By Mohamed A. El-Erian
For two months now, developments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have taken most by surprise. What started as an isolated protest in Tunisia has developed into a regional phenomenon that has toppled some regimes and is threatening others. Indeed, every day seems to bring yet another new dimension to an historical event that is changing the region and impacting the global economy.
Governments across the globe have spent weeks playing catch up in the midst of previously unthinkable developments in MENA. They have organized emergency evacuations of citizens and constantly responded to new realities on the ground, including the brutal violence in Libya.
Understandably, many are wondering about what comes next; and, understandably, predictions are subject to unusually wide bands of errors and uncertainties. With this said, I suspect that we may now be entering a period of much greater differentiation among MENA countries.
If this is correct, the sense of an unstoppable and unpredictable tsunami of change may be replaced by a need to distinguish among different country dynamics. And should this materialize, the world will face a dual challenge — understanding and dealing with what may well be four distinct groups of countries within MENA; and comprehending a new set of regional dynamics which involves different interactions among countries. Let us address each in turn.
Post-regime change countries, such as Egypt and Tunisia, are working hard to complete their revolutions and to ensure an orderly and complete transition to greater democracy and individual freedoms. Success lies in the following factors: defining a vision and associated action plan which command sufficient popular support; coordinating simultaneous progress on related economic, political and social issues; and implementing appropriate mid-course corrections as needed.