My good friend George Saghir, one of the best analysts of Syrian economic affairs, has written a thought-provoking essay for Joshua Landis’s Syria Comment, in which he argues that Syria is staring down the same shotgun barrel as virtually every other Arab nation. Unless it finds a way to radically increase economic activity and curb demographic trends, popular protests like the kind we have witnessed in Egypt and Tunisia are inevitable.
The solution? Syria must emulate Turkey, but this, George argues, will be much easier said than done:
For Syria to achieve Turkey’s per capita growth rate of the past 25 years, it must do two things: 1- It must grow its economy by a real inflation-adjusted 8.5% if population growth continues at 3.26%. 2- It can grow by a real inflation-adjusted 6.5% if it succeeds in slowing its population growth down to Turkey’s current level of 1.25%. Either option presents a formidable challenge and highlights the feat that Turkey has pulled off since 1980. Growing an economy at an inflation-adjusted rate of 8.5% is of course what China has been able to do recently (if you trust the country’s statisticians). Chinese planners have also been able to drop the country’s population growth rate to low of 0.63%.
I recommend you read the entire piece, and perhaps George will agree to write something about Lebanon’s economic/demographic challenges for QN. As far as I know, he’s much more optimistic about Syria’s little cousin.
UPDATE: When it rains it pours… Here’s another very interesting piece about Syria by Gary Gambill, editor of Mideast Monitor and one of the smartest commentators on Levantine politics. I make a point of trying to read and re-read everything Gary writes; even when I disagree with him, I find his commentaries to be extremely sharp.