Middle East Oil and Politics

Christopher Hurtado —  December 15, 2008
Middle East Oil and Politics | Christopher Hurtado

Petroleum, Politics, and Development

The oil boom in the Middle East between 1873 and 1985 had a profound impact on the living standards of the oil rich countries and neighboring countries that benefited from a secondary relationship to those nations. This did not necessarily lead to effective state building. Because of emphasis on oil the three major sectors of national economies, industry, agriculture, and services, have experienced uneven growth.

Prospects for further liberalization

During the 1980s, liberalization and increased political freedom in these nations have invariably led to opposition movements, which in turn led to repression and a decrease in political freedoms. In Muslim countries of the MENA region political liberalization was offered to reduce reaction to economic austerity measures. However, they were quickly ended when they conflicted with the interests of the rulers.

A basic lack of trust exists between the rulers and the ruled. The ruling elite suspects that the goal of the opposition is subversion. On the other hand, the ruled suspect that their leaders are just waiting to impose autocratic rule over them. In order for trust to develop between rulers and the ruled, major compromises will be required. The ruling elite will have to give up authoritarian rule and guarantee both political and human rights for their citizens. The people, on the other hand, would have to agree to abide by the laws derived from a democratically elected body.

These fundamental changes would also require economic reforms. Most of the governments in this region are not strong enough to impose the kind of reforms that could make it possible for Middle Eastern nations to compete effectively in the global marketplace.

There are two possible paths that could strengthen the governments so that they would be able to create effective economic reforms. One would be to open the doors to democratic political participation to create a broad base of support for the reforms. The second route would be to stimulate popular support for the government programs through ideological support such as that of Islam. Since neither of these solutions appears to be viable in the near future, the prognosis for effective Middle Eastern economic and political reform remains bleak.


Works Cited

Bill, James A. and Springborg, Robert. Politics in the Middle East. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, 2000.

Christopher Hurtado

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Christopher Hurtado is President and CEO of Linguistic Solutions and Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy and Political Science at Utah Valley University. He holds a BA in Middle East Studies/Arabic and Philosophy and an MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. He coauthored Vacation Spanish: A Survival Guide for Mexico, the Caribbean, Central & South America. He is married to children's book author and homeschool mom, Alysia Gonzalez. Together they have nine children. They are active in their church and in their community.