News / Africa

Rising Prices Fuel Anti-Government Sentiments Across Middle East

A Syrian gas station attendant fills up a car in Damascus (file photo)
A Syrian gas station attendant fills up a car in Damascus (file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +
Henry Ridgwell

The uprising in Tunisia against government corruption has forced other countries in the region to take notice.  Record high prices for food and oil are also fuelling anti-government feeling in many developing countries.  Analysts predict the protests will spread far beyond Tunisia’s borders.

Few people in or outside Tunisia could have predicted the tumultuous start to 2011 that greeted this country - least of all the thousands of tourists visiting for some winter sun.

Where it started

But many analysts say the causes can be traced back to a cocktail of economic inflation and political corruption that finally spilled into street protests.

"Obviously the economic situation was a very important driver in the protests in Tunisia," explained analyst Maha Azzam, a north Africa expert at the London-based Chatham House.  "But I think the key was the political situation and the reality of a dictatorial regime having survived for so long without allowing participation or accountability."

Azzam says such conditions are replicated in countries across the Middle East and north Africa - giving the potential for further unrest.

Cost of living

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says the prices of basic foodstuffs like grains, sugar and meat are reaching new highs - even exceeding the peaks seen in 2008, which triggered social unrest in several developing countries.

"In low-income countries, people spend a very high percentage of their disposable income on food," noted Professor Tim Lang teaches Food Policy at London’s City University, "and when, as now, you have got oil prices and world commodity prices going up, they are squeezed, it turns into hunger, turns into empty shops, sometimes turns into empty mealtimes."

Anger at government

Professor Lang says that while rising food prices may fuel resentment, it is rarely the primary cause of unrest.  In Algeria there have been a series of anti-government protests in recent days.  Residents here, like Muhammed, say their anger is directed at the government.

"Our problem is not to do with cooking oil, sugar or semolina - our problem is with the injustice, the plundering of wealth and oppression," he said.

Domino effect?

Protests have also erupted in Egypt.  A man set himself on fire outside the parliament building in an apparent echo of the self-immolation in Tunisia, which many analysts pinpoint as the trigger of the unrest there. 

"Over the next few months leading up to the presidential elections, if we see protests on the streets in Egypt then we are underway to some very serious change in a key country in the region," warned north Africa expert Maham Azzam.

Azzam says governments across north Africa and the Middle East will be having intense discussions with their security and military chiefs about how to prevent a repeat of the so-called jasmine revolution.

 

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid