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Pandemic Effects: Covid-19 and the Crisis of Development in the Middle East

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Rafeef Ziadah, Adam Hanieh

Original languageEnglish
Published27 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: Adam Hanieh would like to acknowledge the support of the British Academy Special Research Award 2020 (COV19∖201285), Marwan Issa and Riya Al‐Sanah. The authors also thank the anonymous referees for helpful comments received on earlier drafts. Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Authors. Development and Change published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Institute of Social Studies.

King's Authors


This article explores the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on socio-economic development and political mobilization in the Middle East. It argues that beyond its direct public health implications, the pandemic is serving to intensify the extreme differences in wealth and power that have characterized the region for many years. The article gives an overview of the region's political economy prior to the pandemic, examining the legacies of the 2011 uprisings and the ways in which notions of ‘crisis’ were mobilized to re-embed market-led development models over the last decade. Within this broader context, it maps the generalized deterioration in living conditions that has occurred since mid-2020. Following this, it discusses the pandemic's exacerbation of regional unevenness, exploring the strengthened position of more powerful states, notably Israel and the Gulf states, within the political and economic hierarchies of the Middle East. Finally, the article takes a closer look at Lebanon, Tunisia and Sudan, three countries that have been sharply hit by the pandemic, but that were also marked by substantial mass protests and political mobilization immediately prior to 2020. These countries illustrate the political complexities involved in situations where a profound socio-economic crisis intersects with a long-standing erosion of political hegemony.

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