It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost a year since the start of the Arab Spring. This tsunami of popular revolt removed, among others, the longest serving modern leader of one of our cornerstone civilizations. Who dares to claim that any country is wholly immune to such an uprising?And it’s still rolling on as Egyptians take to the streets to keep the military from hijacking the people’s revolution. Tunisia looks to be on a firmer footing, while the full outcome of Gaddafi’s ouster in Libya is not yet apparent. The outbursts of popular discontent in Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia remain unresolved.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, has a tendency to voice inconvenient truths. (Her recent comments on another topic invited a not-so-subtle suggestion to sit down and shut up.) Here’s her view on the spark that lit the Arab Spring:
“[While] top-line economic numbers—on growth, for example—often looked good, too many people were being left out.”
She also concedes the extent to which the Very Serious People at the IMF, and everywhere else, were caught off-guard:
“[...] we did not fully anticipate the consequences of unequal access to opportunities. Let me be frank: we were not paying enough attention to how the fruits of economic growth were being shared.”
Will leaders of other seemingly invincible countries take this lesson to heart in 2012?