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date: 14 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the trajectories of economic development and underdevelopment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It first considers the empirical record of development in the region, paying particular attention to standard measures of GDP, industrialization, and social development. The article contextualizes the region’s development trajectory in a larger set of cross-regional comparisons and looks at the region’s record of economic growth and development in different periods after World War II. It also evaluates a number of factors that account for economic performance in the region—such as colonialism, Islam, social relations, corruption and crony capitalism, authoritarianism, and populism—before offering an alternative account. It argues that the MENA’s suboptimal economic performance is associated with the particular manifestation of business–government relations in the region.

Keywords: economic development, underdevelopment, Middle East, North Africa, social development, political economy, economic growth, colonialism, Islam, social relations

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