The Mediterranean Debt Crescent: Money and Power in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey
By Clement M. Henry
University Press of Florida, 1996, 336 pp.
Political pundits typically focus on personalities, ideology, and infighting when they try to account for the unimpressive record of Middle East countries on economic development and political democratization. Here is a very different -- and surprisingly optimistic -- approach that provides a better sense of the issues regimes are grappling with as they try to break away from the failed models of the past. Central among these issues are the mundane tasks of raising capital, producing budgets, and meeting the demands of foreign creditors. In five fascinating cases -- Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey -- Henry argues that "Europe's Mexico" has gotten itself into economic circumstances in which it is subject to pressure by external creditors to undertake economic reforms. In Morocco and Turkey, Henry is reasonably optimistic that the development of commercial banks as part of those reforms may create a new power center, and bankers, representing the broader interests of businessmen, will become "midwives of political change." By contrast, and perhaps prematurely, he writes off Algerian democracy. Some readers may find the positive role ascribed to bankers a bit hard to swallow, but Henry makes his case effectively; he is equally provocative, but less convincing, in arguing that political Islam will have to be accommodated and that Islamic banking can play an important role in strengthening Islamic liberals who will ultimately play by democratic rules.