Rentier States in MENA

In the Middle East and North Africa, many oil-rich countries are known as rentier states, which are states that derive most of their wealth from foreign exports. One theory of democracy concerning rentier states is that high oil rents are somehow related to the lack of democracy and political modernization in MENA. This theory is based on the actions of governments in oil rich states such as the ability to spend large amounts on coercive power and providing services such as not taxing their citizens. In his article “Does Oil Hinder Democracy?”, Ross presents that it is statistically valid that oil harms democracy, especially in poor states, and that this is not only limited to the Middle East. Figure 1 shows that ten countries in MENA make up 44% of the world’s share of oil, the majority of which are non-democratic. However, these oil rents are largely damaging because of their size, and how they are utilized by authoritarian governments. States that have large oil rents are successful in maintaining their rule because they are easily able to punish those who do not comply and incentive those who do. Although there are more factors for why democracy is rare in the Middle East than oil including social factors and the effects of colonization, it is clear that oil rents are a large part of why oil-rich states in MENA have not modernized.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *