What is the social contract and why does the Arab world need a new one?

The ‘social contract’ is an idea that dates back to the ancient Greeks, and refers to the implicit agreement among members of a society that defines their relationship with each other and the state. That relationship holds the key to unravelling the puzzle of the ‘Arab Spring.’

To development economists, the uprisings that started in Tunisia and spread to several countries in the Arab world in 2010-11 came as somewhat of a surprise. For the previous decade, almost all the indicators of economic well-being were strong and improving. GDP growth was substantial, at about 5 percent a year. Extreme poverty (people living on $1.25 a day) was low and declining. Conventional measures of inequality, such as the Gini coefficient, were lower than in other middle-income countries, and in some cases declining. In Egypt and Tunisia, the per-capita income of the bottom 40 percent was growing faster than the average. In terms of human development, the Middle East and North Africa region recorded the fastest decline in child mortality rates and the steepest increase in school attainment.

Worldbank: Arab donors among the most generous in the world - twice the recommended amount

Arab donors—predominantly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Kuwait and United Arab Emirates (UAE)—have been among the most generous in the world, with official development assistance (ODA) averaging 1.5 percent of their combined gross national income (GNI) during the period 1973–2008, more than twice the United Nations target of 0.7 percent and five times the average of the OECD-DAC countries. Arab ODA accounts for 13 percent of total DAC ODA on average and nearly three-quarters of non-DAC ODA.

The share of Arab ODA in Arab GNI was exceptionally high in the 1970s and early 1980s, peaking at over 12 percent for the UAE and at about 8.5 percent for Kuwait and KSA in 1973. Nearly one-third of all ODA during the 1970s was from Arab donors. Although the ratio has fallen over time, it still exceeds the average among OECD-DAC member countries.

Moreover, Arab aid is generally untied, and is offered without conditions or restrictions.

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