The Price of Wealth: Economies and Institutions in the Middle East

In This Review

The Price of Wealth: Economies and Institutions in the Middle East

By Kiren Aziz Chaudhry
Cornell University Press, 1997
330 pp. $45.00

Both Saudi Arabia and Yemen rely on foreign exchange -- either oil rent (the Saudis) or labor remittances (Yemen) -- for over 80 percent of their GNP. How does this intensive involvement in the international economy affect governmental institutionalization and control of society? Studying three different periods -- the pre-boom era of state-building up to 1973, the oil boom decade (1973-83), and the recession thereafter (1984-90) -- Chaudhry presents interesting findings. For example, Saudi oil rent goes straight to government coffers. Yemeni labor remittances go to and strengthen the private sector. The former is the classic autonomous state, the latter a poorly institutionalized state facing a growing private sector. Yet when the recession hit, the Saudi private sector was able to pressure the seemingly autonomous state to adapt to its needs. The recession in Yemen brought increased state control over society. This is a solid two-case study that instead of the usual grand theories offers more contextual and multi-causal explanations. And there are many such states. Chaudhry suggests there are at least some 15 oil-exporting and 12 labor-exporting states comparable to Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

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