My essay is out in The Nation, entitled “The Great Arab Revolt”.
‘These governments took steps in recent decades toward neoliberal policies of privatization and a smaller public sector under pressure from Washington and allied institutions—and the process was often corrupt. The ruling families used their prior knowledge of important economic policy initiatives to engage in a kind of insider trading, advantaging their relatives and buddies.
The wife of Tunisian dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, the notorious former hairdresser Leila Ben Ali, placed her relatives in key business positions enabled by insider government knowledge and licenses that allowed them to dominate the country. The US Embassy in Tunis estimated in 2006 that half the major entrepreneurs in the country were related by blood or marriage to the president. In Egypt, Ahmed Ezz, for example, benefited from his high position in the ruling National Democratic Party and his friendship with Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal. Ezz has been formally charged with usurping control of a government-owned steel concern and of rerouting its products to his own, privately owned Ezz Steel company. In the past decade, Ezz went from controlling 35 percent of the Egyptian steel market to over 60 percent, raising a chorus of accusations of monopoly practices. Since the Mubaraks rigged the elections so that the NDP always won, and the party officials favored by the president prospered, Egypt was ruled by a closed elite.’
Read the whole thing.