Times of economic crisis in the MENA region
In the second half of the 2010s, the economic situation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) deteriorated as a result of lower oil and other commodity prices, a new round of domestic political instability, continuous intra-regional conflicts, stalled economic and governance reforms and, finally, the COVID-19 pandemic. The deteriorating macroeconomic trends manifested themselves in slower growth rates (which in 2020 turned negative almost everywhere), worsening fiscal and external balances, increasing public debt and, in several cases, higher inflation. There has been no visible progress in resolving long-term structural and institutional challenges such as high unemployment, especially among youths, low female labour market participation, poor quality of education, costly and ineffective public sector activity, high military and security spending, high energy subsidies and others.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian policy towards the Middle East has been marked by inconsistency and unexpected U-turns. This has made it hard for Western policymakers to understand whether Russia’s presence in the Middle East represents a source of cooperation or of future conflict between Moscow and the West. On the one hand, Russia’s stance on Syria, its refusal to recognize the threat posed in the past by Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes, and its frequent attempts to penetrate and, in some cases, to dominate the energy and arms markets of Middle Eastern countries have raised concerns among Western powers. On the other hand, over the same period, Russia’s initial de facto support of Western involvement in the Libyan conflict in 2010–11, its cooperation to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue in 2012–15, its initiatives on conflict resolution in Yemen in 2011–12, and its refusal to export S-300 missile systems to Syria in 2013–14 offered hope that Moscow could play a positive role in the region. The nature of Russia’s interaction with the Middle East has shifted since 2012. After the re-election of Vladimir Putin for a third term in 2012, Moscow substantially increased its presence in the region. It became more deeply involved when, on 30 September 2015, Russia launched airstrikes against groups opposing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. This set a new precedent. Before September 2015, Russia had tried to avoid any fully fledged involvement in military conflicts in the region. This was also the first time Russia focused on air power instead of ground forces – an approach often used by the US
The main focus of this article is analyzing the peculiarities and dynamics of socio-economic inequality in modern Russia. Examined are the changes in Russian people’s attitudes towards this multilateral and painful social issue, which are dictated by shifts both in objective reality and the way it is perceived by the general population. Analysis is based on data from «Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey» (RLMS-HSE). It is revealed that uneven distribution of income and accumulated wealth in post-Soviet Russia has become ever so dramatic. Meanwhile, like in most other countries of the world, a huge and constantly increasing and accelerating concentration of capital in the hands of a slim segment of the richest people is evident. These processes decrease the eff ectiveness of previously accepted criteria and indexes of socio-economic inequality, which leads to the need for fi ner adjustment of said instruments. Those who suff ered the most from a series of economic crises and stagnation, occurring throughout the period between 2008 and 2016, are those who belong to quite prosperous segments of the population, those which form the backbone of the middle-class. A decrease in the amount of wealthy households during the last crisis was accompanied by an increase in the amount of poor families, which became one of the reasons for an increase in the population’s dissatisfaction with their material status. Dramatic socioeconomic inequality remains the most prominent factor which forms inequality of opportunity when it comes to various population groups’ access to education, health-care and other social resources. However, unlike the 1990’s, when negative attitudes towards private property and rich people were dominant in Russian society, today we see a more moderate tolerance level towards socio-economic inequality.
Four years after its launch, Rome MED – Mediterranean Dialogues has established itself as an annual conference and global hub for high-level dialogue aimed at enhancing debate among policy-makers and experts around current trends and challenges stemming from the Mediterranean region. The goal is to lay the groundwork for mutual understanding and trust building among regional actors, as a prerequisite for drafting a positive agenda. The third edition of this Report offers a vast array of insights, data and analyses on political, socio-economic and security dynamics unfolding throughout the region. In particular, the first section of the Report focuses on positive trends and achievements brought forward by regional actors. It also provides policy recommendations to strengthen these positive dynamics, with a view to further improving the socio-economic, political and security contexts in the Mediterranean basin. The second section turns the spotlight on the main security, political, economic and cultural challenges the region is currently facing.
The Report collects insights, analyses and policy recommendations from different perspectives and countries, also thanks to the collaboration of MED research partners and international experts.
This article is dedicated to studying the condition and characteristics of Russian youths’ behavior in the labor market during economic crisis. The analysis is based on data from the Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey — Higher School of Economics (RLMS-HSE). It is revealed that the negative aftermath of the economic crisis, as well as expectations for the further decline of the economic situation, has undermined youths’ confidence in the labor market. They find themselves in an especially vulnerable position when enterprises shut down or in the case of job cuts. Opportunities for finding a job in the field of secondary employment have narrowed out, and there has been an increase in the amount of young people who are willing to work without signing an employment contract, who are ready to accept unfavorable working conditions. There is an acute sensation of incongruity between the demand for qualified workforce and those specialties which young people receive at higher educational facilities and secondary schools. The crisis has not only exacerbated many of the problems which young people face in the labor market, but it also has stimulated growth in the activity of young Russians when it comes to overcoming emerging troubles, not to mention it increased their interest in utilizing irregular means of material provision.
Russian strategy in the Middle East comprises several elements. First,Moscow is persistent in defending what it sees as its red lines in the region. Thus, Russia is against any military intervention not approved by the UN Security Council. It does not welcome forced regime change if it leads to the destruction of existing state mechanisms. The Kremlin is also concerned about any change of borders in the Middle East, and it is firmly against any dialogue with radical Islamists and jihadists. Moscow’s flexibility has enabled it to talk to different forces in the region and, if necessary, play the mediator’s role. However, Russia is respected by Syria’s regional opponents, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, for the stubbornness it demonstrates when defending its own red lines in the region. Accordingly, the Saudis and Qataris are compelled to take Russia’s point of view into account and retain some dialogue with the Kremlin.
Second, Russia seems to be trying to reclaim its Cold War role as acounterweight to the U.S. in the region. Yet, the Kremlin does not directly oppose Washington, but rather exploits the region’s pre-existing disappointment with the U.S. through practical moves, which contrast American and European behavior. Thus, the reluctance of Washington to protect Mubarak, compared with the Russian support provided to Assad,encourages regional powers to consider Moscow a more reliable partner.
Third, Moscow avoids using ideological rhetoric in its official dialogue with the countries of the region.Unlike in the former Soviet space,the Russian leadership does not impose its views either by force or by means of economic coercion. In dialogue with the countries and political groupings of the region, Moscow tries to focus on existing commonalities rather than differences and contradictions. In all cases, the Kremlin also remains extremely pragmatic. Russia does not raise the question of political freedoms in Iran and tries not to be critical of Israel’s policies in Palestine and Gaza in spite of its support for a two-state solution. Moscow tries to support a dialogue with all countries in the region without expressing obvious support for any particular state or coalition, and, so far, it has been partly successful in doing so.
Finally, in its economic efforts, the Kremlin focuses on those areas where it has market advantages: nuclear energy, oil and gas, petro-chemicals, space, weapons, and grain. At the same time, Russian business in the Middle East is based on the adage of “Chinese price for European quality.”Thus, price and reliability were the main reasons for interest from Middle Eastern countries in Russian nuclear technologies.
This book contains a unique collection of studies on key economic and social policy challenges faced by countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region in a short- and long-term perspective. Prepared within the EU funded FP7 project on „Prospective Analysis for the Mediterranean Region (MEDPRO)” conducted in 2010-2013 it takes account on recent political developments in the region (Arab Spring) and their potential consequences. It covers a broad spectrum of topics such as factors of economic growth, macroeconomic and fiscal stability, trade and investment, Euro-Mediterranean and intra-regional economic integration, private sector development and privatizations, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture, financial sector development, poverty and inequality, education, labor market and gender issues.
This article analyzes life satisfaction in Russia’s population over the last two decades, as well as its determinants, based on OECD methodology and data from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey of the Higher School of Economics (RLMS-HSE). It shows that in Russia, which during its transformational period went through each phase of the business cycle with high oscillation amplitude, life satisfaction is more closely connected to the main economic indicators than in countries that have not experienced similar economic and social shocks. The way life satisfaction and its main determinants are correlated in Russia is similar to what we see in several other countries, but the specific values and forms of these connections depend on the particular motions of the economic cycle in any given country, as well as the previous path (model) of its development.