Freedom ain’t free, as the old saying goes. It may be too early to judge whether the upheavals that have swept through the Arab countries in recent years have raised the level of liberty, but we can certainly say that they haven’t been free:
The Arab Spring uprisings will end up costing Middle Eastern economies about $800 billion in lost output by the end of next year as countries struggle to restore stability, banking giant HSBC estimated on Wednesday.
In a research report, HSBC predicted that at the end of 2014, gross domestic product in the seven hardest-hit countries - Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Bahrain - would be 35 percent lower than it would have been if the 2011 uprisings had not happened.
As the FT’s Beyond BRICs blog notes, the selection of countries is a little odd—including relatively stable Jordan as opposed to Yemen. If Jordan is included, why not Morocco or Algeria? Why not the Gulf Countries that have spent billions to keep their populations from rising up? The $800 billion figure seems like it might actually be a little low.
Even so, it’s clear that there’s a steep price to pay for political upheaval. We won’t know for a while whether it was worth it.