures requiring, as a condition for importing goods, the presentation to the competent administrative body of an application that is distinct documents required for customs purposes, the Government states that this type of license does not result in a restriction or distortion of imports.
  • Is the control by the administration only concerns aspects of quality and compliance and not the commercial aspects, to ensure the fairness of commercial transactions, and, whether among the community of traders themselves when making their trade or between the retailer and the consumer while the old regime was to the distribution of an amount of foreign currency on importers’ (end of the match).
  • It has never been said that Algeria breaks the Association as it will continue to negotiate its accession to the WTO Agreement, membership contained in the program of the President of the Republic. But that membership can only be to the detriment of the best interests of Algeria intends to benefit from the Doha Agreements providing a transition period for the third world countries.
  1. In summary, Algeria, according to our sources, while preserving its own interests as any country intends to comply with international agreements, including the Association Agreement with Europe, continue negotiations with the WTO representing 97% of world trade, 85% of the world population, with the accession of Russia and Saudi Arabia in addition to China. There is no question of the Agreement that would discredit the image of Algeria internationally, and that contrary to tendentious statements. In my view the debate lies elsewhere: how the fall of hydrocarbon prices deepen structural reforms to pension off a strategy, and there the contradictory debate is useful, the person has the monopoly of truth. In the twenty-first century, economic battles are won through good governance and enhancement of knowledge involving a more citizen participation within a rule of law. The Algeria to avoid destabilizing must begin urgently genuine structural reforms assuming the language of truth, the moralization of society and a minimum of social consensus. The recovery is possible.  Algeria without chauvinism, has all the potential to become a pivotal country in the region, is its natural place in the Euro-Mediterranean region, while not forgetting the African continent, strengthening integration of the Maghreb being strategic if we want to attract investors interested not by micro-states but by large space countries.  For further details, refer to my interview with Radio France Internationale (RFI) Paris, France – broadcast on Saturday 27 February 2016 and titled “Faced with the fall of hydrocarbon prices, outlook for the Algerian economy.”