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Department of Economics

Economic development of the modern Middle East

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

This course is about the economic structures, institutions and policy challenges in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The course starts with a broad economic history of the region in the 19th Century and goes on to address selected aspects of economic policy in the contemporary period in these countries. The contemporary nature of the problems facing the MENA countries are addressed throughout the course.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

Objectives of the Course: 

  • To familiarise students with the features and structural characteristics of the MENA economies 
  • To enhance their critical analysis of economic problems and policies in the region 
  • To explore and discuss critically specific policy approaches to identified economic problems of the region 
  • To explore key policy options in regional and international contexts.

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Understand the socio-economic features and structural characteristics of the MENA economies
  • Develop a broad understanding of the economic history of the region in the 19th Century in general, and be able to assess the impact of integration into the international economy, in particular
  • Understand and differentiate between different types of economies within the MENA region (oil and non-oil economies, labour surplus and labour deficit economies, small and large, agrarian and non-agrarian economies, etc)
  • Discuss and apply key concepts of economic policy analysis to contemporary problems and opportunities facing MENA countries
  • Focus on thematic policy issues relating to a wide range of topics within the MENA countries
  • Appreciate the position of these countries in the wider context of the international economy

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: Exam 80% / Coursework 20% (2 essays each of 10%). Resubmission of coursework regulations do not apply to this course.

Suggested reading


Richards A. and J. Waterbury (1996), A Political Economy of the Middle East, State: Class and Economic Development, 2nd edition, Boulder Colorado: Westview.

Study Pack

A special selection of readings has been prepared for the first term of this course and can be purchased from the SOAS bookshop.

Other Useful Texts:
  • Shafik, N. (ed., 1998a), Economic Challenges Facing Middle Eastern and North African Countries – Alternative Futures, Basingstoke and London: Macmillan Press.
  • Shafik, N. (ed., 1998b), Prospects for Middle Eastern and North African Economies – From Boom to Bust and Back?, Basingstoke and London: Macmillan Press.
  • Hakimian, H. and Z. Moshaver (eds, 2000), The State and Global Change: The Political Economy of Transition in the Middle East and North Africa, London: Curzon Press.
Common Data Sources:
  • World Bank, World Development Report, annually (contains useful development data for various regions including MENA); an electronic database of the World Bank’s indicators is found in World Development Indicators (WDI), CD-ROM, updated annually, Washington D.C.
  • ERF (1998), Economic Trends in the MENA Region, (annual), The Economic Research Forum for the Arab Countries, Iran and Turkey, Cairo: ERF (electronic version also available on the net, see ERF site below).
  • OPEC, Annual Statistical Bulletin, annual report with much data on oil; an electronic version of this major oil database is found in Asb, (diskette available from the library’s periodical room).
Some Useful Web sites on Middle East: