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International Issues/ Economy/ Foreign Affairs

Tunisia – Only a catalyst?

I quote from the blog ‘The Arabist’ – “No one knows where Tunisia’s revolution is headed. Not ordinary Tunisians who, a fortnight after the departure of their dictator of 23 years, Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, are eager for a return to normality and the opportunity to earn a living in what will remain a battered economy. Not the young activists, many of them new to dissent, who express their euphoria on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tunis’s main thoroughfare. Not the wealthy elite, who from their villas in Tunis’s lavish suburbs largely welcome the fall of Ben Ali, though they fret about the direction the revolution might take and want to see their factories reopen. And not the politicians and technocrats who – together with one blogger who is a member of the Pirate Party, an international movement of hackers best known for their defence of illegal downloading – form the interim government. Their coalition is tasked with preparing for elections within six months. It may not last that long, at least in its current shape.”

Though, the whole world celebrates the Arab revolution (rather, beginning of?) to gain democracy – it is not very clear how successful ‘democracy’ will be in these Arab states – Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen – in that order! It is quite clear that only GDP ( Tunisia @ 5% over the last 20 years) alone cannot assure success of democracy or the survival of political stability! Tunisia has been rather boasting of its growth rate, even when it was dictator ruled – as a better performing economy within the region. Even providing good education may not suffice for having a stable democratic government! All over the world, smaller countries are struggling to create more jobs to reduce youth unemployment, if not stop it. Political corruption has become a menace in most of these authoritarian ruled Arab states – sometimes, I fear, even India is going to pay a ‘high’ price for unchecked corruption in its governance/ establishments – what matters – is their fair play and equity, that make the cornerstone for ‘democracy’ to succeed??

In many countries, particularly in Pakistan or Afghanistan, democracy is accompanied by civil strife, factionalism, and dysfunctional ‘puppet’ governments. What matters – is their a cohesion among the masses towards a common ‘worthy’ goal? To this effect, India has stood as an extra-ordinary example of maintaining cohesion despite diverse interested population in terms of religion, caste, color, values, languages etc. Democracy has really done well in India, though ‘corruption’ is a major challenge and the failure of the government to check/ correct corruption, may bring about an uprising to fight it, someday.

Tunisia should be committed to transparency, tolerance and inclusiveness – both politically and economically. A sense of fair play requires voice and that can be achieved only through public dialogue. Will Tunisia keep up the enthusiasm that succeeded in throwing out the dictator Ben Ali? In smaller states – especially that are not democratically governed – special interested people take advantage of governmental policies in trade, culture etc. There is a clear example/ case study: ‘Pakistan’ – it is still struggling to succeed in democracy, despite getting independent around the same time India did. It is a fledgling democracy controlled by special interests internally as well as through external forces.

Well, there is an opportunity for Tunisia – to bring in democracy – based on fair play and equity, transparency, political wisdom learned from other successful democratic governments in the world (Israel?). And, the world – developed or otherwise – should render support to Tunisia – in achieving this objective. Otherwise, Tunisia will remain only a catalyst!

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About Raman Ramamurthy

I am a Management consultant, an avid reader, play Lawn tennis in my leisure time and love Music. Presently, I am settled in India along with my wife and my son.

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